Accept card payments in the UK for a business

Transform your business through credit card payments.

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In this article we’ll cover:

  • Accepting card payments for small and growing businesses

  • What happens in the background when you process a card payment

  • How to take card payments in-store or on the road

  • Why taking credit and debit card payments is secure

  • Accepting card payments online

  • How SumUp’s product ecosystem can help you grow your business

  • Everything about cards & payments

As technology evolves and consumer behaviours change, there are winners and losers. Card payments are clear winners as of recently, while cash and cheques are on the opposite team. According to the UK Payment Markets Summary 2021, 52% of all payments in 2020 were made by credit or debit cards. As of the first half of 2021, this number was creeping towards 60%. Now more than ever, accepting debit or card payments is a no-brainer, and companies like SumUp are making it easier than before.

How to accept card payments

Taking card payments in person – be it in-store, at a convention, a market, or on the road – is now more straightforward than ever. Previously, business owners needed to sign binding contracts and pay fixed monthly costs on top of transaction fees. The barriers to entry led many to conclude that accepting card payments simply wasn’t worth the hassle and expense. Today, however, small businesses can turn to industry-leading payment specialists like SumUp and start accepting card payments with a few clicks.

Card payments can be made with either debit or credit cards in the UK. With a SumUp payment device, you can easily accept both. According to UK Finance, 44% of all payments in the UK in 2020 were made with debit cards, whereas credit card use declined by 18%. Consumers preferred to pay back debt and use their available money rather than take risks during the pandemic. 

Does your business accept card payments?

A SumUp card machine enables businesses to accept debit, credit and contactless payments with a simple portable device. No monthly contracts. No hidden fees. Ever.

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Card payment process: what happens in the background?

In the seconds that it takes for a payment to go through after using Chip and PIN or Tap and Pay, information follows a predetermined path to obtain payment authorisation.

Each time a payment is attempted, the payment terminal contacts the card issuer and the card holder's bank to verify that funds are available. The round trip takes seconds, but this process is crucial, allowing businesses to take card payments without worrying about the payment "bouncing".

Accepting card payments in-store or on the road with a simple device

Thanks to the reliability of Wi-Fi and mobile network connectivity, accepting card payments in the UK today is a straightforward process with minimal setup. Firstly, you need a payment terminal or PDQ machine. These devices are equipped with the necessary tech to communicate with a debit or credit card, allowing them to accept card payments – or decline them if the customer doesn’t have sufficient funds.

SumUp offers a range of payment terminals, allowing businesses to choose the right device for their needs. All devices accept a wide range of cards, as well as contactless payments. Accepting card payments via a phone is no longer an outlier, as apps like Google Pay and Apple Pay are gaining traction with the wider public.

Cash-only businesses are increasingly rare in the UK. Customers’ expectations have evolved, and technology is now required to make their purchasing experience as seamless as possible. As there are multiple card issuers out there, such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express, it’s important to accept your customer’s card of choice. SumUp accepts all major cards, and you’ll only ever pay the same fixed fee for each transaction.

To make doing business even easier, all SumUp payment terminals are portable, so you can accept card payments wherever and whenever you need. The SumUp Air connects to your smartphone via the SumUp app, using your phone's mobile network to receive payment authorisations. Or if you’re looking for a standalone device, SumUp Solo comes with a built-in SIM card and free unlimited data. It also connects over Wi-Fi. 

Whatever kind of business you run, we’ve got a payment solution to suit your needs. Here’s a simple overview of our card machines.

Find the right card machine for you

We offer a range of card reader machines, all created with the small business owner in mind. Every SumUp card payment machine is quick and easy to set up, impressively multifunctional and entirely portable. But each device offers a slightly different feature set. Here’s a simple overview.

SumUp Solo

  • Accepts payments as a standalone device

  • Works with Wi-Fi, plus free unlimited mobile data with built-in SIM card

  • Fast-charging battery up to 8 hours of battery life

  • Comes with a charging station

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SumUp Solo and printer

  • Connects easily via WiFi, plus free unlimited mobile data with built-in SIM card

  • Print 800 receipts on a single charge

  • Save time with double fast charging and reaching full battery in just one hour

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SumUp POS Lite

  • Powerful software for retail and hospitality businesses

  • Process orders, accept payments and generate reports

  • Compatible with your SumUp card reader

  • No fixed monthly fees or binding contract

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How secure are card payments?

The ease of card payments, along with their digital nature, makes some customers and businesses wary of potential security issues. People are reassured by the tangibility of cash or a cheque. The funny thing is, that cheques are more open to fraud than any other payment method, and receiving fake notes is a potential disaster for your bottom line.

As a business, you want to know that once you receive a payment, the money is yours. Card payments are only accepted if the customer has enough funds, or a high enough credit limit, to make the purchase. No more bouncing cheques, which is a good start. 

For the cardholder, the risks are mainly linked to NFC technology and having your card stolen. Even in this situation, there are limits in place, such as a £100 limit per purchase for contactless, and the requirement to enter the PIN code after a few contactless payments to verify user identity.

Payment security with SumUp – how does it work?

Just because it’s easier to accept card payments with us, that doesn’t mean it’s any less secure. If you want to accept card payments using an internet-enabled mobile system, customers may want to understand the security implications.

All of their private data is encrypted when it passes between your mobile device and the service provider, meaning it can’t be obtained fraudulently by a third party. Furthermore, traditional security measures, such as Chip and PIN, are also incorporated into our card readers.

SumUp devices remain secure wherever they’re being used, as the encryption is location agnostic – allowing you to provide your customers with secure payment options whether you’re operating from a farmers’ market or your own boutique.

Accepting payments online is simple with SumUp

Online sales peaked at around 37% of all retail sales during the Christmas period of 2020/2021, according to the Office for National Statistics. More and more small businesses are building an online presence using tools such as e-commerce stores and social media.

Taking online payments used to be complicated, requiring the business to set up multiple accounts with payment portal providers and gateways, not to mention the expensive subscription fees and upfront payments.

We looked at the problem of taking card payments and realised that small businesses were being unnecessarily penalised due to their size and sales volumes. So we went ahead and built online payments into our product ecosystem at no extra cost. Now businesses across the UK can accept payments online, whatever their sales numbers.

Payment links allow businesses to send a link directly from the SumUp app via email, Instagram, WhatsApp or SMS. Customers simply click the link, enter their card information, and pay using the secure website – no need to download any software or create an account. Taking card payments online has never been easier, with inbuilt functionality allowing you to track and chase any bad payers with a couple of clicks.

If you’re looking to increase your business’s online presence, our e-commerce solution lets you build a free online store in minutes. Once you’ve launched your store, you can sell securely around the world, 24/7.

To start using any of our handy business tools, all you need to do is create a free SumUp profile. Follow this video tutorial to get set up in minutes.

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Payments as part of a larger business tool ecosystem 

Taking payments by card or other cashless methods is a key part of modern business, but it’s important to remember that this is just one aspect of running a healthy business.

At SumUp, our vision goes far beyond payment terminals. We've created a product ecosystem that allows you to run and grow your business at your own pace, whilst only paying for what you use. You can manage invoicing and provide gift cards to increase customer loyalty, whilst benefiting from a free online business account and contactless Mastercard. When you’re ready to expand your business online, our e-commerce solution will help you build the perfect online store for your needs. 

With SumUp’s product ecosystem, you can run your business on your terms – no binding contracts, no hidden fees.

Have questions? We’ve got you covered

Taking a payment should never feel like a “what might go wrong?” moment. We’ve answered some common questions to help you understand why accepting card payments is worthwhile and how risks are minimised.

Find the right payment solution for your small business today

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With SumUp, you can quickly and easily accept credit and debit card payments with your smartphone or tablet.