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13 Best Credit Card Readers for Small Businesses of June 2024

The best card reader for your business will integrate with your larger POS system and be as mobile as your business is.
By Whitney Vandiver, Lisa A. Anthony
Last updated on February 23, 2024
Edited byChristine Aebischer
Fact checked and reviewed

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

A credit card reader is a device businesses use to accept credit card payments in-person, whether at the counter or on the go. The reader detects and transmits information on credit, debit or other payment cards — such as account number, authorization code or cardholder name — in order to complete a transaction.
Credit card processing companies typically offer card readers alongside processing services and other point-of-sale (POS) hardware. The best credit card reader for your small business depends on your budget, the features you need and whether you’re using it alongside a larger POS system.
Here is our list of the best credit card readers and what they can do for your business. You’ll notice some brands offer multiple best-in-class card readers for different business needs.

Best Credit Card Readers for Small Businesses

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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
Cost Estimate
Payment processing fees
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Helcim card reader

Learn more

on Helcim card reader's secure website

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
4.5/5

Best for Card reader with interchange-plus processing rates

In-person: 0.4% + $0.08

Online: 0.5% + $0.25

Plus interchange

$0.00

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
Learn more

on Helcim card reader's secure website

Square Reader

Learn more

on Square Reader's secure website

5.0/5

Best for Mobile card readers

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 Reader's secure website

Clover Go

Learn more

on Clover Go's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Mobile card readers

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$0.00

Payments plan; $14.95 Essentials plan.

Learn more

on Clover Go's secure website

SumUp Plus

Learn more

on SumUp Plus' secure website

4.5/5

Best for Mobile card readers

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

PayPal Zettle

4.0/5

Best for Card reader that accepts PayPal and Venmo

In-person: 2.29% + $0.09

Online: 2.89% + $0.49

$0.00

Square Stand

Learn more

on Square Stand's secure website

5.0/5

Best for iPad systems

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

Square Terminal

Learn more

on Square Terminal's secure website

5.0/5

Best for Handheld POS terminals

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

Toast Go 2

4.5/5

Best for Handheld POS terminals

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.

Clover Flex

Learn more

on Clover Flex's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Handheld POS terminals

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$14.95

and up.

Learn more

on Clover Flex's secure website

Clover Mini

Learn more

on Clover Mini's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Compact, countertop card reader

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$14.95

and up.

Learn more

on Clover Mini's secure website

Clover Station Solo

Learn more

on Clover Station Solo's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Full, single-screen register

In-person: 2.3% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$49.95

and up.

Learn more

on Clover Station Solo's secure website

Square Register

Learn more

on Square Register's secure website

5.0/5

Best for Full registers with customer-facing screens

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

Clover Station Duo

Learn more

on Clover Station Duo's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Full registers with customer-facing screens

In-person: 2.3% + $0.10

Online: 3.5% + $0.10

$49.95

and up.

Learn more

on Clover Station Duo's secure website

Our pick for

Card reader with interchange-plus processing rates

If you’re looking for an alternative to flat-rate payment processing fees, Helcim is worth considering. Merchants pay each transaction’s interchange fee, which is set by card networks, plus Helcim’s set margin. This means your business saves when a customer uses a card with lower interchange rates.

Helcim card reader

Learn more

on Helcim card reader's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

Our picks for

Mobile card readers

These handheld, portable card readers can be paired with smartphones, making them best for businesses that need to accept payments on the go. And know that not all readers accept the same types of card transactions — some accept magstripe only while others focus on contactless and chip payments.

Square Reader

Learn more

on Square Reader's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

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

Clover Go

Learn more

on Clover Go's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

Payments plan; $14.95 Essentials plan.

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 pick for

Card reader that accepts PayPal and Venmo

PayPal’s card reader can be a good choice for businesses that need to accept alternative payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo. It also accepts Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

PayPal Zettle

Monthly fee
$0.00

Our pick for

iPad systems

The Square Stand comes with a built-in card reader — you just need to pair it with an iPad and download Square’s POS software. It’s a good solution for small brick-and-mortar or pop-up businesses that need a system they can use at the counter or carry around.

Square Stand

Learn more

on Square Stand's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

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

Our picks for

Handheld POS terminals

These handheld terminals take mobile card readers a step further by incorporating a screen and additional POS features. They can be useful for putting in orders tableside, printing receipts or scanning barcodes.

Square Terminal

Learn more

on Square Terminal's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

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

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.

Clover Flex

Learn more

on Clover Flex's secure website

Monthly fee
$14.95

and up.

Our pick for

Compact, countertop card reader

Small countertop POS systems with built-in card readers, like the Clover Mini, are ideal for businesses that take most of their orders at the counter and need a solution with a small footprint.

Clover Mini

Learn more

on Clover Mini's secure website

Monthly fee
$14.95

and up.

Our pick for

Full, single-screen register

These stationary countertop systems have built-in card readers and can be paired with other hardware, like a cash drawer and tabletop receipt printer.

Clover Station Solo

Learn more

on Clover Station Solo's secure website

Monthly fee
$49.95

and up.

Our picks for

Full registers with customer-facing screens

Small businesses that experience long lines and accept tips may want a customer-facing screen to help speed things along. These screens offer gratuity options and often feature built-in readers that let customers tap or dip cards themselves.

Square Register

Learn more

on Square Register's secure website

Monthly fee
$0.00

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

Clover Station Duo

Learn more

on Clover Station Duo's secure website

Monthly fee
$49.95

and up.

Our picks for best credit card readers

Square Reader: Best for mobile card readers

Why we like it: Square’s free magstripe reader is a convenient option for businesses making the occasional on-the-go sale. However, the company’s contactless and chip card reader gives you more flexibility by enabling you to accept cards with chips and digital wallets, such as tap-and-pay credit cards and smartphone apps, including Apple Pay and Google Pay. It uses Bluetooth technology instead of connecting directly to a device, which lets you keep your cell phone or tablet nearby — but not out 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.
Square also offers Tap to Pay on iPhone, which lets merchants accept card payments using only a regular iPhone with the Square point-of-sale app. Customers hold their cards or their own iPhone wallets near the merchant's phone to pay. Read our full Square review.
Style: Free magstripe reader plugs into a smartphone or tablet; the contactless and chip reader connects to a compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Clover Go: Best for mobile card readers

Why we like it: This credit card reader by Clover works with iOS and Android 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.
You can choose between the starter plan or the standard package. Both provide basic payment processing with 24/7 live support. However, the standard plan includes added features such as sales tracking, detailed reporting, inventory management and itemized orders. Read our full Clover review.
Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

SumUp Plus: Best for mobile card readers

Why we like it: Powerful and compact, the SumUp 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 that allow you to manage products in your catalog, track sales, send digital receipts and manage employee accounts. However, you might find that the overall POS is lacking when compared with the more robust options on the market. Read our full SumUp review.
Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Helcim Card Reader: Best card reader with interchange-plus processing rates

Why we like it: Helcim’s card reader accepts chip and contactless payments, but it can’t read magstripe cards. Because it connects through Bluetooth, it needs to be charged. It also provides POS software through the Helcim app with features that include customer management and inventory tracking plus analytics and reporting. A standout feature is its self-service portal, which allows customers to log in to see their payment information and purchase history.
Helcim bases its fees on the type of card and interchange fees, which are set by card networks. It also offers volume-based discounts. The processor doesn’t require you to sign a contract, pay a monthly fee or pay to cancel your service. Read our full Helcim review.
Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth; can also be plugged into a desktop computer.

PayPal Zettle: Best card reader that accepts PayPal and Venmo

Why we like it: PayPal’s Zettle accepts chip and contactless payments, but it doesn’t read magstripes. It does, however, let customers pay with QR codes on PayPal and Venmo platforms. Its POS software offers sales reports, inventory management, tracking sales performance and more.
Transaction fees generally fall in line with competitors. 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. Read our full PayPal Zettle review.
Style: Connects to compatible phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Square Stand: Best for iPad systems

Why we like it: The Square Stand is designed specifically for a single smart device: the iPad — although it works only with certain iPad models. 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 chip and contactless payments but not magstripe unless you buy a Square Reader.
Style: Register that connects to a compatible iPad.

Square Terminal: Best for handheld POS terminals

Why we like it: Square Terminal allows you to accept all three methods of credit card payments: chip, contactless and magstripe. 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.
Style: Standalone countertop reader.

Toast Go 2: Best for handheld POS terminals

Why we like it: 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 Toast’s POS software comes with basic features, including point-of-sale and payment processing, but advanced features are available with paid plans. One downside: The company requires long-term contracts. Read our full Toast review.
Style: Standalone handheld reader.

Clover Flex: Best for handheld POS terminals

Why we like it: The Clover Flex is a small but powerful handheld credit card reader. It can process all three credit card payment types, scan barcodes 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. The company offers payment plans to break up the cost. Payment processing rates depend on your pricing plan.
Style: Standalone handheld reader.

Clover Mini: Best compact, countertop card reader

Why we like it: The Clover Mini is a countertop setup that doesn't require a tablet. It allows your business to accept all types of payments and print receipts. You also get some nifty POS features, including inventory, customer and employee management functions with paid monthly plans.
Style: Standalone countertop register.

Clover Station Solo: Best full, single-screen register

Why we like it: The Clover Station Solo is a register-style system that offers merchants a 14-inch high-definition screen and a receipt printer for the full checkout experience. The system works with Clover’s POS for retail, offering payment processing, inventory and staff management, reporting and more. For restaurants, the Station Solo fits nicely with customizing and tracking orders, managing table mapping and much more for streamlined service.
Style: Standalone countertop register.

Square Register: Best for full registers with customer-facing screens

Why we like it: The Square Register is the company’s fully integrated 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. Its software provides merchants inventory, employee and customer relationship management functions, plus a reporting suite where you can view sales data.
Style: Standalone countertop register.

Clover Station Duo: Best for full registers with customer-facing screens

Why we like it: The Clover Station Duo ups the game with a combination of a 14-inch screen for you and a 7-inch screen for your customers. This makes it easier for customers to confirm orders and pay however they want — credit card, debit card, and contactless payment methods. Designed for retail stores, restaurant environments and service businesses, the Station Duo offers the same features of the Station Solo with more power.
While this option tops the list for the most expensive system, the Station Duo is currently sold with a cash drawer and a receipt printer, giving you the gamut of checkout features.
Style: Standalone countertop register with dual screens.

How does a credit card reader work?

Credit card readers gather, transmit and verify customers’ card information to complete transactions. Some card readers connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth while others are plugged into a more built-out POS register. Most often, you’ll see card readers that allow customers to swipe, dip or tap their cards to pay. Usually, they need to be paired with a mobile app or POS software to function and record your business’s sales.

Learn more about credit card processing

Credit card readers play a crucial role in payment processing. Dig into all the parties involved in the process and where card data travels to and from.

Types of credit card readers

A person looking at a mobile phone.
Mobile card readersHandheld, portable card readers that can be paired with smartphones allow your business to accept payments from just about anywhere.
Hand holding a credit card.
Handheld terminalsThese take mobile card readers a step further by incorporating a screen and additional POS features so you can take orders tableside, print receipts or scan barcodes.
A green credit card.
Countertop readersDesigned to sit on a counter but with a smaller footprint than a full register, countertop card readers are best for small brick-and-mortar businesses.
Some bills and a red card.
Full registersStationary countertop systems can be paired with other hardware, like a cash drawer and receipt printer, and may also include a customer-facing screen.

How much does a credit card reader cost?

To estimate the total costs associated with using a credit card reader, you’ll want to factor in more than the price tag on the physical device itself. Start by taking the following components into account.

Hardware

The upfront cost of a credit card reader varies depending on its functionality. A simple swipe or chip card reader for your iPhone or Android device is typically the cheapest option, ranging from $0 to $60 or more.
Mid-range options include handheld card readers, which can often scan barcodes, print receipts and even operate as a mobile POS system, in addition to reading cards. These can range from around $100 to $650 or more.
Full register and countertop POS systems also include card readers. These systems can cost closer to $800 and up.

Software

If you opt for a more robust hardware option, like a handheld or countertop POS system, you may need to pay a monthly POS software fee. These software subscriptions typically allow you to collect sales data, sync it with your accounting software, run reports and track inventory, among other features. Some providers offer basic software plans or mobile apps for free, but if you need more sophisticated features, expect to pay closer to $60 or more per month.

Payment processing

Regardless of your hardware and software expenses, your business will owe credit card processing fees. Oftentimes, credit card reader providers also offer in-house payment processing services. Otherwise, you may have to integrate with a third-party processor. While in-house options are usually the most convenient, you’ll have to calculate your business’s monthly sales volume to find the cheapest credit card processing company for you.

How to choose a credit card reader

To pick the best credit card reader for your small business, consider the following questions:

How much do you want to spend?

A card reader without a screen is the cheapest option, and sometimes free. But depending on brand, type and the features you want, you could pay hundreds of dollars. In addition to hardware and software fees, remember to keep processing costs in mind, too: If a payment processing company offers a free card reader but charges more per transaction, it may cost your business more in the long run than a reader with an upfront cost but lower transaction fee.

Does your credit card reader need to be mobile?

If you mostly accept payments at pop-up events, you may only need a mobile credit card reader that works with your smartphone. Businesses with a storefront, however, will probably opt for a countertop register with a cash drawer and receipt printer. If your storefront deals with long lines, you might consider purchasing a countertop register in addition to a portable handheld card reader that can accept payments from anywhere in the store.

What features are you looking for?

If you want to simply accept magstripe, chip and contactless payments, a basic card reader that pairs with your smartphone can likely do the job. There are also a variety of payment apps that let you accept contactless payments with just your smartphone — no additional hardware required. These options may work for freelancers, service-based businesses and other vendors that sell mostly at pop-up events. But if you're looking for more sophisticated features, like barcode scanning, receipt printing or gratuity screens, a standalone, handheld POS device could be a better fit.
Brick-and mortar businesses that need inventory management or advanced sales analytics, along with a cash drawer, should consider a comprehensive, countertop POS register as opposed to a card reader only.

What integrations do you need?

Being able to centralize all of your sales information in one system is important. Businesses that have a brick-and-mortar location plus an online store, for example, should be able to sync data from both places using their POS software. To do so, be sure that your card reader integrates with your POS software and payment processor.
Last updated on February 23, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet’s ratings of payment processing providers rewards 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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