The Best Mobile Card Readers for Small Businesses

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Our research team’s deep dive into the best six mobile card readers on the market placed Zettle and Revolut in joint first place. But are these the best readers for your business?

Our researchers spoke to 12 businesses across the UK to find out what’s most important in a payment provider, which led to us scoring providers in several categories, including price, features, and customer support.

Based on our research findings, we also know businesses are looking for a reader that is reliable, simple and has relevant features such as invoicing.

Read on to find out more about each of the best six mobile card readers, so you can decide which one is right for your business.

If you’re short on time, you can also use our free comparison tool to compare the prices of merchant accounts. By providing us with a few brief details, our tool will match you up with providers who’ll then contact you with obligation-free quotes.

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Zettle

Revolut

Square

Stripe

SumUp

Score
4.8
Score
4.8
Score
4.4
Score
4.0
Score
4.2
Hardware Cost

From £29 + VAT

Hardware Cost

£49 + VAT

Hardware Cost

From £19 + VAT

Hardware Cost

From £49 + VAT

Hardware Cost

From £39 + VAT

Key Features
  • Supports 25 currencies
  • Certified to PCI-DSS Level 1
  • Integrates with 21 third-party providers
  • Support available on phone, email and live chat
Key Features
  • Over 21 integrations
  • 25 currencies
  • Free EPOS app
Key Features
  • Countless integrations
  • Next working day transfers
Key Features
  • Real time reporting on charges, fees, refunds, transfers
  • Low invoicing fees (0.4%)
Key Features
  • Built-in 3G SIM card
  • Unlimited mobile data
  • Highly compliant

1. Zettle – Best for features

Zettle
4.8
Quick overview

Zettle scores 4.8/5 in our research team’s deep dive into the best card readers. Scoring an unbeatable 4.9/5 for features, it offers over 21 integrations, in-depth reporting, and accepts 25 major currencies.

Strengths

Highly compliant

Over 21 integrations

Free EPOS app

Weaknesses

Transaction fees are higher than competitors

Pricing
Transaction feeHardware
1.75% card transactions £29 for first reader
2.5% payment links and invoices

Of the merchant accounts we looked at, Zettle has the highest number of integrations after Square, which is in the hundreds. Although Zettle does have a free EPOS app, it has fewer features than Square’s. However, Square’s numerous integrations are more suited to businesses that want to build a customised and comprehensive EPOS system.. While Zettle is suited to businesses such as food trucks or mobile businesses that don’t need a comprehensive EPOS system.

Its reporting capabilities include sales forecasting, inventory management, and staff hours. Zettle offers the second highest number of reports in our research, after Stripe. Although Stripe has more reporting capabilities, it has the lowest score in our research (4/5) and only offers two integrations. Zettle is a better all-around provider than Stripe.

While Zettle’s strengths are in its features, it doesn’t score as well for pricing with a score of 4.1/5 making it one of the more expensive providers we looked at. Zettle charges 1.75% per card transaction, 2.5% for payment links and invoices, £29 for your first card reader, and £59 for any subsequent readers.

Revolut is the cheapest for low transaction fees, charging 0.8% +2p for in-person transactions, although its card reader is more expensive than Zettle, starting at £49. The card reader price is less relevant, however, as the transaction fee is a recurring cost, impacting every transaction your business processes.

Zettle is suitable for businesses that want to focus on processing card transactions with the ability to access EPOS features, such as inventory tools.

2. Revolut – Best for cheap transaction fees

Revolut Logo
Revolut
4.8
Pricing £49 (exc. VAT)
Quick overview

Revolut takes second place in our research, scoring an overall 4.8/5. Revolut has been declared as the best for cheap transaction fees, at 0.8% +2p for in-person transactions and 1% +20p for online transactions. As this is typically the only recurring fee, this is great for small businesses that keep a close eye on their purse strings.

Strengths

Cheap transaction fees

30+ integrations

Weaknesses

Lack of email support

Pricing
Cost typePrice
Hardware £49
In-person transaction fee 0.8% +2p
Online transaction 1% +20p

Revolut’s transaction fees are the cheapest out of all the providers we compared, which means you’ll receive more money. However, its card reader isn’t as cheap at £49. It is beaten by Tyl, which our research has found is best for low cost hardware. Card readers are typically a one-off fee and, while a cheaper reader can be enticing, it might not always be worth it in the long run. If having a range of low cost hardware options is important for your business, Tyl could be a good choice, but overall Revolut is cheaper and has been rated as a better provider.

Revolut scores a 4.5/5 for its features, offering 16 integrations, 25 currencies, and payouts within one to three working days. Revolut has the third highest number of features in our research, but Square’s countless integrations take first place. If you don’t need an EPOS system, Revolut’s modest number of integrations is still worthwhile and includes accounting software.

Scoring a 4.7/5, Revolut is up against stiff competition in the customer support area with most providers scoring well. Revolut offers phone support, live chat, and a knowledge base. It, however, lacks email support. Zettle, Square, and Stripe all score 5/5 for customer support, as they all offer phone support, live chat, email, and a knowledge base. If you’re looking for email support, it’d be best to go with one of these three alternatives.

3. Square – Best for faster payouts

Square
4.4
Quick overview

] Taking third place with a score of 4.4/5, our research has found that Square is the best for fast payouts. With an impressive transfer time of the next working day, Square’s card reader is a good option for small businesses that need the cash flow.

Strengths

Fast payouts

Free EPOS app

Weaknesses

Higher transaction fees than competitors

Pricing
Transaction fee Hardware
1.75% card transaction From £16
2.5% payment links and invoices

Its closest competition in this category in our testing is Zettle which offers fast transfer times of one to two working days, which isn’t quite as fast as Square but Zettle does offer multi-currency. Square doesn’t offer the ability to accept multiple currencies, but you can set up accounts in each of the countries your business is located in to accept the local currency. If you want to be able to easily take multiple currencies, Zettle is a better option, but you’ll need to wait an extra day or two for payouts.

It’s worth noting that Square scores fairly low (3.3/5) in the pricing category of our testing because its transaction fees are the highest (alongside Zettle) of all the providers we looked at. Square’s transaction fees are 1.75% for card transactions and 2.5% for payment links and invoices, whereas Revolut charges 0.8% +2p per in-person transaction.

Square’s high number of integrations makes sense for businesses that want to use Square’s free EPOS software alongside the card reader, and create a customised and comprehensive system. If you aren’t interested in this, and simply want to process payments, Revolut is the better option as its transaction fees are much lower.

4. Tyl – Best for low cost hardware

Tyl
4.4
Quick overview

Tyl scores an overall 4.4/5 in our research, with its winning feature being its low cost hardware. Starting from £6.99 per month, Tyl offers a pocket reader, which can also be purchased for an outright fee of £75.99.

Strengths

No credit checks

Low cost card readers

4G connectivity

Weaknesses

Lack of email support

Pricing
Transaction fee Hardware
1.5% From £6.99/month

This is on the pricier end, when compared to small card readers such as Square, which retails for £16. However, Tyl also offers a countertop reader for £13.99, but it's fairly chunky when compared with Square’s small (and square) handheld reader.

If size isn’t an issue, then Tyl’s lower cost readers might make more sense for your business, especially if you want to purchase multiple.

Tyl’s transaction fees are 1.5% per transaction, making it the third most expensive fee in our research. Revolut offers much cheaper transaction fees at 0.8% +2p per in-person transaction, plus, Revolut is a much better rated provider in our research (4.8/5). Despite its higher score and cheaper transaction fees, Tyl still offers cheaper hardware and 4G connected readers whereas Revolut does not. If you have a mobile business, 4G connectivity is important to ensure you can seamlessly continue to take payments, wherever you are.

Tyl scores 4.7/5 for its customer support, offering its customers phone, live chat, and knowledge base support. It lacks an email support option, which can be frustrating if you don’t have the time to make phone calls or go back and forth on live chat. If email support is important to you, Square might be a better option because it offers email support and its card reader starts from £16, which is the closest price to Tyl’s options. The huge jump in pricing can be unaffordable for businesses that need multiple readers.

With Tyl you can opt for a pocket reader and a comprehensive POS (£14.99 Wi-Fi/£16.99 4G) for a more affordable price. Tyl makes sense for small businesses that want to purchase multiple types of readers without breaking the bank.

 

Tyl doesn’t carry out credit checks on new customers, which is good news if you’re a startup or small business that has poor or no credit score. From the providers we looked at, Revolut, Zettle and SumUp all carry out credit checks, which can make it difficult for your business to be accepted.

The low cost hardware and lack of credit checks make Tyl a good provider for businesses with smaller budgets and a poor credit score.

5. Stripe – Best for reporting

Stripe logo
Stripe
4
Quick overview

Stripe comes last in our in-depth research, scoring a 4/5. One of Stripe’s strongest features is its comprehensive reporting. Stripe offers real-time reports, reporting on payment methods and currencies, and deposit tagging. This comprehensive knowledge makes it easy for small businesses to track the various moving parts of the business.

Strengths

In-depth reporting

Low invoicing transaction fee

Weaknesses

High card transaction fee

Pricing
Transaction fee Hardware
1.4% +20p card transaction £49 or £179
0.4% invoicing

Stripe’s closest competitor in our research is Square. While Stripe offers more options for reporting, it does only offer two integrations (Quickbooks and Netsuite) while Square has many more integrations. If you want access to an EPOS system, Square is a good fit, however, if reporting is more important to you and you don’t need a comprehensive EPOS system, Stripe is a good choice.

When it comes to pricing, Stripe receives the lowest score of the providers we looked at. It scores a 3.2/5 because it charges 1.4% +20p for card transactions and 0.4% for invoicing. The card transaction fee is fairly high if your business takes lots of small payments. Revolut charges much lower transaction fees at 0.8% +2p for in-person transactions, however, it offers fewer reporting tools. If you’re unlikely to take tons of small card payments and you want access to detailed reporting, Stripe would be a better fit over Revolut.

Stripe charges the least for invoice payments when compared with the other providers we looked at. This fee is typically around 2.5% when compared with Stripe’s 0.4%. Even Revolut charges a higher fee of 1% +20p for online transactions. So, if you’re expecting to process a lot of invoice payments, Stripe is a good fit.

For businesses that want detailed reporting over a high number of integrations and low invoicing transaction fees, Stripe is a good choice.

6. SumUp – Best for 3G connectivity

SumUp logo
SumUp
4.2
Quick overview

Scoring a 4.2/5 overall in our research, SumUp has also been declared as the best provider for 3G connectivity. This is because it offers a reader with a built-in 3G SIM card, complete with unlimited, mobile data.

Strengths

3G connected reader

High compliance rating

Weaknesses

No live chat support options

3G reader is fairly expensive

Pricing
Transaction fee Hardware
1.69% card transaction From £39
2.5% invoices, online store, and payment links

SumUp is best suited for small mobile businesses because a 3G connection makes it easy for businesses to process payments on the road, where a Wi-Fi connection may be dodgy or non-existent. It also means you don’t need to connect your reader to your phone or tablet to access its mobile data or Wi-Fi, which can be problematic if you run into technical issues which mean you can’t process payments.

Having a 3G reader takes away this hassle and makes it easier for you to process payments, when you are on the road.

SumUp scores a 3.6/5 for pricing, with readers starting from £39. However, the 3G connected reader will set you back a pretty penny, £129 to be exact. This reader does come with a built-in printer, which explains the hefty price tag, but it’s certainly a lot pricier when compared with Tyl’s readers that include 4G, priced at £21.99 for a portable reader and £16.99 for an all-in-one POS, much more affordable than SumUp. The card reader price is typically a one-off expense and might be worth it, as SumUp offers over 11 integrations, compared with Tyl’s four. Plus, SumUp has a much higher compliance rating (4.6/5) than Tyl (1.6/5).

If you’re concerned about compliance and want access to a higher number of integrations, SumUp would be a better option over Tyl.

SumUp scores lowest in our research for customer support, with a 3.5/5, as it lacks a live chat option, which every other provider we compared offers to customers. However, SumUp does offer phone, email, and a knowledge base, but the lack of live chat is frustrating as you may not always have the time or resources to make a phone call or browse through the knowledge base.

We recommend SumUp for small businesses that are on the move and need a reader with 3G connection, plus, a high number of integrations.

Verdict

Of the six mobile card readers our research team looked at, Zettle and Revolut score the highest. Zettle is the right provider for you if you’re looking for a reader that offers multiple currencies and a free EPOS app, and Revolut is good for businesses that want the cheapest transaction fees.

However, if you’re looking for a comprehensive EPOS system, Zettle shouldn’t be your first choice because Square has a free EPOS app with more integrations and features. Although Square doesn’t offer multi-currencies, so Zettle is a better option if you need to accept multiple currencies.

Revolut offers the lowest transaction fees and makes sense for businesses that want to keep costs low but don’t necessarily need the EPOS features Zettle offers.

If you’re still unsure about which card reader is best for your small business, you can use our free quote tool. By giving us a few details about your business, we can match you up with trusted providers that will contact you with obligation-free quotes.

How We Test Merchant Account Products and Services for UK Businesses

We tested 11 market-leading merchant account products and services to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, regulatory compliance, customer support, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to UK businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in six main categories of investigation and 25 subcategories – in fact, we covered 36 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs and requirements of Expert Market readers – and that's our product testing algorithm in a nutshell!

Our main testing categories for merchant account products and services are:

Compliance: the adherence of the merchant account product to relevant regulations and standards, such as data security, anti-fraud measures, and legal requirements.

Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the merchant account provider to users in resolving issues, answering questions, and providing guidance.

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular merchant account – the market position and reputation a merchant account holds.

Features: the functionalities and capabilities provided by the merchant account product. This can include online payment processing, payment gateway integration, and fraud prevention.

Taking Payments: the process and options available for accepting payments through the merchant account product.

Price: the cost associated with using the merchant account product, including transaction fees, setup fees, monthly fees, and any additional charges.

 

FAQs

What is the best card reader to use?
Zettle has the highest score in our research (4.8/5) and offers an easy-to-use card reader, alongside a simple, free EPOS app.
Can you use a card reader with a mobile phone?
Yes, most mobile card readers are designed to be paired with your mobile phone as you’ll need mobile data or Wi-Fi to take payments. Some readers, such as the SumUp 3G, have a built-in 3G connection and you can use this without connecting to a phone or tablet.

What is the cheapest way to take card payments?
Our research found that Revolut offers the lowest transaction fees, charging 0.8% + 2p for in-person transactions.

Our site is reader-supported. Some featured providers are our partners, so we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through our site. This is at no extra cost to our readers, and this doesn’t affect the independence of our reviews. Whether or not we have a partnership with a company does not affect our rating and review of the service.

Written by:
Rob Binns
Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.
Reviewed by:
Ruairi uses his 3+ years of research experience to uncover insights which can help Expert Market provide the best business solutions for their users. He has done this by meeting with business owners to find out what is important to them and what challenges they face on a daily basis. Ruairi specialises in tools that can be used to grow your business and has done research for a wide range of categories on Expert Market, such as EPOS, Website Builders, and Merchant Accounts.