Take chip and PIN payments: the best options

mobile phone payment chip and pin©iStock.com/pixdeluxe

It's now easier than ever before to take card payments.

New payments providers like PayLeven, iZettle, Intuit and SumUp offer card readers that connect to smartphones and tablets with low fees for every transaction.

Unlike the card readers that are generally available from the banks and big payments providers, the devices are available without having to take out a contract and there are also pay on smartphone options that have no upfront cost.

However, it can be hard to know which of these new payments providers would best suit your business.

That's where we come in: this guide has five top choices, based on factors that really matter for small businesses and sole traders.

At the end we've also covered some frequently asked questions about how card readers work day to day.

1. Taking the most cards

The winner is: iZettle

It's no good having a card reader if you're constantly having to turn customers away because you're unable to take the debit and credit cards people actually have.

iZettle users can take payments from all of the UK's most popular cards issuers.

iZettleVisa, Visa Electron, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, JCB and Diner's Club (that last one with 'chip and signature' only)Go to iZettle
PayLeven and Paypal HereVisa, Visa Electron, V Pay, Mastercard and MaestroGo to PayLeven
SumUpVisa, Visa Electron and MastercardGo to SumUp

Let's not overstate the important of this, however.

Visa (standard, not Electron or Vpay) and Mastercard are, by far, the most common type of debit and credit cards in the UK so it's likely that any payment system that can take those two will avoid disappointing too many customers.

American Express, in particular, is highly likely to be held in addition to a Visa or Mastercard and holders are very used to retailers not taking their payments. The exception might be businesses that take a lot of payments from tourists, who will have a different mix of card types.

iZettle chip and pin

In general, though, other factors, like the cost of the card reader might be more important.

2. The cheapest card reader

The winner is: PayLeven

New payments providers are generally offering two types of card readers.

SumUp card reader

There are wireless devices that look and behave like swish, futuristic chip and PIN readers, like the one from iZettle above on the left.

And then there are smaller readers that connect to a smartphone or tablet so that the customer can enter their number or sign on screen, like the one from SumUp shown on the right.

The Chip and PIN readers look a bit more professional and trustworthy and, depending on your business, it might be safer to not have to take out an iPhone or iPad to take a payment.

The readers are still connected to devices that must be within about 10 metres, via Bluetooth, but they're otherwise wireless and are charged like a phone making them highly mobile.

So let's look at those first.

Chip and PIN card readers

PayLeven£49 + VATGo to PayLeven
iZettle£59 + VATGo to iZettle
Intuit£79 + VATGo to Intuit
Barclaycard£13 a month for 18 months (£234)Go to Barclaycard

The smaller smartphone readers are cheaper and probably more suitable for occasional users or for businesses already using phones or tablets, for example to take record orders or check stock availability.

Smartphone connected readers

SumUp£19.95Go to SumUp

3. The lowest fees

The winner is: Barclaycard

All payments providers take a percentage of each transaction as a fee for taking payments.

One of the advantages of going with a big payments provider is that each transaction attracts quite a low fee which remains the same whether your customer uses a PIN number or swipes their card, although as we've seen above you do lose flexibility and pay far more for hardware.

With these payments providers, the percentage for taking a debit or credit card is higher and swiping cards (where it's possible) or taking a manual transaction, without a card reader, usually costs even more.

However, the difference isn't all that great especially for those making a lot of transactions through the iZettle platform, which reduces its card reader fees to 1.5% when monthly sales hit about £13k.

Card readerDebit and swipe
Barclaycard1.5%1.5%Go to Barclaycard
iZettle2.75 to 1.5%
(Check here)
Visa: 2.75%
Other: 3.5% + 10p
Go to iZettle
SumUp1.95% (sign only)n/aGo to SumUp
Paypal Here, PayLeven and Intuit2.75%Paypal: 3.40% + 20p
PayLeven: n/a
Intuit: 2.75%
Go to PayLeven
Go to Intuit

4. Best maximum and minimum transaction limits

The winner is: PayLeven

Another aspect of these terms that's well worth being aware of is maximum and minimum transaction limits.

PayLeven are our top pick here because they have the lowest minimum - €1, or 80p - and high maximums, though these vary depending on the business.

Most other payments apps ask for a minimum payment of £1 and impose other restrictions.

For example, iZettle have a limit of £100 of swipe transactions per day.

5. Best interface

The winners are: PayLeven and iZettle

Finally, a really attractive aspect of all these apps is a much more intuitive and potentially useful way of displaying and monitoring products and prices.

We haven't had the opportunity to extensively test all of the different apps but PayLeven is considered one of the best for ease of use, with a nice clean design displaying products and sales.

We've also found iZettle to be extremely user friendly. Below you can see an example of their payments portal showing the transactions taken sales volume, the most popular products and which customers have bought from you before.

izettle payments portal

SOURCE: iZettle.

Taking payments: more answers

Still have questions about taking payments? We've got answers.

How do signatures work?

Chip and PIN is obviously the most straightforward way to take transactions but many of these sites do allow customers to sign.

izettle signature

Generally they require you to use a compatible smartphone or tablet. The customer can just draw their signature with their finger.

This is the only way to take payments with SumUp and the disadvantage, with them or any card provider, is that it can seem a less trustworthy to customers who are unfamiliar with new payments.

How do receipts work?

There's no printer on these machines so customers generally enter their email address or phone number to send a receipt by email or text.

If you did want to use a receipt printer to offer customers paper receipts it is possible to do that with most companies. If you already have a printer it'll be worth checking that the payments provider supports it.

How do I get paid?

Payments taken through these providers aren't deposited in your bank account instantly. They take some time to process.

Here's how they four providers compare:

iZettle 3 business days, in most cases. Go to iZettle
PayLeven Once a week. Go to PayLeven
SumUp 7 to 10 business days. Go to SumUp
Intuit 5 to 7 business days Go to Intuit


27 May 2015

Avoid SumUp as all costs! Customer service is non existent, they take your money and do not pay it!

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