Best Small-Business Credit Card Readers

Here are the top card readers available, including portable and countertop options.

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What’s inside

Credit card readers are essential to many small businesses, and choosing the right one can help your company operate more smoothly. The best choice depends on your budget, features needed and whether you're accepting payments at a counter or on the go. Here's a list of the best credit card readers for small businesses.

These small-business credit card readers are low cost because they require additional technology in order to work, such as a phone, tablet or iPad. But they are easy to set up and can have you taking payments within minutes.

Best for minimalist design

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Price: $49 for reader and $29 for optional dock. Fees: Varies from 2.6% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 15 cents depending on method; no monthly fees.

contactless and chip card reader enables you to accept credit cards with chips and digital wallets, such as tap-and-pay credit cards and smartphone apps, including Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. It uses Bluetooth technology instead of connecting directly to a device, which means you don’t have to keep your cell phone or tablet out with you all the time.

The reader must be charged, but the charging dock can double as a support for the reader for a counter or table. You can also charge it with a USB charger.

Best for on-the-go payments with advanced features

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Price: $99 for reader. Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents depending on method.

This credit card reader by  works with phones and tablets via Bluetooth. It also processes every type of credit card payment your customers could want: magstripe-only cards, chip cards and contactless payments. It costs $99 and requires users to purchase a monthly plan.

Features depend on the plan you choose. The Register Plan for $39.95 per month provides basic payment processing, inventory management, taxes, reporting and employee management with 24/7 support.

Best for PayPal and Venmo payment options

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Price: $79 for reader. Fees: Varies by method, starting at 1.9% plus 10 cents for PayPal and Venmo QR code transactions over $10.

PayPal’s Zettle accepts chip and contactless payments, but it doesn’t read magstripes. It does, however, let customers pay with QR codes on and platforms. Its POS software offers invoice creation, inventory management, tracking sales performance and more.

Transaction fees generally fall in line with competitors with lower rates available for transactions made by QR code. All funds go into your PayPal account rather than a bank account. You’ll need to request a transfer to move the funds to your business bank account before you can use them outside of PayPal.

Best for a low-cost do-it-all reader 

Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Price: $19 for reader. Fees: Varies from 2.75% and up depending on method.

Powerful and compact, the Plus credit card reader works through Bluetooth with Apple and Android devices and promises more than 500 transactions on one charge. In addition to having a screen to show transaction details, the reader comes with a few helpful POS software features, like inventory management and permissions for employee access, as well as customizable invoicing. However, you might find that the overall POS is lacking when compared with the more robust options on the market.

SumUp charges only for transactions and doesn’t require a monthly subscription fee. You can order the reader for $19 and start accepting card transactions in a matter of minutes once it’s connected to the SumUp app.

Best for an all-in-one handheld system

Style: Standalone handheld reader. Price: $499 for reader; monthly contract required. Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents depending on monthly plan.

The  is a small but powerful handheld credit card reader. It can process all three credit card payment types, scan bar codes and even print receipts. It's one of the few options in this category that has its own screen, removing your personal device from the equation and allowing customers a bit more of a professional experience when checking out on the spot.

Depending on your monthly plan, the Clover Flex can help you manage inventory, view sales data and set up individual logins for employees. It costs $499, but the company offers payment plans to break up the cost. Payment processing rates depend on your pricing plan.

Best for low-cost transaction fees with volume-based discounts

Style: Connects via Bluetooth. Price: $199 for the reader. Fees: Varies by card type and monthly average transaction total.

card reader processes all three types of payments and connects via Bluetooth, meaning it needs to be charged. It also provides POS software with well-developed features, including customer management and inventory tracking that notifies you when your supply gets low. A standout feature is its self-service portal, which allows customers to log in to see their payment information and purchase history.

Helcim’s processing fees can be difficult to calculate because it bases its fees on the type of card and , which are set by card networks. It also offers volume-based discounts by averaging your monthly processing totals over a three-month period. The more you average in transactions per month, the higher your discount. The processor doesn’t require you to sign a contract, choose a monthly fee or pay to cancel your service.

Best for tableside payments at restaurants

Style: Standalone handheld reader. Price: $169 for the reader. Fees: Varies from 2.49% plus 15 cents and up depending on plan.

The Toast Go 2 allows you to submit orders at tables and accept all three styles of payment. It's also spill proof, will hold a charge for 24 hours and has a 6.4-inch touchscreen for quick checkout. The free version of comes with basic features, including point-of-sale and payment processing, but advanced features are available with paid plans.

The free pay-as-you-go monthly plan with basic features has a processing rate of 2.99% plus 15 cents for every transaction; other plans come with fees and quote-based pricing. One downside: The company requires contracts with a standard term of two years.

If your business has a storefront and you want a more traditional register setup, there are several options to consider. And many of them come with advanced features to help your business grow.

Best for compact countertop reader

Style: Standalone countertop reader. Price: $299 for the reader. Fees: Varies from 2.6% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 15 cents depending on method; no monthly fees.

Square Terminal allows you to accept all three methods of credit card payments: chip, contactless and magstripe. And priced at $299, it comes in on the lower end of the all-inclusive card readers.

The company's standard flat-rate processing fees apply and depend on whether you run the card in person or enter it manually. There's no monthly contract.

Best for an iPad-compatible register

Style: Register that connects to compatible iPad. Price: $169 for the reader. Fees: Varies from 2.6% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 15 cents depending on method; no monthly fees.

The Square Stand is designed specifically for a single smart device: the iPad. Snap an iPad into the Square Stand, and use it as a desktop point-of-sale. The configuration allows you to provide a larger screen for transaction details, and the swivel feature allows customers to sign on the iPad without having to pass the device around. It can process magstripe, chip and contactless payments and connect with a receipt printer. However, it works only with .

The company's standard fees of 2.6% plus 10 cents applies for credit cards and can raise up to 3.5% plus 15 cents for methods outside a swipe, chip or contactless payment.

Best all-in-one register

Style: Standalone countertop register. Price: $749 for reader. Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents, depending on monthly plan.

The  is a countertop setup that doesn't require a tablet. It allows your business to accept all types of credit card payments, print receipts and scan bar codes. You also get some nifty POS features, including inventory, customer and employee management functions with paid monthly plans.

This product is $749. Payment processing rates depend on your Clover pricing plan.

Best full register setup for retail and restaurants

Style: Standalone countertop register. Price: $1,349 for reader or $1,699 for reader plus Clover Flex. Fees: Varies from 2.3% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 10 cents, depending on monthly plan.

The most powerful of Clover’s credit card reader options, the  is for fast-paced businesses and offers quick, secure credit card transactions of all kinds, printed receipts, scannable bar codes and a cash register. Advanced features include creating custom orders, managing marketing preferences for customers, and creating loyalty programs to keep customers coming back.

This setup starts at $1,349. While that might feel like a hefty price compared with other options, it includes the Clover Station, a Clover Mini for more mobility, a cash drawer and a receipt printer. Unlike the smaller Clover products, the transaction fees for the Clover Station stay consistent at 2.3% plus 10 cents for regular transactions and 3.5% plus 10 cents for manually keyed transactions, regardless of your monthly plan.

Best full register setup with a customer-facing screen

Style: Standalone countertop register. Price: $799 for reader. Fees: Varies from 2.6% plus 10 cents up to 3.5% plus 15 cents depending on method; no monthly fees.

The Square Register is the first fully integrated credit card scanner system from Square and is a complete countertop POS system that can accept magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment. It boasts two screens — one for the employee and one for the customer to show transaction details — for a seamless experience. It also offers an extra long cable that allows businesses to separate the Register and customer's screen to encourage social distancing. Its software provides merchants inventory, employee and customer relationship management functions, plus a reporting suite where you can view sales data.

This small-business credit card reader option will cost your business $799, but there are payment plan options available. It processes transactions at the standard Square rates.

A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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