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The Best Credit Card Readers For Small Business

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So you want to use your cell phone or tablet to process payments for your business. Whether this is your first time around with a credit card processing app or you’re just wondering if it’s time to upgrade that old credit card swiper you’ve had for four years, there’s certainly a lot to consider. What kind of technology is out there? How much does a cell phone credit card reader cost? What can I do with a mobile POS? Which are the best credit card readers for my business?

If you are curious about what your mobile credit card reader options are, read on! I’ve compiled a list of the most popular solutions and their specs. Make sure you read our reviews for each mobile app and its hardware so that you understand the advantages and drawbacks of each.

But first, let’s go over some of the benefits of accepting payments on a mobile device.

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How Can A Small Business Use Mobile Credit Card Readers?

Mobile credit card readers can come in handy in a lot of business situations. Mobile credit card readers can be used:

  • For occasional mobile sales at trunk shows, farmer’s markets, pop-up shops, craft fairs, or any other event
  • For selling on the floor or checking out customers while they wait in line, rather than at the counter
  • By full-time mobile businesses, such as food trucks, mobile dog groomers, personal trainers, etc.
  • As a backup point of sale if your main POS goes down
  • By independent contractors such as hairdressers who rent a booth
  • As a mobile invoicing solution for plumbers, contractors, exterminators, or any business that performs services at someone’s home or at a job site
  • By new businesses that don’t have a merchant account yet
  • By any small business that wants a simple, lightweight POS with a small footprint

Mobile credit card apps carry many benefits for small businesses. Some of these benefits include:

  • Access to customers who don’t carry cash
  • Make mobile sales (trade shows, conventions, pop-up events, etc.)
  • Receive lower rates for in-person transactions (compared to a virtual terminal)
  • Get paid faster (compared to paper invoices)
  • Lets you approach customers personally and close the sale before they leave (due to hesitance about purchase, being deterred by long line, etc.)
  • Allows you to collect upfront payments rather than chasing invoices later or dealing with higher card-not-present fees with a virtual terminal
  • Accept credit cards without a traditional POS
  • Free/inexpensive POS—all you need is your phone, a free mobile app, and a credit card reader, which you may also be able to get for free
  • Not just a credit card reader—can also include functions like basic inventory, webstore integration, invoicing, social media selling, and more

Who Has The Best Credit Card Reader?

Square is the most popular mobile credit card terminal, and it is safe to say that Square is also the best mobile credit card reader for many businesses. However, there are also other mobile POS apps to choose from. Here are the best smartphone credit card readers, which I’ll discuss in detail in the next section:

  • Square POS
  • Shopify POS
  • SwipeSimple (Payment Depot)
  • Clover Go
  • SumUp
  • PayPal Here

Where To Get The Best Mobile Credit Card Readers For Small Businesses

So now that we’ve covered the reasons you might use a mobile credit card reader, let’s take a look at what your best options are! Keep in mind that there really isn’t a good one-size-fits-all solution, so consider what you need and which features are most important to you. In general, a good mobile card swiper should have good customer service, affordable pricing, and a strong feature set that meets your needs.

1. Square POS

Square POS (Free Version)



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  • Free headphone jack/lighting port reader
  • $49 Bluetooth and EMV-compatible chip and tap reader
  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Processing rate: 2.6% + $0.10
  • Funds transferred in 1-2 days

square readers

Square Point of Sale is easily the most powerful free mobile processing app available, offering not just mobile credit card processing, but also inventory tracking, invoicing, advanced reporting, a free customer database, a free online store, and many other features.

The app and card reader are both free to use, and Square will even send you a free headphone jack or lightning port reader to accept magnetic stripe credit card payments with your device. If you want for a Bluetooth reader that can accept chip cards and contactless payments, Square offers the Square Reader for contactless and chip for $49.

As for mobile processing rates, you’ll pay a flat 2.6% + $0.10 for all card-present transactions. After you process a payment, funds are deposited in your bank account within 1-2 business days for no added fee. You can also pay a fee to receive an instant or same-day transfer to your bank account.

The best thing about Square is that it is completely risk-free to try out or to install as a backup POS in case your main POS goes down. Even if you never use it, you never have to pay a monthly fee and you won’t be out any money because the credit card reader itself is free. No matter what type of small business you own, it’s a good idea to have a Square reader in your back pocket—literally!

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2. Shopify Lite

Shopify Lite



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  • Free Bluetooth EMV reader
  • $24 chip and tap reader
  • Monthly fee: $9
  • Processing rate: 2.7%
  • Funds transferred in 1-3 days

shopify tap and chip case

Shopify Lite is an excellent mobile credit card processing solution for retailers who sell at craft fairs, pop-up events, or even on social media. While you’ll pay $79/month for the full-fledged Shopify POS designed for a countertop setup with a cash drawer and receipt printer, Shopify’s mobile solution, Shopify Lite, is offered for just $9/month.

Shopify Lite supports sales through social media and a buy button on your own website, as well as access to the mobile POS. In-person transactions with Shopify Payments process at 2.7%, and payments typically arrive in your bank account after 24 to 72 hours.

The key POS features are the same in the Lite plan as they are in other Shopify service plans; the big difference is the lack of hardware support and the lack of unlimited staff PIN access. The Shopify Lite plan also includes an invoicing feature, and of course, everything syncs between your in-person sales and any online sales through Facebook.

You receive a free Shopify Chip & Swipe reader when you sign up for Shopify Lite; you can upgrade to their Tap & Chip reader for just $24, and add a $19 case (pictured above) if you want to attach that reader to your iPhone X or Xs.

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3. SwipeSimple

Payment Depot Mobile



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  • Free Bluetooth EMV reader
  • $25 chip and tap reader
  • Monthly fee: $10
  • Processing rate: 2.6% + $0.10
  • Funds transferred in 1-2 days

swipesimple bluetooth card readers

SwipeSimple is a mobile credit card reader and app made by a company called CardFlight and is available through several merchant account providers. Here, we’re focusing on SwipeSimple from Payment Depot, as this provider has the best terms and fees for SwipeSimple.

SwipeSimple has all the core features mobile merchants need, plus a few extras, such as a virtual terminal. With Payment Depot, you can get the SwipeSimple app for just $10/month and transaction processing at 2.6% + $0.10 with 24-48 hour deposits.

What really sets Payment Depot apart is the fact that Payment Depot will give you your own merchant account, whereas most of the others in this list use the third-party aggregating business model. That means SwipeSimple (by Payment Depot) carries less of a risk of an account hold or termination.

Payment Depot offers new merchants a free chip and swipe reader, the Swift B200, which connects via Bluetooth. If you’re interested in contactless payments, you can get a swipe, chip, and tap reader—the Swift B250—for just $25.

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4. Clover Go

Clover Go



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  • $69 Bluetooth reader supports magstripe, EMV & NFC
  • Monthly fee: $14
  • Processing rate: 2.7% + $0.10
  • Funds transferred in 1-2 days

Clover Go All in One reader

Clover Go can be a useful add-on for merchants who already use a Clover POS such as Clover Station or Clover Mini and need a mobile reader to take their POS on the road. Alternatively, you can use Clover Go as a standalone mobile option to take payments on your phone or tablet, and also do things like manage inventory and view sales reports.

The $69 Bluetooth reader can accept any type of payment and comes with your own First Data merchant account, via Clover. Various Clover resellers offer Clover Go, and some of them might even give you a free reader, but we generally recommend getting Clover Go directly through Clover or a recommended Clover reseller to ensure the best rates and service.

When purchased directly through Clover, the cheapest you can get Clover Go is $14/month on the “Register Lite” plan with 2.7% + $0.10 flat-rate processing. However, heavier Clover users (who will typically use Clover Go as an add-on rather than their main POS) on the $29/month “Register” plan qualify for 2.3% + $0.10 processing. Clover usually deposits funds within 1-2 days, though some resellers like Bank of America offer next-day deposits.

As with SwipeSimple/Payment Depot, Clover Go can be a good reader for merchants who are willing to pay a little more for the stability that comes with having your own merchant account. However, prices and contract terms for Clover vary depending on the seller.

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5. SumUp

SumUp



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  • $19 Bluetooth reader supports magstripe, EMV, NFC
  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Processing rate: 2.65% 
  • Funds transferred in 1-2 days

sumup reader

SumUp is a European company that opened up processing for US merchants in 2017. While it’s not as comprehensive as other options (for instance, it doesn’t include discounts or invoices), it does everything most merchants will need to do. It’s also worth noting that SumUp operates in quite a few countries across Europe (including the UK) as well as South America, which makes it an interesting global solution.

Similar to Square, there is no monthly fee for using the SumUp app, and transactions process at a flat 2.65% each.

SumUp’s Bluetooth-connected mobile card reader, the SumUp Air, is similar in appearance to Square’s and Clover’s readers, and can accept swiped, tapped, or dipped payments. You can get the SumUp reader for $19 in the US, which is a really good price for an all-in-one reader—I don’t think there is any cheaper NFC-capable reader. Outside the US, prices and card reader options vary.

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6. PayPal Here

PayPal Here



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  • Free Bluetooth reader supports magstripe, EMV
  • $79 Bluetooth reader also supports NFC
  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Processing rate: 2.7% 
  • Instant transfers to PayPal account 

paypal here chip and tap bundle

Next to Square, PayPal Here is probably the best-known mobile credit card app on the market. It’s not quite as robust as Square, but it does have all the essentials that merchants need, plus invoicing. If you use PayPal to sell online, all of your data syncs up, which is a big draw. PayPal is entirely pay-as-you-go, with no monthly fees. Swiped, dipped, or tapped transactions process at 2.7% each.

Another major benefit of PayPal Here is instant transfers to your PayPal account, which you can use for immediate online spending. PayPal also has an instant transfer option to move funds to your bank for a nominal fee of $0.25.

PayPal offers several card readers, including a free basic magstripe reader. However, if you opt for just the magstripe reader, PayPal will place limits on the number of sales you can process per week without incurring holds. For that reason, it’s better if you just skip over the magstripe reader and go for the Bluetooth Chip & Swipe Reader. This EMV reader is currently offered for free on new accounts, but its MSRP is $24.99.

If you’d like to add support for contactless (NFC) payments from mobile wallets, PayPal also offers a Chip & Tap Reader for $79.99. It even includes dock so you can use it in countertop register setups.

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What Features Does A Mobile Card Reader Need?

As follows are some important considerations and things to look for when it comes to mobile card readers:

  • No Long-Term Contract: Pay-as-you-go (e.g., Square) or month-to-month pricing (e.g., SwipeSimple by Payment Depot) is ideal; you don’t want to be stuck in a pricey contract for a service you don’t end up liking.
  • Solid POS App: Not just the reader itself, but the app that accompanies the reader needs to be robust and easy to use.
  • EMV Support: Being able to accept chip cards makes things easier for customers to pay (not all cards have a magnetic stripe anymore) and to protect your business in terms of your EMV liability.
  • NFC Support: NFC support makes it easy for customers to pay with their phone, their Apple Watch, or their contactless credit card. More and more, customers are expecting NFC support.
  • Good Battery Life: Since you’ll likely be using the reader on the go, you need a reader that will go at least a day without a charge.
  • Fast Funding Times: 1-3 days is standard, but ideally it’s nice to have next-day deposits and an instant transfer option.
  • Good Customer Support: Things commonly go wrong in the world of payment processing, so reliable, 24/7 support is a must.

Why Wireless Credit Card Readers Are The Future Of Mobile Payment Processing

square contactless reader

Although the EU recently voted to standardize the charging cable, we don’t have a standardized charging option in the US. The headphone jack is going the way of the dodo, and Android and Apple devices have different charging ports, making the prospect of a universal plug-in credit card reader impossible. Moreover, most basic plug-in credit card readers don’t accept modern payments such as EMV or NFC, because those technologies require a device with a battery.

It’s certainly not a bad thing to have a plug-in reader as a backup, but a Bluetooth credit card reader ensures maximum compatibility, regardless of the phone or tablet maker/model. A wireless credit card reader that connects via Bluetooth will also typically be EMV-capable and usually (though not always) be able to accept NFC payments as well.

Which Mobile Card Reader Is Best For Your Small Business?

How should you decide which mobile credit card reader to use? There is no one reader that works for everyone, so you will have to consider your business’s particular needs. For example, what is your monthly processing volume? A higher-volume merchant will likely benefit from a mobile reader that comes with your own merchant account. Do you sell online or only in-person? Online sellers need a mobile POS app that also includes eCommerce. Your industry, budget, customer needs are some other factors you will have to consider.

Square is the best all-around reader, as it can work for any industry and is compatible with virtually any device, with both plug-in and wireless credit card reader options. It’s also free and has all the features most businesses will need. However, other mobile payment processors on this list might have advantages for some particular kinds of sellers.

Check out these resources for more help choosing a mobile credit card reader for your small business:

A Last Look At Our Top Picks

  1. Square POS (Free Version)
    Summary - Best for: Most small businesses
  2. Shopify Lite
    Summary - Best for: Small retailers who are active on social media
  3. Payment Depot Mobile
    Summary - Best for: Mobile businesses that want their own merchant account
  4. Clover Go
    Summary - Best for: Clover users who want a mobile option
  5. SumUp
    Summary - Best for: International merchants
  6. PayPal Here
    Summary - Best for: PayPal sellers
Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson has been writing about payment processing and mobile payments since 2014, and has been quoted in articles for Credit Karma and The Next Web, among others. She graduated from The University of Kansas in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism.
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8 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Lollipop

    Do you know of any POS systems similar to SQUARE that can be built inside a device as permanent hardware. > EXTERNAL pos readers like SQUARE and PAYPAL are not aesthetically convenient for our devices design . Thanks.

      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

      Emily Hale

      Hi and thanks for your question!

      If you’re concerned about the aesthetics and do not want any sort of hardware, I suggest looking into taking the payment on your existing device through a virtual terminal. You can take payments like this with most credit card processors, including Square. Check out What Is a Virtual Terminal for more information on how it works. Best of luck!

        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

        Judith Brandman

        I will be closing a brick and mortar store to do business online and over the phone.
        Since no actual cards will be present, what is the best way to go?
        Thanks!

          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

          Dakota Fillet

          Hi Judith, I would suggest visiting our Online Payment Processing Comparison page for a quick look into your options. Additionally, you may want to visit our article on The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies for a deeper look into those options. Best of luck!

            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

            We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.

            Bill Baumgarten

            I spend 5 months in Brazil every year. This year I noticed several places including Taxis are using yellow credit card readers. They advertize that thay take VISA, but as of yet I have not found one that will take mine from CapitalOne with a chip. Initially I was embarassed when the machine rejected my card, and fortunateky had cash with me to pay…..however I prefer to pay by card, because of the exchange rate, and understand why small businesses are using them, but isn’t it possible to make changes so they do accept International cards?

              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

              Jessica Dinsmore

              Hi there Bill,

              We aren’t too sure how to answer this question, but our guess is that it probably has something to do with how the card readers are set up to verify the cardholder’s identity (chip + PIN vs chip + signature). Brazil has had EMV since 1999, though EMV cards are frequently compromised there. In our opinion, you’re probably better off paying cash, even if the exchange rate isn’t so good.

                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                Jeaneen

                Thank you so much for this article! I learned so much!

                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                  David

                  I am surprised that you have not reviewed “Dream Payments” as they take both credit and debit cards.

                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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