Best Mobile Credit Card Readers

For those who are in search of flexible marketing options, mobile credit card readers are the way to go – especially for brick and mortar locations that rely on wireless technology or for merchants who travel to sell goods and services. To maximize revenue opportunities, more and more merchants use these devices to reliably accept credit cards on the go or as an alternative to an in-house, wired option. On the whole, these mobile dongles that attach to a cell phone or tablet cost less than a wired terminal and may require less maintenance resulting in both short-term and long-term savings for your business.

A look at EMV chip and mobile wallet technology

As of December 2018, more than 3 million merchants accepted payment from the approximate 511 million chip cards issued in the United States. But what exactly are chip cards? They emerged on the scene in 2015 in response to security concerns around credit card payments. Card issuers Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) created a technology that affixes a different number to each transaction, making fraudulent use and counterfeit card activity much more difficult.

With EMV chip technology now a steadfast component of credit card usage, mobile wallet technology is also seeing a surge in popularity. With a mobile wallet, physical cards are supplanted by applications that store payment information on mobile devices. As these payment methods gain traction, the market for these services is expected to grow from $816 billion in 2018 to over $5.5 trillion in 2025. Purveyors of goods and services that want to maximize the ways to do business would be wise to embrace it, especially in light of the e-commerce movement.

In early 2019, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that for the first time in history, online sales in the general merchandise category had eclipsed those of big-box retailers and their cohorts. As that trend continues, retailers who have the capability to honor mobile wallet payments may get a leg up on competitors that haven’t or won’t follow suit.

Top mobile credit card readers

With the rising popularity of mobile credit card readers, let’s take a look at five of the leading solutions on the market today.

  • Square. It’s difficult to mention this financial services business segment without recognizing Square since the company jump-started the mobile pay phenomenon. A basic card reader is free, and whether customers tap, insert or swipe a card to pay, Square charges 2.6% of every transaction amount plus 10 cents. In return, your business gets free analytics and the ability to finance fees over time.
  • PayPal Here. Another big name in the fintech industry, Paypal Here charges 2.7% of every swiped transaction and 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed or scanned transaction. There’s no charge for the basic reader, and you can create product lists along with photos and descriptions for a customer-friendly checkout experience and pull sales reports from within the app.
  • Shopify. The Shopify chip and swipe reader starts at $29 for a standard option, with more sophisticated retail setups falling into the $200 range. A solution geared toward e-commerce, Shopify gives you tools to create an online store. It also offers hefty shipping discounts with major carriers and allows you to print shipping labels — all for 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction for online payments.
  • QuickBooks GoPayment. QuickBooks offers you an initial chip and magstripe card reader for free, and you can either subscribe to its online accounting platform and pay 1.6% of each transaction plus 25 cents or 2.4% plus 25 cents without a subscription. With one screen tap, users of the popular accounting software can email or text receipts from the terminal directly to the customer.
  • SumUp. Without monthly fees or time commitments, you can get a SumUp card reader for $19 and then pay 2.65% per transaction. For virtual terminals or transactions where cards or cardholders aren’t present, you’ll pay 2.95% plus 15 cents. If you sell goods and services abroad, SumUp solutions work in many European and South American countries.

What to look out for when using credit card readers

Protecting sensitive data is one of the foremost issues facing merchants who use credit card readers. You’ll need to make sure that the company you choose has methods to prevent hackers from accessing devices and modifying transactions through Bluetooth or mobile connectivity. Cybercriminals have already found ways to bypass the small spending limits of contactless payments cards. And with any network predicated on technology, it’s always possible that systems could crash and as a retailer, downtime could put a big dent in your sales.

The bottom line

It’s prudent to explore every avenue you have to give your business a boost. Mobile credit card readers are becoming more popular as a way to accept payments — especially if you frequently take your show on the road. Naturally, there could be security issues, but the credit card industry has and will always work to develop practical and secure methods of transaction. So, whether you have a physical location, e-commerce business or both, mobile card readers may be a great fit for your company. 

Thom Tracy

Thom Tracy is a writer and consultant with 28 years of experience in the insurance and financial services industries.