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Portable dongles and standalone devices have point-of-sale integrations, built-in payment processing and long battery lives. Indeed, the best mobile credit card readers have user-friendly features that help merchants shorten check-out lines or accept payments curbside.

To identify top-rated mobile card readers, we assessed 20 vendors based on 40 data points. We spent over a dozen hours consulting with sales and customer support representatives and reviewing customer feedback. We analyzed hardware specifications, pricing and features to land on the four best mobile card readers.

Best mobile credit card readers

  • Square: Best mobile credit card reader for startups.
  • Lightspeed: Best mobile card reader for established retailers.
  • Clover POS: Best mobile card reader for restaurants.
  • Shopify: Best mobile card reader for scalability.

Why you can trust our small business experts

Our team of experts evaluates hundreds of business products and analyzes thousands of data points to help you find the best product for your situation. We use a data-driven methodology to determine each rating. Advertisers do not influence our editorial content. You can read more about our methodology below.

  • 20 companies reviewed.
  • 19 hours of product testing.
  • 760 data points analyzed.

Best mobile credit card readers comparison

BUSINESS USE CASESOFFERS MOBILE CARD READERS FOR CELL PHONESCONTACTLESS MOBILE CARD READER COMPATIBILITYFREE POS SOFTWARE24/7 CUSTOMER SERVICE
Square
Best for startups
Yes
Any iOS running 14 or above and most Android devices running 7 or later
Yes
No
Lightspeed
Best for established retailers
Yes
iOS 13 or above and Android 7 or greater
No
Yes
Clover POS
Best for restaurants
Yes
iOS 10 (Bluetooth LE required) and Android 4.4 (and higher)
Yes
Yes
Shopify
Best for scalability
Yes
Bluetooth 4.2 or higher, iOS 13 or greater and Android 7 or above
No
Yes

Methodology

We extensively research the key competitors within an industry to determine the best products and services for your business. Our experts identify the factors that matter most to business owners, including pricing, features and customer support, to ensure that our recommendations offer well-rounded products that will meet the needs of various small businesses.

We collect extensive data to narrow our best list to reputable, easy-to-use products with stand-out features at a reasonable price point. And we look at user reviews to ensure that business owners like you are satisfied with our top picks’ services. We use the same rubric to assess companies within a particular space so you can confidently follow our blueprint to the best mobile credit card readers.

The best mobile credit card readers have positive user reviews on customer review sites and app stores. Mobile credit card reader providers should provide customers with fast and reliable support. Using a combination of phone support, live chat and knowledge bases, customers should be able to quickly resolve issues 24/7.

Mobile credit card readers should allow companies to accept mobile and contactless payments as well as offer self-service capabilities for customers to check themselves out. Hardware should integrate with robust software and apps that allow users to manage numerous aspects of their business, including inventory management, reports and analytics, loyalty programs and gift card management.

And the best mobile credit card reader providers should offer affordable or free equipment to help businesses begin accepting payments quickly and easily.

What are mobile credit card readers, and how do they work?

A mobile credit card reader lets employees accept payments at the table, curbside or at the customer’s home. It’s a portable standalone device or a small dongle that attaches to a cell phone or tablet through a headset jack, lightning connector or Bluetooth. 

After entering the transaction amount, the user swipes, dips, inserts or taps the customer’s credit card. Bluetooth-enabled (BLE) models also support contactless payments. 

Depending on the credit processor, a signature may be required. Post-sale, the customer receives a receipt by email or text. Alternatively, retailers and restaurateurs may use standalone mobile credit card readers. These devices do everything a cell phone-based reader does but don’t require a separate phone or tablet.

How to choose the best mobile credit card reader for your business

Mobile card readers (and the associated POS software) can help your company add a new income stream or accept curbside payments. However, a complex user interface or high processing fees may restrict growth. Use these tips to find the right mobile credit card reader for your business.

Assess mobility use cases, budget and goals

A solopreneur wanting a mobile solution for a small startup has different needs than an established retailer looking to add local delivery and curbside services. Likewise, if you already have Apple products, you’ll want the best credit card readers for iPhones. Think about your current and future business needs before choosing hardware.

Consider the following questions:

  • What is your monthly budget for POS software?
  • How many mobile credit card readers do you need?
  • Do you require compatibility with existing cell phones or tablets?
  • How much can you spend upfront for mobile equipment?
  • Will you process payments while offline?
  • Are e-commerce, accounting or social media integrations vital?
  • Do you only want an in-store solution or an online POS or e-commerce solution, too?
  • What industry-specific features are you looking for?
  • Do you expect your company to expand quickly?

Identify potential vendors and mobile card hardware options

Once you understand your business requirements, it’s time to find solutions. Aside from guides like this one, check out reviews of POS software, e-commerce services and credit card processing systems. Vendors in each category may offer mobile credit card readers and help you solve other challenges. 

Start with these guides:

Evaluate subscriptions and support

Narrow your options by considering key factors relating to your required features and business goals. 

Here are the main points you can use to compare mobile credit card readers:

  • Hardware pricing.
  • POS software subscription cost.
  • In-person and online transaction fees.
  • Compatibility with mobile devices and other hardware.
  • Customer support service hours.

How much do mobile credit card readers cost?

FREE HARDWAREPRICE FOR MOBILE CARD READERPOS SOFTWARE MONTHLY FEEIN-PERSON CREDIT CARD TRANSACTION FEE
Square
Yes
$10 to $59
$0
2.6% plus $0.10
Lightspeed
No
$99
$89 to $269
2.6% plus $0.10
Clover POS
No
$49
$0.00 to $114.85
2.3% plus $0.10
Shopify
Yes
$49
$1 to $2,000
2.4% plus $0

Only Square offers a no-strings-attached mobile card reader. As long as you sign up for a free account, they’ll send you free hardware. However, this reader doesn’t take contactless payments or provide the extra security features of chip readers. Other vendors, like Clover POS, may include free equipment with the purchase of certain POS software subscriptions. 

Mobile card readers for cell phones and tablets range from $10 to $99. Square’s magstripe dongle is the cheapest, whereas Lightspeed’s Chipper 2X BT is the most expensive. 

Aside from upfront costs, merchants may have recurring POS subscription fees ranging from $1 to $2,000 monthly. The vendors we reviewed charge flat rate transaction fees. Pricing is relatively similar between providers and may vary by plan. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Mobile card readers have upfront and ongoing costs. One-time fees include the costs of buying the hardware, shipping and taxes. Some vendors offer free equipment, and paid card readers start at $10.

Ongoing costs consist of monthly POS subscriptions if you opt for a paid plan. However, Square has a free version. You’ll also pay a per-transaction fee. This varies by vendor and subscription tier.

Square’s mobile card readers earn high ratings for their affordability and ease of use. Small businesses can choose between free or paid models and take advantage of Square’s built-in POS tools, active fraud prevention and end-to-end encrypted payments.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy. The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Jessica Elliott is a business writer specializing in technology, marketing, and operations. She dissects complex topics and empowers leaders to make informed decisions. Her work appears in Business News Daily, U.S News & World Report's 360 Reviews, and Investopedia.

Alana Rudder

BLUEPRINT

Alana is the deputy editor for ӣƵ Today Blueprint's small business team. She has served as a technology and marketing SME for countless businesses, from startups to leading tech firms — including Adobe and Workfusion. She has zealously shared her expertise with small businesses — including via Forbes Advisor and Fit Small Business — to help them compete for market share. She covers technologies pertaining to payroll and payment processing, online security, customer relationship management, accounting, human resources, marketing, project management, resource planning, customer data management and how small businesses can use process automation, AI and ML to more easily meet their goals. Alana has an MBA from Excelsior University.