It’s been a while since I touched on the UK card reader market so I thought it was about time I revisited the subject. With several big named solidifying their position at the top of the industry and a couple of new faces entering at the bottom, it’s an exciting time for the mobile card reader niche.
In this article, I’ll look at all the big names and dig into what they can offer you as a merchant. Let’s get started.
#1 — iZettle Card Reader
Launched in 2010 in Stockholm, iZettle is a payment service provider that focuses on mobile payments. They launched the world’s first mini credit card reader and have added a range of additional products and services to complement it.
iZettle Reader Cost
The full retail price of the iZettle reader is £59 + VAT. However, there is almost always some sort of deal or discount on. At the moment, there’s a 50% discount for anyone who signs up to iZettle.com, which brings the price down to £29 + VAT.
iZettle Setup Fees
The great thing about iZettle is that it’s ready to use straight out of the box. Just set up your account, install the app and start accepting payments. You can do all the setup yourself, which means it costs you nothing.
That’s great for cash-strapped small businesses!
iZettle Processing Fees
Up until a few months ago, iZettle used a sliding fee scale. Basically, the more you processed each month, the lower payment processing fees you paid. Fees ranged from 2.75% at £50 per month to just 1.00% at £40,000 per month.
However, iZettle recently simplified their pricing structure, rolling out a flat 1.75% payment processing fee for all credit card payments.
The basic app also lets you send invoices, which are charged at 2.50%.
Finally, there is a hybrid online-and-in-store option called iZettle GoPlus, which allows you to sell online. Online transactions are charged at 2.50%.
iZettle Recurring/Monthly Fees
With the basic iZettle app and reader, there are no recurring or monthly fees. You buy the credit card reader outright and only pay fees on the transactions you process. That’s great for low volume or seasonal businesses.
If you select the iZettle GoPlus option I mentioned above, there is a £29 per month fee.
- POS App: iZettle provides a free POS app to install on your mobile device. It’s super intuitive to use and can be as complicated or as simple as you want. For example, you can choose to preprogram inventory items or manually enter the transaction amount for each transaction.
- Store kit: iZettle sell a bunch of store kits that include a mix of POS systems, cash drawers, receipt printers, card readers and barcode scanners. There are specialised kits for standard stores, retail stores and mobile stores so you should find one that fits your needs.
- Star mPOP: This is basically an all-in-one starter store kit that combines a receipt printer and cash drawer. Just hook it up to the app via Bluetooth and off you go. (At the moment, the Star mPOP only works with iOS apps but this will probably change in the future.)
- eCommerce websites: Offered exclusively through iZettle GoPlus, you can now build an eCommerce website through iZettle. It’s a drag and drop system that works just like Shopify or Wix.
#2 — Square
Founded in 2009, Square is another mobile payment company that is trying to increase access to payment technology and make accepting payments more affordable for all businesses. Despite first launching in 2009, it was only last year that Square officially entered the UK market.
Square Reader Cost
Whereas the iZettle is essentially miniature chip and PIN terminal, the Square device is much smaller — it’s roughly the size of a coaster — and only accepts the card. The customer’s PIN is entered separately via an app installed on a mobile device.
Because the Square is a bit simpler than the iZettle, it costs a bit less, coming in at just £19 + VAT. Again, you can usually find discount codes or affiliate deals to reduce the price further.
As I alluded to above, the Square reader is connected to a free POS app, which also acts as a keypad for your customer to enter their PIN number. This may put off customers as some will be unwilling to enter their PIN into a personal iPhone or iPad.
Square Setup Fees
Like most mobile card readers, the setup process is all handled by the merchant and is free of charge.
Square Processing Fees
Square charges the same 1.75% processing fee as iZettle for chip and PIN or contactless payments.
Fees for virtual terminal transactions and eCommerce payments are also in line with iZettle and cost 2.50%.
- Docks and Holders: Because the Square reader relies on an app to accept the PIN, there are a bunch of docks and holders to secure the reader or affix it to mobile devices. While this is a nice solution, it feels a bit makeshift, especially compared to the slick iZettle reader.
- Square Stand: The Square Stand is basically just a nice white stand. You plug in an iPad (the iPad does not come with the Square Stand) and it looks like a fancy POS system.
- POS Equipment: Square also sells a bunch of POS equipment, including cash drawers and receipt printers. However, everything looks a bit old-fashioned and just isn’t quite as slick as what you get with iZettle.
#3 — SumUp (Formerly Payleven)
SumUp launched in 2012 with the aim of shaking up the payment industry and empowering micro and small businesses everywhere.
They’ve kept their focus fairly narrow and have concentrated on building an outstanding card reader and POS app.
SumUp Reader Cost
The SumUp Air is about the same size as the Square reader but (unlike Square) they’ve managed to fit a number pad onto the device.
The SumUp reader operates just like the iZettle terminal. You plug your card in, punch in your PIN and off you go. (In case you’re wondering, it also supports contactless and Apple/Android Pay.)
The SumUp Air costs £29 + VAT and, like the rest of the readers, you can probably find a discount code. If you buy through our recommendation link, SumUp will do you a great deal and charge just £19 + VAT for the device.
SumUp Setup Fees
You sign up for SumUp online and the vast majority of the process is automated. As such, there are no setup fees. Just sign up, buy your reader, link them together and start accepting payments.
SumUp Processing Fees
Like iZettle and Square, SumUp uses a flat payment processing fee across all transactions. It’s a bit lower at 1.69% for chip and PIN or contactless payments. The SumUp Air has the lowest processing fees of any reader on the list.
- POS Register: SumUp offers a full point of sale kit, including a register, cash drawer and receipt printer.
- POS App: You don’t need the full POS kit to accept payments. The SumUp app is plenty powerful and can be set up to work for retail, service, hospitality or virtually any other industry.
#4 — PayPal Here
PayPal is a huge name in the payment industry, having reinvented the way we pay for stuff online. Despite acquiring iZettle in 2018, PayPal still supports its own mobile card reader called PayPal Here.
It’ll be interesting to see whether PayPal continues to run both iZettle and Here in the future.
PayPal Here Reader Cost
The PayPal Here is a boxy little reader similar in size to the iZettle. Like the iZettle and SumUp devices, the PayPal Here reader features a keypad and can accept a customer’s PIN directly into the device.
The PayPal Here reader costs £45 + VAT and, like all mobile readers, you can probably find a discount code somewhere.
PayPal Here Setup Fees
With PayPal Here, there are no setup fees. Just order the reader online, download the app, sign up for an account and then start accepting payments.
PayPal Here Processing Fees
Unlike iZettle, Square and SumUp, PayPal does not use a flat fee structure. Instead, its fees are variable. You can also choose between two different payment plans: Blended or Interchange Plus.
To see how each plan works, check out the table below.
|Your total monthly sales||Blended fee||Interchange Plus|
|Up to £1,500||2.75%||IC + 2.5%|
|£1,500.01 to £6,000||1.75%||IC + 1.5%|
|£6,000.01 to £15,000||1.5%||IC + 1.25%|
|Over £15,000.01||1.0%||IC + 0.75%|
As you can see, PayPal Here charges higher payment processing fees than iZettle, Square and SumUp at monthly sale volumes less than £6,000 and lower fees at £6,000.01 and above.
For a more detailed look at PayPal Here’s pricing, check out the T&Cs here.
PayPal Here Products
- Card Reader Accessories: There are a lot of accessories for the PayPal Here — I mean, a lot. There’s an all-in-one POS system called POStoGO, receipt printers, barcode scanners, bulk chargers, lanyard holders and, as I’ll talk about in more detail in just a second, specialist kits for black cabs!
- Bouncepad: The Bouncepad is PayPal’s iPad stand. It basically fixes an iPad to a ball joint, allowing you to flip it over so it’s facing customers. It’s handy for demoing products, reception desks and that sort of thing.
#5 — SmartTrade App
What they produced is actually a really great app that could work for any business regardless of its niche.
SmartTrade Reader Cost
The SmartTrade App operates different tiered plans.
Sole Trader’s pay £9.99 and processing fees are 2.15% + 20p. The Business plan is £26.99 and processing fees are 1.85% + 20p. The Enterprise plan is £89.99 a month and processing fees are 1.75% + 20p.
SmartTrade Setup Fees
SmartTrade has a simple online application process and it doesn’t cost you anything to sign up. While the service does have a monthly fee, you can test it out with a 30-day free trial before the first bill kicks in.
SmartTrade Processing Fees
SmartTrade has two plans, Invoicing Plus and Teams. With Invoicing Plus, processing fees start at 0.45%.
While these processing fees seem higher than iZettle’s or SumUp’s, it’s important to remember that SmartTrade works by scanning the card or issuing invoices. These types of transactions would attract higher transaction fees from other card readers — usually around 2.5%.
SmartTrade Recurring/Monthly Fees
Unlike the other card readers, SmartTrade does have recurring fees. Depending on what tier you choose (see above), it will cost you between £9.99 and £89.99 per month. This is just a subscription to the service and does not include your payment processing costs.
#6 — Retired: WorldPay Zinc
WorldPay launched their mobile service, WorldPay Zinc, in June 2013 and, after mixed results, stopped accepting new customers a couple of years later.
WorldPay Zinc Reader Cost
The WorldPay Zinc reader was similar to the devices from iZettle, SumUp and PayPal. It was slightly larger than a credit card and supported PIN entry directly into the device.
The reader cost £66.66 + VAT but was almost permanently discounted to £33.33 + VAT, which is still more expensive than most other card readers.
WorldPay Zinc Setup Fees
The sign-up process was quick and painless and didn’t cost merchants anything.
WorldPay Zinc Processing Fees
It was the pricing where WorldPay Zinc really fell down. It offered two plans: Pay As You Go and Pay Monthly.
|Pay As You Go||Pay Monthly|
As you can see, it was substantially more expensive than most other options on the market. Even if you ignore the £9.99 per month fee, the 1.95% transaction fee is still higher than iZettle, Square, SumUp and most PayPal tiers.
Okay, that was a lot of information and is probably quite tricky to digest. For easy reference, I’ve created the ultimate comparison table, covering everything from battery life and card types to connection types and processing fees.
(For this table, I have omitted SmartTrade because it is an app-only solution and WorldPay Zinc because it is no longer accepting new customers.)
|iZettle||Square||SumUp Air||PayPal Here|
|Service Type||Mobile card reader and POS app||Mobile card reader and POS app||Mobile card reader and POS app||Mobile card reader and POS app|
|Card Reader RRP (Exc. VAT)||£59||£39||£29||£45|
|Connection Type||Reader: Bluetooth|
|Battery Life||< 100 transactions||< 500 transactions||< 500 transactions||< 100 transactions|
|Cards Supported||MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Maestro, V pay, Visa Electron, JCB, Diners Club, China Union Pay, Discover||Visa, V pay, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express||Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Maestro, Visa Electron, V pay||Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express|
|Other Methods Supported||Contactless, Apple Pay, Android Pay||Contactless, Apple Pay, Android Pay||Contactless, Apple Pay, Android Pay||Contactless, Apple Pay, Android Pay|
|Processing Fee (Credit Cards)||1.75%||1.75%||1.69%||1.00% to 2.75%|
|Processing Fee (CNP)||2.50%||2.50%||2.95%||1.00% to 2.75%|
|Transaction Limits||Minimum: £1|
Per Day: £200,000
Per Day: £250,000
Per Day: Variable
|Payment Settlement Delay (Business Days)||1 to 2||1 to 2 days||2 to 3 days||Instantly to PayPal Account|
|PIN entry method||Reader||App||Reader||Reader|
|Receipt Options||Printed, text and email||Printed, text and email||Printed, text and email||Printed, text and email|
Compare Credit Card Processing
While card readers are great for small or mobile merchants, they are almost always more expensive than a traditional fixed card terminal.
To see what payment options are available to you, click here to go to our comparison engine. (It only takes 2 minutes and could save you up to 40% on your card processing fees!)