If you’ve recently started a brick and mortar retail business, you’ll no doubt be researching the most efficient and affordable way to accept credit and debit card payments. But, with so many options available, choosing a merchant provider isn’t always as straightforward as it should be.

From one-off app-based card readers to low-rate monthly contracts, it’s essential to understand the different types of contactless card readers on the market and how to choose the right one for your business.

In this guide, we’ll run through what a card reader is, what different types of card readers are available, how they differ from card machines, and how they’re used for different industries. 

We’ll also cover important features and security requirements that help small business owners accept cards safely, in line with PCI requirements.


What is a credit card reader?

In simple terms, a credit and debit card reader is a piece of hardware that allows businesses to process card transactions in person from their customers. Card readers typically enable customers to pay using chip and PIN, contactless for purchases £45 or under, and digital wallets – such as Apple and Google Pay.


Why do businesses need card readers? 

As cash is in decline across the world, consumers are opting to pay in more convenient and quick ways. Card payments mean that rather than carrying lots of loose change or notes, people can take one card to pay for everything – not just higher value items, as it once was the case. 

And with the increase in the contactless card transaction from £45 to £100, consumers can pay for things even faster, without entering their PIN, which means less waiting, fewer queues and happier customers.


Card readers vs card machines: What’s the difference? 

When researching, you’ll no doubt have come across plenty of different words for a card reader. PDQ machine, contactless card machine, card terminal. In essence, they all do the same thing – process card payments. But in 2021, as the market has expanded, there are plenty of different options. So, is there a real difference between a card reader and a card machine? 

Although they both process card payments the same way, there are some slight differences between what people refer to as card readers and card machines. The main differences are physical and functional.

Back in their infancy, card machines were bulky things that stayed fixed to a countertop for customers to pay. Now, in 2021, they’ve transformed into a range of shapes and sizes to become lightweight and completely portable and mobile.


Tools for agile payments.  

Some businesses needed more agile solutions and flexible payments options – rather than having something stuck in one place. 

This gave birth to portable and mobile card readers. Typically sleek devices that work with Wi-Fi, or mobile connectivity and can be used any time, any place – on the road, in the pub garden, in food festivals up and down the country, you name it. 


App-based card readers.

App-based card readers are usually small plastic card readers that are often pocket-sized. They’re fully portable, and they are aimed at micro-businesses that only trade seasonally or infrequently but need a quick set-up. This is because the transaction rates are the highest on the market, and the functionality is somewhat limited.  

For example, with some app-only card readers, you cannot connect to your existing hardware, i.e. your till. This means you have to buy new corresponding sales tools, which can be an unnecessary expense. 

They’re most often referred to as card readers as they’re streamlined and are suitable for simple card payments only. Other business tools and functions such as transaction details and reporting are serviced through an application.


Contract-based card machines. 

Although card machines function in the same as card readers, they tend to be slightly bigger. Most card machines are provided by a merchant provider and they typically require a monthly contract and provide competitive transaction processing rates. 

Card machines are bigger pieces of hardware because they’re powerful pieces of technology that help businesses accept contactless card payments and integrate with their EPOS

This card machine and till synergy helps business owners process sales faster and more accurately and let groups of customers split the bill seamlessly.


Introducing the Dojo Go – as sleek and lightweight as a card reader and as powerful and intuitive as a card machine.

The Dojo Go is our fully portable and mobile card machine, built with a powerful and intuitive interface that makes business owner’s lives easier.

From real-time transaction insights on the device to simple refunds and trading insights to full EPOS integration for end of day reconciliations – streamlining your processes has never been easier. 

And with a sleek 5-inch touchscreen and 10-hour battery life, it’s just as smart, well-designed and fully portable as a card reader – designed to get you paid at the counter, at tables in your restaurant, in your beer garden, or at a food festival 400 miles away. 

Why is the Dojo Go an excellent solution for growing businesses? 

While app-only card readers focus on micro-sellers with their simplicity and ease of use, traditional card machines concentrate on value, low pricing, and streamlined integrations. 

In terms of design, the Dojo Go sits somewhere in the middle – we’re taking the sleek, streamlined and lightweight feel of a card reader without compromising on the functionality and highly efficient technology of a card machine. 

And simplicity is at our core – so we’re building solutions that make business owners’ lives easier. For example, The Dojo Go's intuitive interface allows you to see all of your transactions and refunds in real-time. You can also keep track of sales via the Dojo Dashboard.

So, with a sleek 5-inch touchscreen, a monthly rolling contract for switchers and free EPOS integration, Dojo combines the modern simplicity of a card reader with the business tools needed to scale effectively.

  • Dojogo
  • Dojoone
Mobile Portable Desktop
  • Bullet Small
    Mobile Connectivity
  • Bullet Small
    Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Bullet Small
    Built-in thermal printer
  • Bullet Small
    5-inch HD touchscreen
  • Bullet Small
    10-hour battery life
  • Bullet Small
    Integrated payments enabled
  • Bullet Small
    Point-to-point encryption


Delivery: Free delivery – next working day

  • Contactless
  • Applepay
  • Googlepay
  • Samsungpay
  • Bullet Small
    Ethernet connectivity
  • Bullet Small
    Built-in thermal printer
  • Bullet Small
    4-inch HD touch screen
  • Bullet Small
    Integrated payments enabled
  • Bullet Small
    Point-to-point encryption
  • Contactless
  • Applepay
  • Googlepay
  • Samsungpay

The different types of card reader available. 

There are three main ways you can take payments with a card reader:

1. Till side with a countertop card reader.

2. Around your business premises with a portable card reader.

3. Outside your premises with a fully mobile card reader.

The main difference between Dojo countertop card readers and portable or mobile card readers is the level of connectivity. Portable and mobile card readers can use either Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connectivity to process transactions, whereas our countertop card readers only use Ethernet cables. 

While you may only want to take payments at your till, the Dojo Go gives you the freedom and flexibility to connect to Wi-Fi and even mobile connectivity, for no extra cost. 


Are card readers secure? 

Accepting card payments is safe and secure if you work with your merchant provider to understand and become PCI compliant. 

PCI compliance is an important financial industry regulation that helps keep cardholders’ sensitive information safe and lessens the risk of identity theft. You can find out more about PCI compliance and what it means for your small business in our complete guide

All Dojo card readers are built with the leading security on the market – point-to-point encryption. This level of encryption is so secure, and it makes the process of PCI compliance a lot easier. When you sign up with us, we’re able to help you become compliant via the Dojo Dashboard, with just a few simple questions. 


What do you get when you sign up with Dojo?  

We’ll provide you with more than just a card reader, and we’ll give you the tools and support to accept card payments and manage your cash flow effectively. 

Access to the Dojo app

With the Dojo Dashboard, you’ll have instant access to all of your transaction data across your different business locations. 

10am next working day transfers

With 10am next working day transfers, we don’t hold onto your card takings for longer than we have to. 

No long-term commitments

With minimum contract terms starting from 1 month, we won’t tie you down for years. 

Customer service you can rely on

Whether you need a hand with your setup or you want some support for a technical issue, we’ve got you converted with:

Technical support  – Available seven days a week from 8am to 11pm.

Remote assistance – We’ll log on to your machine remotely and fix any glitches.

Account support – for any general queries we’re here to help from Monday to Sunday, 8am to 6pm. 

Online support – Visit our help centre for guides, articles, useful information and service updates.


Join Dojo today.

We could even pay your exit fees up to £3,000 if you switch to us from another provider.

Get a quote