Card Machine Costs

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Libby James
Merchant Services Expert

Libby James is co-founder, director and an expert in all things merchant services. Libby is the go-to specialist for business with more complex requirements or businesses that are struggling to find a provider that will accept them. Libby is regularly cited in trade, national and international media.

Cost of a Card Machine

Customers are opting for cashless transactions more frequently, therefore it’s important to find the most cost-effective card machines available to your business. Understanding the intricacies of card machine costs is paramount for businesses aiming to thrive in the market. While the initial outlay for card machines may seem negligible in comparison to other overhead expenses, it’s imperative to delve deeper into factors such as transaction fees, contract terms, and the choice between renting or purchasing hardware. These considerations can significantly impact a company’s bottom line and operational efficiency.

Merchant Advice Service stands at the forefront of providing invaluable guidance on navigating the complexities of card payment solutions. With our wealth of expertise and dedication to assisting businesses of all sizes, we empower merchants to make informed decisions that optimise their payment processing systems. Our commitment to excellence ensures that businesses can adapt seamlessly to the evolving landscape of electronic transactions, ultimately fostering growth and success in the competitive marketplace.

Overview of Card Machine Types and The Costs

When it comes to modern commerce, the popularity of card payments has led to a diverse array of card machine types catering to various business needs. Understanding these devices’ nuances and associated costs is crucial for businesses seeking to embrace efficient payment processing solutions.

Mobile card readers represent one of the most versatile options, allowing businesses to accept payments on the go. These compact devices are typically smartphone or tablet-compatible, offering convenience for businesses such as food trucks, market stalls, and delivery services. Prices for mobile card readers can range from £0 for basic models to around £75 for more advanced versions with additional features like contactless payment capabilities.

Portable card machines offer a middle ground between mobility and stability. They are battery-powered and connect wirelessly, making them suitable for businesses that require flexibility in accepting payments, such as restaurants with outdoor seating or businesses attending events. Prices for portable card machines vary depending on features and brand, ranging from approximately £150 to £300 to purchase or from as little as £15 per month to rent.

Credit card terminal pricing is a key consideration for businesses setting up their payment processing infrastructure. Countertop devices are stationary terminals commonly found in retail stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. These machines are connected via a landline or internet connection, providing stable and reliable payment processing. Countertop devices offer a wide range of features, including compatibility with various payment methods and integration with point-of-sale systems. Prices for countertop devices typically start at around £799 and can go up to £1,249 for high-end models with advanced functionalities, however, rental options are available from £19.00 per month. 

Virtual terminals are software-based solutions that allow businesses to process card payments online or over the phone without the need for physical card machines. Ideal for e-commerce businesses or service-based industries, virtual terminals offer convenience and flexibility. Pricing structures for virtual terminals often involve monthly subscription fees and transaction-based charges, making them a cost-effective option for businesses with lower transaction volumes.

Understanding card machine costs and payment processing fees is essential for businesses to optimise their financial efficiency while providing convenient payment options to their customers. By evaluating merchant account charges, transaction fee structures, and debit card transaction rates, businesses can make informed decisions about their payment processing solutions. 

Exploring mobile payment solutions, contactless payment technology, and wireless card readers can further enhance customer convenience and satisfaction. Integrating these solutions with point-of-sale systems and EPOS solutions can streamline operations and improve overall business performance. Businesses should consider comparing merchant services and accounts on a pound-for-pound basis, to find the best fit for their needs and explore additional business banking services to support their financial operations.

Transaction Rates and Merchant Service Charges

Transaction rates and merchant service charges play a pivotal role in the financial landscape of businesses, particularly those engaged in card payment processing. These charges encompass various fees associated with facilitating transactions and maintaining merchant accounts.

Transaction rates refer to the charges levied by card networks and issuers for processing transactions. They typically consist of a percentage of the transaction amount plus a flat fee, with interchange pricing often considered the most transparent. Merchant service charges encompass a broader spectrum of fees, including transaction fees, but also encompass additional charges such as authorisation fees and online transaction fees.

Processing fees for different types of cards, including debit, credit, and commercial cards, vary in structure. Debit card transactions often incur lower fees compared to credit cards due to differences in risk and processing mechanisms. Commercial cards may have higher fees due to added features and benefits.

It’s essential to consider the overall cost of payment processing rather than solely focusing on headline rates or terminal costs. While lower transaction rates or terminal costs may seem appealing, additional fees can significantly impact the total cost. Therefore, comparing merchant service providers based on their comprehensive fee structures ensures businesses make informed decisions that align with their financial objectives.

Understanding transaction rates and merchant service charges empowers businesses to navigate the complex landscape of payment processing, enabling them to optimise cost-efficiency and enhance their financial sustainability. Small business payment solutions, electronic payment systems, and virtual terminal services are essential components to consider alongside card reader rental costs, POS hardware expenses, credit card processing rates, and merchant account providers. Additionally, delving into interchange fees explained can provide further clarity on the intricacies of payment processing options.

Renting vs. Buying a Card Machine

When considering whether to rent or buy a card machine, the business owner must weigh various factors to make the best decision for their specific circumstances. Whether the company deals with credit or debit card transactions, the type of business it operates, and its transaction volume all play a crucial role in determining the most suitable option.

For small business and start-up owners, renting a card machine may offer advantages such as flexibility and lower upfront costs. Monthly rental fees, typically ranging between £15 to £30 plus VAT, provide access to necessary equipment without requiring a significant initial investment. This option is particularly appealing for businesses with fluctuating transaction volumes or those operating on tight budgets.

Purchasing a card machine involves a one-time upfront cost that varies depending on the type of device and its features. Small business owners may opt for this route if they anticipate high transaction volumes or prefer the stability of ownership. While the initial investment may be higher, eliminating ongoing rental fees can result in long-term cost savings.

Both options come with their pros and cons. Renting offers flexibility, allowing businesses to easily upgrade equipment or switch providers as needed. However, the cumulative rental costs over time may outweigh the benefits. Buying provides ownership and potential cost savings but requires a larger upfront investment and may be less flexible in terms of equipment upgrades.

Advancements in technology have expanded payment options beyond traditional credit and debit cards. Small business owners may also consider factors such as accepting digital wallets or integrating with point of sale (POS) systems. Ultimately, the choice between renting and buying a card machine depends on the business owner’s preferences, budget, and unique requirements.

Other Associated Card Machine Costs

In addition to transaction rates and equipment expenses, businesses must also consider various other associated costs when setting up card payment processing systems.

Software fees and batch fees (where relevant) are essential components of processing transactions. Software fees may be incurred for using payment processing software, while batch fees are charged for settling transactions in batches. These fees can vary depending on the provider and the volume of transactions processed.

PCI DSS compliance is a crucial aspect of card payment processing, ensuring that businesses adhere to security standards to protect cardholder data. While compliance is necessary, it often entails additional costs, such as annual compliance fees and potential expenses for implementing security measures.

Businesses need to account for internet connectivity and additional equipment costs. Reliable internet connectivity and wi-fi are essential for processing transactions efficiently, and businesses may incur costs for internet service providers or network infrastructure. Additionally, certain payment processing solutions may require additional equipment, such as routers or terminals, which can contribute to overall setup costs.

Considering these various associated costs is vital for businesses to accurately assess the total cost of implementing card payment processing systems. By accounting for software fees, batch fees, PCI DSS compliance, internet connectivity, and additional equipment costs, businesses can make informed decisions and ensure the smooth operation of their payment processing infrastructure.


Contract Considerations and Cancellation Fees

Contract considerations and cancellation fees are important aspects to review when choosing a card payment processing provider. In the industry, long-term contracts and cancellation fees used to be common, but still require careful examination to avoid potential pitfalls.

The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has issued Specific Direction 16, stating that any new card terminal provision should not have a contract longer than 18 months. Regardless of whether there is a lock-in period, the provider must convert the contract into a monthly rolling agreement by the end of the 18 months, requiring only one month’s notice for cancellation. The good news is this regulation aims to promote fairness and flexibility for merchants.

When evaluating contract terms, businesses should weigh the pros and cons of long-term commitments. While longer contracts may offer lower rates or additional benefits, they can also lock businesses into agreements that may become outdated or unsuitable over time. Conversely, commitment-free options provide flexibility but may come with higher processing fees.

Businesses should carefully assess their needs and preferences when selecting a payment processing provider. By considering contract terms, cancellation fees, and regulatory requirements, businesses can make informed decisions that align with their objectives and ensure a smooth and cost-effective payment processing experience.

Exit Fees and Additional Contractual Costs

Exit fees, often overlooked but significant, can substantially impact the overall costs associated with card payment processing. These fees, charged by providers when terminating a contract early, can range from a fixed amount to a percentage of the remaining contract value.

It’s crucial for businesses to carefully review contract terms to identify any potential hidden fees or additional contractual costs. Understanding the implications of exit fees ensures that businesses are not caught off guard by unexpected charges when ending their agreement with a provider.

By scrutinising contract terms and seeking transparency regarding exit fees and other potential costs, businesses can make informed decisions that minimise financial risks and ensure a smooth transition if the need arises to change payment processing providers.

Choosing the Right Card Machine for Your Business

Choosing the appropriate card machine for your business is crucial for seamless payment processing. To make the best choice, start by evaluating your business needs and transaction volume. Whether you primarily deal with debit and credit cards or prefer a specific debit or credit card, understanding your clientele’s payment preferences is essential.

Consider the fee structure and pricing models offered by different providers, taking into account additional fees and costs that may apply. Analyse the type of transactions your business conducts and choose a card machine equipped to handle them efficiently.

An essential factor in credit card processing fees and how they impact your bottom line. By selecting a card machine tailored to your business’s needs and transaction volume, you can minimise additional costs and optimise payment processing efficiency.


Selecting the right card machine for your business involves assessing transaction volume, considering customer payment methods, and understanding fee structures. Remember to weigh additional costs such as credit card processing fees. For tailored advice and support, contact Merchant Advice Service. We provide expert guidance to help businesses make informed decisions, ensuring seamless payment processing and cost efficiency. Reach out to us today for personalised assistance in choosing the ideal card machine for your specific needs.


Commonly Asked Questions
Should I rent or buy a card machine?
The choice depends on factors like budget, transaction volume, and long-term goals. Renting offers flexibility but may lead to higher cumulative costs over time, while buying entails a larger upfront investment but eliminates ongoing rental fees.
How long are card machine contracts?
Contracts vary, but the Payment Systems Regulator limits new contracts to 18 months. After this period, providers must convert contracts into monthly-rolling agreements, allowing for easier cancellation with one month’s notice.
What types of card machines are available?
Card machines come in various forms, including mobile readers, portable terminals, and countertop devices. The choice depends on factors like mobility requirements and connectivity options.
How do card machines connect to networks?
Card machines can connect via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or phone lines. Businesses should consider their location and internet availability when selecting a connectivity option.
Can card machines integrate with existing EPOS systems?
Yes, many card machines offer integration with EPOS systems, streamlining transactions and enhancing business operations.
How do I compare the costs of renting and buying a card machine?
Compare the total costs over time, including rental fees, transaction rates, and any additional charges. Consider your business’s financial situation and long-term needs to make the best decision.
Are upgrades and maintenance included in renting a card machine?
Some providers may offer upgrades and maintenance as part of the rental package, while others may charge additional fees.
What are the cancellation policies for card machine contracts?
Ensure you understand the terms regarding cancellation fees, notice periods, and any obligations upon termination before signing a contract.

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Libby James

Libby James Co-founded Merchant Advice Service alongside David Bird in 2016. Her finance background, coupled with retail and customer service experience, gave Libby the drive to bring transparency and non-biased advice to the world of merchant services. Having come from the heavily regulated mortgage and insurance industry, Libby found it puzzling that other financial sectors lacked regulation and transparency leaving customers confused and unable to make informed decisions when it came to accepting card payments. This was soon to become Libby’s obsession!

With the help of some of the industry’s best, Libby began to research acquiring banks, complex terminology/regulation, and the problems customers experience within merchant services and payment gateway markets. She spent years on sourcing solutions for complex clients, which previously others were unable to assist with. Libby established relationships with brokers and banks which would soon form the cornerstone of Merchant Advice Service. As a result Libby has been featured in high-profile publications across the web.

Libby is proud to be the entrepreneur’s champion, supporting start-up businesses regularly. Her industry insights can often be found on LinkedIn where she provides free of charge advice and money saving pointers. It’s safe to say she has her finger on the pulse of everything card payments related.

Libby speaks of her experience in founding and running Merchant Advice Service…

‘Merchant Advice Service is one of my greatest achievements to date. We help business owners to overcome card processing issues which can become detrimental to their business. We assist SME’s in finding suitable card payments solutions, helping them create their vision. Each and every day is different, exciting and fore filling. As technology advances I can’t wait to see the way in which the merchant services market advances, and I’m pleased that our business will play a part in educating company owners along the way.’

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