Card machines for small businesses: A complete guide.

At one point, only larger businesses accepted debit and credit card payments from their customers.    

With 79% of people already using contactless payments in the UK and a massive 7.4 million people living an almost cashless life altogether, it's critical for businesses of any size, especially small businesses, to use card machines.

Putting small businesses back in control.

At Dojo, we understand that not all businesses are the same, and small or independent companies often face challenges that larger companies don't.

But that shouldn't stop them from having the best card machines or payment solutions. 

We're proud to work alongside small, growing, medium, flourishing, startup, independents – whatever you use to describe what gets you up each morning. That's why we're making small business card machines that put our customers first. 

Why? Because we know that for businesses just starting, cash flow is crucial. It makes things happen and keeps things moving. 

So when you accept credit and debit card payments with Dojo, we won't make you jump through hoops to get what's yours. When you sign up for a small business card machine with us, you'll receive:

  • 10am next day transfers – We'll transfer your card takings to your business account at 10am the next day, for free even on weekends and bank holidays. Getting you paid faster than any other provider as standard. 
  • A monthly rolling contract – Switch to Dojo from another payment provider, and you won't get tied down in a lengthy contract, so you're free to leave as you choose. 
  • 7-day customer support – When it comes to support, we're hands-on. If there's a glitch, or you need some guidance, you can contact our friendly customer support team Monday to Sunday, 8am-6pm.

Why should your small business get a card machine?

Aside from the rapid acceleration of contactless payments and push towards a cashless society, there are plenty of reasons why small businesses should get a contactless card machine

If you've only just launched your restaurant, shop, hair or beauty salon, you may think that a card machine is a low priority. But offering your customers a frictionless way to pay will not only improve the customer experience but can help your business grow. Here are some of the benefits of getting a small business card machine:

Increase your transaction value

Research suggests that consumers spend more when using credit or debit cards, showing that different representations of money impact consumer habits. There are both psychological and practical reasons for this. 

One of which being that in 2021 people either don't carry cash or if they do, it's a minimal amount. This means they're less likely to splurge on impulse buys, whereas cards offer more of an 'unlimited' approach, meaning buyers aren't always limited by the boundaries of physical money.

Serve customers in line with their preference 

At one point, card payments were a luxury reserved for large, expensive purchases rather than everyday essentials. But today, tapping your card, phone or smartwatch for a coffee, train ticket or newspaper is the norm. 

In fact, in 2019, 83% of people in the UK used their card for everyday purchases. Only 7% of people in the UK used cash for more expensive purchases such as electronics or home furnishings.

Increase profits 

By accepting card payments with a PDQ machine, you're opening up your customer base and making it easier for customers to shop with you. By only taking cash, you may have been excluding a segment of high-value customers. This, combined with the fact that customers often spend more on debit or credit cards, means the potential to increase your profits.

Improve customer loyalty

When it comes to choosing between your business, or competitors offering the same thing, customers will usually opt for efficiency and experience. Customers who can pay with Apple, Google or other contactless methods are more likely to return in the future as it minimises the friction for them.

Save time

If you're a busy business owner, you'll undoubtedly want to save time and money by streamlining your processes – Dojo card machines process transactions 80% faster than any other provider. 

That means no more time double-counting change, just fast transactions and fast-moving queues. And when it comes to end-of-day reconciliations, don't worry about long-winded calculations or tedious sums – you can integrate your card machine with your till, so everything adds up.

Reduce the risk of on-premise theft 

By not keeping large amounts of cash locked away in your premises, businesses can reduce their risk of on-premise theft break-ins and also on-premise theft from staff. This is especially important for small businesses that may not have full insurance or can't afford to wait for any compensation, should something unfortunate happen.

Small business card machines options in the UK in 2023. 

There are currently two models for small businesses in the UK to choose from when it comes to accepting contactless cards from customers. Your choice is likely to depend on your business size, model and growth plans. We'll talk you through the advantages and disadvantages of both.

  1. App-based card readers 
  2. Monthly-contract card machines

App-based card readers.

App-based card readers offer small businesses the chance to take card payments quickly and easily without having to sign up for a contract. You need to purchase the card reader hardware for a one-off fee; then, you'll pay a fixed rate for all of your card transactions.

Rather than connecting to your EPOS, these card readers will connect to a smartphone or tablet with an app. You'll need to manage all of your sales and refunds through the app.

The advantages of app-based card readers

The main benefits of this model for small businesses are that it's a quick process from purchasing your card machine to accepting cards. There is also no contract, so you aren't tied to any monthly minimum fees if you choose not to trade.

The disadvantages of app-based card readers

The disadvantages of these card readers again depend on what you need to use your card machine for. If you're using it infrequently on the odd occasion, then it should work for you. 

But, if you're a growing business that expects to take the majority of your sales through cards, you'll find that app-based card readers are too basic and expensive to fulfil your needs.

They typically have:

Higher transaction costs 

App-based card readers may have a simple sign-up process, but that comes at a cost. They do not tailor your card machine rates to suit your business needs. Typically the rates are between 1.69% and 1.75% as of 2021. While that may seem low, for businesses that process hundreds of card transactions a day, this soon adds up to a large amount. 

Slower transfers 

It's no secret that small businesses rely heavily on cash flow, regardless of how well they're doing. One of the biggest deterrents for independent companies that do not take cards is not having access to their funding. 

The majority of these card reader providers deposit your card takings into your account between one to three days. Some larger app providers offer faster transfers, but these come at an additional cost.  

Limited customer support 

Because you accept your cards through an app, a lot of the support comes from there or online. This means that if you're not incredibly tech-savvy, customer support can be less accessible. 

App-based providers often prefer the self-serve option when setting up your card machine and enjoying its features and benefits. In contrast, monthly-contract card machine providers may have dedicated teams for customer support, which are only a call or click away.  

No PCI compliance support 

PCI compliance is an essential requirement for merchants. It helps protect cardholder data and prevent fraud. It's a common myth that smaller merchants that only process a few card payments a year are exempt from PCI compliance. 

Any business that processes, stores or transmits card data must comply. You can find out more about the importance of PCI compliance in our complete guide

But if you're new to taking cards, the process can be slightly daunting, not to mention incredibly confusing and long-winded. With no-contract card readers, although there is no charge for non-compliance, there is also no support for becoming PCI compliant, a vital security protocol for customer trust and business growth. 

Simple hardware functionality 

Some no-contract card readers have minimal functionality – ideal for businesses that only need to process card payments from customers in one way.

But if you're a restaurant owner that wants to limit certain functionalities such as refunds to supervisors, these card readers could fall short. Additionally, hospitality owners may wish to allow customers to split the final bill. As standalone card readers typically don't connect with an EPOS system that isn't made by them, there are limited capabilities for tailoring your solution.

No built-in printers

Many standalone card readers don't come with a built-in printer but instead offer them for an extra cost. Although these card readers do provide the option of digital email receipts, if your customer would like a paper copy, you'll need to purchase and integrate a printer separately. 

Limited integration functionalities

As mentioned, card readers are great for one-off payments using mobile devices or tablets instead of an EPOS. However, if your small business relies on a POS or EPOS for inventory management and other business operations, choosing an app-based card reader may not be the most effective solution. 

This is because these card readers can only integrate with an EPOS from the same company – unlike Dojo card machines, which can slot into place with your preexisting tills. We integrate with over 600 EPOS providers, and we can get you set up with free integrated payments with minimum fuss.

Who are app-based card readers for?

These card readers are ideal for small micro-businesses that don't take much of their revenue with cards. Or businesses that only trade sporadically – for example, festival food trucks or market stall owners. 

Although their no-contract and quick setup are favourable for small businesses, their high transaction fees, limited customer support and integration capabilities mean that they quickly lose their appeal to companies looking to grow their offering or expand. 

Monthly contract card machines. 

Monthly contract card machines can be rented from merchant service providers. Rather than just being a card reader, they usually have a more comprehensive range of card machines with varying capabilities—for example, countertop, portable and fully mobile. 

Rather than providing an out-the-box solution, card payment providers like Dojo work alongside merchants to give rates and payment solutions that work for several industries. 

For example, small retailers only need robust countertop card payments. Or restaurants and bars that need portable or mobile card machines that sync up to their EPOS, so that they can settle tables, split bills, add custom gratuity options and reconcile easily.

The advantages of monthly contract card machines. 

We're redefining the monthly-contract card machine – instead of getting stuck in year-long contracts, when you switch to Dojo, we'll give you a monthly rolling contract – so you're free to leave whenever you want. That way, you get all of the perks of a contracted merchant service provider – 24/7 tech support, seven-day customer service and cheaper rates, but none of the nasty surprises. 

Lower transaction costs 

Dojo works with merchants to tailor transaction rates that work for them, making them bespoke and highly competitive. Typically your rates will be determined by your annual card turnover (CTO) and the different card schemes (Visa, Mastercard, the Discover Global Network) you would like to accept in your business. 

Faster transfers 

We offer our customers 10am next day transfers for no additional fee – getting businesses paid faster than any other card machine provider as standard. That means you'll never have to wait longer than 24 hours for your income. We are helping alleviate cash flow worries so you can prepare for the future.

They're built for growing businesses

If you're a micro-business that trades for a few months of the year, app-based card machines will probably suit your model. But if you're a small or micro business that's rapidly scaling– you'll need a card machine that scales with you. That means competitive transaction rates, integration with your tills, multi-connectivity and around-the-clock customer service. 

We can even support the growth of small businesses with Dojo Advance – a type of business funding that's tied to your card turnover. It's a fast, flexible merchant cash advance that supports cash flow for growing businesses. Find out more about Dojo Advance in our guide

They're tailored for different industries 

Dojo card machines have been designed specifically for different use cases in various industries to help your business function smoothly. This means integrating with your existing and established setup, so you don't have to purchase expensive new hardware or spend hours learning new software. 

Till payments made easy

We also offer bespoke solutions to help you trade faster and more efficiently – for example, Pay at Counter, a solution designed for retailers or businesses that want to take fixed till payments. It makes transactions speedy by pushing the total amount from the EPOS straight to the card machine. That means no more double-keying for faster transactions and fewer mistakes.

Bring payments to your diners 

If you're in the hospitality industry, you'll need a card machine that can work at your bar, in your outdoor garden, or at the table of your diners. Pay at Table is our integrated solution that allows you to settle the bill at the table – splitting it in custom or preset amounts between diners – so no more dashing for the calculator. 

It works by using cloud-based software that lets your EPOS speak to your card machine, so anything you input there can be reconciled with your card machines.

Find out more about how integrated payments can benefit your business here.

They're robust and professional

Your card machine is on the front line of the action. It's being used day in and day out and needs to stand the test of time, as well as look professional. 

Our card machines are not only sleek and lightweight, but they're robust enough to take a knock or two.

They prioritise security 

Don't let the risk of card fraud put your customers off. Give them confidence by card machines that use the best payment security on the market –point-to-point encryption (P2PE). It encrypts customer cardholder data making it extremely difficult for fraudsters to get their hands on it. And because it's so secure, it takes the pain out of PCI compliance.

They offer human customer support 

Because you're signed up for a monthly contract and not just a one-off purchase, you'll often receive more hands-on customer support than you would with an app-based card reader. This is because you're trading a lot more frequently, so you'll need a greater amount of support for any glitches – or new feature roll-outs. 

They can provide you with remote technical support

If your card machine stops working and it’s not clear what the fix is, one of our tech specialists can log in to it remotely and fix it there and then for you. That way, you’ll minimise any downtime.

The disadvantages of monthly-contact card machines.

The main disadvantage of a monthly contract card machine is that you're typically required to pay a minimum monthly fee. A minimum monthly fee is an agreed amount on your contract that you'll pay each month for your transaction rates. This payment will need to be made even if you don't take any card payments.

So for micro-sellers only trading with cards for a few months of the year, app-based card readers may be better suited, despite the higher transaction fees. 

Another potential disadvantage is that you're in a contract, which doesn't suit some businesses.

But with Dojo, we won't keep you tied down. If you switch to us from another provider, we could pay up to £3,000 in cancellation fees, plus you could get a monthly rolling contract – so you're free to leave whenever you want.

Types of small business card machine.

There are three different types of card machine to choose from. Depending on how you accept payments, you'll need to select the right one to suit your customers' needs.

And remember not just to think about the present. Even if you only take countertop payments now, will you want to expand your business to new locations in the future? That could mean new outdoor spaces that require mobile or portable payments.


Portable card machines are perfect for business owners that want to take secure and efficient payments around their business premises rather than glued to one place. 

They're completely wireless and connect to your Wi-Fi for speedy transactions at the table with your diners, at the chair in your salon or around your MOT garage. Take payments to your customers, and you could minimise chaotic queues around your pub or bar. 


Mobile card machines offer all of the same benefits as portable. They're completely wireless and, with 10-hour battery life, can be taken around your business all day. 

The extra advantage of going mobile is that you can use your activated SIM card to switch on 3G or 4G. That means that if your Wi-Fi is weak or drops out unexpectedly, you'll always have a backup plan.

And what about if you want to sell off-grid? At a market stall, festival or trade show? No Wi-Fi? No problem. Switch to mobile mode on your Dojo Go card machine, and you're all set. 

Free to roam, free of charge. 

Taking payments should be easy. So when hiccups happen – like an internet outage on a bustling bank holiday, we've got you covered. We offer all of our customers free mobile SIM connectivity on our Dojo Go card machines. That means unlimited 3G/4G connectivity for when you need it most.  


Only need fixed till-side payments that get the job done? Our Dojo One is a robust all-rounder. It uses your Ethernet cable to get you paid quickly and securely. Ideal for small retailers, corner shops and grocery stores that want reliable solutions without the fuss.

Choosing the right card machine.

Restaurants, bars and cafes 

The hospitality industry needs fast-paced and agile card machines that move with them and streamline processes and make things quicker. The Dojo Go is our fully portable and mobile card machine that syncs with your EPOS to allow serving staff to settle the bill at the table – all without pacing back and forth to the till. 

Best of all, Pay at Table mode allows you to split the bill into custom amounts and add gratuity without reaching for the calculator. Find out more about Pay At Table here.


If you're a retailer that only needs to take fixed till-side payments, you can opt for a countertop card machine that uses an Ethernet cable to process transactions. However, you may want peace of mind to know that if your internet ever failed you, you could switch to 3G/4G connectivity, free of charge with the Dojo Go. 

Not only does it have dual connectivity, but it's also completely wireless. But if you prefer to keep it tethered to your till you can purchase a Dojo card machine stand from our accessories website

Beauty salons 

Beauty salons are tranquil places of calm and relaxation. The last thing you or your customers want is the stress of a dodgy internet connection and a long walk to the local ATM. So give your customers a memorable experience with fully mobile contactless payments that come to them. And because the Dojo Go is fully wireless and uses mobile SIM connectivity, you can even make payments to your clients' homes.

Small business card machine costs.

The Dojo Go, our completely portable sleek touchscreen card machine, is just £20 per month. This includes free access to the Dojo app, where you can access real-time transaction data across multiple locations. 

We also transform your Dojo Go from portable to completely mobile with free 3G/4G mobile connectivity as standard. So you'll never have to worry about dodgy Wi-FI again. 

The Dojo One is our countertop card machine and is available for just £15 per month.  

We don't charge any setup fees and will have your card machines set up within three days.

Card transaction fees

When you join Dojo, we'll sign you up for the best solution for your business, with a bespoke quote based on your annual card turnover, among other factors. Based on your agreed plan, you’ll also pay a monthly minimum transaction fee.

Once you're signed up, you can accept all major credit cards, including American Express and the Discover Global Network, which includes Diners Club.

How to get a Dojo card machine for your small business. 

  1. Visit our quote page and fill out the short form. 
  2. You'll receive a call from our dedicated sales team within 24 hours, or if you submit your quote on a Bank Holiday, we'll get in touch the next working day.
  3. Our team will ask you a few questions to tailor the best card machine and transaction rates for your business.  
  4. We'll get you signed up for your contract and send out your card machine within three working days.
  5. You'll receive a quick start guide and help centre support to set up your card machine – we've even included a step-by-step guide on the device itself.
  6. Your small business is ready to start accepting contactless, Apple and Google pay debit and credit card payments.
  7. You'll receive continued account support and tech support from our customer support team – here for you seven days a week.