Card readers for small businesses

Whether you're a retailer with a till, a food van at a festival or a waiter going from table to table, we've got the card reader to meet your small business needs.

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customer making a contactless payment using a Verifone v240m card reader

What are card readers called? What's the difference?

 

Card readers, card machines and PDQ machines are all interchangeable terms for the same thing: a device that accepts card payments. They sound similar, but it's important to look out for differences in intended use, setup requirements and pricing plans.

Sometimes a 'card reader' may refer to a handheld device that you make a low upfront payment for and fully own the device. This may seem attractive, but with high transaction fees, you could end up giving away a more revenue long-term.

These handheld card readers also don't have a receipt printer and need to be tethered to a smartphone or tablet in order to process a payment, rather than being a standalone device.

card payment using a card reader and smartphone at a coffee shop counter

Find the card reader that fits your business best

Ingenico iCT250 countertop card machine
Countertop Card Machine
Verifone V240m portable card machine with WiFi-Bluetooth and 3G connections
Portable Card Machine
Ingenico iWL251 mobile card machine
Mobile Card Machine
Contactless payments
Accept all major cards
Accept digital wallets
Same Day Settlement¹
Ideal for inside use
Ideal for outside use
Broadband connection
Phoneline connection
Wi-Fi connection
Bluetooth connection
GPRS / 3G
Integrated SIM card
Charging base
Wireless handset
Highspeed printer
Countertop Card Machine
Contactless payments
Accept all major cards
Accept digital wallets
Same Day Settlement¹
Ideal for inside use
Ideal for outside use
Broadband connection
Phoneline connection
Wi-Fi connection
Bluetooth connection
GPRS / 3G
Integrated SIM card
Charging base
Wireless handset
Highspeed printer
Portable Card Machine
Contactless payments
Accept all major cards
Accept digital wallets
Same Day Settlement¹
Ideal for inside use
Ideal for outside use
Broadband connection
Phoneline connection
Wi-Fi connection
Bluetooth connection
GPRS / 3G
Integrated SIM card
Charging base
Wireless handset
Highspeed printer
Mobile Card Machine
Contactless payments
Accept all major cards
Accept digital wallets
Same Day Settlement¹
Ideal for inside use
Ideal for outside use
Broadband connection
Phoneline connection
Wi-Fi connection
Bluetooth connection
GPRS / 3G
Integrated SIM card
Charging base
Wireless handset
Highspeed printer

Countertop card readers

 

If your customers always pay at the same place, like a deli counter, reception or till, then using a countertop card reader is the fastest and most reliable way to take card payments.

They use phoneline or a wired (ethernet) broadband connection, which gives them a level of performance that's robust and trustworthy.

You'll normally see them in shops, barbers, takeaways, or any other fast paced environment that has a high turnover of transactions to get through.

  • Use in a single place, like at a till
  • Wired to broadband or phoneline
  • Perfect for retailers and salons
florist takes contactless payment using countertop card reader

Portable card readers

 

Some small businesses need the flexibility to take card payments from multiple points on their premises. A portable card reader is wireless, so they can be carried to your customers.

They can be used inside, outside or both, as the three methods of connection (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G/GPRS) will be automatically selected depending on which signal is strongest.

For example, if you're a restaurant with tables inside you can connect to Wi-Fi, but if you host outdoor seating in the summer, the card reader can switch to a mobile network.

  • Use wirelessly inside or outside
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 3G/GPRS
  • Ideal for restaurants and pubs

taking card payment in coffee shop using a portable card reader

Mobile card readers

 

Mobile businesses will need to take payments anywhere their business takes them. The mobile card reader is the perfect companion for market stalls, window cleaners or mobile tyre fitters.

Equipped with a built-in SIM card, they can be used anywhere that has a mobile phone signal and connect using either 3G or GPRS. Perfect for traders that are always on the move.

  • Use anywhere with a mobile network
  • SIM card with 3G/GRPS
  • Ideal for food vans, taxis and mobile mechanics

SEE MORE mobile card READERs

mobile food van serving pulled pork and mobile card reader

Why do small businesses choose our card readers?

Reliability icon

| Reliability

Our card readers are designed to maximise up time and utilise the strongest connections to keep you taking payments, but if a technical hitch does occur, our UK-based Customer Support team will always be there to help.

Speed icon

| Speed

From high-speed processors to Same Day Settlement, you'll always be getting your money faster with one of our card readers. Giving your employees what they need and your customers what they want.

simple pricing icon

| Simple pricing

If you’re new to cards our experts will give you a transparent view of all costs and terms included and if you're switching from another supplier, we always strive to make you a saving on fees up to 30%.

Same Day Settlement

Typically, you would need to wait 3 to 5 days for your funds from card payments to be delivered to your bank account, but with Same Day Settlement (also known as Faster Payments), you can get your money in hours.

Getting money in your account sooner could be the difference between paying an outstanding bill, funding a new promotion or simply making ends meet.

  • Get your money in hours
  • Stop waiting 3-5 days for your money
  • Increase your cash flow

Learn more about Same Day Settlement →

barber and small business owner looking at tablet

If you're looking to switch provider or take your first ever card payment, you can talk to us


We're experts at switching payment services and typically save small businesses up to 30% on processing fees, with the same flexible agreement lengths and transaction rates available for businesses just starting out.

Card readers frequently asked questions

What are card readers called?

 

Card readers are devices used by businesses to accept card payments from their customers when they’re face-to-face. Card machines, PDQ machines, terminals, and chip and PIN machines do exactly the same thing. Whatever it’s called, they all take card payments.

Where they differ between models, depends on how they’re connected within your business, and where your customers typically expect to make a payment to you.

For example, if you only have a phoneline or broadband internet accessible through an ethernet cable, then you would need a countertop card reader. If you only operate from remote locations and don’t have a fixed business premises, then you would be a lot better off with a mobile card reader.

In some cases, the term 'card reader' can specifically be used to describe a smaller payment device without a receipt printer that needs to be connected to your smartphone or tablet in order to take payments. You can normally buy one of these outright for a small upfront cost, but the cost per transaction tends to be higher than getting a rented card reader with a monthly agreement.

In conclusion, don’t get caught up in the language that payment providers use when it comes to product names, but be sure to carefully study the pricing plans and think about the physical setup of your business and where the card reader would be used.

Does a card reader need WiFi?


A card reader doesn’t need WiFi specifically to work, but it will need to be connected to a signal of some kind to take payments. Some card readers use WiFi if it’s the most suitable connection method in your business.

It's important to choose a card reader that can connect to one or more of the connection points within your business, these include:

  • A wired broadband internet connection
  • WiFi
  • Phoneline
  • Mobile phone signal


Before choosing a card reader, you should ask yourself:

  • What connection points do I have available in my business?
  • Where do my customers expect to make a card payment?


If you have more than one connection point, you may want to consider a card reader that has multiple connection options, like the Verifone V240m. This way, if one signal drops out or becomes unavailable, you can use another and still stay connected.

For more information about card readers or to speak to an expert, please get a quote.