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10 Best Credit Card Machines and Terminals of July 2024

Credit card machines and terminals are pieces of hardware that allow your business to accept card payments in person.
By Karrin Sehmbi, Hillary Crawford
Last updated on March 12, 2024
Edited byChristine Aebischer
Fact checked and reviewed

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Credit card machines come in many shapes and sizes. Whether you’re considering a countertop terminal or a handheld device, the right choice will allow your business to accept credit card payments while fitting your budget and simplifying the checkout process for both your employees and customers.
Our picks for the best credit card machines and terminals are all competitively priced and accept a variety of payments. Beyond that, some include extras that help keep the line moving — like barcode scanning, customer-facing screens or the ability to accept payments offline.
Here are the best credit card machines, also sometimes known as point-of-sale (POS) terminals, for small businesses, along with why they stand out.

Best Credit Card Machines and Terminals

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Estimates assume an average interchange fee of 1.81% + $0.10, based on our latest available data. Estimates provided reflect online and in-person transactions, but exclude any keyed transactions. Estimates are based on the lowest monthly plan and processing fees for each provider.

Product
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Payment processing fees
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Clover Flex

Learn more

on Clover Flex's secure website

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
4.0/5

Best for Handheld terminal + industry-specific plans

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$0.00

and up.

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
Learn more

on Clover Flex's secure website

Square Stand

Learn more

on Square Stand's secure website

5.0/5

Best for iPad-based POS terminal

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$0.00

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Learn more

on Square Stand's secure website

SumUp Plus

Learn more

on SumUp Plus' secure website

4.0/5

Best for Standalone card reader + mobile app

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.15

$0.00

for card readers only; $99 for Connect Lite plan; $199 for Connect Plus plan; $289 for Connect Pro plan.

Learn more

on SumUp Plus' secure website

Clover Station Duo

Learn more

on Clover Station Duo's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Countertop terminal + customer-facing screen

In-person: 2.3% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$49.95

and up.

Learn more

on Clover Station Duo's secure website

Payanywhere Smart Terminal

4.5/5

Best for Handheld terminal + barcode scanner

In-person: 2.69% + $0.00

Online: 3.49% + $0.19

$15.00

PayPal Zettle

4.0/5

Best for Card reader + scanning QR codes

In-person: 2.29% + $0.09

Online: 2.89% + $0.49

$0.00

Square Register

Learn more

on Square Register's secure website

5.0/5

Best for Countertop terminal + customer-facing screen

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$0.00

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Learn more

on Square Register's secure website

Square Terminal

Learn more

on Square Terminal's secure website

5.0/5

Best for Compact handheld terminal + printer

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$0.00

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Learn more

on Square Terminal's secure website

Payanywhere Smart Flex

4.5/5

Best for Handheld terminal + customer-facing screen

In-person: 2.69% + $0.00

Online: 3.49% + $0.19

$25.00

Toast Go 2

4.0/5

Best for Handheld terminal for restaurants

2.49% + $0.15

if you buy hardware upfront; 3.09% + $0.15 for pay-as-you-go option.

$0.00

Starter Kit; $69 Point of Sale plan; custom Build Your Own plan.

Our pick for

Handheld terminal + industry-specific plans

Clover Flex

Learn more

on Clover Flex's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

and up.

Our pick for

iPad-based POS terminal

Square Stand

Learn more

on Square Stand's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Our pick for

Standalone card reader + mobile app

SumUp Plus

Learn more

on SumUp Plus' secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

for card readers only; $99 for Connect Lite plan; $199 for Connect Plus plan; $289 for Connect Pro plan.

Our picks for

Countertop terminal + customer-facing screen

Clover Station Duo

Learn more

on Clover Station Duo's secure website

Monthly fee
$49.95

and up.

Square Register

Learn more

on Square Register's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Our pick for

Handheld terminal + barcode scanner

Payanywhere Smart Terminal

Monthly fee
$15.00

Our pick for

Card reader + scanning QR codes

PayPal Zettle

Monthly fee
$0.00

Our pick for

Compact handheld terminal + printer

Square Terminal

Learn more

on Square Terminal's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Our pick for

Handheld terminal + customer-facing screen

Payanywhere Smart Flex

Monthly fee
$25.00

Our pick for

Handheld terminal for restaurants

Toast Go 2

Payment processing fees
2.49% + $0.15

if you buy hardware upfront; 3.09% + $0.15 for pay-as-you-go option.

Monthly fee
$0.00

Starter Kit; $69 Point of Sale plan; custom Build Your Own plan.

Our picks for the best credit card machine and terminals

Clover Flex: Best handheld terminal + industry-specific plans

Style: Handheld.
Why we like it: The Clover Flex lets customers swipe, dip and tap credit cards and accepts the trio of digital wallet payments: Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. The six-inch touch screen displays transaction details. It also includes a receipt printer and barcode scanner for faster checkout and has a free monthly plan available with limited POS features for those on a budget. Read our full Clover review.

Square Stand: Best iPad-based POS terminal

Style: Tabletop.
Why we like it: Despite being the cheapest tabletop reader on this list, the Square Stand offers small businesses a lot of value. The Stand uses an iPad as a screen, giving you the feeling of a register-style terminal without the high price. It also swivels so customers can see transaction details and accepts all types of credit cards, digital wallets like Apple Pay and QR codes through Cash App. You’ll need to purchase accessories to print receipts or scan barcodes with this terminal. Read our full Square review.

SumUp Plus: Best standalone card reader + mobile app

Style: Handheld.
Why we like it: The SumUp Plus comes with all the basic features of a card reader and a low price. It connects to a smart device to process payments and features a small screen to display transaction totals for swiping, dipping and tapping credit cards and accepting Apple Pay and Google Pay. Although the Plus doesn’t print receipts, you can send digital receipts to customers’ email addresses. Read our full SumUp review.

Clover Station Duo: Best countertop terminal + customer-facing screen

Style: Tabletop.
Why we like it: The Clover Station Duo has two screens (one facing each side of the counter), processes credit card and digital payment options and prints receipts, giving customers a smoother checkout. It also comes with a cash drawer for an all-in-one setup. Clover offers two POS options for the Station Duo: one for retail and one for restaurants.

Payanywhere Smart Terminal: Best handheld terminal + barcode scanner

Style: Handheld.
Why we like it: The Payanywhere Smart Terminal lets small businesses print receipts on the go and comes with a five-inch touch screen to show transaction details. It also scans barcodes for faster checkout and accepts credit card payments, including some digital wallets. However, it doesn’t accept Google Pay. Payanywhere’s POS features include reporting, employee tracking and inventory management. Read our full Payanywhere review.

PayPal Zettle: Best credit card reader + QR code scanning

Style: Handheld.
Why we like it: PayPal's Zettle goes one step further by letting customers pay by QR code directly from their PayPal accounts — just create a unique QR code on the card reader and let the customer scan the code with their phone to initiate payment. QR code payments are charged at the same rate as card-present transactions. It’s also a handheld design that’s easy to take on the go, accepts chip and contactless payments and has a screen to display simple transaction details. Read our full PayPal Zettle review.

Square Register: Best countertop terminal + customer-facing screen

Style: Tabletop with two screens.
Why we like it: The Square Register accepts digital wallets and all credit cards and also lets customers pay via QR code through Cash App. This option can help businesses avoid the higher processing fees associated with card-not-present transactions and is available for customers online if you set up a Square Online website. The system also comes with two screens: a 13.25-inch screen for the cashier and a seven-inch screen for the customer. Although Square Register doesn’t scan barcodes or print receipts, you can order additional hardware to set up these features.

Square Terminal: Best compact handheld terminal + printer

Style: Handheld to tabletop conversion.
Why we like it: Square Terminal is a compact handheld credit card machine built for portability, but you can also connect it to a tablet to create a tabletop terminal with a second screen for when customers come to you. It accepts all payment types and can print receipts for a smooth checkout process. Although it requires an internet connection and won’t work on cellular data, it can connect to Wi-Fi or ethernet and can accept offline payments when Wi-Fi isn’t available.

Payanywhere Smart Flex: Best handheld terminal + customer-facing screen

Style: Handheld with two screens.
Why we like it: Payanywhere’s Smart Flex has several features that make it great for on-the-go transactions, including a second screen for customers to see transaction details. It can also print receipts and scan barcodes. It accepts all payment types and can process offline transactions.

Toast Go 2: Best handheld terminal for restaurants

Style: Handheld.
Why we like it: Toast’s Go 2 was built with food service in mind, with a 24-hour battery life and an exterior that can stand up to spills and being dropped. Working with Toast’s restaurant POS, the Go 2 lets you submit orders and check out customers at the table. The handheld reader works well for food trucks and smaller cafes and also integrates into Toast’s larger kitchen system if you decide to expand. You can accept all types of payments and never worry about losing sales with the ability to accept offline payments. Read our full Toast review.

What are credit card machines and terminals?

Credit card machines and POS terminals are pieces of hardware that allow your business to accept card payments in person. They give customers a secure way to either swipe, dip or tap their card and share the information stored on it, so that their purchase can be authorized. Some options may also accept digital wallets or QR code payments.
However, you’ll need more than a machine or terminal to process credit card payments. Businesses typically pair these with a payment processing service and integrated POS software program. The payment processing service facilitates the movement of money from customers’ bank accounts to your business’s account, and the POS software records the sales data so that you can generate financial reports.

How to choose a credit card machine or terminal

The right credit card processing hardware for your business will depend on multiple factors, including where and what you sell. But it’s also important not to choose hardware in isolation. Because while you may want a portable reader, for instance, that’s ultimately just one component of your broader POS system.
Considering the following factors will help guide the decision making process and ensure all of your POS components work together seamlessly.

Mobility

Some credit card machines and terminals are made to be stationary, and others can go wherever you do. Consider where most of your sales occur, and make sure your hardware can follow. Maybe it even means having a countertop POS system for your physical store and a more portable credit card reader for the occasional farmers market or pop-up booth sales.

Types of payments accepted

Do you want customers to be able to scan QR codes or use digital wallet methods, like Apple Pay and Google Pay? Credit card machines commonly accept swiped, dipped or tapped cards, but not all accept these other methods of payment.

Extra features

Customer-facing displays can be great for businesses that accept tips and want to offer customers preset gratuity options while keeping the line moving. Barcode scanners, in particular, are ideal for high-volume retail shops that keep a close eye on their inventory. Some other credit card machine features include built-in receipt printers and the ability to accept payments if the Wi-Fi goes out.

Cost

Some basic card readers are free, but more complex terminals, like a countertop register, can cost hundreds of dollars. And if your card reader doesn’t have a built-in barcode scanner or receipt printer, you may have to consider purchasing those separately as well.
On top of hardware, don’t forget to also factor in the cost of POS software and payment processing fees. Lots of POS system providers offer free software plans, but you should always expect to pay per-transaction fees to process credit card payments.

POS software

Your business’s credit card machine is usually connected to a POS software program or app that collects data to give you insight into your sales. POS system providers may offer software subscriptions and hardware (including a credit card machine) as part of a package deal. Additionally, POS software is often industry specific, which can help you narrow down your choices.
Regardless, make sure the associated POS software does what you need it to do, whether that’s tracking inventory, calculating sales tax, helping you manage employees or generating advanced reports.

Payment processing

Credit card machines are also usually integrated with a payment processor that communicates with your customers’ banks and ensures money lands in your business’s account on time. Not all pieces of POS hardware and software are compatible with just any payment processor, so check to see what types of payments integrations are available before making up your mind. Ideally, the processor won’t charge extra fees for termination, PCI compliance or setup.
Last updated on March 12, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet’s ratings of payment processing providers reward companies whose products and services are priced well and work in a variety of payment scenarios, among other criteria. Ratings are based on weighted averages of scores in several categories, including overall cost, hardware and software options, system capabilities, customer service, contract requirements and integrations. Learn more about how we rate payment processing providers.
These ratings are a guide, but fees, hardware, software and contract requirements can vary widely from business to business and provider to provider. We encourage you to shop around and compare several providers.
NerdWallet does not receive compensation for any reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.
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