Learn more about mobile card readers

Everything you need to know about mobile credit card terminals.

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In this article, you’ll learn about mobile card readers, how they’re used to process card payments, and why mobile card readers are indispensable to businesses.  Understanding the benefits of mobile card readers will help you find the best card reader for your business.

Unlike fixed credit card machines, a mobile card reader can be used just about anywhere, whether in a shop, at the farmer’s market, or on the road. Gone are the days when cardholders needed to take their card to the till in order to pay.

Fixed PDQ machines are common in many retail outlets, especially when customers have to pass the till to exit. However, today all sorts of businesses are taking full advantage of card and contactless payments with mobile card readers. Cash is expected to account for only 7% of in-store purchases in the UK by 2024.

A mobile credit card reader takes advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots and/or mobile data in order to process transactions, meaning that goods and services can be paid for in almost any location.

What are portable card readers?

The first portable card readers worked by connecting to a base unit, and could be used to accept payments anywhere, as long as the reader was within a certain distance of the base unit. This was a good solution for bars and restaurants, but less so for anyone conducting business on the go. 

These days, however, many portable card readers work by connecting to Wi-Fi or a cellular network, and don’t need to be tethered to a base unit. This makes that you can use these mobile card machines virtually anywhere.

How do mobile card machines work?

SumUp’s range of mobile card readers all work wherever you are via either mobile data or Wi-Fi. The SumUp Air pairs with your smartphone, whereas SumUp Solo and the 3G and printer can access cellular networks on their own thanks to built-in SIM cards with unlimited data.

If you’re pairing your reader with your smartphone, you’ll need to download the SumUp app. Simply turn on your mobile card reader and it’s ready to use. 

The customer pays by inserting their card into the reader or tapping it on the contactless symbol, and the transaction proceeds. Once the payment is made, the merchant’s service provider is contacted for authorisation.

If accepted, the payment is authorised and the relevant transaction information is shown on the screen of the reader or the app.

You can provide your customer with a receipt, either by printing it out if you have a SumUp 3G and printer, or by sending it via SMS or email. You can also see these transaction records yourself in the SumUp app.

Does your business accept card payments?

The SumUp Card Reader enables businesses to accept debit, credit and contactless payments with a simple 3-in-1 device.

No monthly contracts. No hidden fees. Ever.

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How secure are mobile payment systems?

Unlike card-not-present transactions, which are usually made online or over the phone, a mobile card reader can be used to accept Chip and PIN or contactless card payments in person. These modern payment methods are more secure than older methods like signing for a payment. 

With a mobile chip and PIN reader, the customer enters their 4-digit PIN into the reader after the chip's data has been read. That chip data is encrypted and secure at every point of the process. The seller can’t access the customer's PIN, just like with a fixed-line PDQ machine.

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What are the advantages of fully mobile transactions?

A major benefit of mobile card systems is payments can be processed on the spot and in seconds. That means you don’t lose any time between engaging your customer and closing the sale. 

If your business takes you to customers' homes or business premises, having a mobile card reader gives you the freedom to take payments from their doorstep.

For anyone who works outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar business location, mobile card machines allow them to process payments and operate on the same level as other businesses.

Remote payment terminals have allowed mobility within a shop or restaurant for payment for quite some time now. However, fully mobile card machines take this convenience to another level, giving merchants the option to process payments securely, anywhere they can access the internet.

By choosing a mobile card machine for your small business, you can potentially acquire more customers. You may also reduce the risk of theft, as you’ll be handling less cash.

Find the right mobile card reader 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.


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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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Solo and printer

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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

Point of Sale Lite

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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

Have questions? We’ve got you covered

Accepting card payments can feel like a step into the future, especially when it comes to choosing the right device. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you understand card payments.

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SumUp offers you the best solution in card payments

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