10 Best Credit Card Machines and Terminals for Small Businesses

by Ann deBruyn

Finding the right credit card terminal is a vital part of operating a small business and involves matching key features with your budget.

A dynamic credit card machine works with your business to make daily transactions easier for you and your customers. For some businesses, the ideal credit card terminal works without Wi-Fi and can scan bar codes, while for others it might have a customer-facing screen and print receipts. The good news is that there’s a variety of credit card terminals to fit most businesses' needs.

Below are the best credit card machines and terminals, with a summary of the key features. Each terminal on our list includes a screen and meets PCI standards for processing credit cards.

The Clover Flex credit card reader.

Image courtesy of Clover.

Clover Flex: Best overall

Style: Handheld. POS: Free and up. Hardware: $499. Payment processing: Starts at 2.3% plus 10 cents.

Why we like it: The Clover Flex lets customers swipe, dip and tap credit cards and accepts the trio of digital wallet payments : Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. The 5-inch touch screen displays transaction details, and the fingerprint login feature blocks unauthorized users. It also includes a receipt printer and bar code scanner for faster checkout and has a free monthly plan available with limited point-of-sale, or POS, features for those on a budget.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripes and digital wallets.

  • Features a 5-inch touch screen.

  • Has advanced security including fingerprint login.

  • Prints receipts.

  • Scans bar codes.

  • Allows offline payments.

  • Works without a smart device.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work on all cellular plans when Wi-Fi isn't available.

A customer signs on a Square Stand POS system screen while a merchant smiles at him from behind the counter.

Image courtesy of Square.

Square Stand: Best value for money

Style: Tabletop. POS: Free. Hardware: $169. Payment processing: Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents.

Why we like it: Despite being the cheapest tabletop reader on this list, the Square Stand offers small businesses a lot of value. Working in tandem with the Square Reader, the Stand uses an iPad as a screen, giving you the feeling of a register-style terminal without the high price. It also swivels so customers can see transaction details and accepts all types of credit cards, digital wallets like Apple Pay and QR codes through Cash App. You'll need to purchase accessories to print receipts or scan bar codes with this terminal.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripes, digital wallets and QR codes for Cash App.

  • Features a swivel screen so customers can see transaction details.

  • Comes with Square Reader for contactless and chip payments.

  • Allows offline payments.

Cons:

  • Requires an iPad to use as a screen.

  • Can’t print physical receipts on its own.

  • Can’t scan bar codes on its own.

A customer swipes a blue credit card with the SumUp credit card reader.

Image courtesy of SumUp.

SumUp Plus: Best low-cost option

Style: Handheld. POS: Free. Hardware: $19. Payment processing: Starts at 2.75%.

Why we like it: The SumUp Plus comes with all the basic features for a card reader and a low price. It connects to a smart device to process payments and features a small screen to display transaction totals for swiping, dipping and tapping credit cards and accepting Apple Pay and Google Pay. While the Plus doesn’t print receipts, you can send digital receipts to customers’ email addresses.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripes and digital wallets.

Cons:

  • Displays only minimal details on screen.

  • Requires a smart device.

  • Can’t print physical receipts.

  • Can’t scan bar codes.

  • Doesn’t process offline payments.

The Clover Station Duo sits against a white background with a screen on top of a cash box, a customer screen facing the camera, and a receipt printer.

Image courtesy of Clover.

Clover Station Duo: Best option with 2 screens

Style: Tabletop. POS: Based on a monthly plan. Hardware: $1,649. Payment processing: Starts at 2.3% plus 10 cents.

Why we like it: The Clover Station has two screens (one facing each side of the counter), processes credit card and digital payment options and prints receipts, giving customers a smoother checkout. It also comes with a cash drawer for an all-in-one setup and fingerprint login as an added security feature. Clover offers two POS options for the Station Duo, one for retail and one for restaurants.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripe and digital wallets.

  • Has a 14-inch main screen and a 7-inch screen for customers.

  • Has advanced security including fingerprint login.

  • Prints physical receipts.

  • Comes with a cash drawer.

  • Accepts offline payments.

  • Works without a smart device.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work on all cellular plans when Wi-Fi isn't available.

The Payanywhere Smart Terminal credit card reader sits against a white background.

Image courtesy of Payanywhere.

Payanywhere Smart Terminal: Best option to print receipts

Style: Handheld. POS: Free. Hardware: $349.95. Payment processing: Starts at 2.69%.

Why we like it: The Payanywhere Smart Terminal lets small businesses print receipts on the go and comes with a 5-inch touch screen to show transaction details. It also scans bar codes for faster checkout and accepts credit card payments, including some digital wallets. However, it doesn’t accept Google Pay. Payanywhere’s POS features include reporting, employee tracking and inventory management.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripe and digital wallets.

  • Has a 5-inch touch screen.

  • Prints physical receipts.

  • Scans bar codes.

  • Accepts offline payments.

  • Works without a smart device.

Cons:

  • Charges monthly $3.99 inactivity fee after 12 months.

The PayPal Zettle card reader sits on a coffee shop counter

Image courtesy of PayPal.

PayPal Zettle: Best for QR code payments

Style: Handheld. POS: Free. Hardware: $29 for new customers; $79 per additional reader. Payment processing: Starts at 1.75%.

Why we like it: PayPal ’s Zettle goes one step further by letting customers pay by QR code directly from their PayPal accounts — just create a unique QR code on the card reader and let the customer scan the code with their phone to initiate payment. QR code payments are charged PayPal’s lowest processing fee of 1.75%. It’s also a handheld design that’s easy to take on the go, accepts chip and contactless payments and has a screen to display simple transaction details.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including chip and contactless payments and digital wallets.

  • Creates QR codes for an additional payment method.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t swipe magstripe credit cards.

  • Requires a smart device to work.

  • Doesn’t support offline payments.

  • Doesn’t print receipts.

  • Doesn’t scan bar codes.

A customer uses her phone to checkout with a digital wallet. She holds her cell phone against the customer-facing screen of the register while the cashier stands behind the counter of a bakery.

Photo courtesy of Square.

Square Register: Best for alternative payment methods

Style: Tabletop with two screens. POS: Free. Hardware: $799. Payment processing: Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents.

Why we like it: The Square Register accepts digital wallets and all credit cards and also lets customers pay via QR code through Cash App. This option can help businesses avoid the higher processing fees associated with card-not-present transactions and is available for customers online if you set up a Square Online website. The system also comes with two screens: a 13.25-inch screen for the cashier and a 7-inch screen for the customer. While it doesn’t scan bar codes or print receipts, you can order additional hardware to set up these features.

Pros:

  • Has two screens, one for the business and one for customers.

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripe and digital wallets.

  • Accepts QR codes for Cash App.

  • Accepts offline payments.

  • Works without a smart device.

Cons:

  • Doesn't print receipts.

  • Doesn’t scan bar codes.

A customer inserts his credit card into the Square Terminal while the cashier holds a paper bag for him.

Photo courtesy of Square.

Square Terminal: Best for flexible setup

Style: Handheld to tabletop conversion. POS: Free. Hardware: $299; add $39 for accessories hub. Payment processing: Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents.

Why we like it: On its own, Square’s Terminal can work as a handheld credit card reader for when you're on the go, but connect it to a tablet and you’ve got a tabletop terminal for when customers come to you. It accepts all payment types and can print receipts for a smooth checkout process. While it requires an internet connection and won’t work on cellular data, it can connect to Wi-Fi or ethernet and can accept offline payments when Wi-Fi isn’t available.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripe and digital wallets.

  • Can connect to a screen to create a tabletop model.

  • Prints receipts.

  • Accepts offline payments.

  • Works as a handheld reader independently of a smart device.

Cons:

  • Works only with an internet connection.

  • Can’t scan bar codes.

The Payanywhere Smart Flex credit card reader sits against a white background.

Image courtesy of Payanywhere.

Payanywhere Smart Flex: Best for on-the-go transactions

Style: Handheld with two screens. POS: Free. Hardware: $549.95. Payment processing: Starts at 2.69%.

Why we like it: Payanywhere’s Smart Flex has several features that make it great for on-the-go transactions, including a second screen for customers to see transaction details. It also can print receipts and scan bar codes. It accepts all payment types and can process offline transactions.

Pros:

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripe and digital wallets.

  • Has two screens, one for the business and one for customers.

  • Prints receipts.

  • Scans bar codes.

  • Accepts offline payments.

  • Works without a smart device.

Cons:

  • Double-screen setup is smaller than some competitors' screens.

  • Charges monthly $3.99 inactivity fee after 12 months.

The handheld Toast Go 2 swiping a credit card.

Image courtesy of Toast.

Toast Go 2: Best for food service

Style: Handheld. POS: Free and up. Hardware: $389 plus $50 per month. Payment processing: Starts at 2.49% plus 15 cents.

Why we like it: Toast ’s Go 2 was built with food service in mind, with a 24-hour battery life and an exterior that can stand up to spills and being dropped. Working with Toast’s restaurant POS, it lets you submit orders and check out customers at the table. The handheld reader works well for food trucks and smaller cafes and also integrates into Toast’s larger kitchen system if you decide to expand. You can accept all types of payments and never worry about losing sales with the ability to accept offline payments.

Pros:

  • Designed for a food service environment.

  • Accepts credit card payments, including magstripe and digital wallets.

  • Has a 6.4-inch screen.

  • Accepts offline payments.

  • Works without a smart device.

Cons:

Price

Payment processing rate

Payment types

SumUp Plus

$19.

Starts at 2.75%.

Magstripe and chip credit cards and digital wallets.

PayPal Zettle

$29 for new customers; $79 for extra readers.

Starts at 1.75%.

Chip credit cards only and digital payments.

Square Stand

$169.

Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents.

Magstripe and chip credit cards, digital wallets and QR codes in Cash App.

Square Terminal

$299; $39 for accessories hub.

Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents.

Magstripe and chip credit cards and digital wallets.

Payanywhere Smart Terminal

$349.95.

Starts at 2.69%.

Magstripe and chip credit cards and digital wallets.

Toast Go 2

$389 plus $50 per month.

Starts at 2.49% plus 15 cents.

Magstripe and chip credit cards and digital wallets.

Clover Flex

$499.

Starts at 2.3% plus 10 cents.

Magstripe and chip credit cards and digital wallets.

Payanywhere Smart Flex

$549.95.

Starts at 2.69%.

Magstripe and chip cards and digital wallets.

Square Register

$799.

Starts at 2.6% plus 10 cents.

Magstripe and chip credit cards, digital wallets and QR codes with Cash App.

Clover Station Duo

$1,649.

Starts at 2.3% plus 10 cents.

Magstripe and chip credit cards and digital wallets.

Check out these articles to learn more about credit card readers and POS systems for your small business: