December 1, 2022

Well, are there any free card readers for small businesses? The short answer is no, but there are some lower-cost options out there.

When thinking about costs, consider your monthly fees along with your transaction fees, set-up fees and any other charges that may be hidden in the small print.  

We’ll be taking a look at some of the cheapest card readers for your small business and whether you’re better off renting or buying.

Should I buy or rent a card reader?

Rental

As some of the contracts below suggest, rental card readers are more suitable for seasonal or pop-up businesses.

Pros

  • Can fill demand at busy times such as Christmas
  • Providers are good at meeting requirements at short notice
  • Rental units are more robust as they can passed between users and so are expected to be better able to handle knocks
  • If something goes wrong, your provider can sort it out quickly

Cons

  • There may be hidden fees such as set-up
  • You have to keep the card readers in an acceptable state of repair

Purchase

Pros

  • Purchasing card readers means that you have them on standby which is useful for unexpectedly busy times
  • If you’re likely to use the terminal again, it’ll be worth purchasing
  • No worry about extra fees beyond transaction fees
  • Easier to switch between merchant service providers

Cons

  • The machine may become obsolete over time and you’ll have to fork out for a new one
  •  Any purchases and repairs are your responsibility         

The 7 cheapest contactless card reader deals out there

How much you pay will come down to your turnover, what card reader you have and what kind of transactions you take. Let’s take a look at the cheapest deals.     

>See also: Why businesses should go cashless: pros and cons    

Rental

Tyl by Natwest Clover Flex package (WiFi only)

Reader price: £14.99 + VAT per month rental
Transaction fee: 1.5 per cent (more for American Express transactions)  
Features:
Eight hours of battery life on one charge, use Tyl Portal at no extra cost, five-inch glass touchscreen, fingerprint recognition

Barclaycard Flex

Ideal for sole traders and seasonal sellers whose turnover is less than £100,000.

Monthly fee: £10 a month + VAT for an 18-month contract
Transaction fee: 1.6 per cent per transaction
Features:
Connect your reader via Bluetooth for ease of use, add multiple employees and grant them specific features, real-time tracking of totals

Dojo Go

Reader price: £20 a month
Transaction fee: 1.4 per cent if your turnover is below £150,000 and bespoke if it’s over £150,000
Features:
Receive your takings the next day, may pay up to £3,000 in exit fees to your previous provider, built-in thermal printer, point-to-point encryption, ten-hour battery life

Purchase

SumUp Air

Reader price: £39
Monthly fee:
None
Transaction fee:
1.69 per cent per transaction
Features:
Connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet, up to 12 hours of battery life, unlimited free bank transfers on incoming and outgoing statements, process 500 sales on a single charge

Zettle 

Reader price: £29 + VAT
Monthly fee:
None
Transaction fee:
1.75 per cent per transaction
Features: Send online invoices, no daily cash payment limit, sell and accept gift cards

Square

Reader price: £16 + VAT
Monthly fee:
None
Transaction fee:
1.75 per cent per transaction
Features:
Intuitive checkout, connect to Apple or Android device via Bluetooth

>See also: Best payment apps for small businesses

Lopay

Reader price: Free card reader (but only if you transact £2,500 in the first six months – then either return the card reader or pay £49)
Transaction fee:
0.79 per cent for weekly payment, 0.99 per cent next day or 1.79 per cent for instant payment. American Express are 1.79 per cent or 2.79 per cent for an instant payout
Features:
Choice of payments done instantly, weekly or monthly; see daily, weekly or monthly details at a glance; and export reports to your preferred accounting software

Which card reader should I buy?

Which low-cost card reader you go for is up to you but remember that factors beyond price come in here too. Think about your functionality needs such as tableside payments if you’re a restaurant or increased Amex payment fees if you take a lot of payments from customers who use American Express.  

Read more

Best payment processors for UK small businesses – 11 of the best

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