Are there any free card readers for small businesses?

Cutting costs is a key focus for a lot of small businesses at the moment. Here are the card readers at the lowest price – purchase or rental

Well, are there any free card readers for small businesses? The short answer is no, but there are some lower-cost options out there.

When thinking about costs, consider your monthly fees along with your transaction fees, set-up fees and any other charges that may be hidden in the small print.

We’ll be taking a look at some of the cheapest card readers for your small business and whether you’re better off renting or buying.

Should I buy or rent a card reader?



  • Purchasing card readers means that you have them on standby which is useful for unexpectedly busy times
  • If you’re likely to use the terminal again, it’ll be worth purchasing
  • No worry about extra fees beyond transaction fees
  • Easier to switch between merchant service providers


  • The machine may become obsolete over time and you’ll have to fork out for a new one
  •  Any purchases and repairs are your responsibility         


As some of the contracts below suggest, rental card readers are more suitable for seasonal or pop-up businesses.


  • Can fill demand at busy times such as Christmas
  • Providers are good at meeting requirements at short notice
  • Rental units are more robust as they can passed between users and so are expected to be better able to handle knocks
  • If something goes wrong, your provider can sort it out quickly


  • There may be hidden fees such as set-up
  • You have to keep the card readers in an acceptable state of repair

The 8 cheapest contactless card reader deals out there

How much you pay will come down to your turnover, what card reader you have and what kind of transactions you take. Let’s take a look at the cheapest deals.     

>See also: Why businesses should go cashless: pros and cons    



Reader price: £19 + VAT
Monthly fee:
Transaction fee:
1.75 per cent per transaction
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Small Business Pro

Reader price: WisePad 3 Terminal (£49 one-off cost) OR WisePOS E (£179.00 one-off cost)
Monthly fee: £39.99-£49.99 including VAT (these are membership fees for Small Business Pro)
Transaction fee: From 1.25 per cent
Features: Linked to customer management platform, no minimum spend, PCI compliant, built-in fraud detection

SumUp Air

Reader price: £39
Monthly fee:
Transaction fee:
1.69 per cent per transaction. If you use SumUp’s business account as a payout account, you can get a 1.49 per cent transaction fee until the end of the next month you booked from
Smartphone connectivity; unlimited free bank transfers on incoming and outgoing payments; process over 500 sales on a single charge


Reader price: From £29 + VAT
Monthly fee:
Transaction fee:
1.75 per cent per transaction, 1.75 per cent for PayPal and QR codes, 2.5 per cent for Payment Links, 2.5 per cent for Zettle invoices
Features: Integrates with Adobe Commerce and BigCommerce as well as other platforms; sell and accept gift cards

>See also: Best payment apps for small businesses


Reader price: £24 plus P&P and £49 plus P&P for additional card readers
Transaction fee:
0.79 per cent for weekly payment, 0.99 per cent next day or 1.79 per cent for instant payment. Add one per cent to the above for American Express and international payments. Add 0.25 per cent for payments via Point of Sale, 0.49 per cent for payments and 0.69 per cent for subscriptions.
Features: Choice of payments done instantly, next day or weekly; smart tipping feature; and export reports to add to your preferred accounting software


Tyl by Natwest Clover Flex package

Reader price: £16.99 + VAT – hire fee waived for three months for new customers
Transaction fee: 1.5 per cent (more for American Express transactions)  
Eight hours of battery life on one charge; use Tyl Portal at no extra cost; 5.99-inch glass touchscreen; fingerprint recognition

Barclaycard Flex

Ideal for start-ups and small businesses

Monthly fee: £7.50 a month (until 31 December 2024 – you must apply by 30 April) + VAT for an 18-month contract
Transaction fee: 1.6 per cent per transaction
Switch between Bluetooth, GPRS, Wi-Fi and mobile data networks; up to 700 sales a day on a full charge; payments can be in your account as soon as the next working day (if they’re taken before 9pm)

Dojo Go

Reader price: £20 a month
Transaction fee: 1.4 per cent +5p if your turnover is below £150,000 and custom pricing if it’s over £150,000
Receive your takings the next day; Dojo may pay up to £3,000 in exit fees to your previous provider; instant fraud detection; point-to-point encryption

Which card reader should I buy?

Which low-cost card reader you go for is up to you but remember that factors beyond price come in here too. Think about your functionality needs such as tableside payments if you’re a restaurant or increased Amex payment fees if you take a lot of payments from customers who use American Express.  

Want to compare prices and features from all the best card payment devices we’ve listed above? Our free comparison tool can match you with the most suitable provider for your needs.

Simply fill in our free quote-finding form, and answer a few questions about your business (it takes less than a minute). We’ll match you with the most appropriate card payment provider.

Read more

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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