Can a Charity Have a Card Machine?

Home Can a Charity Have a Card Machine?
Sunny Avenue
Sunny Best (Product Reviews) Sunny Avenue
31 Jul 2023

In today's fast-paced, digital world, the traditional way of making donations to charities - dropping coins in a collection box - is fast becoming obsolete. With the advent and popularity of electronic payment methods, the question arises, Can a charity have a card machine?

Key Takeaways

  • Charities can use card machines in the cashless society to facilitate easy and efficient cashless donations.
  • Card machines offer benefits such as effortless donations, increased contributions, enhanced security, and accounting efficiency.
  • Not all card machine providers cater to charities, so careful consideration is necessary when choosing a provider.
  • Alternatives to card machines for charities include mobile payment apps, online gateways, contactless payment solutions, and crowdfunding platforms. Effectively using card machines and offering card payment options maximises donations.

Can a Charity Have a Card Machine?

Yes, charities can use card machines in today's cashless society. Options like Square Contactless Card Reader and Sumup Air Mobile Terminal offer affordable choices. Mobile payment apps, online gateways, and text-to-donate are alternatives. Maximising donations and adapting to modern methods is crucial for charities' success.

The Shift to a Cashless Society

The payment landscape has significantly evolved over the years. Cash usage has been declining, with contactless payments and card transactions becoming the norm. The UK saw a 38% drop in the use of cash machines in 2020, largely triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. This shift is also mirrored in the charitable sector, where cashless giving has seen a sustained increase since March 2020.

Consequently, it's crucial for charities to facilitate easy and efficient cashless donations through online fundraising, donation buttons, QR codes, and tap-and-donate devices.

The Need for Card Machines in Charities

With fewer people carrying cash, charities cannot rely solely on traditional coin collection methods. The introduction of card machines for charities can help bridge this gap. Notably, these devices offer several benefits:

Effortless Donations

A simple tap of a card or phone makes the donation process hassle-free, reducing missed opportunities.

Increased Donations

People are likely to donate more when using cards or contactless payment methods compared to spare change.


Cashless collection options remove the temptation for theft.

Accounting Efficiency

Card machines eliminate the need for counting coins and rushing to the bank. All donation information is instantly available and can be linked directly to accounting packages.

Fast Payments

Donations received can be in your bank account within days, depending on your Merchant Services Provider.

Modern Perception

By adopting card machines, charities appear progressive and adaptable, aligning with modern payment methods.

Do All Card Machine Providers Cater to Charities?

Unfortunately, not all card machine providers cater to charities. Many restrict fundraisers, not-for-profit organisations, and community groups. Therefore, charities must carefully consider their choice of provider. Providers like Payment Plus welcome charities and offer tailored solutions to meet their needs.

Choosing the Right Card Machine for Your Charity

The type of card machine suitable for a charity largely depends on its operations. Various card machines are available in the market, each offering unique features. Here's a brief overview of some popular options:

Square Contactless Card Reader

Square Contactless Card Reader

Best card machine for craft fairs

★★★★★ 4.3   £22.80
With the Square Contactless Card Reader 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 Square contactless 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.
  • Cheaper upfront cost compared with the Sumup Air
  • Quick install time of just 5 minutes.
  • Works via bluetooth.
  • Slightly more expensive ongoing charges of 1.79% per transaction.
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
  • The Square Contactless Card reader is an affordable option for charities. With a one-time fee of £22~ and a 1.75% transaction fee on £1000, expenses total just £39.50.
  • Setup is easy, connecting to a mobile phone for on-the-go use. There are no contracts, and if no sales occur, the cost is limited to the upfront device price. Plus, the device can be sold if not needed.
  • Waiting a day for fund transfers incurs no additional costs to the charity's bank account.
  • Can be purchased through amazon without hassle.
Sumup Air Mobile Card Terminal

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.
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
  • The Sumup Air mobile card machine offers a fair price for charities. While not the cheapest option, it provides flexibility with additional features like a charging dock.
  • Starting at around £45~, it has a 1.69% transaction fee, slightly cheaper than the Square. If processing £1000, total fees would be £61.90.
  • The Sumup is cost-effective, especially for higher turnovers of £35,000. For sporadic use, the cheaper Square may be better, while Sumup suits scaling or selling high-ticket items.
  • Can be purchased through amazon without hassle.

Alternatives to Getting a Card Machine for Charities

Several alternatives to getting a card machine as a charity include:

Mobile Payment Apps

Charities can use popular mobile payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, or Cash App to accept donations. Donors can make payments using their mobile devices, making it convenient and accessible.

Online Payment Gateways

Integrating an online payment gateway on the charity's website enables secure and direct online donations. Providers like Stripe or PayPal offer easy-to-use solutions.

Contactless Payment Solutions

Utilising contactless payment options, such as NFC-enabled devices or QR codes, allows donors to make touchless payments in person or at events.

Bank Transfers

Providing the charity's bank account details for direct bank transfers allows supporters to contribute directly from their bank accounts.

Crowdfunding Platforms

Charities can create fundraising campaigns on crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter to reach a broader audience and gather donations.


Implementing text-to-donate campaigns allows supporters to donate by sending a simple text message with the desired amount.

Payment Processing Services

Partnering with a payment processing service designed for charities enables easy and secure handling of donations, often with special nonprofit rates.

Fundraising Events

Hosting fundraising events, auctions, or charity dinners allows charities to accept payments in person through cash, checks, or digital methods.

Making the Most of Your Charity Card Machine

It's not enough to simply have a card machine; charities must effectively use them to maximise donations. Here are some tips:

Understand Your Needs

Consider your donation patterns and choose the most suitable card machine. For instance, if your charity receives high volumes of small donations, a tap-and-donate device might not be the best choice. However, it could be beneficial for evening fundraisers where larger donations are likely.

Trial Devices by Hiring

If you aren't ready to commit, hiring devices on a monthly basis can help you test their effectiveness and economic viability before committing to a purchase.

Offer Customers To Pay With Card

If you offer your clients the opportunity to pay with card, most of them will take you up on that. This will help you maximise the usage of your card device.  

Do We Need To Register As a Charity to Get a Card Device?

No, you do not necessarily need to be a registered charity to get a card machine. While some card machine providers may have restrictions and prefer working with registered charities, there are options available for other types of organisations, such as not-for-profit groups, community organisations, or fundraisers. It's essential to research different card machine providers and find the one that offers solutions suitable for your organisation's needs and status.


In conclusion, the answer to "Can a charity have a card machine?" is a resounding yes. With the right strategy and choice of card machine, charities can adapt to the cashless society, increase donations, and streamline their collection process. It's a modern solution for a modern problem, ensuring that charities continue to thrive in the digital age.

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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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