The Best Card Machines For Small Businesses

Home The Best Card Machines For Small Businesses
Sunny Avenue
Sunny Best (Product Reviews) Sunny Avenue
31 Jul 2023

Are you a small business owner in the UK looking for the best card machine to streamline your payment process? Look no further! In today's digital age, accepting card payments has become a necessity for businesses of all sizes. Whether you run a cozy cafe, a trendy boutique, or a bustling salon, having a reliable and efficient card machine can significantly enhance your customer experience and boost your sales. But with so many options available in the market, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect fit for your business. You don't need to know all of the options, just the best ones! 

In this insight, we've made it simple by selecting the simplest options that are suitable as the best card machine for small businesses in the UK, we've eliminated those with long hefty contracts and factored in quick installation and accessibility to get you up and running as soon as possible. So, let's discuss the perfect card machine that will take your small business to new heights!

Why Small Businesses Need Card Machines

In the digital era, cash payments are becoming increasingly less common. As a small business owner, accepting card payments is crucial for staying competitive and meeting customer expectations. Card machines provide a convenient and secure way for customers to make payments, eliminating the need for cash transactions. With a card machine, you can accept all major debit and credit cards, allowing you to cater to a wider range of customers. Not only does this improve customer satisfaction, but it also boosts your sales by encouraging impulse purchases. Additionally, card machines streamline your payment process, reducing the time and effort required for cash handling and reconciliation. By embracing card payments, you can enhance the overall efficiency of your business and provide a seamless payment experience for your customers.

Understanding Different Types of Card Machines

When it comes to card machines, there are several options available for small businesses in the UK. The most common types include countertop terminals, portable terminals, and mobile card readers. Countertop terminals are ideal for businesses with a fixed checkout location, such as cafes or retail stores. These terminals are connected to a phone line or broadband connection and usually come with a built-in receipt printer. Portable terminals, on the other hand, offer more flexibility as they can be carried around the premises. They typically connect to a base station via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and have a range of up to 100 meters. Mobile card readers are perfect for businesses on the go, such as food trucks or market stalls. These compact devices connect to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and allow you to accept payments anywhere with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Understanding the different types of card machines will help you choose the one that best suits your business needs and operations.

Best Card Machine For Small UK Businesses

Now that you understand why card machines are essential for small businesses and the factors to consider when choosing one, let's explore some of the top card machine providers in the UK. These providers offer a range of card machines tailored to the needs of small businesses, ensuring reliable and secure payment processing. 

Best Mobile Card Machines for Small Businesses

Sumup AIR Mobile Card ReaderBest Card Machine for Craft Fair

★★★★★ 4.5   £38.99
With the SumUp Air card reader, you’ll be able to receive card payments on the go, wherever you’re working – anywhere, anytime.
If you’ve got this SumUp card reader, you can accept all major debit and credit cards as well as Google Pay and Apple Pay. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, and is so simple to use with your smartphone or tablet. It's ideal for Craft Fairs.
  • One upfront cost and then a small fee per transaction of 1.69%.
  • Quick install time of just 5 minutes.
  • Works via bluetooth.
  • Runs on batteries (provided) without a charging function.
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Sumup Air Mobile Card Terminal
Why is Sumup Air Suitable for Small Businesses?
  • Accessibility: Simply purchase the Sumup Air on Amazon, connect to your device to your smartphone or tablet and get started in a matter of moments. No meetings with the bank, no long business calls to onboard, just simplicity and ease.
  • Affordable Transactions: SumUp is one of the cheapest devices available, and it charges only 1.69% per transaction, so on a £20 sale, the fee is just £0.34. This means you keep £19.66 in earnings, making it budget-friendly for small business owners.
  • One off Payment: No contracts making Sumup ideal if things don't go to plan. You can make a one-off purchase for the device and use it as and when you wish.
  • Easy Setup: The SumUp card reader is simple to install and ready to use in 5 minutes, saving you time in the morning on a busy working day.
  • Accept All Payments: Customers can pay with cards, contactless, chip and PIN, and even digital wallets like Google and Apple Pay. You won't miss out on any sales.
  • Go Anywhere: With Bluetooth connectivity to your smartphone, you can accept payments wherever you are, making transactions convenient for customers.
  • Fast Payouts: Get your money in just 1-3 working days directly to your bank account. No waiting around for your earnings.

Best Portable Card Machine For Small Businesses

Square Terminal

best portable card machine for small business

★★★★★ 4.5   £179.99
Start selling right out of the box with payments processing, point-of-sale software and powerful hardware designed as one seamless till system. No extra tablet, app or card terminal required.
Accept all major cards at 1.75% per contactless or chip and PIN transaction and get funds in your bank account as soon as the next working day or instantly for a fee. Plus, with Offline mode, you can still take chip and PIN, Apple Pay and Google Pay payments, even when your Wi-Fi is down (for up to 24 hours).
  • Square Terminal offers a flat rate of 1.75% for each contactless or chip and PIN transaction
  • Get started with it quickly without the need for a smartphone or a tablet.
  • Works via bluetooth.
  • Built-in battery, designed to last all day
  • Runs on batteries (provided) without a charging function.
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Why is the Square Terminal Suitable for Small Businesses?
  • Accessibility: The Square Terminal can be easily purchased, and you can get started with it quickly without the need for a smartphone or a tablet.
  • Accept All Payments: The Square Terminal allows you to accept various payment methods, including contactless cards, chip and PIN cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. It ensures you won't miss out on any potential sales.
  • Affordable Transactions: Square Terminal offers a flat rate of 1.75% for each contactless or chip and PIN transaction, making it transparent and budget-friendly. There are no hidden fees or long-term commitments, which benefits small business owners.
  • Easy Setup: The Square Terminal comes with free, pre-installed POS software, enabling you to manage your items, sell accurately, and take payments quickly and easily. This saves you time, especially on busy working days.
  • Portable and Cordless: You can use the Square Terminal cordlessly with its built-in battery, designed to last all day. This feature enables you to take payments wherever you are, providing convenience for both you and your customers.
  • Fast Payouts: You can get your funds in your bank account as soon as the next working day, ensuring you don't have to wait around for your earnings.
  • Offline Mode: The Square Terminal offers an Offline Mode, allowing you to continue processing chip and PIN card payments, Apple Pay, and Google Pay transactions even when your Wi-Fi is down. However, it's important to note the risks associated with offline payments, such as delayed receipt of funds and a higher risk of card fraud going undetected. To mitigate these risks, you must reconnect to the internet within 24 hours, and you can set transaction limits before taking offline payments.
  • Compatibility: The Square Terminal works with any standard 57.2 mm (2.25 in.) thermal printer paper, making refills easy.

One significant advantage of the Square Terminal over the SumUp is that it comes with a built-in receipt printer. This feature allows you to print receipts for your customers directly from the terminal, making it a more versatile and convenient solution compared to the SumUp, which might require you to use a separate printer for receipts.

Best Countertop Card Machine For Small Businesses


Square Register

does the square register card device need wifi

★★★★★ 4.5   £718.99
Square Register is an integrated payment terminal and till system that offers a seamless solution for businesses looking to start selling right out of the box.
It combines payments processing, point-of-sale software, and powerful hardware in one device, eliminating the need for extra tablets, apps, or card terminals.
  • Competitive rate of 1.75% per contactless or chip + PIN transaction.
  • Quick install time of just 5 minutes.
  • Two touchscreen displays—one for you and one for your customers
  • Works via bluetooth.
  • No printer with this device


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  • Accept All Major Cards: With Square Register, you can accept all major cards, including contactless, chip and PIN, debit cards, credit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, at a competitive rate of 1.75% per contactless or chip + PIN transaction. Custom pricing is also available for larger sellers.
  • Two Touchscreen Displays: The device comes with two touchscreen displays—one for you and one for your customers. This setup allows for efficient payment processing and provides a dedicated customer display to enhance the buying experience.
  • Expert 24/7 Phone Support: Square Register offers expert 24/7 phone support, ensuring that you have assistance whenever you need it. It also provides managed payment disputes and a 2-year limited guarantee at no extra cost, giving you added peace of mind.
  • Intelligent Software: Square Register comes with intelligent point-of-sale software, including Square Point of Sale and Square for Restaurants, and Square for Retail. These pre-installed software options enable you to track sales in real-time, manage inventory, build a customer directory, and more, all from your point of sale.
  • Fast Transfers: You can enjoy clear rates with a processing fee of 1.75% per contactless or chip + PIN transaction for all Visa, Mastercard, and American Express cards. Funds are deposited into your bank account in one to two business days for free, with the option for instant deposits available for a fee.
  • Sell Online and In-Store: Square Register allows you to sell both online and in-store. You can offer takeaway, click and collect, or local delivery through Square Online, which integrates seamlessly with Square Point of Sale to keep items, orders, and inventory in sync.
  • Dedicated Customer Display: The dedicated customer display on Square Register ensures that customers can see what they're buying and make payments intuitively, streamlining the checkout process.
  • Industry-Specific Solutions: Square Register offers purpose-built point-of-sale solutions tailored to specific industries, such as Square for Restaurants, Square for Retail, and more. It also allows integration with third-party apps through the Square App Marketplace.
  • Powered by Intelligent Point-of-Sale Software: Square Register continuously receives free automatic updates, equipping you with features to add, edit, and sell thousands of items, track sales in real time, manage online orders and integrated food delivery platforms, build a customer directory, send invoices, and integrate with other apps from the Square App Marketplace.
  • No Smartphone or Tablet Required: Unlike some other systems, Square Register operates as a standalone device, eliminating the need for a smartphone or tablet to facilitate transactions.
  • No Printer: There's no printer with this device, but you can send receipts with e-mail.

Square Register offers a comprehensive and fully integrated till system, making it an attractive option for businesses seeking an all-in-one solution for payments, point-of-sale management, and customer interactions. Its intelligent software, fast payment processing, and multiple display options contribute to a smooth and efficient sales process both online and in-store.

Comparison of Fees and Rates for Card Machines

When choosing a card machine, it's essential to consider the fees and rates associated with accepting card payments. Each provider has its own fee structure, so comparing the costs is crucial to ensure you're getting the best deal for your business. Some common fees to consider include transaction fees, monthly service fees, and chargeback fees. Transaction fees are typically a percentage of the transaction value, while monthly service fees can be a fixed amount or a percentage of your sales volume.  It's important to carefully review and understand the fee structure of each provider to avoid any surprises or unexpected costs. By comparing the fees and rates, you can make an informed decision and choose a card machine that offers the most cost-effective solution for your small business.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Card Machine

Selecting the right card machine for your small business requires careful consideration of various factors. Firstly, affordability is crucial, especially for small businesses with limited budgets. Look for providers that offer competitive rates, low transaction fees, and no contracts. Secondly, ease of use is essential, particularly if you don't have a dedicated IT team. Opt for user-friendly card machines with intuitive interfaces and straightforward setup processes. It's also worth considering the customer support provided by the card machine provider. Responsive and knowledgeable support can make a significant difference when it comes to troubleshooting technical issues or answering queries. Lastly, ensure that the card machine you choose complies with the latest security standards, such as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). Protecting your customers' payment data should be a top priority to build trust and maintain a good reputation for your business.

Security Measures for Card Machines

Security is a paramount concern when it comes to card payments. As a small business owner, you must ensure that your card machine meets the highest security standards to protect your customers' sensitive payment data. Look for card machines that are PCI DSS compliant, as this ensures the implementation of robust security measures. Regularly update your card machine's software and firmware to ensure you have the latest security patches. It's also important to train your staff on best practices for handling card payments and avoiding common scams or fraud attempts.

Mobile Card Machines for Small Businesses

In today's fast-paced world, mobility is key for many small businesses. If you operate on the go or frequently attend events and pop-ups, a mobile card machine can be a game-changer. These compact devices connect to your smartphone or tablet, enabling you to accept card payments anywhere with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Mobile card machines are particularly popular among food trucks, market stalls, and service-based businesses that visit customers at their locations. They offer convenience, flexibility, and the ability to provide a seamless payment experience on the spot. With a mobile card machine, you can eliminate the limitations of cash-only transactions and cater to a wider range of customers. Look for providers that offer mobile card machines with long battery life, fast transaction processing, and reliable connectivity to ensure smooth operations for your small business.

How to Set Up and Use a Card Machine

Setting up and using a card machine may seem daunting at first, but it doesn't have to be. Most card machine providers offer simple and straightforward setup processes, accompanied by comprehensive user guides and support materials. Typically, you'll need to connect your card machine to a power source and a stable internet connection. Follow the instructions provided by your provider to pair the device with your smartphone, tablet, or base station. Once set up, familiarise yourself with the card machine's interface and features. Ensure that you and your staff are trained on how to process card payments, issue receipts, and handle common scenarios like refunds or voids. It's also advisable to conduct regular tests to ensure the card machine is functioning correctly and to identify any potential issues early on. By investing time in the setup and familiarisation process, you can maximise the benefits of your card machine and provide an efficient payment experience for your customers.

Tips for Maximising the Benefits of a Card Machine

Now that you're equipped with the knowledge of choosing, setting up, and using a card machine, here are some tips to help you maximise its benefits for your small business:

Promote Card Payments

Display signage or inform customers verbally that you accept card payments. This will encourage customers to make purchases, even if they don't have cash on hand.

Offer Contactless Payments

Enable contactless payments on your card machine to provide a quick and convenient payment option for customers. Contactless payments are especially popular for small transactions and can help streamline your checkout process.

Keep Your Card Machine Clean

Regularly clean and maintain your card machine to ensure it functions optimally. Dust and debris can affect its performance, so use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe the device regularly.

Monitor Transactions

Keep track of your transactions and reconcile them with your sales records. This will help you identify any discrepancies or errors and ensure accurate financial reporting.

Stay Up-to-Date with Technology

As technology evolves, new features and functionalities may become available for your card machine. Stay informed and take advantage of any updates or enhancements that can benefit your business.

Train Your Staff

Provide comprehensive training to your staff on how to operate the card machine and handle various payment scenarios. This will ensure consistency and efficiency in your payment process.


In conclusion, choosing the best card machine for your small business is a decision that requires careful consideration. By understanding the different types of card machines, considering important factors such as affordability and security, and comparing the fees and rates of various providers, you can make an informed choice. Whether you opt for a countertop terminal, portable terminal, or mobile card reader, implementing a reliable and efficient card machine will enhance your customer experience, boost your sales, and streamline your payment process. Remember to prioritise security, train your staff, and stay informed about the latest technology advancements to maximise the benefits of your card machine. Embrace the digital payment revolution and take your small business to new heights with the best card machine for your needs.

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Stuart is an expert in Property, Money, Banking & Finance, having worked in retail and investment banking for 10+ years before founding Sunny Avenue. Stuart has spent his career studying finance. He holds qualifications in financial studies, mortgage advice & practice, banking operations, dealing & financial markets, derivatives, securities & investments.

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