With less and fewer people carrying cash and the growing convenience of card payments, small business across the UK are searching for simple, affordable solutions for accepting payments by card. It used to be an expensive and limited process that would deter small businesses but now there are multiple options that can help your business attract customers and accept various payment types.

Let’s take a look at how to accept card payments, the costs involved and the best options on the market.

Accepting card payments

There are a few steps that businesses must first take before they are able to take card payments. These are relatively simple and outlined below:

Step 1) The right bank account

In order to accept card payments, the business needs to have a merchant account. A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows the money to be taken from the card and held until it is authorized. Merchant accounts are offered by many banks as well as payment service providers so businesses should find opening one simple and stress-free.

Step 2) Authorizing payment

The payment gateway plays a role in authorizing the payment. Generally speaking, this should be offered and provided by the bank that provides the merchant account.

Step 3) Last but not least – The card machine

Now that the business has the right bank account and payment gateway in place the final piece of the puzzle is the card machine. There are various types of card machines available so businesses can find one that suits their needs. We have taken a closer look at the most popular card machine types below to see what the differences are and why a business may lean towards a certain card machine over another.

Choosing a card machine

There are two costs that need to be considered when choosing and using a card machine, these are:

  • The cost of the machine itself
    There are options to either rent or buy card machines; to rent a wireless terminal will likely cost you around £30 each month, to buy will cost between £30- £300 depending on the type of card machine chosen. The available options often mean a card machine is far less expensive than many small businesses expect.
  • The processing charges
    The transaction fees and charges vary depending on the type of reader and the provider but generally, the per transaction percentage will be between 1 and 4%.

The most popular types of card machine for small businesses are:

Smartphone card machines

Allows the user to take payments using your smartphone


  • Low cost
  • Flexibility
  • Great for use in various locations if you move around a lot e.g. you operate a food truck or pop-up venues
  • Relatively easy to find good deals with no long-term contracts

Wireless machines

Allows the user to move around the property in order to take payments


  • Wireless makes it easy to move around
  • Compact
  • Improves customer service especially in the hospitality business
  • Connects via Wifi or Bluetooth
  • Ideal for cafes and restaurants

Virtual terminals

Allows the user to take payment on a secure webpage over the phone


  • Requires no investment in hardware you simply need a computer or mobile, internet connection, and the virtual terminal
  • Allows payment to be taken over the phone
  • Transactions can be carried out wherever and the customer does not need to be in store
  • Recurring payment option

Best card readers on the market

iZettle Reader

This is one of the most popular machines and it’s clear to see why when you take a look at any iZettle card reader review. The iZettle is a mobile reader known for its speedy processing and flexible payment options. You simply download an app, connect with the machine via Bluetooth and then its ready to use. Customers can pay using various methods including the standard chip and pin, contactless as well as other services such as Apple Pay. The iZettle has an 8-hour battery life and the transaction fees reduce the more the machine is used.

PayPal Here

The PayPal Here machine is a great option, especially if the business is already using Paypal. The terminal is affordable and the transaction fees vary between 1% and 3.75%. This is another fast, easy to use and affordable option and involves no contract or fixed term fees meaning the only payments made are for what is used.


Perhaps less known than the iZettle and Paypal Here, SumUp is an equally strong option with its low-cost handset and flat fee charges. This is a great option especially for smaller businesses who only need to process a small number of card payments, however, for businesses requiring a higher volume of transactions, there may be more cost-efficient options available.