Mobile Credit Card Readers – a Guide for UK Business Owners

Credit card payment with iZettle

Accepting credit card payments is becoming easier and cheaper these days for UK business owners. A number of new services have sprung up to replace the clunky credit card machines we’ve been used to seeing so far. These new services offer slick ways to accept credit card payments via standard, multi-purpose mobile and tablet devices.

Which Mobile Credit Card Reader Device is Best for UK Merchants?

Here’s an overview of the services currently available and the main pros and cons of each. Note that this is liable to change quickly as providers frequently update their offers and new developments are released.

iZettle

Allows you to accept credit card payments via an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Android device. They provide a credit card reader that plugs into the device in question.

For security reasons, when making Visa payments, customers need to do some extra verification via their own smartphone.

Positives: Dongle attaches conveniently to your mobile device.

Negatives: Visa payments require an extra verification step.

Cost for card reader: £20 (but includes £20 in free transactions)

Transaction fee: 2.75%

Website: www.izettle.com

[Update: iZettle are now offering a Chip and PIN reader, currently priced at £49.]

SumUp

SumUp’s service is also based on a credit card reader that you plug into your mobile device. Like other providers, they support Android and Apple smartphone and tablet devices.

For security reasons, when making Visa payments, customers need to do some extra verification via their own smartphone.

Cost for card reader: free

Transaction fee: 2.75%

Positives: Free credit card reader.

Negatives: Extra step needed for Visa payments.

Website: sumup.co.uk

Payleven

Payleven is a mobile credit card reader system that involves two parts: first, an app that runs on your iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet; second, a bluetooth chip & PIN card reader.

The app displays the amount due and the customer then inserts their credit or debit card into the separate chip & PIN card reader and enters their PIN code.

Cost for card reader: £99 (currently £49)

Transaction fee: 2.75%

Positives: The PIN entry system makes Visa payments more straightforward.

Negatives: Cost of the reader and need for two separate devices that are not attached to one another.

Website: payleven.co.uk

Intuit Pay

A new service currently being trialled by Intuit, it’s not yet clear from the company’s marketing materials whether this will be a dongle-based solution similar to iZettle, SumUp and Payleven, or whether Intuit have found a way to avoid the need for extra hardware.

Transaction fee: not yet announced

Details: Currently being trialled. You can currently register for their trial here.

Website: www.intuit.co.uk

[Update: the service has now been fully launched and is available here.]

mPowa

Another service that, when it launches, looks set to be based around a Chip and PIN reader. Merchants who pre-register are currently being offered a free £25 voucher off the eventual cost of the card reader.

Cost of card reader: £49.99 (but £25 off voucher currently available here)

Transaction fee: 2.95%

Website: www.mpowa.com

A Note About the Two (Current) Ways of Verifying Visa Payments

Verifying credit card payments in person in the UK has traditionally been done using a dedicated Chip and PIN credit card machine. A credit card is inserted into the machine, allowing the device to read the chip and identify the card. The cardholder then types in their PIN as a further verification of their identity.

The first of the new wave of mobile credit card readers on the market were based on solutions that didn’t require a PIN to be entered. This was great for usability, but less good for security. Unsurprisingly, Visa quickly clamped down on these services, making clear that the verification step was obligatory.

The current offerings have found one of two ways to handle the Visa verification step:

  1. Verification via separate chip & PIN card reader
  2. Verification via consumer’s own smartphone

Verification via the consumer’s own smartphone makes for a more complicated purchase experience, so it’s possible that all the major providers will switch to a chip & PIN card reader.

Matt Collins

Matt's the founder of PaymentBrain. He enjoys helping business owners navigate the confusing world of payment processing.

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