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Taking card payments: what's the best option?

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Getting paid is great, especially in an economic climate where late payments for invoices are irritatingly common. Giving your clients another – and arguably simpler – way to pay is going to be helpful in curtailing this problem.

Handling cash can also be a pain for those in retail – and in an increasingly cashless society card payments are a must. This is why, now the technology is affordable and readily available, more and more freelancers are taking card payments.

These days it’s all about using smartphones and tablets as a point-of-sale device – all the providers offer dongles, widgets or doohickeys that turn your device into a card reader. The various providers offer essentially the same service, with many sharing the same features – picking the best can be a time-consuming task. Here’s a look at what all the major providers offer:

  • Wireless readers with chip and pin security
  • Customisable product inventory
  • Free app
  • Accepts all major credit and debit cards
  • Issues refunds and electronic receipts
  • Options to add discounts
  • Sales tracking
  • Separate employee accounts.

All the options are easy to set up, and it won’t cause any problems if you’re often on the move. You can collect payments wherever an internet connection is available.

There are some disparities between providers, so here’s a rundown of what the main services offer.

PayPal Here

PayPal offers a fairly well-known, trusted brand to attach yourself to. While PayPal might not be in everyone’s good books, it’s the most well-known company offering this service. Familiarity can breed reassurance, especially when you’re asking customers to do something they’re not used to.

In terms of cost, the reader itself will set you back £56 (with free delivery). You’ll also have a fee of between 1-2.75% on every payment taken through the reader or through PayPal Checkin (an associated app that allows customers to pay up to £150 with their PayPal account from their phone). If you have to swipe the card or manually enter the details it’ll be 3.4% plus 20p per purchase. Money will go into your PayPal account instantly, and you’ll be able to withdraw it from your bank in as little as two hours.

You can also get a bunch of add-ons to help make the PayPal Here work better for your business, such as a lanyard, a mount, a car bundle, and a mounted tablet.

One unique feature that PayPal offers is that you can add your business to the ‘Local’ section of the PayPal app. This means people can see who accepts payments from the service in their immediate area. It’s a nice bit of free advertising that’s well-targeted due to its localisation. Obviously, this will have more benefits for some types of business rather than others.

Check it out

iZettle

The iZettle retails at £59 +VAT, although previous promotional offers have seen the price drop to as low as £20 in the past. It’s one of the more competitive prices in the world of credit card readers, and for good reason.

The iZettle accepts chip & pin, contactless and Apple Pay/Samsung Pay, with transactions made by contactless cards under £30 processing in a matter of seconds. The iZettle can process payments from £1 up to £5,000. You can also invest in a range of add-ons, ranging from a stand/dock and a barcode scanner.

The iZettle Go is split into two packages: the basic Go product, which allows you to download the app and enjoy fixed transaction rates (1.75% for card, 2.5% for e-commerce). Go PLUS gives you everything from the basic Go package, with a few additional perks, such as premium support from the iZettle team and lifetime warranty on your card reader. The plus service will set you back £29 a month, but you can cancel it any time you like.

iZettle also has a nice system for product catalogues too. Rather than just having a simple list of everything you sell, iZettle allows you to sort everything into categories and break individual items down into sizes. For example, the single latte item will give options for ‘small’, ‘medium, or ‘large’.

Getting your money is a bit slow though, with a wait of up to three business days until you see the income in your bank. Bear this in mind if this kind of delay will have serious consequences on your cash flow.

Check it out

SumUp

The SumUp card reader is one of your cheaper options. The card reader can be purchased in a one-off payment of as little as £59, although much like the iZettle, promotions have previously seen it cost as little as £20. There are no recurring costs, either, and you get delivery, a phone app, and phone and email support whenever you require it.

The transaction fee is set at 1.95%, too, whether you’re getting paid contactless, through chip & PIN or via Apple/Android Pay. You can pick up a couple of add-ons, too, like a tablet, printer and scanner, which are all pre-configured to your SumUp for ease of use.

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Square

Square is a simpler-looking device, made by an American company of the same name. Square are the largest provider of mobile credit card machines/readers in the world, and they’re getting increasingly popular with consumers in the UK.

You can buy the Square direct from their official store for a meagre £19, or from Amazon at £49.95 if you so desired. The transaction fee sits at 1.75% for chip & pin and contactless payments, but rises to 2.5% for keyed-in orders, online and invoice payments. This may seem a little unattractive, but unlike iZettle, the Square has no minimum transaction value.

There’s no hidden costs with the Square, either, such as monthly fees or set-up charges, and you don’t need a contract, either. Square also have arguably the deepest roster of add-ons, including inventory managed through the associated app, employee performance tracking and invoicing software.

Check it out

There are other mobile card payment providers on the market, however, their offerings run along much the same lines with differences that, for the most part, are hardly noticeable. Each provider offers the same security and basic features, and nearly all offer the same flat transaction fee of 2.75%. This is still a nascent market, and more entrants are almost guaranteed in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy being able to give your customers an extra way to pay!

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Tom West
Community and Social Manager
Updated on
December 29, 2020

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