In this article, you’ll learn:
What a card machine is
The different types of card machines
How card machines work
How to find the best card machine for your small business
Card machines are becoming more popular among businesses, because card payment is becoming more popular among customers. Card payments accounted for 64% of the total number of payments in Ireland in 2020, which was a 79% increase from 2016 (Source: Central Bank of Ireland).
Card machines are also much cheaper than they used to be. Since the technology is more developed, they’ve become easier and easier to manufacture, making them more accessible to merchants.
What exactly is a card machine?
A card machine is a device that reads credit and debit cards in order to process and complete transactions. When you go to the electronics store or the supermarket, a credit card machine is what you use to pay.
The credit card machine has been around, in some form, since the 1960s. The first one was made by American Express, and they called it a credit card imprinter. To use it, merchants would have to fill out a form and place it in the machine, which would then read the form and imprint the merchant’s name and card number onto it. Then the form was sent to the bank.
The first magnetic strip for reading card information was invented in the 1970s by IBM. The strip would read a customer’s name, card number, authorisation code (also called the CVV), and card expiry date.
This strip was mounted on the first card machine. Though revolutionary at the time, these machines were massive; hardly the portable card machines we know today. In the 80s, cards with microchips began to emerge, and so the credit card machine also evolved.
Now, customers could insert their cards chip-first into sleeker, less cumbersome payment terminals. It used to be that they were connected to the bank via a landline, but now these machines can connect over the internet.
Fast forward to modern times, and not only are card machines easier to use, but they’re more portable than ever.
What types of card machine are there?
There are 3 main types of card machine in use today. First, there’s the countertop card machine. As the name implies, it stays on the counter in a shop or other business, and the customer comes to it to pay.
Then there are portable card machines. You might see these in restaurants when the waiter comes to bring you the bill. These connect to the internet via either a Wi-Fi connection or SIM card and can be brought to the customer, as long as that customer is on the premises.
Finally, we have mobile card reader machines. These are specifically designed to enable merchants to take payments anywhere. They connect to the internet via Wi-Fi or a SIM card as well, and process payments using GPRS technology, just like smartphones.
How do credit card machines work?
A card machine works by reading the data stored on the chip or (very rarely) the magnetic strip of the card in question. The data they read includes the cardholder’s account number, name, security code, and the expiration date on their card.
All of that information is required to process the transaction. It’s sent to the payment processor, who then determines if the cardholder has enough money to pay the cost. If they do, then the transaction is successful.
Even though this process only lasts a few seconds, it usually takes 2 or 3 days for the customer’s bank to send the payment to the merchant’s bank.
What should you look for in a card machine?
Card machine technology and hardware have improved dramatically since they were first created. That means your standards should be higher too. At the very least, your credit card machine should be fast and easy for your customers to use.
Being easy for customers to use means the machine can accept whatever type of card the customer has, and the card payment process should have as few steps as possible. The customer should be able to insert their card, type their PIN, and pay in seconds.
Other things to consider when shopping for a card machine are:
Usage fees. In addition to the price of the hardware, some companies will add on fees wherever possible. A common business model is to charge a monthly subscription fee for the use of the machine. You want to avoid unnecessary costs.
Transaction fees. How much of every transaction stays with you, and how much does the card machine company take? Look for low and simple fixed-fee rates that are easy to calculate.
Contracts. Does purchasing the card machine lock you into a contract with the provider?
Transfer speed. Find a machine that will get the funds from your transactions into your account as soon as possible.
At SumUp, we offer card machines with no service or subscription fees and no contracts. After purchasing the machine, you’ll only ever pay 1.69% per transaction.
Why buy a SumUp card machine?
In addition to having no recurring costs and a low, fixed transaction fee, our credit card machines accept any type of debit or credit card you’ll come across. They work with:
You can take our card readers anywhere – they’re all mobile card machines. They’re compact, light, and fit in the palm of your hand. All our models can access the internet, so you can take your business wherever it needs to go.
Is your business ready to tackle card payments? Get the SumUp Card Reader! Increase your payment acceptance by taking debit, credit and contactless payments. Pay only 1.69% per transaction.
No monthly contacts. No hidden fees. Ever.
About SumUp services
When you buy one of our card machines, you get more than a way to process payments. All our merchants have access to the SumUp App, found on the iOS or Android app store, which is a convenient, free way to have a bird’s-eye view of your business wherever you are.
From the SumUp App, you can see your transaction history and send receipts to customers. You can see all your payouts and get access to analytics that measure how your business is performing.
From the SumUp App, you can also open a free Business Account. With a Business Account, you get the money from your transactions the next day, every day. Even on holidays and weekends.
The SumUp Business Account includes a SumUp Card, powered by Mastercard, which has no monthly fees and gives you 3 free withdrawals per month. You can use the card online or in store, and transfer money between bank accounts.
Since our founding in 2012, we’ve always focused on one thing: empowering businesses to do what they love. And by providing affordable, intuitive payment solutions for merchants and their customers, we are doing it.
Over 3 million businesses use SumUp to take payments, spread out across 33 countries. Our readers and financial services are used by hairdressers, restaurateurs, bar owners, hotels, street food vendors, and retail shops, to name a few.
SumUp has been called the simplest card reader service in Ireland, and we distinguish ourselves by having the lowest transaction fees of any card machine on the market. Irish merchants turn to us because the flexibility of our no-contract card machines lets them be flexible running their businesses.
We give you control over every aspect of your business, not just payments. To make administration easier, we offer SumUp POS, which lets you do anything you might need, from reorganising your inventory to managing your employees. It’s an easy way to manage your accounting and get detailed reports of your performance. You can also create Invoices from the SumUp App to easily track customer debts.
A card machine is a device that reads credit or debit card data in order to process transactions.
The three main types of credit card machines are countertop, portable, and mobile card machines.
The ideal card machine for small businesses is fast and simple for you and your customers to use, and processes transactions quickly.
SumUp offers cutting-edge mobile card machines with no contract or recurring fees.
With a SumUp Business Account, the money from your transactions will always arrive the next day.
Find the right payment solution for your small business today
*Price excluding VAT. 30-day-money-back-guarantee from date of delivery. Further conditions apply.