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Compare card payment machines

Discover all you need to know about card payment machines with the SpotDif guide. Then use our handy comparison tool to find the ideal payment machine for your business.

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SpotDif's guide to comparing card payment machines

Nowadays, cash transactions are becoming increasingly rare, and consumers are gravitating towards the convenience and security of electronic payments. Whether you run a small brick-and-mortar shop or operate an online business, having a reliable card payment machine is essential to cater to your customers' diverse payment preferences. But with a dizzying array of options available on the market, how do you choose the right payment machine provider that meets your specific needs?

Here’s where the SpotDif guide to payment machines steps in — your comprehensive resource for comparing and selecting the perfect payment machine provider for your business. Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge and insights necessary to make an informed decision that aligns with your operational requirements, budget, and growth objectives.

We invite you to use this page to explore the various aspects of payment machines and find the answers to your common questions. From understanding the benefits of having a card machine for your business to unravelling the differences between magnetic stripe and contactless card readers, we’ll delve into the intricacies of payment technology so you can find a card payment solution perfectly suited to your business needs.


Compare card machines with SpotDif

Starting your search for card payment machine providers can be challenging. That’s where SpotDif steps in, streamlining the process to help you quickly find the top card payment machine provider in the UK, all in just one minute!

Does your business need a card machine?

In today's market, being able to accept card payments is essential. Card machines — or card readers as they're sometimes called — are key tools for any modern business aiming to keep up with customer expectations and stay ahead in the competitive landscape.

Why modern businesses need card machines

If you sell directly to customers, having a card machine can really smooth out your sales process and boost your customer service. These machines let your customers pay how they prefer — whether that’s with a chip-and-pin card or contactless.

More people are using cards over cash these days. In fact, in January 2024 alone, the UK saw 2.06 billion debit card payments and 347.9 million credit card payments! This is a rise of 5% and 8.4%, respectively, when compared to debit and credit card payments in January 2023. Interestingly ​​most of these debit and credit card transactions were contactless.

The convenience and added safety of contactless payments have made them a go-to choice. And this continuous shift towards card and contactless payments highlights how essential it is for businesses to adapt to card payments.

Card machine: Pros and cons

To get more of an idea of whether a card payment machine is right for you, let’s look at the pros and cons.

Advantages of having a card payment system

  • Convenience: Card machines make transactions quick and easy, reducing queues and wait times. The result? Happier customers and a higher turnover.

  • Increased sales: By accepting card payments, you're likely to notice an uptick in sales because customers often spend more when they're not limited to just the cash in their pockets. In our experience, accepting card payments can also attract a broader customer base, like tourists who might not carry local currency.

  • Flexibility: Do you take bookings or payments over the phone? Being able to accept card payments offers more flexibility for your customers to pay from afar, whether that’s over the phone or online.

  • Security: These machines use advanced security features to protect against fraud, keeping customer data safe.

  • Accuracy: With card payments, it’s impossible to give incorrect change, making cashing up more straightforward and accurate.

Downsides of card payment machines

  • Initial investment: It’s important to note that setting up a card payment system comes with upfront costs. You might need to buy or lease the machine and pay for its setup.

  • Maintenance and support: Card machines also require regular updates and maintenance. If they break down, it could disrupt your service. We recommend making sure you have access to reliable customer support to sort out any issues quickly.

  • Transaction fees: When budgeting for your card machine, it’s important to take transaction fees into account. 

    As we’ll look at in more depth later, these transaction fees can vary depending on your card and payment processing provider. However, you can usually expect to pay between 1% and 2% of every transaction plus an additional 2p-4p authorisation fee on top of each transaction.

  • Connectivity: A stable internet connection is vital for card machines to process payments. Any hiccups here can slow down transactions and frustrate your customers so businesses in rural areas may need to double-check connectivity and look into Wi-Fi boosters. 


Find trusted card machine providers today

SpotDif is dedicated to partnering exclusively with trusted and vetted suppliers across all sectors, ensuring that you receive the service that best suits your needs. First, we'll ask you a few questions, then we'll present you with quotes for card payment machines from dependable providers. All that remains is for you to select the one that's right for you.

What’s the difference between magnetic stripe, chip-and-PIN, and contactless card readers?

There are several types of card machines available, including magnetic stripe, chip-and-PIN, and contactless readers. Understanding the differences between these technologies can help you decide which is the best fit for your business.

Magnetic stripe readers

Magnetic stripe readers have been a staple in payment technology for decades, providing a basic but essential service.

  • How they work: The person making the purchase swipes their card through the machine, which then reads data from the magnetic stripe.

  • Payment types accepted: Traditional credit and debit cards.

  • Transaction speed: Reasonably quick but involves manual swiping.

  • Best for: In general, we feel this is the best type of card payment machine for businesses in areas with slower technology uptake or as a backup option.

Keep in mind: These are less secure than other machine types and more susceptible to fraud, which is why their use is decreasing.

Chip-and-PIN readers

Chip-and-PIN card readers offer a secure method of processing payments and are now a global standard for card transactions.

  • How they work: You insert the card chip-first (to communicate with the reader), then enter a personal identification number (PIN) to secure the transaction.

  • Payment types accepted: Chip-enabled cards.

  • Transaction speed: Chip-and-pin machines are more secure than magnetic stripe readers but transactions tend to be slightly slower due to the PIN entry.

  • Best for: All businesses, especially where security is a priority.

Contactless card readers

Contactless card payment machines provide a quick and secure way to handle transactions without physical contact.

  • How they work: The customer taps their card or mobile device near the reader to use Near Field Communication (NFC).

  • Payment types accepted: Contactless cards, smartphones, and wearable devices.

  • Transaction speed: Very fast, taking just a few seconds.

  • Best for: Busy spots like cafes or transport services where speed helps.

Combination card readers

Many businesses are now turning to combination card readers, and it's easy to see why. These all-in-one devices handle magnetic stripe, chip-and-pin, and contactless payments, ensuring you're ready for whatever payment method your customers prefer.

This adaptability is essential for providing top-notch customer service and staying up-to-date with the latest payment technologies.

Here's why choosing a combination reader could be a smart move for your business:

  • Versatility: You can welcome every customer, whether they swipe, insert, or tap their cards. This inclusivity boosts customer satisfaction.

  • Future-proof: As payment methods evolve, your business won’t be left behind. These readers adapt to new trends, saving you the hassle of frequent upgrades.

  • Security: Combination readers are equipped with the latest security features across all payment types, giving both you and your customers peace of mind.

  • Efficiency: Transactions are quicker, especially with contactless technology, which means shorter lines and happier customers.

For any business aiming to stay competitive and provide excellent service, investing in a combination card reader is a wise choice, helping you meet today's needs and prepare for tomorrow's opportunities.


Compare and save on card machines

SpotDif streamlines the process of finding affordable and high-quality card payment machines, helping you save money. By offering comparisons and reviews, SpotDif enables you to make well-informed choices based on performance and price, ensuring that you receive the best value for your investment. This approach not only makes the purchasing process simpler but also guarantees that you spend less on top-quality card payment machines.

Countertop, portable or mobile?

As well as deciding which payment methods you want your card machine to accept, it’s also important to look at the best format for your business.

Countertop Point of Sale (POS) Machines

Countertop POS machines are stationary devices located at a fixed point, such as a counter or checkout area, typically tethered to a power source and a stable internet connection.

They are the backbone of a smooth-running checkout process in environments where high transaction volumes are the norm. They’re particularly reliable for businesses like retail stores, supermarkets, or sit-down restaurants. 

Here's why they might just be the right choice for you:


With their ability to process transactions quickly, these machines keep lines moving swiftly, ensuring customers spend less time waiting.


These systems easily connect with other business operations, from tracking stock levels to real-time sales analytics. This integration helps you keep a close eye on your business’s operations, allowing for better decision-making and more accurate stock management.


Built to endure heavy usage, countertop POS machines are robust and designed to withstand the demands of busy settings.

Portable card machines

These are wireless devices that connect via Wi-Fi or mobile data, allowing you to take payments anywhere within your business premises.

Portable card machines offer a dynamic solution for businesses that require mobility and flexibility. Whether you're serving customers at a table, processing payments at a garden centre, or completing transactions at a trade show, these machines bring the checkout to the customer, enhancing their experience. 

Here are a few reasons why a portable card machine might be the perfect fit for your business:


There’s no need to tether to a specific location — you can carry the device directly to your customers, providing a personal touch that can significantly enhance customer service and satisfaction.


These machines are ideal for environments where customers may not always come into contact with a traditional checkout, like in restaurants, boutiques, or during events. They simplify the payment process for both staff and customers.


With the ability to connect through Wi-Fi or mobile networks, these machines are versatile for various settings, ensuring you’re always ready to complete a transaction.

Personal service

Portable card machines are not only practical but also create opportunities for more interactive and personalised service. 

Mobile phone card machines

Mobile phone card machines leverage the power of smartphones and tablets to transform them into fully functional payment devices. With the help of a card reader attachment and a mobile app, businesses can accept card payments directly through their mobile devices.

They’re a superb option for businesses that frequently change locations, such as market stall vendors, freelance service providers, or event coordinators.

Ultimate portability

These devices fit in your pocket, making them the easiest way to take payments on the go, wherever you are — no bulky equipment needed.

Ease of use

Set up is quick and straightforward, with a user-friendly app to manage transactions. This makes it simple for you and your staff to get up and running with minimal training.


Generally, mobile phone card machines have lower upfront costs compared to more traditional POS systems, and we feel this makes them an excellent choice for startups or small operations looking to keep overheads down.

Chip-and-PIN readers

Chip-and-PIN card readers offer a secure method of processing payments and are now a global standard for card transactions.

  • How they work: You insert the card chip-first (to communicate with the reader), then enter a personal identification number (PIN) to secure the transaction.

  • Payment types accepted: Chip-enabled cards.

  • Transaction speed: Chip-and-pin machines are more secure than magnetic stripe readers but transactions tend to be slightly slower due to the PIN entry.

  • Best for: All businesses, especially where security is a priority.


Find great deals on card machines with SpotDif

SpotDif is the tool you need to find local card payment machine suppliers offering the best deals. We'll scan our network of trusted UK card payment machine providers and compare their products and prices so you don’t have to. Start your search for affordable card payment machines today.

How much does a card payment machine cost in the UK?

We’ve briefly mentioned transaction costs associated with card machines and how mobile machines can be the most cost-effective option. However, there are many factors to consider when weighing up the price of different card payment machines.

With this in mind, we suggest familiarising yourself with the following average costs and influential factors so you can ensure you choose a card reader that best suits your business needs and your budget.

Costs to consider

Upfront hardware cost:

The first cost you'll encounter is buying the machine itself. Prices vary based on the type (like countertop or mobile) and features such as contactless payment capability or chip and PIN security.

Higher-end models with extra features like faster processing and enhanced security might cost more but could be worth it for busy settings.

Where you buy your machine can also affect the price. For example, some suppliers may offer a discount on the hardware if you use their processing services for a certain time.

Transaction and authorisation fees

Every time a customer uses the machine, you'll pay a fee. This might be a set amount per transaction, a percentage of the sale, or both.

You can often choose a fee structure that suits your sales volume. For instance, a flat monthly fee for a certain number of transactions can save money if you have a lot of sales.

It’s also worth noting that different types of cards can affect fees too — credit cards and international cards usually cost more to process.

Maintenance costs

To keep your machine running smoothly and securely, regular upkeep is needed. This includes updates and repairs. We recommend looking for a service agreement. It's often part of the monthly fee and covers unexpected repairs, saving you money in the long run.

It’s also important to bear in mind that technology changes fast — we suggest planning for future upgrades to keep up with new technology and security standards. This ensures your machine stays compliant and effective.

Average cost of a countertop point-of-sale machine

Countertop point-of-sale machines are a staple for many businesses, particularly in retail and hospitality. These machines typically range from £300 to £2000+. The price can go up depending on features like touch screens or connectivity options.

In terms of the card machine component itself, you’re usually looking at a price of £100 to £250, but these can go up to £720.

We recommend evaluating how much counter space you have and what specific features you need before making a purchase. This helps ensure you get a machine that fits your space and meets your transaction needs without overspending.

It’s important to budget for transaction fees, too — these tend to be between 1.5% and 1.75% of the transaction.

Average cost of a portable card machine

Portable card machines generally cost anything from £20 to £300 for the initial purchase. As with POS machines, you’ll also need to factor in transaction fees, which can cost between 1.5% and 1.75% of each transaction.

Average cost of a mobile card reader

If you go the mobile route, you have two great options:

  1. You can use your smartphone as a card machine.

  2. You can attach a small card reader to your device.

If you decide to use your phone as your card machine, you’ll need to download a payment app and set up your account. This approach cuts down on hardware costs since your phone becomes the terminal. You'll still need to cover the transaction fees, however, which can vary from 1.5% to 2.75% per transaction.

For a bit more reliability, consider a card reader that connects to your phone via Bluetooth or USB. These are portable and perfect for pop-ups or outdoor events, costing between £20 and £100. Transaction fees apply here, too — these vary by provider but usually fall in a similar bracket to the other card reader types.

Remember: When taking payments on your mobile phone or device, you can only accept contactless cards as there will be no chip-and-PIN option.

Renting vs. buying a card payment machine

Did you know you can rent a payment machine? It’s a popular choice for businesses of all sizes, especially those that are just starting out or need to conserve cash for other investments. 

Renting a card machine offers flexibility and lower upfront costs but is it right for your business?

Card machine rental

Renting lets you upgrade to the latest machine as new technology emerges. It also means you avoid a large initial outlay, which can be especially helpful if your business is new or cash flow is a concern.

Moreover, because you'll pay a set fee each month, it can be helpful for budgeting. These fees typically range from £15 to £30 per month, excluding transaction fees. Although manageable, these fees add up over time. So if you rent for many years, you might end up paying more than the machine's purchase price.

Buying a card payment machine

Buying a machine is an investment in your business's future. It’s generally more suited to businesses with higher transaction volumes or those planning for long-term stability. 

Once you buy the machine, it’s yours. This eliminates ongoing rental fees and can lower your overall costs in the long run. You also have the freedom to switch providers or plans as you see fit, without being tied to a rental contract. However, it’s important to remember that the upfront cost can be significant — costing over £700 in some cases — but buying could be more economical over time.

Owning a machine also means you're responsible for its upkeep and updates, which can involve additional costs so we recommend setting aside a budget for potential repairs or upgrades.

Making your decision

When deciding whether to rent or buy a card machine, we suggest thinking about the following points.

  • Your budget: How much upfront cost can you handle right now? Would spreading the cost over time help you manage cash flow better?

  • Transaction volume: If your business handles many transactions, buying might save you money down the line.

  • Business goals: Are you looking for flexibility to change quickly, or would you prefer the stability of owning your equipment?

How to compare payment machines and providers

When you're choosing a payment machine provider, it's vital to tick all the right boxes to ensure you find the perfect match for your business. Doing so will help make sure your card machine not only fits your current needs but also supports your business as it grows.


First off, think about what you need from your card reader. To cover all bases, we suggest looking for a machine that supports chip and PIN, contactless, and mobile wallets.

It’s also wise to look for strong security measures like encryption and tokenisation to keep customer data safe.  (Encryption involves scrambling sensitive data so that no one can read it without the proper decryption key, while tokenisation replaces sensitive data with a unique identifier or token that is meaningless to anyone who doesn't have access to the original data.)

Before committing to a machine, we recommend checking for ease of use and options like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity. Mobility is essential if you're always on the move.

Another aspect to consider is system integration — if you’re looking for a card machine to pair with your current systems, they must all work seamlessly together.

Fees and charges

We’ve already looked at the main costs to factor in when choosing a card payment machine, so make sure you compare transaction fees, and costs for renting or buying the machine, alongside any monthly service charges.

We recommend matching the provider’s pricing structure with your transaction volume to find a cost-effective solution. Also, remember to watch out for hidden fees or binding long-term commitments that could affect your finances.

Contract length

Contract terms are also key — some providers might lock you into long-term contracts, while others offer more flexibility with short-term or month-to-month options. Consider what works best for your future plans. Longer contracts might have better rates but can restrict your flexibility to change providers.

Customer support and reliability

It’s not all about the card reader itself — good customer support and reliability are essential when choosing a payment machine provider. It's important that the provider offers responsive and knowledgeable customer service to quickly address any issues that arise.

We also recommend taking a moment to check the provider’s reliability and how established they are in the industry. Reading through customer reviews and testimonials can provide valuable insights into their service quality and customer satisfaction.

Additional considerations

What other areas are there to consider? We suggest looking at the following factors to ensure you have the full picture.

  • Hardware and software quality: You need robust equipment that won't let you down and software that fits seamlessly into your operations.

  • Scalability: Are you thinking about the future of your company? In our experience, it's wise to choose a system that can scale up with your business growth. 

  • Extras: We also recommend looking for card machine providers that offer extra features like analytics or inventory management, as these can significantly enhance your business operations and provide deeper insights into your sales patterns.


Compare card machines with SpotDif

Looking for the best card payment machine for your small or medium-sized business? SpotDif makes it easy to compare card machines. We’re here to guide you through the various types available, their costs, and purchasing options. This way, you'll find the most cost-effective way to accept card payments. Whether you're starting a new venture or expanding your current one, our tools empower you to make well-informed decisions. Let us help you pick the right card payment machine for your business needs. Boost your customer satisfaction and move your business forward with confidence. Simply fill out a few questions using our card payment machine comparison tool and we’ll do the hard work for you, gathering options and quotes from trusted card payment machine providers across the UK.
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Tansy Dando
Wealth and Business Writer
I aim to bring clarity to the complex sectors of wealth and business with researched content designed to help you make the best financial decisions for your needs.
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