It’s 2018 and if your shop is at all worth its salt it will have a high-performing card machine on its counter, ready to take any sort of payment. If not, you could be missing out on the sales of six in ten of all your customers.
Consumer expectation is placing increasing pressure on businesses to accept, at the very least, chip + PIN card payments (and with contactless and mobile purchases enjoying rapid adoption throughout the UK, it won’t be long until your customers will be dismayed to find they cannot pay at your shop with a tap of their card or device). So, isn’t it about time you got yourself a card reader?
What is a Card Machine?
A card machine, as the name suggests, is a device that allows you to accept card payments. Also known as a card reader or PDQ (Process Data Quickly), card machines can be as simple as a slotted device for customers to insert a chip + PIN card in before inputting their PINs, or as fully-equipped as the Square Reader, which offers readability for chip + PIN, contactless and mobile payments like Apple Pay.
You may remember the days of swipe cards, and while they are far from the most prominent (or indeed, customer-trusted) method of card payments, they still count as card machines. It doesn’t hurt to have swipe capabilities on standby for any chip cards that decide to misbehave or any international cards that come along. Square includes a backup magnetic stripe reader along with its main card reader, able to slot right into your smart phone, completely free!
What sort of business most needs a card machine?
You may think that shops with a set payment counter are the only businesses in need of a card reader, but a huge range of businesses can stand to benefit from allowing their customers to pay by card. It’s not all about bulky devices and dedicated payment points, a card payment machine for small businesses can be fully mobile, and small enough to fit onto your phone. Able to be the difference between happy customers or not, as well as daily trips to the bank with bags of cash or simply seeing those fund arrive in your account the next business day, a card reader is a smart investment for any sort of business.
So, even if you’re a plumber, electrician or food stall, a card reader can still help simplify your life, help you deliver better customer service and help you run your business far more smoothly.
What is the best credit card machine for small businesses?
Well, that’s mostly up to you! Card machines come it all shapes and sizes, and finding the best one for your business means choosing one that provides all the features you need – maybe you’re keen to have a reader you can move around your shop, or maybe you just want to make sure your payments are processed as quick as possible. Here are some key features to look out for when selecting the best card machine for you:
Upfront cost: This is the one that can hugely vary between providers. From payment processing fees, hardware costs, service fees and software usage fees, the cost of making the change of having a card machine on your shop counter can quickly add up. The best way around this is to shop around, some providers, like Square, will give you the hardware for a low one-off payment, and provide the required POS software completely free. Others may use a SaaS (Software as a Service) model that means you must pay monthly fees for use of their programs.
Mobile vs fixed: Traditional card machines needed a fixed phone line to communicate with the bank when taking payments. Modern developments mean card readers can now do this via Wi-Fi (or even work offline). This means if you want to have the flexibility of moving your POS around your shop, you can, but traditional routes may suit you if you have a set place where you wish for your counter to always be, or if you aren’t planning on rolling out Wi-Fi in your shop. It’s worth bearing in mind that these traditional devices may lack a POS program.
Transaction costs: You should look for a device that charges a simple fixed fee so you can better plan your costs each month.
Contracts and recurring fees: In the same vein, you should look for modern solutions like Square which have no recurring fees and include the likes of PCI compliance for total security.
Transfer speed: Make sure you opt for a provider who will get your funds into your account as soon as possible. This can vary from a few working days to a whole working week, so don’t underestimate the importance of transfer speeds. Square aims to get funds in your account as soon as the next working day.
Does it include a point-of-sale?: Check what you’re paying for, does purchasing a reader mean you also get access to POS software, or anything else beyond the physical reader? If not, you might want to look elsewhere for providers that give a POS software system free of charge.
Other things to consider
There are other factors you may want to keep in mind when looking for your card machine, slightly less techy, but still important when it comes to you finding the perfect fit for you, your team and your business.
Ease of use: For maximum efficiency, you want your team to be clued up and using your new card machine in no time at all. Square offers a highly intuitive and easy to use POS system, best of all, it can be run right from your phone. The reader needs a 2-hour initial charge, easily wirelessly connects to your device, and you’re ready to go.
Speed: This can vary from device to device, the speediest of card payments are contactless or mobile, so having a contactless card reader will let your customers pay in seconds by simply tapping their phone or card to it, done!
How it looks: Sure, looks aren’t everything but when it comes to the aesthetic and feel of your shop, you’re likely going to want every inch of your set-up to look flawless. Some card machines can look incredibly utilitarian and may not quite fit your vision, but it’s perfectly possible to balance fashion and function. The Square Reader boasts sleek, modern design and takes up a tiny amount of space on your shop counter – or in your pocket – while still offering a powerful all-round payment solution. Combine it with its dock and you have the small but mighty addition to your counter top that’s just as much style as substance.
So, if you’re reader to level up your business and accept every way your customers want to pay, get started with Square.