Card payment machines for small business

A complete guide to card payment machines for SMEs.

Let’s face it. Cash isn’t king anymore.

In 2022, over half (55%) of EU shoppers preferred paying by card or other cashless methods. For small businesses especially, accepting card payments is essential. While it’s tempting to pick the first one you see, choosing the right card machine can shape how your business operates, improve customer experience, and boost your profits.

Knowing what’s out there and picking the perfect fit is key. Here’s how to choose the ideal card machine for your business.

What’s the difference between a card reader and card machine?

'Card reader' and 'card machine' are often interchangeable but have distinct differences. A card reader is typically a smaller, portable device that pairs with a smartphone, tablet or separate terminal to process payments.

A card machine is a more robust standalone device with a keypad that can process payments independently.

Which one you choose will depend on how your business operates, whether you’re on the move, and the scale of your transactions.

Understanding types of card machines

Not all card machines are created equal. They come in different styles, each designed for specific business scenarios and customer interactions. Here’s a rundown of the common types:

Countertop terminals

These retail classics need a fixed phone or internet connection and are best suited for businesses with a set location, like cafes or shops. They offer a secure and reliable way to accept chip and PIN payments, and often offer extras like printed receipts and stock management.

Mobile card readers

These compact devices link to a mobile network via Bluetooth for on-the-go payments. They're perfect for businesses that travel to different locations, such as deliveries, taxis, food trucks, market stalls or pop-up shops.

Portable card machines

A step up in features from mobile readers, these connect via WiFi or mobile networks and can be moved around within a venue – ideal for restaurants offering tableside payment. They're compact, lightweight, and often more affordable than countertop terminals.

Virtual payment systems

For online businesses or those handling phone orders, virtual terminals let you process payments from your website or app without the physical hardware.

Learn how to take card payments with our handy guide.

How much does it cost to have a card machine?

Costs can vary widely based on the type and provider, but here’s a rough guide to what you might be looking at typically.

There are different types of costs for card machines as well:

Flat rate: A fixed fee or percentage for each transaction, regardless of the card type.

Interchange-plus: This includes a base fee set by the card network (like Visa or Mastercard) and a small extra fee added by the card machine provider.

Flat rate is easier to budget with if you have fewer sales. Interchange-plus might be cheaper for businesses with lots of debit card swipes or high sales volume.

How to get a card payment machine for your business

Most banks and payment providers offer card machines for business, so choosing the right one is about matching your needs with the right provider and technology.

Each has its perks, like mobility or comprehensive features. Think about connectivity too. Some machines need a robust internet connection, while others might rely on mobile networks at the location.

Start by assessing how you interact with your customers and how many transactions you handle. And always shop around for competitive rates and check how they rate for reliable service. Setting up usually involves installing hardware and integrating it with your systems.

By understanding what card machines are available, their costs, and your specific needs, you can pick a system that keeps transactions smooth, secure, and your customers happy – which can translate to a thriving business.

For more information on choosing a card machine for small businesses, get in touch with our V-Hub Digital Advisers for 1-2-1 support.

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