Did you know that in the UK, debit cards are the most used payment method? Over the last decade, we have seen a steady decrease in the use of cash, and a turn towards card payments. In 2020, for example, cash payments fell by 35%. Also, it is now estimated that cash payments account for just 20% of all UK business payments.
What does this mean for your small business? It means that if you accept payments, investing in card machines if you do not already have one is hugely beneficial. In this guide, we look at small business card machines, and how you can choose the right one.
Why are Card Machines Beneficial for Your Small Business?
You may be wondering what a card machine can offer for your small business? If so, we have listed the main pros and cons so you have the complete picture:
The main benefit is that you can appeal to (and sell to) anyone. You would no longer be limited to cash-only payments. This could greatly increase your scope for business and profit.
Card machines also usually link to ePOS systems and thus give you greater control and flexibility over your finances. Payment processing and the associated admin is also much easier compared to counting cash and doing end-of-day cash register checks, etc. It also future-proofs your business as reliance on cash continues to decline.
The main drawback is that there are associated costs which we discuss below. You must do financial calculations to make sure that using a card reader is still profitable. Also, there is the initial effort involved in converting to a card machine and digital system.
What to Look for When Choosing Card Machines
So, we have established the importance and potential benefits of a card machine. But how do you pick the right one? There are many different card machine models from various providers. It can therefore be tricky knowing which is suitable for your business. We understand this and have listed the main considerations below to help:
Transaction Fees / Monthly Subscription / Upfront Cost
One of the main considerations is the cost of running a card machine. There are typically three types of associated costs listed below:
- Initial lump sum payment
- Monthly subscription
- Individual transaction fees
Firstly, some card machine providers charge an initial upfront cost. This is to cover the production and manufacturer of the machine and the initial setup. Not all companies charge this, so you could save money looking for card readers that don’t have an upfront cost.
Secondly, there may be a monthly rental cost. This typically isn’t much and you could expect to pay between £10 to £25 per month. Providers that charge a rental fee will usually have lower transaction costs as a result.
Lastly, and most importantly, virtually all card machines have transaction fees. This is usually a small percentage of the total sale. You can expect to pay transaction fees of between 1.5% to 2.5%. Some providers may also charge a set per-transaction fee such as £0.20.
You must therefore do some financial calculations to see how these fees would affect the profit margins of your products/services.
Utility of the card machine
The actual card machine, its design, and its utility are also something to consider. How big and heavy is it? Does it have to be used in a fixed position or does it have a wireless connection?
Does it have physical buttons or use a touchscreen format? Also, what payment types can it accept? Ideally, it should accept a wide range of payment methods including Visa, debit cards, credit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
Lastly, does it accept contactless payments and have a contactless scanner? This is incredibly important today, especially as the contactless limit is increased to £100.
Account dashboard & usability
Some card machines include an ePOS or POP system. These systems are how the payments, orders, and stock are managed. Essentially, when a customer makes a payment using a card machine, it is then linked to the ePOS system.
You can then do numerous things such as viewing payment histories, printing invoices, managing stock, and updating finances. Does the card machine link to anything like this? How can it integrate with your ePOS system?
Also, what is the dashboard like for the account management? Can you manage payments via a mobile app or is it desktop only? Look at the functionality of the card machine and how easy it is to manage your money.
Payment transfer speeds
We have all had that instance where we have entered our pin number, and our payment has taken an age to process. This is frustrating and can also result in lost business.
As a result, you should consider the payment transfer speeds, and the speed of the card machine. Older fixed card machines are typically slower. In contrast, newer mobile card machines usually have excellent connectivity and can link seamlessly to your ePOS system.
Mobile or fixed card machine
There are two main types of card machines – fixed, and mobile. Fixed card machines are older technology and require a telephone line to communicate with the bank/payment gateway. Fixed card machines can offer a more stable connection, but they also cannot be moved. Therefore, a fixed card machine could be better suited if you have a shop counter or POS that won’t move.
In contrast, mobile card machines use a WiFi connection. They are wireless and thus can be used anywhere. The downside is that they are reliant on a stable WiFi connection or business broadband. However, they can also be used offline, and do offer improved integration with your payment systems.
Invest in a Card Machine Today for Improved Payment Flexibility
A card machine can completely transform your business. In today’s digital world, the ability to accept card payments is invaluable. As we become less reliant on cash, card readers will become even more important and anyone with a POS should invest in one.