The 5 Best Mobile Credit Card Readers for Your Small Business in 2018
Since 50% of customers don't normally carry cash,1 not investing in a mobile credit card reader could cost you. Don’t miss out on selling to these mobile customers—get one of these best solutions for taking on-the-go payments.
Because many people go without cash, you need a mobile credit card reader to avoid losing out on customers carrying only cards. Investing in mobile 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 the equipment to accept 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.
The best mobile credit card readers
Here are our favorite mobile credit card readers for small businesses.
Mobile card readers, compared
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.
|Product||Swipe + chip reader cost||Transaction fees||Supported devices|
3.5% + 15¢
3.4% + 19¢
2.4% + 25¢*
3.4% + 25¢
3.5% + 15¢
|iOS, Android, Windows|
|Fattmerchant||$75**||Interchange fees only||iOS|
*Lower transaction fees available for certain monthly subscription plans.
**First device may be free with subscription.
Data effective: 01/10/2018
The Square reader and 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 payments on the go.
With Square, you get a free card swiper 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 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 swipe transaction fees.
“Square’s fees aren’t the cheapest—but they are the simplest.”
Square accepts all major credit cards and works on iOS and Android smartphones or tablets, making it the best credit card reader for Android and iPhone 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 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 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.
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 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.
PayAnywhere’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.
From the familiar financial software company Intuit, Intuit 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. 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 contactless payment reader.
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, 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, Google, and other NFC-enabled payments, we expect Intuit will provide this option soon.
PayPal helps individuals and businesses around the globe send and receive payments, and its PayPal Here mobile card reader and mPOS app are a great option if your business has a large online presence.
PayPal Here’s 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.
A basic 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.
If your business needs the flexibility to add additional payment 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.
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 does a large number of transactions—about 1,000 or more per month—you should consider this option. Fattmerchant offers an enticing monthly subscription service for businesses that don’t charge transaction percentages above the standard merchant fees.
Fattmerchant is different from the other mobile card reader and mPOS solutions we reviewed—and not only for its funny name. It eschews the traditional per-transaction rate of its competitors and charges just a monthly subscription cost plus a low per-transaction fee.
The standard $99 no-contract subscription gets you an EMV-ready mobile card reader, access to its virtual mPOS software, and integration with major POS merchant terminals. Your transactions cost you only what cardholders’ banks charge for interchange fees plus $0.08 —that’s it. Other mPOS solutions bake the interchange fees into their transaction rates, so in contrast, Fattmerchant is a fantastic option if your business processes transactions in the thousands.
Fattmerchant provides free 24/7 technical support, analytics, and tools. Long-term customers are eligible for next-day funding.
For the largest, enterprise-type businesses with more than $1 million in annual transactions, Fattmerchant offers a $199 monthly subscription. This service packs in tons of extra services and features, including risk monitoring, chargeback protection, and a dedicated Fattmerchant service representative.
The major disadvantage of Fattmerchant is that it’s probably not a great option for smaller businesses with low-volume transactions, which is why it doesn’t make our overall best choice for the market. In addition, the mobile card reader currently only works with iOS devices, and Fattmerchant doesn’t currently offer a solution for contactless payments.
Honorable mention: ROAMpay
ROAMpay is unique because it’s the only option we found on the market to offer a combination mobile card swiper that works with iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices. It even works with certain flip phones and older mobile phones. So if you have these devices and want to use them for accepting mobile payments, ROAMpay may be worth a look.
ROAMpay also provides end-to-end transaction encryption and secure PIN-based user authentication, ensuring the highest levels of data security possible.
Not recommended: InnerFence
Originally, we placed InnerFence on our “best of” list as a worthy contender. This mobile reader and mPOS solution has a few things to like, including a free swipe reader and the ability to work with Windows phones and Mac and PC desktops. But things go downhill from there. Transaction fees start at 2.9% plus $0.30—higher than any other reader we reviewed—and you’re required to sign up for a pricey merchant account to use the service. If you don’t have an existing merchant account, Innerfence offers one for $39 per month (billed annually).
Even if you do have an existing merchant account, you still have to pay Innerfence a monthly fee to use its reader and mPOS system. The lowest plan costs $9 per month, but you can connect only one device and user at a time. The next option is $79 per month, which—combined with the high transaction costs—make Innerfence too expensive for us to recommend it.
The true cost of mobile card readers
To give you an idea of how much each product will cost your business to accept mobile payments, we calculated the transactions and monthly fees for each plan. As you can see, PayAnywhere is the clear winner in terms of cost—especially if your average transaction amounts are low.
Note that we didn’t include ROAMpay or Fattmerchant in the tables below. Because ROAMpay doesn’t clearly define its fees publicly and Fattmerchant’s costs depend on variable credit card company merchant fees, neither company could be accurately compared in this format.
Cost of a thousand $5 transactions over three months
|Product||Transaction Fees||Monthly Fees||Total|
|1.6% + 25¢||$20||$1,050.00|
|GoPayment||2.4% + 25¢||$0||$1,110.00|
|Innerfence||2.9% + 30¢||$39||$1,452.00|
Data effective: 01/10/2018
Cost of a thousand $75 transactions over three months
|Product||Transaction Fees||Monthly Fees||Total|
|1.6% + 25¢||$20||$4,410.00|
|GoPayment||2.4% + 25¢||$0||$6,150.00|
|Innerfence||2.9% + 30¢||$39||$7,542.00|
Data effective: 01/10/2018
As your transaction amounts go up, the rankings shift a bit. PayAnywhere’s subscription is still the cheapest option, but the monthly QuickBooks GoPayment plan pulls into a close second place thanks to its super-low 1.6% rate.
Everything you need to know about mobile card readers
Have you recently decided you need to start accepting mobile payments but aren’t sure about some of the details? Start here to learn the basics.
What’s the difference between mobile card readers and mobile POS systems?
A mobile point-of-sale system, or mPOS, is a program that runs on smartphones or tablets and uses software to process business transactions like a traditional POS terminal. The advantage of an mPOS is that it can function without the need for expensive electronic cash registers or merchant services—and it can be used just about anywhere.
A mobile card reader is an electronic device that connects to an mPOS system to accept credit and debit card transactions. Basic readers let you swipe cards to take payments. Higher-functioning devices can accept EMV (chip card) and NFC (contactless) payments too.
HintWith 50% of your customers often going without cash,2 having a mobile card reader is a must—especially if your business is one of these:
- Coffee shops
- Food trucks
- Home-based hairdressers
- Market booth vendors
What are NFC, EMV, and magstripe readers?
Magstripe is short for magnetic stripe, referring to credit cards that store information in a band of magnetic material. All mobile card readers can accept magstripe cards.
EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, and the term is used for a rapidly developing worldwide standard for credit card payments. EMV-enabled readers can accept microchip-enabled cards that allow for more secure authentication of card transactions.
Near-field communication (NFC) readers accept “contactless” card payments like Apple and Google Pay. These readers are called contactless because the card information is stored on a separate device—such as a smartphone—which need only to be placed near the reader to initiate a transaction.
Do I need a chip reader?
To protect your business and customers, you should adopt EMV-enabled readers as soon as possible. Although not all issued cards are 100% chip ready, their use is growing.
Chip cards are harder to counterfeit, which means customers are at a lower risk of fraud. In 2015, the rules governing who is liable in cases of in-store credit card fraud shifted from the credit card companies to businesses that don’t adopt the EMV-reading standard.3 So you’ll be liable for a counterfeit purchase if its made using a chip card, but if your business uses EMV readers, your risk in counterfeit cases is reduced. It’s a win-win!
Look out!If you haven’t adopted chip-enabled readers, you’re putting your business at risk of counterfeit credit card liability. Purchase EMV-enabled readers to protect yourself and your customers.
Overall, the popular, affordable, and secure Square mobile card reader is the best choice for most small businesses. But depending on your business’s needs, one of our other favorite mobile card readers may be the right one for you.
Do you have a different mobile card reader or mPOS system that works best for you? Let us know in the comments below.
1. CNBC, “Here’s How Many Americans Say They Don’t Carry Cash”
2. CNBC, “Here’s How Many Americans Say They Don’t Carry Cash”
3. Visa, “EMV Liability Shift”