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The Best Credit Card Readers for Small Businesses

Maddie Shepherd

Staff Writer at Fundera
Maddie Shepherd is staff writer at Fundera. Beyond her deep knowledge of small business financing, Maddie's specialty is business credit cards—she'd love to help match your business with the credit card that benefits you most!

As you start your search for a credit card reader for your small business, you’ll begin to realize how many subcategories of different kinds of credit card readers there are. Whether you’re searching specifically for a credit card reader for iPhone, for Android, or simply a credit card reader app, you’ll likely have to sift through lots of options before you find the exact type you want.

And then, within any given category of credit card scanners, you’ll find multiple choices that you’ll, again, have to sift through. To streamline your search, we’ve compiled a list of all the very best credit card readers—from the most basic, affordable readers to the most powerful readers—on the market.

Because the credit card reader market is so saturated with options, we’ve decided to break your best options down not based on what kind of card reader they are, but rather on how basic or how sophisticated a given credit card scanner is.

Within each of our three tiers of credit card readers—basic, mid-level, and top-tier—will be many different types of credit card readers. Generally speaking, credit card readers for phones and tablets that require an additional credit card reader app tend to fall under the “basic” side of the spectrum. More sophisticated credit card readers that won’t rely on additional technology will provide your business with a “top-tier” credit card reader experience.

Basic Credit Card Readers

Credit Card Reader Brand What It Reads What It Costs
Magstripe reader
Square
Card magstripes
Completely free reader, plus payment processing costs
Chip card reader
Square
Chip card technology
$35 for the reader, plus payment processing costs

 

First up in our list of top credit card readers are the two most basic, affordable credit card readers.

Because these credit card scanners require additional technology in order to work, they fall under the category of credit card reader for phone, tablet, and iPad. Additionally, both require a free card reader app in order to be able to fully process credit card payments for your business.

Are these credit card readers worth the extra technology and effort they require? Let’s take a look:

Magstripe Reader From Square

The magstripe reader from Square is the cheapest credit card reader on this best-of list. And that’s because it’s completely free.

This free card reader comes with your Square account, plus it will come free as a backup to any additional Square credit card reader hardware you decide to buy.

The free Square card reader will only be able to read card magstripes and is a credit card reader for phones, tablets, or iPads. Plus, it requires a credit card reader app to fully function. All of this makes it one of the less-powerful credit card reader options on the list.

Granted, your business will still have to pay for Square’s transaction-based payment processing fees for all the transactions it runs through this free Square card reader. That said, most all credit card readers come with these payment processing fees on top of the cost of the actual credit card reader.

Chip Reader From Square

Beyond their basic credit card swiper for phones, tablets, and iPads, Square offers many more credit card reader options. The next step up from the free Square card reader is their credit card chip reader. This option is also a credit card reader for phones, tablets, and iPads and requires the same credit card reader app as the free Square card reader.

However, this credit card scanner option is able to process card payments through EMV—or chip—technology, which allows for a safer and quicker transaction.

This credit card reader costs $35 before the transaction-based payment processing fees from Square kick in.

Mid-Range Credit Card Readers

Credit Card Reader Brand What It Reads What It Costs
Go
Clover
Magstripes, chips, and contactless payments
Varies, but typically around $59, plus payment processing fees
Contactless and Chip Reader
Square
Magstripes, chips, and contactless payments
$49 for the reader, plus payment processing fees
Stand
Square
Magstripes, chips, and contactless payments
$169 for the reader, plus payment processing fees

 

A step above your most basic, cheapest credit card scanner options will be these mid-level credit card scanners.

While most of these options still fall under the category of credit card reader for phones, tablets, and iPads, they’re able to do much more with the credit card reader apps they require.

These credit card reader options can provide a middle ground between power capabilities and modest pricing, so let’s take a look at what kind of balance they strike.

credit card reader

Square Contactless and Chip

First up in the best mid-range credit card reader options is the Square contactless and chip reader.

Just like the previous two Square credit card readers, this credit card reader relies on the Square credit card reader app, making it a credit card reader for phones, tablets, and iPads.

Unlike the previous two Square credit card readers, though, this option is able to connect to devices via Bluetooth, making it all the more mobile. It’s also able to process multiple types of credit card payments—magstripe-only cards, chip cards, and contactless payments—all in one.

Because of these additional perks, this option costs more than the cheapest credit card reader options from Square. The Square contactless and chip credit card reader will cost your business $49, before taking into account Square’s payment processing fees for any transactions you run through it.  

Clover Go

The next mid-range credit card reader option is the Clover Go. This credit card reader for phones, tablets, and iPads is able to connect to your device via Bluetooth.

It will also be able to process every type of credit card payment your customers could want: The Clover Go credit card reader can read magstripe-only cards, chip cards, and contactless payments—all in one.

The Clover Go costs $59.

Square Stand

The final mid-range credit card reader option is the Stand from Square. Unlike many other top credit card readers, this option is designed specifically for a single smart device—the iPad. So, though the Square stand isn’t technically a credit card reader for phones, it still relies on additional technology and a credit card reader app.

This credit card reader is able to read all three major types of credit card payments, while also providing a desktop, register experience, which will ultimately cost your business $169 before transaction-based payment processing fees kick in.

Top-Tier Credit Card Readers

Credit Card Reader Brand What It Reads What It Costs
Flex
Clover
Magstripe, chip, and contactless payments
$449, plus payment processing fees
Mini
Clover
Magstripe, chip, and contactless payments
$599, plus payment processing fees
Station
Clover
Magstripe, chip, and contactless payments
$1,199, plus payment processing fees
Register
Square
Magstripe, chip, and contactless payments
$999 for reader, plus lower payment processing fees

 

Up next in our list of the top credit card readers on the market are the top-tier, most powerful card readers. The following credit card scanners come fully equipped and self-sufficient.

Though they might not be portable like a credit card reader for iPhone or iPad, these top-tier card readers don’t rely on additional technology or card reader apps. Plus, they’re much more capable than any credit card reader for iPhone you’ll be able to get your hands on.

Let’s see if these credit card readers are worth the considerable investment they require.

Clover Flex

At first glance, the Clover Flex looks like an oversized smartphone or a tiny tablet. Upon closer look, you’ll realize that, despite its small stature, it’s a fully functioning credit card reader with every feature you or your customers could ever need.

This credit card scanner can process all three credit card payment types, scan barcodes, and even print receipts, all within the palm of your hand. The Clover Flex costs $449.

Clover Mini

If you’re looking for a countertop checkout experience for your small business—but you don’t want to invest in an iPad like the Square Stand requires—the Clover Mini might be the perfect credit card reader for you.

This credit card scanner system will allow your business to accept all types of credit card payments, print receipts, and scan barcodes—all in one system.

Plus, despite being—well—mini, the Clover Mini has a big display that will allow the checkout process to run even more smoothly than it would with smaller credit card readers.

The Clover Mini will set you back $599, so be sure you’re ready to invest in order to access the Mini’s perks.

credit card reader

Clover Station

The most powerful of Clover’s credit card reader options is the Clover Station. This credit card reader allows your business to have it all—quick, secure credit card transactions of all kinds, printed receipts, scannable barcodes, and even a cash register.

If you want a full-blown countertop point of sale experience at your small business, then the Clover Station credit card reader can provide that. That is, as long as you’re willing to invest—this credit card scanner system is $1,199.

Square Register

The Square Register is the first fully integrated credit card scanner system from Square. It comes with two displays—one that is fully dedicated to the customer and is complete with a magstripe credit card scanner, a chip card reader, and a contactless payment portal.

And though this credit card reader option will cost your business a cool $999, it will also be able to save your business money in the future. That’s because the payment processing fees Square imposes on transactions run through the Square Register will be significantly lower than those of more affordable Square credit card readers.

Finding the Best Credit Card Readers for Your Small Business

Now that you’ve made it through this ultimate list of the very best credit card readers for small business, it’s time to make some moves.

Which of these top card readers is right for your business?

Perhaps you’re looking for an economical, no-nonsense credit card reader for phones like the ones Square offers. Or maybe you want to pull out all the stops to optimize your checkout process with a powerful countertop card reader like the Clover Station or the Square Register.

Either way, there’s a perfect card reader option out there for you.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Maddie Shepherd

Staff Writer at Fundera
Maddie Shepherd is staff writer at Fundera. Beyond her deep knowledge of small business financing, Maddie's specialty is business credit cards—she'd love to help match your business with the credit card that benefits you most!

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