The 10 Best Credit Card Readers

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This wiki has been updated 18 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Since Square's founding back in 2009, the mobile and affordable transaction hardware industry has blossomed. Products like theirs, and the software supporting them, have helped countless startups and small businesses accept and process payments easier and for lower fees than in the past. Some professional options require subscriptions, while others just take a small percentage of each transaction. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Square Chip Reader

2. Square Terminal

3. Verifone VX520

Editor's Notes

January 27, 2021:

Minimal changes in this particular field, so our recommendations remain largely the same. The Square Terminal supports PIN entry and is ideal for small businesses and the Square Chip Reader is highly portable, reliable, offers one-touch NFC payment. We did add the PayPal Chip and Swipe because PayPal is such a ubiquitous service used by many private vendors and small businesses. The model we recommend does not have NFC, but the NFC-enabled version costs twice as much, and doesn't really add a whole lot, while the Chip and Swipe does everything it really needs to do, and is also relatively compact.

November 20, 2019:

There are three primary classes of people who need credit card readers: those working with financial information, owners of small businesses, and proprietors of high-volume retail stores. If you're working with Quickbooks or small numbers of clients, you can probably get by with the Deftun MSR90, which does nothing more than reliably translate the information on a card's magnetic stripe into numeric characters. It doesn't encrypt, doesn't send any information to a network, and is as simple as it gets.

Then there are the significant number of point-of-sale-oriented systems that require a contracted subscription with a credit card processing company. The Verifone VX520 is one of the most basic of these, and the only super-important function it really lacks is Wi-Fi connectivity, but it does of course still connect using an Ethernet cable. The Verifone MX925 is a massive upgrade, and although it's very costly, if you see hundreds of customers per day it may be worth the investment. And the Datio POS is remarkable because it includes a cash register and is mated to a specific company with an easy-to-understand subscription model and comprehensive support.

But most small business owners will want to look into Square, one of the most popular new payment processing companies of the last decade. The Square 0523 and Square 0047 are basically the same, but for Apple and Android devices, respectively. The most popular of their devices, the Square Chip Reader, doesn't cost much and covers chip-and-PIN as well as contactless payments using an IC card, Google Pay, or Apple Pay, as long as it's connected to a supported device as a base. And if you're the owner of a budding high-end coffee shop or clothing store, you might want to go with either the Square Terminal or Square Register. The first is moderately expensive and has a receipt printer, while the second is comparatively exorbitant and has both worker- and customer-facing touch displays. Plus, they both let you process many payments per day with ease, and without having to hand over a fragile tablet or personal smartphone to every single customer.

While Square does take a fee of just over 2.6% for every transaction, they're one of the top processing companies today specifically because they don't lock you in with restrictive contracts. And if Square doesn't do it for you, check out the Clover Go, from an up-and-coming provider that offers a similarly wide range of small-business- and startup-oriented payment devices.

Special Honors

Clover Systems Somewhere between self-directed credit card payments and commercial-level subscriptions lies Clover's relatively wide range of products. You can spend just a little, or quite a bit, and their various point-of-sale systems offer highly user- and customer-friendly operation. They're one of the top alternatives to the wildly popular Square family of products and services.

4. Verifone MX925

5. PayPal Chip and Swipe

6. Datio POS

7. Square Register

8. Deftun MSR90

9. Square 0523

10. Clover Go

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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