Because many people go without cash, you need a mobile credit card reader to avoid losing out on customers carrying only credit and debit cards.
Investing in mobile credit card processing is also a smart decision for traditional small business owners. Your customers are getting more tech enabled—and they may expect you to have equipment that accepts credit cards or whatever’s in their wallet.
But which products and services are right for your business? Let us do the heavy lifting for you. Here are our picks for this year’s best mobile credit card readers.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of each product we reviewed below, but here’s a quick look at how each brand compares to one another in key areas.
Square: The overall winner
The Square reader and iPhone or Android mobile app may be the most recognizable and popular mobile card reader—and for good reason. For low and simple fees, a free and easy-to-set-up reader, and funding as fast as one day, Square is the best overall choice for small businesses who need a quick, affordable, and user-friendly way to accept credit card payments on the go.
With Square, you get a free card swipe reader and access to the free Square mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) app. Square’s fees aren’t the cheapest—but they are the simplest. You pay a flat 2.75% for all swiped credit card transactions with no extra per-transaction or monthly subscription fees.
Manually entered transactions will cost a bit more per entry at 3.5% plus $0.15. But if your service goes offline, you can take advantage of Square’s offline mode and pay the same flat processing fees for swipes.
Square accepts all major credit cards, including American Express, and works on iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile devices. (For newer iOS devices that lack a headphone jack, you’ll need to purchase Square’s $15 Lightning adapter.) The mPOS service includes inventory management, access for multiple users, personalized email receipts, and a simple tipping interface for retail and service businesses that accept them.
If you want to accept EMV (chip card) payments, you’ll need to buy the $29 reader. For “contactless” payments like Apple Pay or Google Pay, you can purchase the $49 NFC reader. Or shell out $129 for Square’s three-in-one, Bluetooth-enabled, and battery-powered reader to take all credit card payment types from just about anywhere.
Square promises to deposit your money within one to two business days. This is about average, but it lacks the guaranteed next-day funding option offered by other products. It also touts a suite of high-end security and encryption protection, so you can trust in the safety of your and your customers’ money and information.
Shopify: Best for pop-up shops
An increasingly trendy way to run a business, pop-up shops allow online small-business owners to try out a new revenue stream: in-person sales. If you’re one of the tens of thousands of online retailers selling, for example, art, clothes, or jewelry, setting up a booth or kiosk could boost your brand and your profits.
In comes Shopify. It’s a platform that has long provided retailers a place to sell their wares online and also offers an in-person sales solution. With Shopify’s robust mobile app, online store, and mobile card readers, you can start selling products and processing payments wherever your customers are.
Shopify’s POS service starts at $29 per month for the basic plan, which gives access to up to two users and shipping label support, retail reports, and a free swipe card reader. In-person transactions on the basic plan cost you 2.7%. Online rates start at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
These costs put Shopify in the more expensive column compared to some of the other brands we reviewed. But for occasional in-person sales, it’s a good investment.
Plus, you can lower your fees by purchasing more advanced plans. For example, the $79 per month plan has in-person fees at just 2.5%. If you plan to expand your physical retail presence and set up a more permanent store, this plan is super affordable.
Shopify’s app and readers work with Android and iOS mobile devices and accept all major credit cards. Online reviews of the apps are just so-so, but you can access Shopify customer support 24/7.
The bottom line is if you’re thinking of testing out a physical presence for your burgeoning online store, Shopify is an excellent choice.
PayAnywhere: Cheapest transaction fees
For the least expensive option among the five major readers we reviewed, consider PayAnywhere’s low transaction fees and next-day funding.
You get a free PayAnywhere credit card reader and pay no monthly subscription fees, and you’ll pay just 2.69% per transaction with PayAnywhere’s basic package. Although Intuit offers a lower 2.4% rate for its basic QuickBooks GoPayment plan, you’ll pay an extra $0.25 for each GoPayment transaction. If your business will be taking a large volume of mobile payments, those per-transaction fees could add up.
For example, if you did 1,000 transactions at $5 each in one month, you’d pay $403.50 in PayAnywhere transaction fees. GoPayment would leave you with $1,110 in fees. That’s quite the difference!
If you sign up for the PayAnywhere Storefront monthly subscription, your transaction costs drop even more to 1.69% per swipe. This $13.95 per month plan lets you rent a touchscreen tablet terminal, EMV-enabled stand, cash drawer, and receipt printer.
The PayAnywhere app’s mPOS services also include personalized receipts, inventory management, customer purchase reporting, online resources, and multilingual customer support—all at no extra cost.
One note of caution: PayAnywhere doesn’t seem to have the best reputation online. Its mPOS app is rated 2.5 out of 5 stars on iTunes and 3.8 out of 5 on Google Play—the lowest of all five brands we reviewed.
GoPayment: Best for QuickBooks users
From the familiar financial software company Intuit, QuickBooks GoPayment is the best mobile card reader for businesses already using QuickBooks accounting and sales software.
GoPayment offers two ways to get started. The first doesn’t require a monthly fee or subscription, and it charges you 2.4% plus $0.25 per transaction swipe. Like we mentioned above, those per-transaction fees can become expensive—especially if your business does a lot of small-value transactions.
For a better route, choose GoPayment’s monthly payment option. It costs $20 per month but brings the transaction costs down to 1.6% plus $0.25 per swipe. This plan saves you even more if your transactions tend to be higher, say in the $75 range. Check out our transaction fee chart below for a comparison of mobile reader costs to see how these costs play out.
Of course, the greatest advantage to the GoPayment reader and app is its integration with Intuit’s QuickBooks software. Many businesses use QuickBooks to manage payroll, inventory, sales, and other functions, so integrating your mPOS system with the accounting software is a major upside.
GoPayment also allows you to accept and track any payment type—including PayPal, cash, and checks—through the mobile app. And QuickBooks offers solutions for desktop users and for accepting online payments through your website.
The downsides of GoPayment include slower funding time, higher up-front costs, and the lack of a reader that can take contactless payments like Apple Pay.
GoPayment doesn’t have the fastest funding time—you get deposits within two to four business days. But its QuickBooks integration may compensate for the funding delay because your transactions are automatically recorded and synced with your bookkeeping software.
Transaction fees with GoPayment are higher than its competitors’ fees, and the reader will cost you $19—but it can accept chip cards right out of the box. Surprisingly, there is no GoPayment solution for contactless payments, but with the growing popularity of Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other NFC-enabled payments, we expect Intuit will provide this option soon.
PayPal Here: Most payment options
The PayPal Here mobile card reader and mPOS app are a great option if your business has both a large online and in-person presence. It’s especially great if you need to take lots of different payment types, like checks, and want next-day funding.
A basic PayPal Here swipe reader will cost you $14.99. To accept chip or contactless payments, you can buy a $25 EMV reader, $60 NFC reader, or $79 three-in-one reader—the cheapest three-in-one device we found. All three of these accessories are Bluetooth enabled, which means you can accept payments from anywhere within range of your mobile devices.
PayPal Here also lets you accept checks through the mobile iPhone, Android, or Windows app. And of course, customers, vendors, and anyone else can use their own PayPal accounts to send and receive funds.
Swipe transaction fees are a flat 2.7%, beating Square’s 2.75%. And like Square, PayPal doesn’t charge any monthly subscription fees. Best of all, the reader and mPOS system integrate seamlessly with PayPal’s popular merchant services—making it easy to take both in-person and online payments from anywhere.
Out of the gate, PayPal Here doesn’t have next-day funding, but it does have an alternate solution you can choose. If you sign up for the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard, you can get your payments as quickly as one business day.
If your business needs the flexibility to add additional credit card terminals, consider purchasing from PayPal’s suite of POS products. You can get receipt printers, cash drawers, and POS device stands and cases. PayPal Here also lets you customize your profile and receipts, manage inventory, add multiple users, and access lots of online tools and resources.