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Looking For The Best Credit Card Reader For Small Business? Try These 8 Options

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

    Chris Motola
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Best card reader for small business

If you’re seeking the best credit card reader for small businesses, read on! This list of the most popular mPOS (mobile point of sale) apps highlights their pricing, features, and hardware costs. To understand their advantages and drawbacks, make sure to check out our reviews for these mobile card reader apps.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyHighlightsNext StepsHighlights
Square POS

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  • Card readers range from free to $49 + $29 for optional dock
  • No monthly processor fee
  • Card readers range from free to $49 + $29 for optional dock
  • No monthly processor fee

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Host Merchant Services

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  • Card reader cost varies by payment processor.
  • Processing app costs $14.99/month (Host Merchant Services)
  • Card reader cost varies by payment processor.
  • Processing app costs $14.99/month (Host Merchant Services)

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Clover Go

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  • Card reader price can vary from free to $100+; default is $49
  • Monthly fees $0 and up
  • Card reader price can vary from free to $100+; default is $49
  • Monthly fees $0 and up

Visit Site

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Square Terminal

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  • Card terminal costs $299; optional Hub is $39
  • No monthly fee
  • Card terminal costs $299; optional Hub is $39
  • No monthly fee

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Helcim

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  • Card reader costs $199 with an optional $79 stand
  • No monthly processor fee
  • Card reader costs $199 with an optional $79 stand
  • No monthly processor fee

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SumUp

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  • Card readers range from $19 to $59
  • No monthly processor fee; processing is a flat 2.75% per transaction
  • Card readers range from $19 to $59
  • No monthly processor fee; processing is a flat 2.75% per transaction

Visit Site

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Toast POS

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  • Card reader costs range from free to $409
  • Monthly fees $0 and up
  • Card reader costs range from free to $409
  • Monthly fees $0 and up

Visit Site

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Shopify Lite

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  • Card readers cost $49; optional docks are $29 or $39
  • Shopify Lite costs $9/month
  • Card readers cost $49; optional docks are $29 or $39
  • Shopify Lite costs $9/month

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Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

What Do You Need In A Small Business Card Reader?

A great credit card reader for small businesses needs to be able to do a few things:

  • Accept the payment methods your customers use. Generally, this means popular credit cards, but it can also mean mobile wallets that tokenize credit card information, such as Apple Pay.
  • Be appropriate for your business flow and volume. Credit card readers come in a variety of styles and profiles. Consider your transaction volume and just how mobile the device needs to be. Restaurants and farmers’ market stalls may have different needs, for example.
  • Be cost-effective. Readers tend to be relatively inexpensive, while portable smart terminals can be an investment. Pay for only as much terminal as you need.
  • Not lock you into an unnecessary contract. Some payment processors promise free terminals and readers. In most cases, these come with obligations, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.

The Best Credit Card Readers For Small Business

The best credit card reader for your small business won’t be the same as someone else’s small business. With that in mind, our list outlines what types of businesses will benefit most from each reader.

1. Square Reader (Chip & Contactless)

Square POS



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

Pros

  • Free headphone jack/lightning port reader
  • No monthly fee
  • An inexpensive contactless and chip reader
  • Simple flat-rate processing

Cons

  • Not as cost-effective for high-volume sellers
  • Occasional fund holds

Hardware Cost

Square still offers a free magstripe reader with each new account. While this can get the job done, the device is limited and somewhat obsolete. If you want a Bluetooth reader that can accept chip cards and contactless payments, Square offers the Square Reader for contactless and chip, pictured above, for $49. The device’s optional dock will set you back an additional $29.

Square Pricing

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 <$10,000/month) with smaller ticket sizes (such as coffee carts and food trucks). However, it can be needlessly expensive for high-volume businesses.

Square doesn’t charge a monthly fee for its default service, although some optional advanced services have additional fees.

Square Reader Features

The Square 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

Where Square Really Shines

The best thing about Square is that it 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, you won’t 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 (literally!) have a Square credit card swiper in your back pocket.

Read our guide to Square POS hardware for more information.

Get Started With Square POS

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2. SwipeSimple From Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services



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Pros

  • It comes with your own merchant account
  • Less risk of account holds and terminations
  • High-risk merchants accepted

Cons

  • Monthly account fee
  • Device has a somewhat basic feature set

The SwipeSimple B250 reader

Hardware Cost

SwipeSimple is compatible with a number of credit card processors and is offered by three of our favorites: Host Merchant Services, Payment Depot, and National Processing.

Prices can vary depending on the processor you select. Our Payment Depot review, for example, explains how the company 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.

SwipeSimple From Host Merchant Services Pricing

Each vendor will have its own pricing scheme. Host Merchant Services charges the following rates for businesses that do at least $10,000/mo in transactions:

  • Retail: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Restaurant: Interchange + 0.20% + $0.09 per transaction
  • eCommerce: Interchange + 0.35% + $0.10 per transaction

Rates are higher for lower volume businesses, so Host Merchant Services may not be an ideal solution for very small businesses. On the other hand, high volume businesses can negotiate lower fees than you see above. High-risk merchants will have more expensive transactions than are listed here, but should also negotiate the best rate they can.

SwipeSimple Reader Features

The two SwipeSimple compatible readers offer a decent amount of versatility between them:

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

Where SwipeSimple From Host Merchant Services Really Shines

What sets SwipeSimple apart is that you will get your own merchant account if you go through any of the vendors we listed above, whereas most of the others in this list use the third-party aggregating business model. That means SwipeSimple carries less risk of an account hold or termination as long as you do not operate an inherently high-risk business. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than Square, but for businesses burned by a third-party processor in the past, a minor monthly fee is a small price to pay for reliability.

Get Started With Host Merchant Services

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3. Clover Go

Clover Go



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Pros

  • Inexpensive hardware
  • Free mobile processing app
  • Good web dashboard
  • Numerous features

Cons

  • Pricing and terms vary
  • Expensive for low-volume merchants

clover go hardware

Hardware

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 Pricing

Clover is compatible with a number of payment processors, but should you go directly through Clover for your payment processing services, you can choose between Clover Payments for $0/month and Clover Essentials for $9/month. In-person transactions are charged a flat processing fee of 2.6% + $0.10.

Clove Go Features

  • EMV chip reader
  • NFC payment enabled
  • Magstripe reader
  • Connects via Bluetooth
  • Card scanner for virtual terminal entries
  • Clove Suite integration

Where Clover Really Shines

Regardless of which processor you go through, if you’re using a Clover device, you’ll have your own merchant account through Fiserv, which provides more stability than you’d get with third-party processors, such as Square or PayPal.

You’ll have some flexibility in picking a Clover reseller, allowing you to choose plans suited to your volume.

Get Started With Clover Go

Read our in-depth review

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4. Square Terminal

Square Terminal



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Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Simple set up
  • Mobile
  • 24/7 customer support

Cons

  • Bulky design
  • Processing rates can add up

Hardware Costs

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 Pricing

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

Square Terminal Features

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

  • Standalone device
  • EMV chip reader
  • NFC payment enabled
  • Magstripe reader
  • Connects via Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Excellent battery life

Where Square Terminal Really Shines

Square Terminal is a bit larger than most of the devices on our list but still portable enough to move around with you. If you’re looking for a bit more functionality than a typical reader can provide, including the ability to do item creation and print receipts, it can be a good middle ground.

Get Started With Square Terminal

Read our in-depth review

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5. Helcim Reader

Helcim



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Read our Review

Pros

  • Interchange-plus fee structure (cheaper for higher-volume businesses)
  • The mobile reader can accept debit cards
  • Mobile, tablet, and desktop-compatible
  • No monthly fees or long-term contracts

Cons

  • Higher upfront costs than a third-party mobile processor
  • Not for low-volume sellers

helcim mobile contactless credit card reader

Hardware Costs

The NFC-friendly Helcim Card Reader is $199 with an optional $79 reader countertop stand. It works across devices, and while more robust than a traditional mobile card reader — it even includes a PIN pad — it is also fully mobile.

Helcim Pricing

Helcim’s processing rates start at interchange fees plus 0.3% + $0.08, with a reduced rate for higher volume businesses. The more your process, the lower your rate.

There’s no monthly fee for using Helcim.

Helcim Reader Features

Helcim’s single card reader is small and multifunctional.

  • EMV chip reader
  • NFC payment enabled
  • Magstripe reader
  • Connects via Bluetooth, USB cable, or Wi-Fi
  • Keypad

Where Helcim Really Shines

Helcim is an excellent option for small to medium-sized businesses looking for interchange-plus pricing and a full suite of features.

Like popular payment service providers (PSPs) such as Square and PayPal, Helcim has no monthly fee and bills on a month-to-month basis with no long-term contract. However, the company offers a true, full-service merchant account, minimizing the chance that your account will suddenly be frozen or shut down.

Helcim also comes with a slew of features, including customer management, inventory tracking, and foodservice management.

Get Started With Helcim

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6. SumUp Readers

SumUp



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Read our Review

Pros

  • Cheapest contactless reader
  • No monthly fee
  • International solution

Cons

  • Basic feature set
  • Some issues with holds on funds and account terminations

SumUp reader with manual and sticker sheet

Hardware Cost

You can get the SumUp reader for $19 in the US, making it one of the cheapest NFC readers you can get. Outside the US, prices and card reader options vary.

SumUp also recently introduced the SumUp Pro card reader for $59. This nifty-looking pocket reader comes with a built-in SIM card, free unlimited mobile data, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

SumUp Pricing

There is no monthly fee for using the SumUp app, and transactions process at a flat 2.75% each.

SumUp Reader Features

The SumUp reader may be cheap and a tad on the bulky side, but it’s effective.

  • EMV chip reader
  • NFC payment enabled
  • Magstripe reader
  • Connects via Bluetooth
  • Long-lasting battery

Where SumUp Really Shines

While it’s not as comprehensive as many other options (for instance, it doesn’t include discounts or invoices), SumUp does everything most merchants will need to do. SumUp also operates in quite a few countries across Europe (including the UK) and South America, which makes it an interesting global solution.

The lack of a flat markup on SumUp’s transaction fees can make it particularly efficient for low-volume businesses that mainly deal in small transactions.

Get Started With SumUp

Read our in-depth review

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7. Toast Go

Toast POS



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Read our Review

Pros

  • All-in-one Android-based POS
  • Advanced reporting tools
  • Advanced employee management
  • eCommerce integration

Cons

  • Limited pricing disclosed online
  • Early termination fee

toast go

Hardware Costs

Toast Go’s pricing can vary substantially depending on which plan you sign up for and whether you need multiple units. Buying the device outright costs $409, but getting a terminal for “free” included in your plan is possible. Beware, however, that this will lock you into a long-term contract.

Toast Pricing

Toast plans range from $0/month to $165/month, with custom plans also an option for high-volume restaurants. Processing fees for the free plan are 2.99% + $0.15 and 2.49% + $0.15 for the standard plan.

Toast Go 2 Reader Features:

The Toast Go 2 has a profile similar to a smartphone.

  • Standalone reader with a router
  • EMV chip reader
  • NFC payment enabled
  • Magstripe reader
  • Restaurant features, such as order alerts

Where Toast Really Shines

Toast is designed specifically for restaurants and offers a suite of features that make it easy to process orders. While advanced features can get pricey, there’s enough flexibility in the plans to account for restaurants of just about any size.

Get Started With Toast POS

Read our in-depth review

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8. Shopify Readers

Shopify Lite



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Read our Review

Pros

  • The monthly fee is only $9
  • Simple flat-rate processing
  • Social media integration for online sales
  • Mobile invoicing

Cons

  • It doesn’t include a full online store
  • No foodservice features

shopify tap and chip case

Hardware Costs

Shopify has two readers, which cost $49, and have optional docks: the Chipper 2x BT Reader and the Shopify Tap & Chip Reader. The Chipper costs $29, while the Tap & Chip’s costs $39.

Shopify Lite Pricing

As covered in our Shopify POS review, you’ll pay $79/month for the full-fledged countertop set up with a cash drawer and receipt printer. Shopify’s mobile solution, Shopify Lite, is offered for just $9/month.

In-person transactions with Shopify Payments process at 2.7%; payments typically arrive in your bank account after 24 to 72 hours.

Shopify Reader Features

Shopify’s two readers cover all of the basics of mobile credit card processing. Note that the Chipper 2X BT is only available to US merchants.

  • EMV chip reader (Chipper and Shopify readers)
  • NFC payment-enabled (Chipper and Shopify readers)
  • Magstripe reader (Chipper and Shopify readers)
  • Connects via Bluetooth (Chipper and Shopify readers)
  • Optional dock (Shopify reader)

Where Shopify Lite Really Shines

Shopify Lite is an excellent mobile credit card processing solution for retailers selling at craft fairs, pop-up events, or even on social media.

Shopify Lite supports sales through social media and a buy button on your website and provides access to the mobile POS. The Shopify Lite plan also includes a mobile invoicing feature. Everything syncs between your in-person sales and any online sales through Facebook.

The key POS features are the same in the Lite plan as other Shopify service plans; the big difference is the lack of hardware support, limited staff PIN access, and limited online selling options.

Sellers with a brick-and-mortar retail store may prefer the Shopify POS package, which has an in-person processing rate of 2.5% and more advanced features, including a full-fledged Shopify online store.

Get Started With Shopify Lite

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Benefits To Using Credit Card Readers For Small Business

There are several benefits to having a portable small business card reader in your payments arsenal.

Advantages For Businesses Without A Physical Location

The ability to accept credit cards without investing in a brick-and-mortar location can make very small businesses more viable. You can use readers for:

  • 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

Advantages For Businesses With A Physical Location

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

  • 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 simple, lightweight POS with a small footprint

9 Things To Consider When Choosing A Mobile Credit Card Reader

How can you wade through the extensive list of mobile credit card processors and figure out which one best fits you? What should you prioritize?

The following are some important features to look for when it comes to finding the best credit card reader for your small business:

  1. No Long-Term Contract: Pay-as-you-go (e.g., Square) or month-to-month pricing (e.g., Helcim) is ideal. You don’t want to be stuck in a pricey contract for a service you don’t like.
  2. Solid POS App: Not just the reader itself but also the app that accompanies the reader needs to be robust and easy to use, with all the features your business needs.
  3. EMV Support: Being able to accept chip cards makes things easier for customers to pay (not all cards have a magnetic stripe anymore) and protects your business in terms of your EMV liability.
  4. NFC Support: NFC support makes it easy for customers to pay with their phone, Apple Watch, or contactless credit card. More and more, customers are expecting NFC support, especially during these socially-distanced times.
  5. Good Battery Life: Since you’ll likely be using the reader on the go, you need one that will go at least a day without a charge.
  6. Fast Funding Times: One to three days is standard, but ideally, it’s nice to have next-day deposits and an instant transfer option.
  7. Good Customer Support: Things commonly go wrong in payment processing, so reliable 24/7 support is a must.
  8. Bluetooth: It’s certainly not bad to have a plugin reader as a backup, but a wireless 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.
  9. Support For Alternative Payments: With most customers carrying smartphones, you should be prepared to handle payment links and QR codes as well, both of which can expedite mobile payments.

Which Credit Card Reader Is Best For My Small Business?

What is the best small business credit card reader? No single reader suits every business type, so you need to consider your business’s particular needs. Having a solid understanding of the payment processing industry makes finding your ideal solution much easier.

Factor in the following considerations when making your choice:

  • 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 merchants need a mobile POS app that includes eCommerce.
  • Your industry, budget, and customer needs are other factors to consider.

In my opinion, Square has the all-around best mobile credit card reader, as it can work for any industry and is compatible with virtually any device, with both plugin 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 have advantages for different kinds of sellers.

Check out these resources for more help choosing the best credit card reader for your small business:

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Card Readers

What is a credit card reader?

A credit card reader 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.

How does a card reader work?

Card readers connect to phones, tablets, or sometimes computers running payment processing software. The merchant or customer can swipe, dip, or tap the card to make a payment. The card reader collects the data, and the software completes the transaction.

How much does it cost to get a credit card reader?

Pricing for mobile credit card readers depends on the device’s capabilities. Basic magstripe readers are sometimes offered for free. However, EMV and contactless credit card readers, especially those using Bluetooth technology, can cost anywhere from $25 to $100.

Free credit card readers are rare and usually come with merchant service contracts; the one notable exception is Square, which offers a free magstripe reader with no obligation.

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.

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.

In Summary: The Best Credit Card Readers For Small Business

  1. Square POS:
    • Card readers range from free to $49 + $29 for optional dock
    • No monthly processor fee
  2. Host Merchant Services:
    • Card reader cost varies by payment processor.
    • Processing app costs $14.99/month (Host Merchant Services)
  3. Clover Go:
    • Card reader price can vary from free to $100+; default is $49
    • Monthly fees $0 and up
  4. Square Terminal:
    • Card terminal costs $299; optional Hub is $39
    • No monthly fee
  5. Helcim:
    • Card reader costs $199 with an optional $79 stand
    • No monthly processor fee
  6. SumUp:
    • Card readers range from $19 to $59
    • No monthly processor fee; processing is a flat 2.75% per transaction
  7. Toast POS:
    • Card reader costs range from free to $409
    • Monthly fees $0 and up
  8. Shopify Lite:
    • Card readers cost $49; optional docks are $29 or $39
    • Shopify Lite costs $9/month
Chris Motola

Chris Motola

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
An expert in personal and business loans and financial health, Chris Motola has been writing about small business finance and payments for over 5 years. He has been cited in various industry publications, including Forbes Advisor, GoBankingRates, and Medium. Chris is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.
Chris Motola
View Chris Motola's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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The vendors that appear on this list were chosen by subject matter experts on the basis of product quality, wide usage and availability, and positive reputation.

Merchant Maverick’s ratings are editorial in nature, and are not aggregated from user reviews. Each staff reviewer at Merchant Maverick is a subject matter expert with experience researching, testing, and evaluating small business software and services. The rating of this company or service is based on the author’s expert opinion and analysis of the product, and assessed and seconded by another subject matter expert on staff before publication. Merchant Maverick’s ratings are not influenced by affiliate partnerships.

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