Which mobile credit card reader should I get for my small business?

Square, Clover and PayPal are among the best options. Here’s how they work and the costs associated with each


Square, Clover and PayPal all offer mobile credit card readers for small businesses. Here’s how they work and the costs associated with each.

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Dear Your Business Credit,

I designed a line of T-shirts and sweatshirts that I will be selling at local fairs this spring. Which mobile credit card reader should I get? – Jesse

Dear Jesse,

Coming prepared with a credit card reader is a great idea. Many people are almost cashless these days when it comes to paying for things, so you’ll close more sales if you accept credit cards.

As to which credit card reader to get, you have several options.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Elaine a question.

Mobile card reader options

One of the easiest ones for merchants to use is Square. If you have a mobile phone or iPad, you will need to attach a small “reader” device to your phone to process transactions by swiping them. You can also use Square’s contactless card reader for chip cards. Square charges 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction.

See related:PayPal vs. Square: Which one is best for your business?

Another option is Clover. Clover offers Clover Go, a contactless card reader that also lets you swipe cards. Pricing is a bit different from Square. The Clover “Go” reader costs $69.  The least expensive plan, “Register Lite,” costs $14 a month and 2.7% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions and 3.5% plus 10 cents for keyed-in transactions.

Those who are frequent PayPal users may want to go with the PayPal Card Reader, which is available for free through June 30, 2020. The cost is 2.7% per U.S. card swipe. There is also a fee of 3.5% plus 15 cents to key in cards; 2.9% plus 30 cents to invoice and 1.5% for cross-border transfers. PayPal also offers a chip and swipe reader. It is available for $24.99.

Mobile card reader tips

When you bring a reader to the fair, it is important to make sure you’ve tested it out ahead of time by doing a small sample transaction, so you know everything is working properly. Remember to bring a mobile phone charger and the dongle for your phone if you need it to connect the phone.

I sometimes sell a book I wrote at speaking events, and it is easy to forget some small but critical item that you need to process transactions. I highly recommend keeping everything together in one small box that you can grab and go, so you don’t get to your destination and find out you’re “cash only” for the evening. In the event something goes wrong, be prepared with cash to make change, so you can still make sales to some customers.

See related: How can I change my business’s merchant category code?

How to build relationships with your customers

Make the most of the fair to generate recurring revenue. I’d recommend printing some business cards or brochures with information on how to order more of your clothing from your website and collecting names and email addresses for people who want to join your mailing list.

One of the best ways to build a business is to deepen your relationship with customers who already love what you sell. By making it easy for them to find you after each fair, you’ll find more business coming to you, without costly marketing efforts on your part.

Just because a fair may be a one-time event, it doesn’t mean that you can’t reconnect with customers after that.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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