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Published: 23/08/2019

How card readers are different to card machines and why it matters to your business

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There’s a lot of choice out there when it comes to picking a card machine or card reader for your small or medium sized independent business.

Often, card machines and card readers are talked about in the same way, but they’re not actually the same thing.

Card machine vs. card reader

First up, let’s take a look at card machines. When people talk about these, they mean the original chip and PIN style machines. They’re the kind you see when you go into the supermarket and pay at the till. They’re pretty compact, have a screen and PIN pad and somewhere to swipe the card and insert it.

There’s loads of different choice depending on how you want to use it. For example, there’s countertop card machines, which are perfect if you want to take payments from one place. There’s also portable card machines, which you can take to the customer’s table. And finally there’s a mobile card machine, which connects to a GPRS signal, allowing you to take payments across the UK. We’ll touch more on these terminals later.

Then there’s card readers. These are tiny – not much bigger than a debit card itself – and you’ll often find them in small start- ups, at market stalls, pop-up shops and so on. They’re great if you have a relatively low turnover.

They have a little screen, compact PIN pad and a slot when you can put the card in. They look a little bit like the security card readers you get from your bank, which are used to verify who you are, if you know what we mean.

Card readers are usually app based, so link up with a smart phone or tablet, or some work via WiFi, 3G or 4G. They’re small in size as they’re designed to be very portable.


Card machine

Card machine

Card reader

Card reader

Should I get a card machine or a card reader?

That’s up to you, but it’s a good idea to do your research to see which best suits your business.

At Payzone, we can get to know your business to see how you currently take cards, or how you want to start taking cards.

We have a number of different card machines (the ones we mentioned earlier) to choose from, which includes:

Countertop – as the name suggests, these sit on your countertop or reception point and can’t be moved very far as they have wires to connect them to the relevant ports in your business. They’re spot on if you work in a shop, sandwich shop or somewhere else where you can take card payments from one point.

Portable – if you run a cafe, restaurant, bar or just want to be able to take payments around your shop floor, portable card machines come with a base which you can plug in. There’s then a separate handset which you can use anywhere, as long as it’s within 50m of the base unit. The base unit is also where you’ll need to charge the handset up. They work via Bluetooth or WiFi.

Mobile – say you run a successful pie shop, and you want to be able to take payments in your shop, but also whilst you’re out delivering your delicious goods to your customers. You’ll be interested in a mobile card machine. These work a bit like a mobile phone – they come with a SIM card and connect to a GPRS signal. So, as long as you have signal, you can take a payment.

How can Payzone help?

We’re specialists in helping independent businesses take card payments with card machines. We can visit you in your business and get to understand how you want to take card payments. From there, we can recommend which is the right card terminal for you.

We can also help you get PCI compliant, which you’ll need to be if you want to take cards. Our phone service is quick and simple.

We’ll also be on hand whenever you need us. Our team of Account Managers will be there to get you up and running and our Help Desk can solve answer any questions you may have whilst you’re with us.

Whether you’re looking for a card machine or a card reader, you can give one of our payment specialists a call and they’ll be able to discuss your options with you.

Vanessa Littler Digital Marketing Executive
Payzone contactless card machine in use
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