The best credit card reader for small business in 2024

Person making credit card payment using Square Reader
(Image credit: Square)

The best credit card reader for small business will keep your customers happy, by letting them make card payments wherever you are, without needing any extra equipment. For anyone selling photographs at a local market - or for taking deposits for weddings - the ability to accept credit cards makes you look more professional, and makes things easier for your shoppers.

These small and portable devices connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth and provide you with a free app to run things. That makes it simple for you to take payments, say, for prints you're selling at a local market, or for your day's services as a wedding photographer. For this, the best credit card readers charge quite a minimal transaction fee, and most of them are pretty cheap. Some are even free!

You don't want to take any risks, of course, when it comes to something as important as taking payments. So we've done the research for you, and below we present the absolute best card readers you can buy today. We've found them all to be reliable in use, and they all come from reputable companies you can trust.

Best credit card readers for small business

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(Image credit: Square)

1. Square Reader

The best credit card reader for small business overall

Monthly fees?: No | Cost per transaction: From 2.6%+ $0.10 (US), 1.75% (UK) | Settlement period: 1 working day | Customer support options: Phone, email, chat

Free in US 
1 day settlement period 
Packed with features 
No display or keypad

Square is widely on both sides of the Atlantic, and for good reason. It's small, light, and very reliable. It is also cheap, so that makes it our pick as the best credit card reader for small business overall. 

It doesn't look like much, being just a small, featureless square with no PIN pad or mag stripe slot. But shoppers can use it to make payments, either by tapping their card on it directly, or by using the cheap reader keying in their PIN on your phone or tablet. It also works with Apple Pay and Google Pay, and the money should be in your account the following day. 

There's no monthly fee, but Square will charge you 2.6%+ 10 cents per transaction in the US, or a flat fee of 1.75% in the UK. That rises to 3.5% + 15 cents (US) or 2.5% (UK) for keyed-in transactions. When you need help, you can contact Square Customer Success through live chat, email or phone on weekdays, from 6am-6pm PST in the USA, and from 9-5pm in the UK.

While the device itself may be simple, the app is packed with a range of features. These include an inventory library, customer lists, sales reports, order management and invoicing. You also get the ability to create electronic gift cards, payment links, and QR codes. Plus Square's website offers an online store builder and integrates with countless third-party accounting and ecommerce tools.

(Image credit: Zettle)

2. PayPal iZettle Card Reader 2

The best credit card reader with a keypad

Monthly fees?: No | Cost per transaction: From 2.29% + $0.09 (US), 1.75% (UK) | Settlement period: 1-2 working days | Customer support options: Phone, email, chat

Display & keypad
Quick payments into PayPal accounts 
Lower fees than Square in US
Longer settlement period than Square

PayPal is obviously a trusted brand when it comes to online payments, so it's no surprise that its card reader is popular among merchants. It's also cheap. Like Square, it's free of monthly fees and connects to your iOS or Android device via an included app. And you also get customer support via email, chat and phone during weekdays 9-5pm. (You can also pay more for extra support out of hours and on weekends.)

The most obvious difference from the Square Reader is that the iZettle Card Reader 2 features its own display and keypad. So if you like the idea of customers keeping their hands off your phone and tablet, that could be a major factor in its favor.

Charges per transaction are lower in the US than with Square (2.29% plus $0.09 in the US) and the same as the UK (a flat 1.75%). Again, in the US the price rises for manual card entry transactions, to 3.49% + $0.09.

PayPal promises the money will reach your bank account in one to two working days, rather than the single day offered by Square. However, if you're willing to accept payment into a PayPal account, that comes down to just two hours.

Overall, then, Square and iZettle are pretty similar, and the choice between them is quite personal. You may feel that Zettle, with its own keypad and display, looks more professional, or you may prefer the elegant simplicity of Square. If you're expecting a large volume of transactions, though, the lower transaction costs with Zettle may well trump that anyway.

(Image credit: SumUp)

3. SumUp Plus Card Reader

Cheap fees for low-cost items

Monthly fees?: No | Cost per transaction: From 2.75% (US), 1.69% (UK) | Settlement period: 2-3 working days | Customer support options: Phone, email, chat

Display & keypad
Generous customer support 
Low cost per transaction 
Limited integrations 
Longer settlement period

SumUp is another well-known payment processing company, and its card reader is called the SumUp Plus in the US and the SumUp Air in the UK. It costs $35/£29 and is similar to the Zettle 2, in that it features both a display and keypad. The cost per transaction is a flat 2.75% in the US, which may end up costing you less than Square or Zettle's fees if you sell a lot of low-cost items. In the UK, it's 1.69%, which is definitely cheaper than Square or Zettle.

Customer support is slightly more extensive than with Square and Zettle, too. In the US, you get chat, email and phone support from Monday to Friday 8am-7pm and Saturday from 8am-5pm. In the UK, customer support is available on weekdays between 8am and 5pm. 

The potentially lower fees and good customer support are the two reasons you might prefer Sumup's card reader to that of Square or Zettle. On the downside, though, payouts will take longer to reach your bank account (between two and three working days), and the number of integrations are more limited than those offers by Square and Zettle.

Product shot of Shopify Card Reader

(Image credit: Shopify)

4. Shopify Card Reader

The best credit card reader for Shopify sellers

Monthly fees?: $29-$299 a month | Cost per transaction: From 1.5-1.7% depending on plan | Settlement period: 6 working days | Customer support options: Phone, email, chat

Integrates with your Shopify site
24/7 customer support
Auto-sleep function
Requires Shopify subscription
Long settlement period

Shopify is best known as an ecommerce website builder, but it also provides a card reader for use in the physical world. So if you have a Shopify website already, it's definitely worth considering. Partly because it will integrate nicely with your online operations, making it easier to keep track of stock, orders and customers. And partly because the transaction fees will be lower than most other devices on our list.

The transaction fees vary depending on the type of Shopify subscription you're on. So with the Basic Shopify plan ($29/month) you'll pay 1.7%; the Shopify plan ($79/month) it's 1.6%, and the Advanced Shopify plan ($299/month) it's 1.5%. One of the other benefits you'll get from your subscription is 24/7 customer support via phone, email and chat, the most extensive on our list. 

The reader itself is pretty straightforward and easy to use. Like other models on this list, it features a display and keypad, and connects to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth. Handily, it has an auto-sleep feature to help you save your battery from running out. 

On the downside, the money you earn can take up to six days to reach your bank account, which is the longest amongst our selection. And of course, if you're not selling online with Shopify already, we'd struggle to think of a reason to use this card reader specifically.

(Image credit: Square)

5. Square Terminal

The best credit card reader that lets you swipe

Monthly fees?: No | Cost per transaction: From 2.6%+ 10¢ (US), 1.75% (UK) | Settlement period: 1 working day | Customer support options: Phone, email, chat

Magnetic swipe
Prints receipts
24/7 customer support

Rather than using your phone or tablet as a halfway house, want a terminal that connect directly to the internet? Then you'll want the Square Terminal. It's a big step up in spend from the Square Reader, at $399 in the US or £149 + VAT in the UK. But in return you're getting something close to a full-on POS system, as it comes with its own screen, PIN pad, and the ability to swipe cards and print receipts.

The Square Terminal also comes with 24/7 customer phone support, rather than the more limited hours provided for Square Reader users, and a generous two-year warranty. It's compatible with a large range of receipt printers, kitchen printers, cash drawers and barcode scanners. However, not that it can only connect to the internet over Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and doesn't support 4G or 5G.

Product shot of Payanywhere Card Reader

(Image credit: Payanywhere)

6. Pay Anywhere 2-in-1 Credit Card Reader

The best credit card reader that connects to a computer

Monthly fees?: No | Cost per transaction: From 2.69% | Settlement period: 1 working day | Customer support options: Phone, email, chat

Connects to computers
Fees are low for cheap items
First one is free
Doesn't excel at anything specific

PayAnywhere is a less established name in the payments field, but it's still a respectable brand and its card reader does a good job at the basics. Your first card reader is free, and then they cost $29.95 each. Most notably, the US transaction fee of 2.69% for contactless payments may end up costing you less than, say, Square's 2.6%+ 10 cents if you sell a lot of cheap items. (Note, though, that keyed transactions are charged at 3.49% + 19 cents, and that there's an inactivity fee of $3.99 per month if you don't use it for 12 months.)

Its most interesting feature is an ability to interact with computers as well as phones and tablets, supporting Windows 7+ and Mac OS X 10.9+. Beyond that, though, we'll be honest: there's nothing PayAnywhere really excels at compared with other card readers on this list. 

However, if none of these are suitable for some reason (eg, they're not available in your country, or you've had a bad experience with their customer service), then PayAnywhere is certainly worth considering.

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Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, T3, Heat, Company and Bella.