Home Small Business 5 Best Credit Card Readers for Small Business in 2023

5 Best Credit Card Readers for Small Business in 2023

Card readers offer a fast and convenient way to accept card payments for goods and services. But finding the best credit card readers among the many providers on the market means you’ll need to consider a few factors, including:

  • Whether the card reader can accept your customers’ preferred forms of payment.
  • If the company offers a fair payment processing rate.
  • If the hardware is affordable and meets your business needs.

We’ve put together a list of the five best credit card readers in 2023, having reviewed and tested card readers from over 15 of the biggest payment processors.

Why trust our small business experts

Our team of experts evaluates hundreds of business products and analyzes thousands of data points to help you find the best product for your situation. We use a data-driven methodology to determine each rating. Advertisers do not influence our editorial content. You can read more about our methodology below.

  • 20 companies reviewed.
  • 19 hours of product testing.
  • 760 data points analyzed.

Methodology: Why you can trust us

We extensively research the key competitors within an industry to determine the best products and services for your business. Our experts identify the factors that matter most to business owners, including pricing, features and customer support, to ensure that our recommendations offer well-rounded products that will meet the needs of various small businesses.

We collect extensive data to narrow our best list to reputable, easy-to-use products with stand-out features at a reasonable price point. And we look at user reviews to ensure that business owners like you are satisfied with our top picks’ services. We use the same rubric to assess companies within a particular space so you can confidently follow our blueprint to the best credit card readers of 2023.

The best credit card readers have positive user reviews on customer review sites and app stores. Credit card reader companies should provide customers with fast and reliable support. Using a combination of phone support, live chat and knowledge bases, customers should be able to quickly resolve issues 24/7.

Credit card readers should allow companies to accept mobile and contactless payments as well as offer self-service capabilities for customers to check themselves out. Hardware should integrate with robust software and apps that allow users to manage numerous aspects of their business, including inventory management, reports and analytics, loyalty programs and gift card management. 

And the best credit card reader providers should offer affordable or free equipment to help businesses begin accepting payments quickly and easily. 

Best credit card readers in 2023

Best credit card readers comparison

What are credit card readers and how do they work?

Credit card readers are hardware that allow businesses to accept credit and debit card payments for their goods and services. The credit card reader collects the customers’ card details and communicates data between the parties involved to verify and settle payments.

The following steps form the process of taking credit card payments: 

  1. The customer uses their card: Whether they swipe, insert or tap the card, the card reader will collect the required information, including the card and account number, the cardholder’s name and the expiration date.
  2. The payment is verified: When the data is collected, details of the payment request are sent to the payment processor, which passes it onto the merchant bank. The merchant bank communicates with the card issuer (the customer’s bank) to verify that the details are correct and the funds are available.
  3. The payment is approved: The card issuer approves the payment and communicates with the card reader that the payment is accepted.
  4. The payment is completed: With approval granted, the required sum of money is sent from the cardholder’s account to the merchant’s account. This is sometimes done in batches where funds for multiple payments are sent at the same time. 

Most modern card readers are able to accept card payments made by swiping the magstripe, inserting the card and reading the EMV chip or tapping the card and reading the NFC chip. However, EMV chip payments are by far the most common. In 2022, they made up over 87% of all card-present transactions, up by more than 5% compared to 2021. They are significantly more secure than swiped payments and are processed much faster. 

“EMV Chip technology provides a foundation for reliable, familiar and trusted contact and contactless payments,” said Joy Huang, EMVCo Executive Committee Chair. “These benefits are reflected in the consistent and sustained growth in deployment and adoption around the world.”

How to choose the best credit card reader for your business

Finding the best credit card reader for your business means you need to consider a range of factors, including your budget, how you accept payments and what features you need in a reader.

Your budget

Basic card readers are predictably cheaper, while the ones with more advanced features can cost over $1,000. Some providers even offer free hardware when you sign up for their full POS package — but this might not always offer the best value.

You’ll need to think about the cost of the hardware and any associated equipment you might need, as well as the payment processing fees charged by the provider. Be sure to think about long-term costs and scalability too, taking into account your current transaction volumes and projected growth.

How you’ll accept payments

Many modern card readers are capable of accepting all types of card payments, but not all are. Some basic card readers might be limited to one or two types. Consider the type of card payments you’re likely to receive from your customers, so you can ensure your chosen card reader can accept them. Your options include:

  • Magstripe: This is the magnetic stripe that runs the length of some cards and is swiped through the card reader to make payment. It’s the least-secure method of payment for card readers and is gradually being phased out.
  • Chip: Europay, Mastercard and Visa credit cards have an EMV chip that reduces the fraud risk on these transactions. Over 93% of credit card payments globally in the last three months of 2022 were made through the EMV chip method.
  • Contactless: Many credit cards offer NFC capability, and most modern smartphones are also NFC-equipped, offering a faster and more convenient way of paying for goods and services.

Whether you need advanced features

Smaller businesses with a lower transaction volume might benefit from a basic card reader alone. However, more complex businesses may require additional features found in a complete POS system, such as:

  • Inventory management tools.
  • Location management features.
  • Marketing tools and customer loyalty programs.
  • Analytics and reporting capabilities.

When evaluating providers, ask the following questions:

  • Is it secure? Look for card readers that offer end-to-end encryption and tokenization to ensure your customers’ data stays protected.
  • Is there a long-term contract? Some providers offer monthly rolling contracts or even pay-as-you-go options, which offer more flexibility than long-term contracts.
  • Is the software easy to use? Keep in mind how straightforward it is to use the card reader and associated software. A complex system won’t be helpful if you only need basic card reading capabilities.
  • How fast is funding? If speed is a priority, you’ll likely want a card reader that offers instant or next-day deposits.
  • Does it work offline? Certain card readers can still accept payments if the network is down, processing them once the connection has been restored. This can be a useful feature for businesses on the go.
  • Is customer support reliable? 24/7 customer support is the best scenario, especially for 24/7 businesses. Live chat and phone options are usually the fastest way to get your questions answered.

How much do credit card readers cost?

The cost of a credit card reader can be broken down into the actual hardware costs, whether paid up-front or through a monthly lease, and the fees involved in processing payments. Some payment processors offer free hardware when you sign up for their payment processing plans, so you’ll only pay a monthly fee.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Yes, some providers offer free credit card readers when you sign up with their service, including some on our list, such as Square and eHopper. However, even if there’s no up-front cost, you might have to pay a monthly fee to use it.

Credit card readers can come with certain recurring costs, often related to the reader itself as well as transactions made through it. The first cost you’ll need to consider is a leasing fee, which is where you pay monthly to use a card reader rather than an up-front bulk payment.

Then there are payment processing fees, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. These include:

  • Monthly service fees: These cover the cost of using the payment processing software as well as maintenance and support.
  • Per-transaction fees: The most common way credit card processing companies charge is an interchange-plus model. This is where you pay a percentage of the transaction value plus a small fixed fee.

Credit card readers are more secure than they used to be, thanks to the shift from magstripe transactions to EMV chips and, eventually, to contactless transactions. Magstripe payments are more easily duplicated because the payment code assigned to each transaction stays the same.

EMV transactions are encrypted, and every transaction is assigned a unique payment code, so they are much less susceptible to credit card fraud. This is also the case with contactless payments, but these are processed faster.