Updated November 23, 2023

Best Credit Card Reader for iPhone

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A simple app and attached card reader can turn your iPhone into a credit card processor and powerful POS that runs your business. But what's the best reader for your needs? Read on to find out.

You need three things to accept credit card payments on your iPhone:

  • Internet connection (Wi-Fi or 3G)
  • iOS payment app
  • iOS compatible credit card reader

But pay close attention to how the reader connects to your phone. Some connect via the headphone jack, which means you'll need a lightning adapter if you have a newer iPhone. Others connect via Bluetooth, so you don't have to worry about the type of connector.

Will this be your first time using your iPhone as a credit card reader?

Read on for our list of top credit card readers for the iPhone.

What are the best credit card readers for iPhones?
These providers offer card readers for your Apple devices:
  1. Square: Best Overall
  2. EMS Plus: Cheapest Card Reader for iOS
  3. Stax: Best Merchant Account
  4. Shopify: Best for eCommerce Sellers
  5. Payanywhere: Best for Small Mobile Businesses

1. Square: Best Overall

Square was one of the first iOS card readers and POS apps. It turns your phone into a back-office for free.

The platform offers one of the largest suites of services. Here are the features included in its free app:

  • Dashboard to manage your back-office
  • Reporting
  • Customer database
  • Fast deposits
  • PCI compliance
  • eCommerce store
  • Invoicing
  • Automated tipping
  • Split bills
  • Email or text receipts

Why we like it:
Square offers a free credit card reader, which you can use to take magstripe payments. It works with the free Square POS app you can download on your smartphone or tablet.

There are 2 versions of this card reader. One has a headset jack, and the other has a Lightning connector. You'll want the latter to use it with an iPhone.

You can use it with your pop-up shop, food truck or if you're doing business on the go. There's no charging or battery to worry about. It also works in offline mode for when you can't connect to WiFi.

Planning to take contactless payments? You can purchase the Square reader for contactless and chip instead. It can connect wirelessly to your iPhone. You can use it to take Apple Pay, Google Pay, and chip card payments.

Pricing:
Card Reader:

  • Free magstripe reader (additional readers $10 each)[1]
  • Chip/Contactless Payment reader: $59[2]

Payment Processing:[3]

  • Swipe, chip, or tap payments: 2.6% plus $0.10 per transaction
  • Keyed-in transactions: 3.5% plus $0.15 per transaction
  • Invoiced payments: 2.9% plus $0.30 per invoice

Additional Services:[4]

  • Employee management: $35/month plus $6/employee
  • Loyalty programs: $45/month
  • Email marketing: $15/month

Pros

  • Accept all major credit cards, contactless payments, cash, and gift cards
  • Third-party eCommerce and bookkeeping integrations
  • Powerful POS that manages all aspects of your business
  • Fast approval with no contracts

Cons

  • Approval is contingent and could lead to canceled accounts
  • Mediocre customer service
  • You may experience frozen funds

What is the difference between swipe/chip/contactless payments and keyed-in payments?
Swipe, chip, and contactless payments all require the card to be present for information to be transmitted. With keyed-in payments, sometimes called "card-not-present" payments, the credit card information is manually entered by either the customer or vendor. Since the card itself is not technically required for these transactions, keyed-in payments are the least secure.

2. EMSPlus: Cheapest Card Reader for iOS

EMSPlus offers a very basic card reader and app for credit card processing. You'll only pay for the processing fees for transactions. That means merchants with infrequent credit card transactions can get away with the free swipe card reader and free app.

With EMSPlus, you can:

  • Itemize and categorize orders
  • Customize tips
  • Email receipts
  • Send and manage invoices

Why we like it:
EMS Plus offers multiple card readers. You can choose from the Lightning Port Swiper, EMSplus Mobile Swiper B250, and EMSplus Mobile Swiper B200.

The Lightning Port Swiper is suitable for iPhones with Lightning ports. It's a magnetic stripe reader that can accept chip and NFC payments. Given that it uses a Lightning connector, it can also work with an iPad.

You'll need to use the EMSplus App with it. Similar to its competitors, the app comes with inventory management, customer management, and reporting tools.

The last two card readers are compatible with both Apple and Android devices. You'll also be using the app with them. You can take chip and magnetic stripe payments with B200. But you'll need B250 to take NFC payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Pricing:
Card reader:

  • Lightning Port Swiper: $79.95 one-time payment[5]
  • B250 (EMV chip and swiped payments): $79 one-time payment[6]
  • B200 (EMV chip, swipe, and NFC (Apple/Google Pay) payments): $59 one-time payment[7]

Payment Processing:[8]

  • Swipe, chip, or tap: 2.25% + $.10 per transaction
  • Manual: 3.5% plus $0.15 per transaction
  • $5 monthly fee

Pros

  • Start collecting credit card payments free of charge
  • Compatible with both iPhones and iPads
  • Store inventory and customer data for free
  • 24/7 365 customer support

Cons

  • No offline payment mode
  • Inventory doesn't always sync between devices
  • The chip reader is expensive

3. Stax: Best Merchant Account for iOS

Individual merchant accounts have tougher underwriting requirements. Stax makes up for the tougher requirements with low processing fees. The platform also offers a powerful POS app.

There's a monthly membership fee of $99 that pays for your online dashboard as well as your mobile processing. That's why this reader/app is better for established businesses looking to get away from the risky aggregate payment processors.

Some of what you can do with Stax include:

  • Run sales and refunds
  • Manage inventory
  • Customize discounts
  • Manage invoices
  • Take ACH payments
  • Send payment links
  • Store cards on file

Why we like it:
Stax offers the Swipe Simple B250 Reader, which is suitable for iOS and Android devices. It supports EMV, magnetic stripe, and contactless payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

You'll be using it with the Stax Mobile App, which turns your device into a POS. Aside from taking payments, you can view reports and send invoices with the app as well.

You can even use the smartphone camera to scan your customer's credit card. Then you can send them a receipt of the purchase through text message or email.

You can actually use Stax with any Bluetooth mobile reader. But it's best to consult with them if the hardware you choose is supported.

Pricing:
Card reader: Not disclosed online—you must call Stax when you sign up for pricing

Payment Processing:

  • Card-present Transactions: Interchange rate + $0.08
  • Keyed and Online Transactions: Interchange rate + $0.18

Pricing:[9]

  • up to $250,000/year: $99/month
  • $250,000-$500,000 in processing/year: $199/month
  • over $500,000 in processing/year: custom pricing

Pros

  • Accept swipe, chip, and contactless payments
  • Track cash payments in addition to credit card sales
  • You can add a barcode scanner to the reader
  • Compatible with both iPhones and iPads
  • 24/7 technical support
  • No cancellation fees
  • Low per-transaction fees

Cons

  • Harder to qualify for your own merchant account
  • You pay the $99 monthly fee even if you don't have any sales
  • The pricing structure only benefits high-volume sellers

4. Shopify: Best for eCommerce Sellers

If you sell online and in-person, synchronizing your systems will cut down on work and mistakes. Shopify has a powerful e-commerce system and mobile credit card reader. Put the two together, and you have a powerhouse business online and in-person.

With Shopify, you can:

  • Take and manage orders
  • Manage employees
  • Track and manage inventory
  • Purchase and print shipping labels for discounted shipping
  • Have access to real-time analytics
  • Track and manage customer data

Why we like it:
Shopify offers 2 options to take credit card payments with your iPhone. You can use the Shopify Tap & Chip Card Reader or use Tap to Pay on iPhone.

The chip card reader lets you take tap and chip payments. It connects to your device through Bluetooth. Unlike the previous card readers, however, this one needs charging.

Tap to Pay on iPhone, on the other hand, lets you take card payments with no other hardware needed. Using the Shopify POS app, just select Tap to Pay at checkout. You can take all contactless credit cards, debit cards, and digital wallet payments with it.

Keep in mind that you're limited to processing up to 100 Tap to Pay transactions in a month. Over that limit, you'll have to pay 25¢ per transaction. The number of transactions resets every month.

Pricing:

  • Card Reader: Shopify Tap & Chip Reader is $49[10]
  • Tap to Pay on iPhone: free for all Shopify plans

Payment Processing:
Choose a monthly subscription plan in order to use Shopify mobile. Here are the options:[11]

  • Basic Shopify: $39/month; 2.7% per transaction (in person); 2.9% + $0.30 (online)
  • Shopify: $105/month; 2.5% per transaction (in person); 2.6% + $0.30 (online)
  • Advanced Shopify: $399/month; 2.4% per transaction (in person); 2.4% + $0.30 (online)

Pros

  • Updated information online and on your mobile device in real-time
  • Try it free for 3 days (extend your free trial for $1/month on your first 3 months)
  • Sell the same or different products online and in-person
  • Month-to-month contracts (annual plans offer 25% discount)
  • Works on iPhones and iPads

Cons

  • Only benefits online sellers who want to sell in person
  • Hard to compare payment processing costs with the flat-rate plus membership pricing
  • You need an internet connection to process payments

5. Payanywhere: Best for Small Mobile Business

Small businesses that don't process credit cards frequently need a pay-as-you-go plan. Payanywhere offers this option and even includes a free reader.

It's a great way for small businesses with less than $10,000 in monthly sales to dip their toes in credit card processing without paying excessive fees.

Payanywhere offers the following features:

  • Employee data management
  • Inventory management
  • Real-time analytics
  • One-time or recurring invoicing
  • Customize your branding on the mobile POS
  • Open tickets and tabs

Why we like it:
Payanywhere offers a 3-in-1 card reader. You can take chip, magstripe, and contactless payments with it. It also connects wirelessly to your iPhone through Bluetooth.

Just download the Payanywhere app to start. Before you commit, you can even test out the interface by clicking "Test Drive" on the login screen.

You can take payments in offline mode, have customers tip and sign receipts, and provide digital or printed receipts. And if you have multiple pop-up shops in different locations, you can even see the location of each sale from the mobile readers.

Pricing:
3-in-1 card reader (swipe, chip, and tap): $59.95[12]

Payment processing:[13]

  • Swipe, chip, or tap: 2.69% per transaction
  • Keyed-in and invoice payments: 3.49% plus $0.19

Pros

  • You only pay for what you process
  • Accept payments even when offline
  • Next-day funding
  • Choose from a traditional credit card terminal theme or retail theme with item libraries and inventory tracking
  • Simple setup with no additional fees
  • Works on iPhones and iPads

Cons

  • Pay a $3.99 inactivity fee after 12 months of no credit card transactions
  • Payanywhere's traditional terminals charge a monthly software fee for each terminal
  • There's a risk of frozen funds or canceled accounts

Others Options to Consider

Read on for some more credit card readers that may fit your business needs.

PayPal Zettle

If you already use their online payment processor, PayPal Zetttle makes sense. You can let your customers pay in person on the go with recognizable branding and systems.

PayPal Zettle lets you accept PayPal and Venmo payments in-person via QR code. You get instant deposits in your PayPal account.

Pricing
The Zettle chip & contactless mobile card reader costs $29 for the first one. Additional ones costs $79 each.[14][15]

Payment Processing:[16]

  • Swipe, chip, and tap (US cards): 2.29% + $0.09
  • QR code transactions: 2.29% + $0.09
  • Keyed-in transactions: 3.49% + $0.09
  • Invoice: 3.49% + $0.09

Pros

  • No set up or monthly fees
  • Flat-rate processing fees
  • Established business and one of the most recognized payment processors
  • One of the only platforms that accepts PayPal funds
  • Works on iPhones and iPads
  • Month-to-month contract

Cons

  • PayPal often adds limits to accounts so it's not ideal for large businesses
  • It's hard to get customer support
  • Limited POS features

QuickBooks GoPayment

Current QuickBooks users have access to free mobile credit card readers and a pay-as-you-go contract. You can seamlessly integrate with your QuickBooks account, reducing your workload and the risk of human error.

QuickBooks GoPayment accepts in-person swipe/chip payments, keyed-in payments, and invoiced payments.

Pricing
Card reader: Swipe, chip, and tap reader: $39 (QuickBooks Card Reader)[17]

Payment Processing:[18]

  • Swipe, chip, or tap payments: 2.4% plus $0.25 per transaction
  • Keyed-in payments: 3.4% plus $0.25 per transaction
  • Invoiced payments: 2.9% plus $0.25 per transaction

Pros

  • GoPayment pulls all information from QuickBooks Payments for easy mobile POS setup
  • Instantly accept keyed-in payments after downloading the app
  • Next day deposits
  • No additional monthly fees for the mobile POS
  • No cancellation fees
  • Works on iPhones and iPads

Cons

  • You need a QuickBooks online account, which has a monthly fee
  • The POS has limited features
  • No offline payment processing feature

SumUp

If you need a simple payment processor without all of the bells and whistles, SumUp is a good option. With instant approval, flat-rate pricing, and a few simple features, you can be up and running quickly.

SumUp's limited features include:

  • An item library
  • Tipping
  • Email or text receipts
  • Tax rates setup
  • Track cash payments
  • Process refunds

Pricing

  • Card Reader: Swipe, chip, and tap reader: $35 with free shipping[19]
  • Payment Processing: Swipe, chip, or tap payments: 2.75% per transaction[20]

Pros

  • Receive payouts within one to two business days
  • Pay-as-you-go pricing with no contract
  • 30-day money-back guarantee on the reader
  • Easy setup
  • Connects via Bluetooth
  • Works on iPhones and iPads

Cons

  • Only offers swipe, chip, or tap payments (no keyed-in transactions)
  • Limited POS features
  • Limited reporting options

How to Choose a Credit Card Reader

You'll find hundreds of options for credit card readers for iOS online. So how do you choose? Read on for some factors to consider.

Features

What do you need not just from the credit card reader, but the POS?

First, consider the type of credit cards you want to accept, like swipe, chip, and/or tap. Many companies provide free swipe readers but charge for other options. Chip and tap readers offer greater levels of security, which is something to keep in mind.

Next, think of the POS. Do you want features such as:

  • Inventory
  • Employee management
  • Customer database management
  • Sales tracking
  • Tipping
  • Marketing
  • Bookkeeping

Some readers, such as SumUp, only offer the basics. Others, like Square, offer numerous features and the ability to integrate third-party apps.

Which feature do you need the most for your POS?

Pricing and Fees

Here's what you might pay when processing credit card payments:

  • Monthly Fees
    Some payment processing companies charge a membership or subscription fee. You pay this regardless of whether you process any payments that month.

  • Processing Fees
    Processing companies charge a flat-rate fee (e.g. 2.75% per transaction) or interchange-plus pricing to transmit the transaction data and obtain the approval. Paying for the credit card reader is just so you can read credit card transactions.

    What is interchange-plus pricing?

    Card networks, such as Visa and Mastercard, charge non-negotiable interchange fees to cover their cost to process the transaction. The credit card processing company pays the network for you but charges you for the service.

    Processors also charge a wholesale markup in order to make their money. You may see it as interchange-plus $0.25 or interchange plus 0.10%, as a few examples.

  • Miscellaneous Fees
    Typically, iOS credit card processing companies lump all fees into the flat rate or interchange-plus pricing but don't assume. Ask about fees for PCI compliance, virtual terminal, chargebacks, refunds, and invoicing.

  • Monthly Minimum Requirements
    Understand if the processor has any minimums that must be met each month. You may incur a fee or penalty if you don't reach them.

  • Cost of the Reader
    Many credit card readers for iOS are free. The free credit card readers typically have limited functions. If you want to step up your game and offer chip or contactless payments, you'll typically pay a one-time fee for the reader.

How many credit card transaction does your business process in a month?

Funding

You don't receive funds immediately upon customer payment. Each company has a funding timetable. Ask questions about the funding timeline so that you know what to expect.

Some, like PayPal Here, deliver funds instantly to your PayPal account. Others batch payments once a day and fund your account within a few days. Yet some, especially for high-risk businesses, hold onto your funds for 30 days or longer.

Offline Payment Options

If you collect payments in crowded areas, such as concerts or fests, you may want an offline payment option. Data connections aren't always guaranteed, especially in crowded areas. That could limit your payment processing options if you choose a company that doesn't offer offline payments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use my iPhone as a credit card reader?
You can use your iPhone as a credit card reader if the payment processor offers Tap to Pay. But you can also connect credit card readers to your iPhone through Lightning connector or Bluetooth. You can take chip, tap, and contactless payments with them.

Can you take card payments without iPhone card swiper?
You can take card payments from your iPhone even without a card swiper. Tap to Pay on iPhones lets you take contactless payments. You can also input your customer's card info on your payment processor's mobile app to take keyed-in payments.

How do credit card readers work on iPhones?
You typically attach credit card readers through a Lightning connector. But some card readers connect wirelessly through Bluetooth. The device works hand in hand with your payment processor's POS app and securely processes the transactions.

How much do iPhone card readers / card swiper cost?
The cost for iPhone card readers vary. Some payment processors offer one for free. But you can expect the price to be around $10 to $80. The price also depends on the features or the types of card payment it can accept.

How much does it cost to accept credit card payments on an iPhone?
The cost depends on your payment processor. Some offer this feature together with your subscription (i.e., Tap to Pay with Shopify). But with a free iPhone credit card reader, your expense could come from transaction fees instead.

Bottom Line

You should take your time when choosing your iOS credit card reader. Don't pay attention to the reader alone—know the features of the POS, the full cost of processing the payment, and the monthly cost of the program. Compare the features to your needs and budget before choosing your reader.

References

  1. ^ Square. Square Reader for magstripe, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  2. ^ Square. Square Reader for contactless and chip, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  3. ^ Square. Square Payments Fees, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  4. ^ Square. Tools to mix and match, Retrieved 11/30/2022
  5. ^ EMS. Lightning Port Swiper, Retrieved 05/04/23
  6. ^ EMSplus. EMSplus Mobile Swiper B250, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  7. ^ EMSplus. EMSplus Mobile Swiper B200, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  8. ^ EMSplus. Rates & Fees, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  9. ^ Stax. Pricing, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  10. ^ Shopify. Shopify Tap & Chip Card Reader, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  11. ^ Shopify. Pricing, Retrieved 3/16/2023
  12. ^ Payanywhere. 3-in-1 Bluetooth Credit Card Reader, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  13. ^ Payanywhere. Pricing, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  14. ^ PayPal. PayPal Zettle all-in-one POS solution pricing, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  15. ^ PayPal. Card reader, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  16. ^ PayPal. PayPal Merchant Fees, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  17. ^ Intuit QuickBooks. QuickBooks Card Reader, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  18. ^ Intuit QuickBooks. Payments Pricing, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  19. ^ SumUp. SumUp Plus Card Reader, Retrieved 12/1/2022
  20. ^ SumUp. Credit Card Processing Fees, Retrieved 12/1/2022

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Square Reader: Free Mobile Credit Card Reader

Square Reader: Free Mobile Credit Card Reader

  • Pay 2.6% + 10¢ Per Swipe for Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express
  • Accept Credit Cards Anywhere
  • Fast Setup, No Commitments
Will this be your first time using your iPhone as a credit card reader?
92% Yes
8% No
Source: CreditDonkey
How many credit card transaction does your business process in a month?
73% Less than 100
15% Between 100 to 500
4% Between 500 to 1,000
9% More than 1,000
Source: CreditDonkey. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
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