Card payment systems: What are the affordable options?

Rachael Power
Small Business Editor
Sift Media
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With the launch of contactless PayPal card reader in the UK this week, PayPal Here, BusinessZone takes a look at what other card readers are out there for retailers and how Here compares. 

It's a subject of much discussion on our sister site, UK Business Forums. Small businesses are wondering how they can affordably keep up with larger retailers by offering consumers, who now carry less cash, the same experience. 

Accepting payment via mobile through text message or an app and via an affordable card reader seems therefore like a sensible way to go. Businesses have also been questioning whether to include a surcharge of, for example, 50p if a transaction is below a certain amount, to cover the transaction fee.

This appears to be up to the retailer, but has received negative feedback from customers. It depends what the rate is and whether you can absorb the cost.

What you also have to consider is whether you meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). These are 12 requirements that all businesses who handle credit or debit card payments must comply with. It provides best practice guidelines to establish a "minimum security standard". 

The PCI Security Standards require all merchants regardless of size or number of transactions who accept, store, transmit or process any cardholder data to comply with the PCI DSS.

Below are some of the options we've found in terms of card readers for small businesses, which work via apps hosted on a smartphone or tablet. 


Features: PayPal has two types of card reader available for small businesses, its chip-and-pin version which doesn't do contactless. But it is compatible with iOS and Android so it should work with most tablets and smartphones and connects via Bluetooth.

PayPal Here, its second version, was launched this week and is its contactless and Apple Pay option. This means you will  pay a bit more for it, at £79.95 and you do need to sign up for a PayPal Here account. 

With both readers, users can set up sub-users so other staff can take payments with the same PayPal Here account. Receipts are send via print, email or text message.

It supports product inventory and you can see your statistics and sales overview via the app or PayPal account online. 

Price: For the chip-and-pin version, a one-off payment of £49.95. For PayPal Here, £79.95 one-off.

Transaction cost: 2.75% per transaction and 3.40% + 20p for card payments made by swiping the magnetic strip or manually entering card details. Money goes straight into a PayPal account.


Features: iZettle also has two card readers, Lite and Pro Contactless.

Its Lite version accepts chip-and-pin cards and magstripe and connects via a cable to a smartphone or tablet and accepts most major cards. Receipts are printed or sent via email.

Contactless Pro accepts Apple Pay and contactless payment on iOS. It works with most smartphones and tablets and connects via Bluetooth rather than a cable. 

Price: Lite is free, according to the website, and Contactless Pro is £79.99.

Transaction cost: Between 1.50% and 2.75% per transaction depending on how much it's for.


Features: Payleven has a standard chip-and-pin cardreader already available, but their contactless version won't be out until September.

The current version and free app is connected to a compatible smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. A constant internet connection (WiFi, 3G or 4G) is needed for successful transactions.

The new device will include improvements to fix some bugs and the abililty to accept contactless cards. It will also be compatible with Apple Pay

Payleven offers several kinds of settlement reports. Every morning they send an email on how much it has paid out to you and users can request a weekly or monthly settlement overview. It pays directly into your bank account.

Price: £58.80 for the current non-contactless version and it will be £79 for contactless when launched.

Transaction cost: Transaction fees are typically 2.75%.


Features: Sumup doesn't appear to have a contactless option but offers a wireless chip-and-pin card reader. Receipts are sent via email and text message. The app and online dashboard are free. They offer a 30-day trial so if you're not satisfied, you can send it back. 

Price: £59 plus VAT.

Transaction cost: Interestingly this has the lowest cost of the lot at 1.95%. Money can be claimed in three to six days.


Do you use a card reader in your small business? Which one and how have you found it - would you pay extra for contactless?


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