From traditional basic swipe cards, to chip friendly, and even touchless payment options, the best credit card readers for small business are mobile, secure, and easy to use. These days it’s easier than ever for businesses of all sorts to accept payment through credit cards.
BP’s Picks for Best Credit Card Reader for Small Business
- Best Overall: Square Credit Card Reader
- Best Affordable: Pay Anywhere
- Best Bluetooth: Clover Go
- Best Speed: Verifone VX520
- Best Versatility: Paypal Credit Card Reader
Merchants searching for the best credit card reader for small businesses have come to the right place. After exhaustive research and consulting small-business owners and entrepreneurs just like you, we present the five best credit card readers in categories such as best Bluetooth, fastest, and most versatile. In this ranking, there’s a credit card reader for every purpose. And best of all, you don’t even have to be a techno whiz-bang to get them to work.
With a credit card reader from this article, merchants can feel confident their payments will be swift, safe, and efficient— and that’s whether they’re online, in the office, or at a remote location.
Choosing a Credit Card Reader
It’s next to impossible to sell products or provide services without accepting credit cards. With the credit card readers of today, what was once an ungainly and troublesome process can now be accomplished on our cell phones.
It’s also more important than ever to meet customers where they are—at trade shows, festivals, and remote locations. Don’t miss a sale just because you don’t have a mobile credit card reader!
Remember the days of running a paper receipt through what some referred to as a “ker-chunker,” imprinting the customer’s credit card sometimes less than legibly in triplicate?
Well, trust us when we say those days are done.
No one credit card reader is perfect for every business, though. From freelancers in need of a credit card reader for occasional use to an artisan that relies heavily on credit card payment at an arts-and-crafts festival, here’s what to look for when picking a credit card reader that’s right for you:
Ease of Use
Many credit card readers of today are essentially plug ’n’ play. Nevertheless, some credit card readers force vendors to go through credit and background checks before they can even use the thing.
Don’t pick a credit card reader before you make certain you won’t have to go through a background or credit check. That way, you won’t end up at a remote location, only to realize you can’t accept credit cards from customers — losing out on sales.
Modern chip-and-PIN credit cards use the global standard for secure transactions: EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa, or EMV for short. Some readers accept all of them, but just be aware that if you run an EMV card through a traditional magnetic-strip card slot, you may be liable for fraudulent transactions.
How They Link to Your Account
Just because the transaction is approved doesn’t mean the money will end up in your bank account. Each credit card reader deposits actual cash into your account on a different calendar.
Some hold your money in a merchant account, transferring your money to your account on either a daily or weekly basis. Other credit card readers link directly to your bank account. That way, you get your money instantly, or if not, within about one business day, at least.
Accounting Software Interface
Already buried in paperwork and receipts? Save yourself some headaches and choose a credit card reader than interfaces with common accounting software like Freshbooks, Xero, and QuickBooks.
Availability of Customer Support
Some credit card companies offer support 24/7, some just during regular business hours. Keep this in mind if you process a lot of transactions in the evenings and over the weekend. You don’t want to miss a sale because you’re stuck with tech issues and there’s no support available.
As well as the cost of the reader itself, here are additional fees to be aware of:
- Processing costs, or how much you’ll pay per transaction.
- Are fees monthly or pay as you go? If you rarely take credit cards, you might be better served by a pay-as-you-go plan.
As well as those two fees, occasionally credit card service providers add an extra charge when credit card numbers are keyed in by hand. Don’t be surprised by unexpecting keyed-in-card fees.
Now that we’ve covered a bit about what to look for in a credit card reader, let’s take a look at the five best credit card readers for small business.
Best Overall: Square Credit Card Reader
The Square Credit Card Reader received an overwhelming response from small-business owners as the best overall credit card reader, and we agree. David Baddeley is director at Scottish Trust Deed, one of the UK’s leading financial help companies specialise in debt solutions, debt management plans, and bankruptcy solutions. He says the Square Credit Card Reader accepts all major credit and debit cards, it’s easy to set up, and although the associated fees aren’t the lowest, they’re transparent and easy to understand.
“There is a flat fee for all swiped card transactions,” Baddeley explains in an email to Business Pundit, and there are no extra per-transaction or monthly subscriptions fees, “which is great for someone who wants to make contactless payments a cheap thing to use in their business,” he says.
Ethan Taub, CEO of Loanry, which offers plans to reach financial goals and comparison shop for anything relating to money matters, also recommends the Square.
“It’s a small and very modern card reader that lets you quickly and easily accept payments,” Taub contributes. “With this reader and the Square app, you can take care of payments, tipping, inventory, and even reports. “It really is the complete package,” he says.
The Square Credit Card Readers accepts debit, credit, and EMV chip cards as well as Apple and Android Pay. And credit cards are accepted from all the major companies, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. For convenience, the reader is cordless, using Lightning Connector to interface with Lightning-enabled Apple devices running iOS 10.0.2 or later.
Using the Square, your money will show up in your account within two business days, or instead, get your money in seconds with Instant Deposit—that will cost you 1% per transaction, though. On the other hand, there’s a $10 redemption per Square account, and $10 in free processing every time a Square account is activated. The reader is also Android compatible, if that’s what you prefer, through Bluetooth LE or USB.
There’s also the free Square reader for magstripe, with which cards can be swiped, and it charges easily with a micro USB cable.
The Square Credit Card Reader Is Easy to Set Up and Convenient to Use—Especially On the Go
One of the many advantages of choosing Square is that it not only takes care of payments, it handles tipping, adjusts inventory, and even produces reports to help make bookkeeping a breeze. The app is easy to download, and if you enter the retrieval code included with the box, you’re essentially reimbursed for the cost of the reader making it effectively free, and that’s a very good price.
Most users are accepting payment within minutes of plugging in the unit, and it’s readily compatible with any app or software, even moving seamlessly from one phone to another, recognizing the different software being used, from ticketing to point-of-sale (POS) and PayPal, among others, and processing is fast.
Many small-business owners we spoke to, including Dylan Turriago from The Key Man, a mobile locksmith specializing in car key replacement, appreciate that customers can tap their phone or card on the reader—very professional!— and receipts can be received via text or email, making it completely paperless!
What Could Be Better
The purchase of a credit card reader should not be taken lightly, so there are some things to be aware of before choosing Square. First of all, according to some consumer reports, it doesn’t fit the Samsung Note 8, so Samsung fans beware. Some also find the battery life to be a bit too short for their purposes. And some form of credit is required before users can be verified, creating an issue for some going into business for themselves straight out of college.
Some also find the reader a bit sensitive if a customer’s card is damaged or scratched, forcing the user to manually input the number, which can slow everything down. A separate magstripe reader (as opposed to an all-in-one solution) is an added inconvenience for some users. While the reader is quick and reliable, it may not be the best option if you’re doing an exceedingly large number of transactions. It certainly is the best choice for accepting payment off-site.
Best Affordable: PayAnywhere
PayAnywhere comes recommended by several businesses as the most affordable credit card reader in our ranking. Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, an online PC tech support service, says PayAnywhere offers a great product at a great price.
“There are no monthly subscription fees, and you pay 2.69% per transaction as part of their pay as you go package,” he writes Business Pundit in an email, and, he continues, these fees are very cheap when compared to other products on the market. PayAnywhere also offers personalized receipts, customer purchase reporting, online resources, multilingual support, and more.
“And all of this with no extra cost,” Sherman adds. “Don’t be fooled with the big brands and pay a monthly fee. Cheap is always better.”
PayAnywhere does charge a $9.95-per-month fee, but otherwise, there are no hidden fees, contracts, or minimums. It’s Bluetooth enabled, and works on both Apple and Android IOS, and your money will show up in your account within two business days. PayAnywhere’s system also removes the need for PCI Compliance fees, saving even more money.
PCI compliance fees vary between processors. PCI stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, and many processors charge an annual fee to stay compliant while they charge a much more expensive monthly penalty if a vendor fails to abide by the standard. Be sure to check the PCI compliance policy before choosing a credit card processor.
Powered by North American Bancard processing, PayAnywhere does require one lithium ion battery, included with purchase. It also requires users to set up a free account account with SwyftPA. Otherwise, the 3-in-1 Bluetooth-enabled card reader accepts swipe, dip, and tap payments, and there are no monthly minimums, set up, or cancellation fees.
Your customers can set their own tip amount, and taxes are calculated using GeoTax. Discounts can be calculated by both percentage and dollar amount.
For convenience, the reader and app accommodate both paper and email receipts, with details like items bought, applicable discounts, tips, taxes, and signatures. Receipts can be printed both via AirPrint or Star thermal printers. PayAnywhere also excels in reporting, both online or in the free online merchant portal.
These reports include daily, weekly, and monthly totals as well as sales, refunds, and voids, among other data. Though designed for swiping, credit card numbers can be entered manually, along with the consumer’s home address for security purposes. including home address for security purposes.
Many users also appreciate the test mode. This allows users to test many features of the app and reader, as well as the inventory functionality, without setting up an account. There’s also live customer support, and we especially appreciate the “Save & Forward” feature. With this feature, you can take payment with little or no internet connection, saving them to be processed later.
PayAnywhere Is Easy to Set Up, Easy to Use, and Affordable
One small-business owner calls the PayAnywhere reader “one seriously cool little gadget,” particularly for a home business. The device connects easily to laptops, tablets, and smartphones through a USB port (including both Apple and Android smartphones and devices).
The instructions are straightforward and simple, and vendors can create their own menu of services and products, creating what one user described as a “cash register” of sorts for cash and check transactions.
One arts and crafts market vendor had been manually entering credit cards after the fact, leading to data-entry errors. The ability to accept credit and debit cards on the spot with a swipe helped cut down on time and wasted energy. One flea market vendor also reports particularly good results, noting the ability to accept credit cards has sizably increased her income. These vendors also appreciate the customizable e-receipts and inventory control.
What Could Be Better
First off, it’s important to note that this reader comes free with the PayAnywhere app, so it’s best to begin there. If you do choose to buy the reader, though, PayAnywhere does offer a $10 rebate when you download the app.
Some users also report that PayAnywhere is not compatible with Kindle Fire devices or Blackberry. Even though the phone was recognizing the reader, another user reported an issue with swiping too fast, too slow, or an old and damaged card error message even after reinstalling and restarting the app and reader. PayAnywhere replaced the reader.
Also, vendors who’ve had financial problems in the past such as frozen credit or identity theft, can face set-up issues with PayAnywhere. Also, be sure to read the fine print on the $10 rebate if you do choose to buy the reader, and some say that customer support is slow, especially when accessed via an online chat.
Best Bluetooth: Clover Go
The next product in our ranking is the credit card reader for you if Bluetooth connectivity is what you’re after. The Clover Go credit card reader came recommended by many experts and small-business owners, including Dusan Stanar, tech expert and founder and CEO of the tech news and review website VSS Monitoring.
As both a small-business owner and the CEO of his own company, Stanar says that in his opinion “the best credit card reader for small business is Clover Go.”
The best features, he explains, include its compatibility with a broad range of iPhones, iPads, and other tablets. It also accepts every type of credit card, including chip cards, magstripe-only cards, and contactless payments. It’s “all-in-one,” he says. The reader can also be used with any preexisting Clover Go account, and new accounts are easy to start. The bundle does come with the Clover GO wireless reader, and a chip. A tabletop stand is sold separately.
In addition, the Clover Go has all the industrial-strength capabilities of larger Clover Go readers.
For receipts, the Clover Go supports the Star Micronics SP742ML printer, works with any Wi-Fi or cellular connection, and accommodates Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, among others.
You can do everything you need to do with the Clover Go, from creating orders and processing transactions to managing employees and updating your inventory. Best of all, it all syncs easily with the Clover web dashboard.
Clover Go also uses the most up-to-date security features, like end-to-end tokenization and encryption. The app also allows users to build orders, take payments, and run reports, all from the app. The app also texts and emails customer receipts. Discounts, tips, and tax rates are also completely customizable, and you can see your entire transaction history at any time and all in one place. And that’s not just open transactions but also pending and completed transactions.
The Clover Go Works Right Out of the Box
Clover Go works well for museums that do a lot of offsite vending, according to consumer reviews. Barcodes scan easily, and it can enter cash, credit, or even
checks—no need to track sales, it does it all for you. And for existing Clover Go users, it integrates seamlessly with the Clover POS. One less thing to worry about. The reader is incredibly small and compact. Users also get a First Data merchant account. This means funds get held less often than with providers like Square and PayPal.
Battery life on the reader is solid from about 160 swipes, or roughly 130 contactless payments. The reader comes with a USB charging cable and charges through a laptop. Go through Clover directly and choose from two plans, like Register Lite, a $9.95-a-month plan with a 2.7% per transaction fee, plus 10 cents for in-person payments and 3.5% plus 10 cents per keyed-in payments. There’s also Register, with fees beginning at $39.95 a month with transactions costing 2.3% and 10 cents for in-person payments and 3.5% plus 10 cents per keyed-in payments. The added features of the plan make the higher costs worthwhile.
What Could Be Better
There are a few things about the Clover Go we wish were better though. First of all, the fees are a little high, but many of the services offered and the integration with Clover POS make those fees worthwhile. Accounts can be canceled at any time without incurring additional cost, which is a definite bonus, and your refunded processes within 60 days. Some merchants that have multiple merchant accounts have also had issues with receiving funds into the correct account. It’s also important to note that there’s only a 30-day warranty.
Charging in a wall socket is also a bit unreliable, according to some user comments, and current Clover Go readers have lost some popular functionality from earlier models. Also, some apps and app features available from Clover don’t work on the Go. Using the Go, you can save and store transactions at a remote location if connectivity fails, which is a nice feature to have for merchants on the go, but that does reportedly lead to some transaction failure. Furthermore, some app features can only be adjusted through the dashboard, and many consumers caution to read the fine print in the contract, but that’s true from any credit card service provider.
Best Speed: Verifone VX 520
Small-business owners have enough to do. The last thing they need is a credit card reader that’s slow and difficult to use. When it comes to the fastest credit card reader in our ranking, our choice is the Verifone VX 520. Lucas Robinson, CMO of Crediful, a personal finance site, had this to say: “The Verifone VX 520 is an ergonomically designed machine that runs on the advanced VX platform that uses the tried and tested Verix operating system.”
Robinson goes on to add that the VX 520 uses the industry’s fastest processor to handle encryption, decryption, and processing. The high-speed reader also protects against fraud and misuse. It’s small but mighty, Robinson says, and adds that another notable feature is the unique cable-management system. This helps users keep their space clear, Robinson says. The reader is also able to run on batteries, which contributes to its portability. There’s also a contactless reader integrated into the device, keeping payment options open for merchants.
With the VX 520, consumers have the choice of dial-up or Ethernet connectivity. And unlike some other mobile credit card readers in our ranking, this one comes with its own built-in thermal printer. Though not technically meant to be a mobile device, the reader does run on one lithium ion battery, so it can be used off-site so long as there’s an available Ethernet connection. The comm port under the unit helps keep your work areas neat and orderly.
The processor in the VX 520 is powerful, and there’s plentiful memory. The reader also offers integrated NFC/CTLS capabilities, supporting alternative payments, and apps that provide merchants the flexibility of loyalty programs and even gift cards. NFC/CRLS refers to communication protocols between electronic devices, keeping large files transferring quickly and efficiently over what might otherwise be a low-speed connection and helping vendors accept contactless payment offsite. And Verifone’s secure high-speed gateways are also PCI compliant, with bank-grade switches and comprehensive integrated reporting solutions. It’s also EMV and MSR enabled. Like EMV, MSR is a set of security protocols meant for traditional mag-stripe credit cards, or cards that have to be processed by swiping rather than via chip or contactless payment.
The Secure VX 520 Offers Lightning Speed and Powerful Performance
A merchant and business account is required to use the VX 520, so rates and fees will vary. Shopping around is encouraged, and some providers offer the reader free with an account. Pro Merchant is recommended by many, offering two plans. First the “interchange,” charging base percentage rates and transaction fees, plus a small percentage rate and transaction fee added per transaction. There’s also the fixed flat-rate program for all transactions.
Contributing to the speed and performance of the reader is the powerful Verix operating system, one of the most trusted and secure operating systems in the business. It’s dual-mode, meaning that, in addition to Ethernet and wireless, the reader can also run on a standard old-school phone line. There’s a built-in pinpad if you’re sick and tired of typing on touchscreen phone-type keyboards. Also not to be missed is the VeriShield Protection for end-to-end encryption and fraud protection.
What Could Be Better
Some features common in the countertop POS systems are missing from the VX 520. Some models aren’t Wi-Fi enabled, but you can choose a 3G-capable model if that’s a priority for you and your business. Providing broadband access for a variety of mobile devices, 3G is slated to be phased out by February 2022, however. Some consumers report they received what appear to be used or refurbished units from Amazon, but that seems to be the exception to the rule rather than standard practice.
It’s also important to make sure this reader integrates with your processor before choosing the VX 520. The reader is also perhaps best-suited for an all-in-one tabletop POS system, such as those commonly found in a traditional customer-facing retail environment. In other words, it’s not quite as mobile as other options and perhaps best suited for a brick-and-mortar small business rather than a business or operation that tends to operate off-site.
Best Versatility: PayPal Credit Card Reader
Many small-business owners we talked to recommended PayPal credit card readers as the most versatile option on the market. We like the PCSUSDCRT chip and swipe reader. Dan Bailey, president of WikiLawn, an online resource for lawn and garden professionals, had this to say about PayPal card readers: “For us, the choice is really about trust and convenience,” and although PayPal isn’t the cheapest or the most powerful provider, people trust the service, he says.
“We’ve tried a few different card readers and have settled on PayPal’s card reader,” Bailey tells Business Pundit in an email. Among other benefits, PayPal covers the widest variety of cards, “and to us, that alone is worth it,” Bailey says. Most consumers aren’t aware of the many other credit card reader brands as well as they know Paypal, he says, so they may feel wary of giving over their credit or debit card information. In addition, issues arise with other readers, such as not all cards working, or issues with chip cards, or rejecting cards like American Express, Bailey says. Still others don’t play nicely with pre-loaded gift cards. Not so with PayPal products, Bailey says.
Though fees can vary between different PayPal products, PCSUSDCRT fees are 2.7% per U.S. transaction. It connects wirelessly to the PayPal Here app through a phone or tablet. Best of all, with a PayPal account, you’ll receive your funds quickly—often within minutes, and with a pre-existing PayPal account all you have to do is plug ‘n’ play. There’s also a clip for attaching the reader to phones, laptops, or tablets, for additional mobility.
Trond Nyland, entrepreneur, founder, and CEO of Cordless Drill Guide, has had good luck with PayPal readers. “It’s not just chip and swipe, but it reads mobile credit cards, accepts checks, and also ties in with your PayPal account to accept payments,” he tells Business Pundit in an email. If you already have a PayPal account (personal or business) you can be up and running within minutes. You can use it to record cash and check transactions on a compatible device.
PayPal Is Easy to Use and Great for Small Business
When it comes to PayPal readers like the PCSUSDCR, ease of use is mentioned across most user reviews and small-business owner recommendations. Most are up in running within seconds. Many use an external battery to keep it charged when taking credit cards off-site, but you can continue swiping while the unit is charging. Most report the reader stays charged all day, however, especially if you turn it off between transactions.
An additional benefit is the reader doesn’t limit transactions to $500 dollars a week, like PayPal’s free reader. Another small but important feature is the free PayPal sticker. Featuring the familiar Paypal logo, the sticker can be displayed wherever a vendor chooses. This cuts down on those “Do you accept credit cards?” questions, and reassures customers their transaction will be safe and secure.
You can also add a tip with the reader, and it asks if you want a receipt, which can be sent via text or through email. You can even use the reader to build a customer database, and most importantly, the money shows up quickly in your account. The unit is also about the size of a credit card itself, fitting in the palm of your hand.
What Could Be Better
Before purchasing a PayPal reader, it’s important to know that you can get them free from PayPal when you set up an account: an unfortunate surprise for those who’ve spent money on the reader, only to find they could have saved money on the reader by simply setting up an account.Other issues reported include the reader switching off after extended downtime between transactions. Others mention the one/off switch is inconveniently located, and the lights and indicating power and Bluetooth connectivity are difficult to see in daylight—a mild nuisance.
Hand-entering credit card numbers does cost more, so it’s best to use the chip reader. Another pro tip from users is to link a debit card so your money is received within minutes for a 0.25 cent fee. Otherwise it takes a few days for your money to arrive. Also, if you have a reserve limit of $500 for keyed-in and swipe magnetic stripe cards for sales in excess of $500 over a seven-day period, you may face a 30-day reserve on your funds. Some have also faced unreliable Bluetooth connectivity, addressed by reinstalling the app on their device.
Don’t miss a sale because you can’t accept credit cards. Choose the best credit card reader for small business from our ranking instead.
Interested in other ways you can help jumpstart your small business operations? Check out some of our other Business Pundit rankings on products that help you take the next steps toward business success: