Cheapest credit card machines for small businesses

By Joe Francis Updated 28th Oct 2019

The cost of taking card payments can add up quickly. Here we take a look at the cheapest ways for businesses to start to start accepting card payments, and tips for keeping costs as low as possible.

What are credit card machines called?

Credit card machines are often referred to as one of the following:

  • Chip and Pin machine
  • Payment terminal
  • PDQ Machine
  • POS (Point of Sale) terminal

What are credit card machines?

Card machines are small hand held devices that have a slot for a customer to insert a card and keypad to enter their PIN number or cancel the transaction. More recent versions of chip and pin machines include the ability to pay via contactless payments (for transactions up to £30, with this likely to grow as trust grows) which have proven to reduce the time taken to complete a card transaction significantly.

What are the different types of card machine?

  1. Countertop card machine

    Typically seen on the counter in shops - these are great if you only need to take payments in one place.

    What they need: A powerpoint and a broadband or phone connection

  2. Portable card machine

    Portable machines are often found in table service restaurants, or businesses where payments need to be taken in different places. More recently, portable card machines are more popular as their connections become more reliable, and as businesses try to improve customer comfort and experience.

    What they need: Powerpoint for the charge point and a broadband connection

  3. Mobile card machine

    If your business is often on the move or you regularly sell products at events or festivals, then a mobile card machine could be the best option. They connect to a mobile network connection which means you can take payments anywhere you can get signal!

    What they need: A mobile network connection and power for the charge point.

  4. Smartphone / Tablet card reader

    Growing in popularity are smartphone card readers as a cheaper alternative to accept card payments. They are typically a cheaper up-front alternative, meaning they are great for small businesses who take infrequent card payments (or who don’t want to commit to rental contracts). Smartphone card reader providers make their money through charging a small fee for each card payment you process, meaning you only pay when you are making money yourself!

    What they need: a tablet or mobile phone with the necessary app and a bluetooth connection

What is the cheapest type of card machine?

This largely depends on the number of transactions you will take (and how regularly you take transactions).

More recently, the cheapest way for small businesses to start accepting card payments is by using a smartphone card reader which don’t commit you to a contract, and allow you to dip your toe in the water. A number of readers don’t require merchant accounts and can simply connect into your paypal account for super fast transactions and transparency.

As your business grows, and you begin to significantly grow the amount you are transacting, you will find that renting terminals and moving to a merchant account will be cheaper for you. Traditionally, to accept a large number of online payments, you would need a merchant account - which is a bank account that can receive money from payments. A merchant account is different from a normal business account and doesn’t need to be from the same bank or building society that you use for normal banking.

How much do card machines cost to rent?

Basic card machines typically cost between £10-£30 plus VAT per month depending on the length of the contract you sign. It is best to speak to a number of different merchant service companies to find the best price / service for your specific business needs.


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