Best card payment machines: how to pick the right one for your business

November 4, 2020

So, someone wants to buy your product or service. They’ve done their research, they’ve got the budget, and they are happy to proceed with the purchase. They take out their debit card or smartphone to pay. You tell them how you take payments, and one “blip” later, the payment goes through.

No problems connecting to WiFi, no confusing payment screen and no awkward moments waiting for payment processing. It’s so seamless and invisible, that even your customer says “Wow, that was quick!”.

Every business owner wants payments to be as seamless as possible, so their customers can focus on the product or service, rather than the price.

By picking the right card payment machine for your business, you can make sure payments are convenient and seamless. All you need is the right technology.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  1. What type of card machine do you need for your business?
  2. Does your business need a card reader?
  3. What do you need to start accepting card payments?
  4. How much does it cost to have a card machine?
  5. What is the best card machine for SMEs?
  6. Can I take card payments on my phone?
  7. What is the best method of payment?
  8. What is the safest form of payment?
  9. Card payment machine FAQ

What type of card machine do you need for your business?

Ideally, you want a card machine that processes payments quickly, stays connected to the internet and doesn’t run out of battery life.

In order to differentiate between the card machine use cases, we’ve divided them into:

  • In-person payments
  • Remote
  • Ecommerce
  • Unified payments

In-person payments

In order to accept payments in person, you’ll need a card machine that accepts debit card, credit card and mobile payments (Apple Pay and Google Pay).

Some PDQ machines will use Bluetooth, others will be connected to your WiFi and others won’t need WiFi connectivity.

Ideally, you want a card machine that is easy to use, offers value for money and processes payments quickly. You also want a card machine that is small enough for your workspace.

For example, Amran, owner of Sky Taxis, needed a card machine that could accept card payments on the go and that didn’t have to be constantly connected to WiFi.

By turning his smartphone into a card machine with Pomelo Pay, he’s able to literally accept card payments from anywhere. Additionally, he doesn’t have to buy a separate card reader for each employee (everyone already has a phone), so doesn't need to purchase hardware.

Qr Card processing phone

Read the case study: how a local taxi business boosted passenger hires with Pomelo Pay


You may want a credit card machine that also takes payments remotely, whether it’s to take a deposit or complete a payment for a service you’ve already provided. Whatever the reason, you probably want something that is a bit more secure than taking people’s details over a phone call.

The solution is payment links. These are links that you can easily send via SMS, email or any other messaging platform to your customers. Your customer clicks on the link then enters their information on the online payment gateway.

David, an EPC contractor, was looking for an easy way to take payments remotely that didn’t involve a phone call and that would also encourage clients to pay quickly (he spent too much time chasing payments).

With Pomelo Pay, he can now use payment links. He sends a link before heading to his client’s house and then asks them to pay once the job is completed. He no longer has to follow up on clients and cash flow is a lot easier to manage.

QR processing EICR survey

Read the case study: how this business owner uses Pomelo Pay to get paid instantly


What if you want to start taking payments online?

Many businesses are turning to online sales by selling their goods or services online via an online shop. At Pomelo Pay, our shop feature allows you to bridge the gap between managing your business in-store and online by having a central, integrated platform.

An ecommerce shop works as an extension of your physical business, with multiple touchpoints that you can use offline. By setting it up with a payment provider like Pomelo Pay, you won’t need to invest in a complicated or expensive website builder.

ecommerce phone app

If you already have a website you can also use our Pomelo Pay API integration to accept all types of payments.

Want to learn more about adding an online shop and accepting payments through your website? Get in touch with us and we’ll help you get it set up.

Unified payments

What if all these use cases apply to you? In 2021, customers like to pick the payment method that suits them best. Sometimes they want online payment services, other times in-person and others remotely.

Offering several ways to pay is called “unified commerce”. It is a technical term for selling your products and accepting payments through various channels.

As an example, Tom, the owner of street vendor Phoreal, needed a payment solution that worked for several use cases, since he likes to accept payments through various channels.

For in-person customer orders, he uses QR codes. For large orders at events, he uses payment links, and since he’s managing a food stall, he has an online shop where customers can order online and then click and collect.

With Pomelo Pay, all these payment methods are integrated into one place, which makes it very easy for Tom to track all his revenue, view analytics and cater to a wider range of customers. He can offer his customers various choices when it comes to payment.

phoreal qr code payments

Read the case study: how a street food vendor from Kingston market boosted revenue by 10% with Pomelo Pay

Does your business need a card reader?

The short answer is no.

You may be surprised to hear this, but thanks to modern day smartphones you can now accept payments without a card reader. Why buy separate hardware when you can just turn your phone into a card payment machine?

Forget the card machine, maintenance fees and minimum monthly fees. Instead, you can just use your smartphone and pay 1.49% per transaction - signing up is free with Pomelo Pay.

Get started: contact our sales team and start accepting payments with your phone

What you need to start accepting card payments:

If you want to start accepting card payments, there are three main components.

1. Merchant account provider

A merchant account provider allows businesses to accept payments with debit and credit cards. It’s separate from your business bank account - although it looks like a bank account - and is held by an acquiring bank.

Once a payment hits your merchant account, it will usually take between 24 hours to 7 days to transfer to your business bank account. At Pomelo Pay, payments are deposited the next working day.

2. Payment gateway

This is the piece of software that is attached to your website that allows you to accept debit and card payments. It’s usually included in your card reader package and can be synced with any offline payments. At Pomelo Pay, our intuitive payment gateway makes payments very straightforward and easy to process.  

Learn more: why you should use a payment gateway for your website

3. Card payment machine/smartphone

Traditionally, the portable card machine is a physical POS device used to accept in-person payments.

However, with QR codes and payment links, businesses can now use everyday Android phones to accept payments.

In fact, with Pomelo Pay’s new Tap to Pay feature you’ll even be able to accept contactless payments with your phone. Customers just need to tap their card or phone on your phone and the payment will be complete.

Find out more: how Tap to Pay works

How much does it cost to have a card machine?

Usually, there are three main fees: monthly fees, transaction fees and set-up costs.

Monthly fee

Just like you would pay for a subscription, some card terminal providers charge you monthly costs, sometimes also called a maintenance fee.

Transaction fee

These fees are charged every time a customer uses their card to purchase your products or services. These are often a fixed rate (e.g. 20p per transaction) or a percentage of a total transaction - such as 1.49% in the case of Pomelo Pay.

Some cards do charge extra refund fees or card processing fees for using specific cards such as American Express. In such cases your POS system provider may charge a premium.

Set-up fee

Most mobile card machines charge an upfront set-up fee, with many charging as much as £69. These card machine costs mean that it can be expensive to trial different card machines in order to find the best one.

It’s free to get set up with Pomelo Pay, which means it’s easy to trial the system and understand how it works before rolling it out for your business.

What is the best card machine for small businesses (SMEs)?

We like to think Pomelo Pay offers the most functionality when it comes to processing payments - although ultimately it depends on your business needs.

With Pomelo Pay, it’s incredibly easy to set-up an account. You don’t need to carry a mobile card reader with you and you have the opportunity to use QR codes, payment links and over 25 payment methods when accepting payments.

You may like: QR code payments: what they are and how to get started

Pomelo Pay is best if you:

  • Don’t want hardware or monthly rental fees
  • Want responsive customer support
  • Don't need a standalone countertop point of sale (ePOS)
  • Want a competitive rate
  • Don’t want to commit to a monthly contract
  • Want to receive your payment the next working day
  • Don’t want to rely on an internet connection
  • Want next day settlements instead of waiting 3 to 5 business days
  • Don’t want to pay additional set-up or maintenance fees

Taking payments with your phone or mobile device is a great option for those businesses that take payments on the go, have multiple staff in multiple locations and offer click and collect. Importantly, Pomelo Pay is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) certified so all card transactions are safe and secure.

Also, with Pomelo Pay you get additional merchant services such as real-time insights on customer spending and also a free online shop so diners can order from their phone. You can also easily integrate a receipt printer should you need this service.

Can you take card payments on my phone?

Yes, you can take chip and PIN and contactless card payments with your phone.

Once you sign up to Pomelo Pay, you’ll be able to download our app and immediately start taking card payments with your smartphone.

You may see other payment providers saying that you can just use a smartphone, but many still require you to buy a separate credit card reader to make it work. With Pomelo Pay, you just need a smartphone and a business bank account to get started.

What is the best method of payment?

The best payment method depends on the specific use case.

If you’re accepting an in-person payment, debit cards are often the best since they are convenient, fast and secure. QR code payments are also very convenient if you have a long queue of customers, since people can pay while waiting for their item.

If you are accepting payments remotely, then payment links that enable debit and credit card payments are often the best since they are straightforward, secure and are a lot better than taking payments over the phone.

If you are accepting payments through your website, you want to make sure you have a payment gateway integrated into your website so customers can easily pay with their card.

You may also like: the ultimate guide to the different types of payment methods

What is the safest form of payment?

The most secure payment method is debit/credit card payments. That’s because each payment must go through a card network such as Visa or Mastercard, which verify and ensure that each payment is processed securely.

Debit and credit cards are also what customers are most used to, which means they are less likely to make mistakes.

Read more: what is the most secure payment method? (We compare 5!)

Card payment machine FAQ

Can small businesses charge for card payments?

In 2018, card surcharges became illegal for personal credit and debit cards. That means you cannot charge extra for card payments. You can, however, charge extra for business payments - though it must not be higher than the costs you incur.