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Best Credit Card Readers For Small Business

These popular credit card readers offer robust features, low prices, and easy payment processing.

    Jason Vissers
  • Last updated onUpdated

  • Matt Sherman
  • REVIEWED BY

    Matt Sherman

    Lead Staff Writer

Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.

The best credit card readers give businesses a convenient and flexible way to accept in-person payments, whether at the counter or on the go.

After looking at dozens of mobile credit card readers and evaluating the hardware cost, payment processing rates, ease of use, accepted payment types, and available features of each, we’re shining a spotlight on the best mobile credit card machines for small businesses.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyHighlightsNext StepsHighlights
Square Credit Card Readers

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  • Overall best card reader for small business
  • The base POS is free; the Square contactless & chip reader costs $49-$59
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per card-present transaction
  • Overall best card reader for small business
  • The base POS is free; the Square contactless & chip reader costs $49-$59
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per card-present transaction

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Helcim

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  • Best card reader for sellers seeking a dedicated merchant account
  • The base POS is free; the Helcim Card Reader costs $99
  • Starts at interchange + 0.4% + $0.08 per card-present transaction with discounts as your sales volume increases
  • Best card reader for sellers seeking a dedicated merchant account
  • The base POS is free; the Helcim Card Reader costs $99
  • Starts at interchange + 0.4% + $0.08 per card-present transaction with discounts as your sales volume increases

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Clover Go

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  • Best card reader for merchant services provider options
  • $0-$14.95/month for the POS; card reader is $49 (Clover.com pricing only)
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per card-present transaction (Clover.com pricing only)
  • Best card reader for merchant services provider options
  • $0-$14.95/month for the POS; card reader is $49 (Clover.com pricing only)
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per card-present transaction (Clover.com pricing only)

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Host Merchant Services

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  • Best card reader for high-risk merchants
  • $14.99/month for the POS; card reader prices not disclosed
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.09 to interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per card-present transaction (low-risk merchants only)
  • Best card reader for high-risk merchants
  • $14.99/month for the POS; card reader prices not disclosed
  • Interchange + 0.20% + $0.09 to interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per card-present transaction (low-risk merchants only)

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Square Terminal

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  • Best all-in-one touchscreen credit card terminal
  • The base POS is free; the Square Terminal costs $299
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per card-present transaction
  • Best all-in-one touchscreen credit card terminal
  • The base POS is free; the Square Terminal costs $299
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per card-present transaction

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PayPal Zettle

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  • Best card reader for low flat-rate pricing
  • The base POS is free; your first Zettle Reader 2 is $29 and subsequent ones are $79
  • 2.29% + $0.09 per card-present transaction
  • Best card reader for low flat-rate pricing
  • The base POS is free; your first Zettle Reader 2 is $29 and subsequent ones are $79
  • 2.29% + $0.09 per card-present transaction

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SumUp

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  • Best card readers for low-volume sellers
  • The base POS is free; SumUp card readers range from $54 to $99
  • 2.75% per card-present transaction
  • Best card readers for low-volume sellers
  • The base POS is free; SumUp card readers range from $54 to $99
  • 2.75% per card-present transaction

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Toast POS

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  • Best credit card reader for restaurants
  • $0-69/month for the basic POS package; $0-$799.20 for the Toast Go 2 card reader (depending on your plan)
  • 2.49% + $0.15 to 3.09% + $0.15 per card-present transaction
  • Best credit card reader for restaurants
  • $0-69/month for the basic POS package; $0-$799.20 for the Toast Go 2 card reader (depending on your plan)
  • 2.49% + $0.15 to 3.09% + $0.15 per card-present transaction

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Shopify

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  • Best card reader for merchants with an online presence
  • $5-$29 for access to the base POS (depending on your plan); $49 for the mobile card reader
  • In-person rates start at 5% per transaction
  • Best card reader for merchants with an online presence
  • $5-$29 for access to the base POS (depending on your plan); $49 for the mobile card reader
  • In-person rates start at 5% per transaction

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Table of Contents

The Top Credit Card Readers For Small Business

The best credit card readers for your small business let you securely accept a variety of payment types while providing features that help you run and grow your business. Customer engagement features, inventory, and even multi-channel tools can boost your sales and find your customers where they shop. These are your best choices:

How The Top Credit Card Readers For Small Business Compare

MagstripeChip & NFCPIN paymentsDisplayPrice
Square Credit Card Readers (separate free reader)$49-$59
Helcim$99
Clover Go$49 (from Clover website)
Host Merchant ServicesUndisclosed
Square Terminal$299
PayPal Zettle$29 for first device
SumUp$54-$99
Toast POS$0-$799 depending on plan
Shopify$49

Square Credit Card Readers: Overall Best Credit Card Reader For Small Business

Square Credit Card Readers

Total Rating 4.7
Pricing4.6

Ease Of Use5.0

Features4.7

Customer Service4.7

User Reviews4.8



Get a free card swiper from Square at no cost when you create a free account. Claim your card reader.

Pros

  • Portable contactless + chip reader with a great feature package
  • Free (for new accounts) magstripe-only reader for your headphone jack/lightning port
  • Flat-rate processing with no monthly fee

Cons

  • Not so cost-effective for high-volume sellers
  • Occasional funding holds and account terminations
  • Square readers only work with a Square payment processing account

Why The Square Reader Is The Best Overall Choice For Small Business

With its capable and inexpensive contactless + chip reader, its free magstripe reader, and its comprehensive package of free business tools, Square earns our nod as the best overall provider of credit card readers.

Square is completely risk-free to try out or install as a backup POS in case your primary POS goes down. Even if you never use it, there's no monthly fee, and if you only order the free magstripe reader, you won't be out any money.

If you instead use Square as your main POS, you'll get a comprehensive feature ecosystem that gives you incredible value -- all starting at $0/month.

Our guide to Square POS hardware has more information.

Square Credit Card Reader Features

The Square Contactless + Chip Reader is a simple but effective peripheral for taking credit card information:

  • EMV chip reader (except on free magstripe reader)
  • NFC payments enabled (except on free magstripe reader)
  • Connects through a lightning port or 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • Sleep mode to conserve power
  • Offline mode

This last feature — offline mode — is very important for sellers at craft fairs, markets, and conventions. Internet connections in these settings can be tenuous at best, and Square’s offline mode lets you take payments when you don’t have a working connection and then transmit them later when you do.

As for Square’s free mPOS package, it’s one of the best such offerings around. This is just some of what you’ll get:

  • Customer engagement tools
  • Reporting
  • Inventory and team management
  • Invoicing
  • Gift card support

Square Credit Card Reader Pricing

Square still offers a free magstripe reader with each new account, but this device is limited and quite obsolete in terms of payment security. You shouldn’t use it for anything more than very occasional payments or as an emergency backup card reader.

If you want a Bluetooth reader that can accept chip cards and contactless payments, Square offers the Square Reader for contactless and chip. The second generation contactless/chip reader sports a longer battery life and improved connectivity/security over the first generation model, but it costs $10 more.

  • Square Reader for magstripe: $0 for your first reader when you sign up; $10 thereafter
  • Square Reader for contactless & chip (second generation): $59
  • Square Reader for contactless & chip (first generation): $49
  • Dock for second-generation contactless & chip reader: $39
  • Dock for first-generation contactless + chip reader: $15

For mobile processing, you’ll pay a flat 2.6% + $0.10 for all card-present transactions. This type of flat-rate processing usually works out great for lower-volume sellers (processing under $10K/month) with smaller ticket sizes (such as coffee carts and food trucks). However, it can be relatively expensive for higher-volume businesses.

Square doesn’t charge a monthly fee for its standard services, although some optional advanced services have additional fees. Square also offers paid specialty POS packages for appointment-setting, restaurants, and large retail businesses.

Contract Requirements

You can use Square on a month-to-month basis without signing a long-term contract or dealing with early termination fees or monthly minimums, all of which is good news for merchants.

The flip side of this is that Square is a payment service provider (or PSP) and does not offer full individual merchant accounts. With PSPs, there’s always a higher risk of funding holds and account terminations. However, the advice in the guide we linked to above can help you minimize this risk.

When To Use Square Card Readers

  • You want a mobile tap + chip card reader that gives you access to a vast (and free) feature ecosystem
  • You want a completely free magstripe card reader to use as a backup POS in case your main POS goes down
  • You want simple, flat-rate processing

Get Started With Square Credit Card Readers

Read our in-depth review

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Helcim: Best For Sellers Seeking A Dedicated Merchant Account

Total Rating 4.9
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services4.4

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.8

User Reviews4.5



Pros

  • Interchange-plus fee structure (cheaper for higher-volume businesses)
  • Full merchant account provided with no monthly fees or long-term contracts
  • Mobile, tablet, and desktop-compatible

Cons

  • Higher upfront costs than a third-party mobile processor
  • Not cost-effective for low-volume sellers
  • Few third-party software integrations

Why We Chose Helcim For Sellers Seeking A Dedicated Merchant Account

helcim mobile contactless credit card reader

The Helcim Card Reader is a portable device with a display and a PIN pad, making it more versatile than the tiny PIN pad-less card readers offered by Square and Shopify. Plus, you'll get a unique merchant account from Helcim upon signup.

Combine this with Helcim's interchange-plus pricing, and higher-ticket merchants will save money whenever a customer makes a PIN debit transaction rather than a credit path debit transaction (the only type of debit transaction a PIN-less reader can process). Our debit vs credit transactions piece explains why this is.

Helcim Card Reader Features

Helcim’s single card reader is small and multifunctional.

  • Takes chip, NFC, and PIN-enabled payments
  • Connects via Bluetooth, USB cable, or Wi-Fi
  • Has a display and PIN pad
  • Comes with a free countertop stand
  • Compatible with the OtterBox uniVERSE Case System for phones and tablets

Helcim’s POS offers the following:

  • Email receipts
  • Inventory and customer tracking
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Batch history
  • Card on file
  • Foodservice management

Helcim Card Reader Pricing

At $99, the Helcim Card Reader is a bit pricier than the competition, but it does come with a free countertop stand, available in several different colors.

Helcim’s card-present processing rates start at interchange fees plus 0.4% + $0.08, with a reduced rate for higher volume businesses. The more you process, the lower your rate.

Helcim is also one of the very few traditional merchant account providers that both a) charges no monthly fees and b) refunds your chargeback fee if you are found to not be at fault in the investigation. Each of these points highlights Helcim as a uniquely business-friendly merchant services provider.

Contract Requirements

Offering month-to-month agreements with no multi-year contracts, Helcim offers the contract flexibility of Square while offering the stability of a unique merchant account. Helcim is a remarkable deal for mid- to high-volume businesses.

When To Use The Helcim Card Reader

  • You want to take mobile payments using a card reader backed by the stability of a full merchant account
  • You are a larger seller and want consistent interchange plus processing rates
  • You want refunded charge-back fees

Get Started With Helcim

Read our in-depth review

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Clover Go: Best For Merchant Services Provider Options

Total Rating 4.3
Pricing4.1

Ease Of Use4.4

Features4.7

Customer Service4.4

User Reviews3.9



Pros

  • Free mPOS app
  • Good web dashboard
  • Numerous features
  • Inexpensive hardware

Cons

  • Pricing and terms vary
  • Can be expensive for low-volume merchants
  • Mixed user reviews

Why Clover Go Is Best For Merchant Services Provider Options

Clover Go's card reader and solid mobile POS are backed by a full merchant account, giving you great account stability. This can be important for seasonal merchants who see big processing spikes and dips that can sometimes trigger a funding hold with a PSP like Square/PayPal.

You can buy from Clover directly, but you may get a better deal with a reseller. There are numerous providers to consider when picking a Clover reseller, allowing you to choose a plan suited to your business and your sales volume. The downside of this is that pricing and terms vary depending on who you go with.

Clover Go Credit Card Reader Features

  • Clover Go reader accepts chip card and NFC/contactless payments
  • Older magstripe-enabled Clover Go readers still available from some online retailers
  • Connects via Bluetooth
  • Micro USB for charging
  • Compatible with iOS and Android

You’ll also get the following with the Clover Go POS:

  • Card scanner for virtual terminal entries
  • Clover Suite integration
  • Tap-To-Pay on iPhone is available through the Clover Go app
  • Virtual terminal
  • Real-time sales tracking, advanced reporting, inventory management, and itemized orders available when you get a paid Clover Essentials plan through Clover.com

Clover Go Credit Card Reader Pricing

If you buy a Clover Go mobile payment reader directly from Clover.com, you’ll pay $49. If you buy the device through a merchant services provider, pricing may vary from free to over $100.

Clover is compatible with many payment processors, but should you buy directly from Clover.com, you can choose between Clover Payments for $0/month and Clover Essentials for $14.95/month. In-person transactions are charged a flat processing fee of 2.6% + $0.10 — the same card-present rate Square charges.

Clover Go Contract Requirements/Warnings

Buy directly from Clover, and you’ll get month-to-month pricing with no long-term contracts required. If your sales volume is north of $5K-10K/month, however, you may be able to save money on processing and/or hardware/software with a reputable reseller.

The key word here is reputable. Sadly, there are quite a few shady Clover resellers out there that employ independent sales agents who will try to rope you into signing a long-term contract with onerous terms. Avoid these resellers! Instead, either buy from Clover directly or go with a reputable reseller like National Processing.

When To Use Clover Go

  • You’re a mobile seller and you like the Clover Go hardware and POS package
  • You want to pair a mobile card reader/POS combo with the payment processor that fits your business needs
  • You have researched Clover’s procesing fees and contract requirements

Get Started With Clover Go

Read our in-depth review

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Host Merchant Services: Best For High-Risk Merchants

Host Merchant Services

Total Rating 4.9
Fees & Rates5.0

Products & Services5.0

Contract5.0

Sales & Advertising Transparency4.7

Customer Service4.6

User Reviews4.8



Pros

  • Comes with your own merchant account
  • High-risk merchants accepted
  • Capable handheld card reader

Cons

  • $14.99 monthly fee
  • Reader has a somewhat basic feature set
  • Can be expensive for low-volume sellers

Why SwipeSimple Is Best For High-Risk Merchants

If your business is considered high-risk and you need to take payments on the go, your options are few and far between. Most of the leading mobile card readers are offered by PSPs that don't accept high-risk merchants. If you're in this situation, think about signing up with Host Merchant Services and getting the SwipeSimple B200 or B250 credit card reader.

HMS accepts high-risk merchants, and SwipeSimple's POS software and card readers should meet your basic mobile business needs, even if the feature set isn't quite up to the likes of Square or Shopify.

SwipeSimple Credit Card Reader Features

The two SwipeSimple readers — the B200 and the B250 — offer a good amount of versatility between them:

  • EMV chip payments (B200 & B250)
  • NFC payments (B250)
  • Magnetic stripe reader (B200 & B250)
  • Optional dock (B250)

The SwipeSimple mPOS app has some solid features as well.

  • Text and email receipts
  • Basic inventory management
  • Invoicing
  • Offline mode

 

Swipe Simple Credit Card Reader Pricing

Unfortunately, HMS doesn’t disclose its pricing for the SwipeSimple B200 or B250 online.

Host Merchant Services offers interchange-plus pricing, which works to the benefit of merchants processing upwards of $5K-10K/month. Here are the per-transaction rates posted by HMS for lower-risk retail and restaurant businesses.

  • Retail: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per card-present transaction
  • Restaurant: Interchange + 0.20% + $0.09 per card-present transaction

Bear in mind that the highest-risk merchants will have to pay higher processing fees than the posted rate for lower-risk merchants. This isn’t a mark against HMS — this is true for every credit card processor that offers payment processing for both low and high-risk businesses. However, you can still negotiate the best rate you can.

Additionally, HMS charges a $14.99 monthly account fee.

SwipeSimple Contract Requirements/Warnings

Low-risk merchants can get month-to-month contracts with no early termination fees, which we love to see. However, high-risk merchants may have to sign a three-year contract and agree to an early termination fee. Again, this is standard industry practice in the high-risk processing space — you almost certainly won’t be able to avoid signing such a contract if you want to accept credit cards as a high-risk merchant.

Always know what you’re agreeing to, and get a quote from a competing processor if you think you can get a better deal with another SwipeSimple reseller. The fact remains, however, that HMS is one of the most reputable high-risk specialists in the payment processing industry.

When To Use SwipeSimple

  • You’re a high-risk merchant and you want a mobile POS package that accepts your industry
  • You want a strong offline mode
  • You ant to work with a highly reputable processing company

Get Started With Host Merchant Services

Read our in-depth review

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Square Terminal: Best All-In-One Touchscreen Credit Card Terminal

Square Terminal

Total Rating 4.7
Pricing4.6

Ease Of Use4.7

Features4.8

Customer Service4.7

User Reviews4.7



Pros

  • Mobile and easy to use
  • Costs much less than a traditional full register setup with much of the functionality
  • No monthly fee
  • Offline mode

Cons

  • Device feels bulky to hold for long periods
  • Occasional funding holds and account terminations
  • Only works with a Square processing account

Why Square Terminal Is The Best All-In-One Credit Card Terminal

Sporting a built-in receipt printer and a large touchscreen, the Square Terminal runs Square's POS natively. You won't have to pair it with your smartphone or laptop.

If you want more functionality than a typical card reader provides, including item creation and receipt printing, a mobile terminal is a good middle ground between a portable card reader and a full countertop POS setup.

Square Terminal Features

Square Terminal does a pretty good job bridging the gap between a mobile reader and a full POS system while making a few sacrifices in portability and screen size.

  • Standalone touchscreen device
  • Accepts chip, NFC, and magstripe payments
  • Connects via Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Contains a built-in receipt printer
  • Excellent battery life
  • Show your customers an itemized list of their purchases prior to completing the sale

You’ll also get all the POS features we mentioned in the Square Contactless and Chip Reader section.

Square Terminal Pricing

Square Terminals cost $299, with Square offering financing for $27/month for 12 months. If you want to attach additional hardware to the terminal, you’ll need to purchase a Hub, which costs an additional $39.

Square Terminal uses Square’s default card-present pricing model. You’ll pay 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction. There’s no monthly fee for the base POS.

Square Terminal Contract Requirements/Warnings

With Square, you’ll get month-by-month agreements. You’ll never have to sign a long-term contract or pay an early termination fee.

When To Use Square Terminal

  • You want a solid all-in-one mobile credit card machine that runs POS software natively so you don’t need to pair it with your phone
  • You want a powerful reader with strong battery life
  • You want a reader with a built-in receipt printer

Get Started With Square Terminal

Read our in-depth review

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PayPal Zettle: Best For Low Flat-Rate Pricing

PayPal Zettle


Visit Site

Pricing

No monthly fee

Contract

None

Equipment Cost

$29 for your first card reader

Pros

  • Inexpensive card reader with a display & PIN pad
  • Accept in-person PayPal payments via QR codes
  • No monthly fee
  • Same day funding to your PayPal account

Cons

  • Occasional funding holds and account terminations
  • Not as strong as Square POS in terms of features
  • Only works with a PayPal processing account

Why PayPal Zettle Is Best For Low Flat-Rate Pricing

The PayPal Zettle POS has some of the lowest flat processing rates around, and the Zettle Reader 2 sells for a very low price (for the first reader you buy) for a reader that combines chip card and contactless/NFC payment acceptance with a display and PIN pad -- two things many inexpensive card readers lack.

Combine that with PayPal's robust mobile POS and its vast payments ecosystem, and you have a strong package for on-the-go merchants.

PayPal Zettle Credit Card Reader Features

Here’s what the Zettle Reader 2 does for you.

  • Features a display
  • Accepts chip cards
  • Accepts contactless/NFC payments
  • Accepts PIN payments
  • Accepts PayPal and Venmo QR code payments

And here’s what the free PayPal Zettle POS gives you:

  • Flat-rate payment processing
  • In-app invoicing
  • Same-day funding to your PayPal account
  • Item library
  • Reporting
  • Discounts
  • Refunds and partial returns
  • Support for register setup

PayPal Zettle Pricing

The Zettle Reader 2 costs $29 for your first device and $79 for any subsequent devices you order.

PayPal Zettle POS is free; there is no monthly fee. As for payment processing, you’ll pay 2.29% + $0.09 per card-present transaction and QR code transaction. This stands in contrast with PayPal’s online processing rates, which are quite high.

 

PayPal Zettle Contracdt Requirements/Warnings

PayPal Zettle offers month-to-month agreements with no long-term contracts, early termination fees, or monthly minimums. Just remember that with PayPal, as with any PSP, you should take steps to minimize the risk of a funding hold or account termination.

Choose If...

  • You want to accept payments on the go with a reader that sports a low processing rate
  • You want a reader that connects with PayPal’s POS ecosystem
  • You already have an established PayPal account you use for your business

Get Started With PayPal Zettle

Read our in-depth review

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SumUp: Best For Low-Volume Sellers

Total Rating 4.5
Fees & Rates4.8

Products & Services3.5

Contract4.8

Sales & Advertising Transparency5.0

Customer Service4.3

User Reviews4.0



Pros

  • Two capable card readers with displays
  • The cheaper card reader is just $54
  • No monthly fee
  • Flat-rate processing is cheaper than that of Square for small tickets

Cons

  • Not as fully-featured as some competitors
  • Occasional funding holds and account terminations
  • Not cost-effective for high-volume sellers

Why SumUp Card Readers Are Best For Low-Volume Sellers

Offering two sleek card readers for the US market, SumUp is ideal for mobile sellers who don't need the more advanced features some other readers provide.

The lack of a fixed fee in SumUp's transaction rates makes it particularly efficient for low-volume sellers dealing in smaller transactions. This includes those who sell at markets/fairs and need to take card payments without a full register setup.

SumUp Card Reader Features

SumUp offers two mobile card readers: the PIN-enabled SumUp Plus and the all-in-one touchscreen SumUp Solo.

  • Both readers accept contactless and chip card payments
  • The SumUp Plus also accepts magstripe payments
  • The SumUp Solo comes with a free charging station and can be ordered with an optional built-in receipt printer
  • The SumUp Plus can be bundled with a charging station for $10 extra

The SumUp POS app includes some basic features as well.

  • Item library
  • Product variants
  • Cash recording
  • Tipping
  • Basic analytics
  • Multiple tax rates
  • Email and text receipts
  • QR code payments

SumUp Pricing

Here’s what you’ll pay for SumUp’s card readers.

  • SumUp Plus: $54
  • SumUp Plus Cradle Bundle with charging station: $64
  • SumUp Solo: $99
  • SumUp Solo Printer Bundle: $169

There is no monthly fee for using the SumUp POS app, and transactions process at a flat 2.75% each. While this isn’t the lowest flat-rate processing rate around, the lack of a fixed fee actually makes it very competitive for merchants with small average tickets. With Square’s 2.6% + $0.10 processing rate, if you’re accepting lots of small payments, that 10 cent per-transaction fixed fee adds up to a lot of money fast.

SumUp Contract Requirements/Warnings

As is typical with a PSP, SumUp offers month-by-month arrangements with no long-term contracts, no early termination fees, and no monthly minimums.

Choose If...

  • You’re a merchant with a low average ticket size
  • You want a capable card reader + mPOS package that doesn’t charge a fixed per-transaction fee
  • You want multiple hardware bundle options

Get Started With SumUp

Read our in-depth review

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Toast POS: Best For Restaurants

Total Rating 4.0
Pricing2.6

Ease Of Use4.7

Features5.0

Customer Service5.0

User Reviews4.1

Pricing

$0-$69 plus custom plan

Online Ordering

Yes

Equipment Cost

$0+

Pros

  • All-in-one Android-based restaurant POS
  • The touchscreen Toast Go 2 reader is built to be resistant to spills and dropping
  • Advanced reporting tools and employee management
  • Free plan available

Cons

  • Pricing and plans are complex
  • Two-year contracts with early termination fees required
  • Processing rates are high unless you pay up-front for expensive equipment

Why Toast Go Is Best For Restaurants

The Toast Go 2 card reader is a one-pound touchscreen card reader that is designed to handle the rigors of the foodservice industry and easily process orders. Quotes from users posted to the Toast Go 2's web page attest to its durability in the face of drops and spills, along with its long battery life.

Toast Go Card Reader Features

With a profile similar to that of a smartphone, the Toast Go 2 gives you the following:

  • Takes chip card, NFC/digital wallets, and magstripe payments
  • Designed to be tucked into your back pocket or apron
  • Spill-proof, drop-proof, and dust-proof, according to Toast

Your restaurant POS features will vary depending on which of the many subscription plan variations you get from Toast, but a full suite of ordering, takeout, delivery, employee management, payroll, and scheduling tools are available.

Toast Go Pricing

Toast Go’s pricing can vary substantially depending on which plan you sign up for and whether you need multiple units.

When you get the Handheld Kit with the Starter Kit that includes the Toast Go 2 reader, you can get the device for free and pay no monthly fee if you agree to a higher payment processing rate. If you choose the plan with a lower processing rate, you’ll pay $799.20 up-front for the device/software and pay $69/month on an ongoing basis.

Just know that with both plans, you’ll have to sign a two-year contract, and with the no-monthly-fee plan, there’s an $85/month “inactivity fee” if you don’t accept a payment for a 90-day period.

Other plans are offered that include full countertop POS systems and support for eateries with several locations.

Processing fees for the free plan are 3.09% + $0.15 per card-present transaction and 2.49% + $0.15 per card-present transaction for the standard plan.

The standard plan costs $69/month and $9/month for each additional employee. If you want online ordering, delivery, and takeout features, you’ll need the Growth plan, which costs $165/month. This plan lets you get the hardware setup of your choosing.

Pricing for the most advanced plans and for custom plans is quote-based.

Toast Go Contract Requirements/Warnings

Unfortunately, Toast requires users to sign two-year contracts. These contracts include an early termination fee. That, plus the $85/month inactivity fee that applies to the pay-as-you-go plan, is far from ideal.

Toast has a lot to offer a wide variety of eateries, but if you sign up with the company, know what you’re signing up for. Read your contract very thoroughly before agreeing to anything, and try to negotiate with the company regarding any disadvantageous conditions if at all possible.

Choose If...

  • You need a foodservice-focused mobile card reader + POS package that can withstand heavy use in a restaurant setting
  • You want access to excellent delivery and pick-up options
  • You want a full suite of restaurant-specific features

Get Started With Toast POS

Read our in-depth review

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Shopify: Best For Merchants With An Online Presence

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Pros

  • Capable and affordable mobile card reader
  • Flat-rate processing with no per-transaction fixed fee
  • Integrates with Shopify’s eCommerce features

Cons

  • In-person processing with the Shopify Starter plan is 5% per transaction
  • Occasional funding holds and account terminations
  • Monthly fee charged for all Shopify plans

Why Shopify Tap & Chip Reader Is Best For Merchants With An Online Presence

Shopify supports online sales with a comprehensive eCommerce feature set while providing access to its mobile POS. The mobile POS includes a mobile invoicing feature. Everything syncs between your in-person sales and any online sales through Facebook.

Shopify Card Reader Features

The Shopify Tap & Chip Reader offers the following:

  • Takes chip card and NFC/contactless payments
  • Designed to fit in your hand comfortably
  • Connects to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth
  • Optional dock available

As covered in our Shopify POS review, Shopify’s basic POS offers limited functionality, including limited staff access, simple customer profiles, and returns at the original purchase location. Serious retailers will need Shopify POS Pro, which offers:

  • Unlimited staff with staff rolls and permissions
  • Rich customer profiles
  • Customer loyalty insights
  • Returns and exchanges at any location
  • Inventory management
  • Professional retail reports
  • Omnichannel selling

Shopify Card Reader Pricing

The Shopify Tap and Chip Card Reader costs $49. You can purchase a charging dock for it for $40.

The new Shopify POS Go device, an all-in-one touchscreen card reader + barcode scanner that runs Shopify POS natively, costs $299.

You can get access to the basic POS for $5 with the Shopify Starter plan, but this plan has two big drawbacks. The first is that you won’t get a full online store; the second is that your card-present processing rate will be an eye-popping 5% per transaction.Shopify offers month-to-month agreements with no early termination fees. However, if you opt to pay annually and you cancel your subscription before the year is up, you won’t get a partial refund.

If you process payments with any regularity and/or you want to connect your in-person operations to an online store, you’ll need at least a Shopify Basic plan, which costs $39/month with a month-by-month plan and $29/month if you pay annually. Your card-present processing rate with Shopify Payments will then be a much more reasonable 2.7% per transaction. Merchants with small average tickets will appreciate the lack of a $0.10 fixed fee here.

Shopify POS Pro will set you back $89/month/location. Separately, Shopify’s two more advanced online store plans ($79/month and $299/month respectively when paid annually) offer discounted in-person processing rates of 2.5% and 2.4% per transaction, respectively.

Payments typically arrive in your bank account after 24 to 72 hours.

Shopify Contract Requirements/Warnings

Shopify offers month-to-month agreements with no early termination fees. However, if you opt to pay annually and you cancel your subscription before the year is up, you won’t get a partial refund.

Choose If...

  • You sell online with Shopify and you want an in-person mobile selling solution that syncs with your online store
  • You want consistent processing fees
  • You want the ability to scale up your POS features

Get Started With Shopify

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Payment Processing Rating Methodology

Merchant Maverick has been researching the payment processing industry since 2009. Our writers have reviewed hundreds of credit card processors, merchant account services, and mobile payment apps, evaluating each provider carefully on several different metrics.

When comparing different payment processing companies and applications to one another, we consider numerous data points. Our experts start by comparing credit card processing rates, the presence of additional fees, contract length, sales practices, and the presence or absence of additional features and services, like point of sale software. Each provider is judged on its own merits and how well it stacks up to industry standards; then it is weighed against the other providers on the list.

We spend an average of 10-15 hours researching and updating each one of our lists, making sure every company or application included meets our internal standards for quality and reputation. Any list of recommended payment processors on our site might contain a mix of standard merchant accounts, third-party payment processors, mobile payment devices, and high-risk payment processors, depending on what our expert feels is the best fit for certain scenarios or business types.

For additional details about Merchant Maverick’s review and rating processes, please refer to any or all of the following methodology pages:

15

Years reviewing payment processors

100+

Providers evaluated

25

Attributes and features assessed per vendor

40+

Years combined experience


What Is A Credit Card Reader?

For those asking, “What is a credit card reader?” It is a mobile device used to process payments. When a card is swiped, dipped, or tapped, the reader collects the cardholder data, encrypts it, and securely sends it via a mobile POS app over the payment network for approval.

With the global card reader market projected to grow at a rate of 18.5% by 2032 (according to Spherical Insights), consumers will increasingly expect to be able to use modern payment methods anytime, anywhere as we head into the future.

How Do Card Readers Work?

Credit card readers work by connecting to phones, tablets, and sometimes computers running payment processing software. The merchant or customer can swipe, dip, or tap the debit or credit card to make a payment. The card reader collects the data, and the point-of-sale software completes the transaction.

For a deeper look at the software side of mobile payments, our look at the best mobile processing apps provides a good explainer.

How To Choose A Mobile Credit Card Machine For Your Small Business

When trying to choose the best credit card reader for your business, it can be hard to wade through the extensive list of mobile credit card processors and figure out which one best fits you.

For starters, prioritize the following:

  • A month-to-month contract
  • A solid POS app
  • EMV (chip card) and NFC (contactless) payment support
  • Offline mode
  • Good battery life
  • Fast funding times
  • Good customer support
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Support for alternative payments (e.g. payment links and QR codes)

How A Business Can Benefit From A Credit Card Reader

Having a portable card reader in your payments arsenal can benefit businesses both with and without a physical location.

Merchants with a physical location can benefit from a mobile credit card reader in these situations:

  • Occasional mobile sales at trunk shows, farmers’ markets, pop-up shops, craft fairs, or any other event
  • Selling on the floor or checking out customers while they wait in line rather than at the counter
  • As a backup point of sale if your main POS goes down
  • New businesses that don’t have a merchant account yet
  • Any small business that wants a basic, lightweight POS with a small footprint

Businesses without a physical location can benefit from a credit card reader thusly:

  • Full-time mobile business sales, such as food trucks, mobile dog groomers, personal trainers, etc.
  • Independent contract work, e.g., 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 a job site

Types Of Credit Card Readers

There are two primary types of credit card readers that can be used to take on-the-go payments.

Mobile Credit Card Readers

Mobile credit card readers are small card-reading devices that need to be remotely paired with a smartphone, tablet, or computer that runs POS software. Modern card readers take chip card, contactless, and/or magstripe payments — often all three. Some have a PIN pad and a small display, while others do not.

Smart Terminals

Smart terminals have the functionality of a mobile credit card reader while also featuring a touchscreen and the ability to run POS software. That means you don’t have to pair it with a smartphone or tablet.

Do Credit Card Readers Have Fees?

Card reader pricing isn’t too complex when it comes to the devices themselves. Small mobile credit card readers cost from $0 (in rare instances) to $110, while all-in-one smart terminals with touchscreens can cost you anywhere from $199 to $800 or more, depending on the attachments/accessories you want and the software functionality you need.

However, when considering credit card reader fees, there’s also the cost of payment processing and the cost of POS software to think about. If it all sounds daunting, don’t worry: our resources can help you!

The Bottom Line: Which Mobile Credit Card Machine For Small Business Should I Get?

Think about your business’s particular needs when shopping for a card reader, as no single reader will fit the needs of every merchant. It also helps to have a basic understanding of the payment processing industry.

Some final thoughts:

FAQs About The Best Mobile Credit Card Machines For Small Business

Are credit card readers universal?

Most card readers are designed to function only with particular software. Square credit card readers only work with Square software; PayPal card readers only work with PayPal software. However, the readers are not linked to a particular phone/tablet or a user account.

On the other hand, some credit card readers, such as those of Clover, can be used with a wide variety of payment processors.

Are credit card readers safe?

Credit card readers are a safe and secure way to accept credit card payments. The hardware and the software the readers use are designed to offer multiple layers of protection, starting with encryption. However, both merchants and customers should be cautious about credit card readers that look damaged or tampered with.

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Jason Vissers

Jason Vissers

Senior Staff Writer at Merchant Maverick
Jason has been writing about small business software platforms, services, and financing since 2015. Jason’s expertise has been featured in Yahoo Finance, Time/NextAdvisor, Home Business Magazine, CreditCards.com, GoBankingRates, TheLadders.com, and other publications. He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from San Diego State University and currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Jason Vissers
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