Can you get a free card reader?

Our mission
September 6, 2023

One of the biggest and most important questions, when you’re starting a business, is “How do I actually get paid”. For centuries all you need was a wallet, and to collect cash. In the last 50 years things have changed, and in the last 2 years the change has accelerated tend fold. In this article we’ll briefly run through how you can start taking payments, and what your options are to start a business on a budget.

Are card readers free?

You’ll be able to get your hands on a card reader pretty easily today, with so many options available to you. iZettle, SumUp, Square, DoJo, Clover the list goes on.

The good news is because there is so much competition, the model has changed; 10 years ago you would have to pay ~£150 to get your card reader and pay upfront. Today you’ll usually be able to get your hands on a reader with no upfront fee, or at least something in the region of £30-£50.

Unfortunately, if you’re wanting to accept cards, there will always be a cost in some shape or form. Both the actual payment will have a transaction fee, and the device that you’ll get paid with will cost either up front or with a subscription. When you speak with other businesses around you’ll be able to find the odd bargain, but usually, you’ll need to shell out something.

At Trilo we’ve taken the view that you don’t need a card reader, or any reader for that matter to get paid. You head to our till app,, on your phone or tablet and can start taking payments. There’s no reader needed, and you won’t need to spend a penny on anything to get moving.

Top card readers on the market: best portable card readers and portable credit card readers

Let’s find out what the best card readers out there are, and how Trilo and what we do shapes up vs them. Now one of the most satisfying things to happen when you’re shopping is to walk up to the till, pull out your phone and in a few seconds hear that beeep. As trivial as it sounds, very few card readers are fast enough to handle payment in a few seconds.

Another thing to be aware of is the connectivity and power of a card reader. Today very few people use chip and pin; the majority of payments that are processed are contactless. Thanks to the rather risky £100 limit, we’ll touch on that in another blog.

Leading the way here are Square and Zettle (or iZettle as they are more widely known). Both come at it from different directions but have good takes. A close third and fourth would be Dojo and SumUp. Then of course Trilo loses this race technically, as we don’t have card readers… it’s just that easy.

Square tends to have its readers built into their POS systems; because of this they’re very convenient if you’re set up and in place. If you’re more versatile, you can go old school and use Square’s card reader that’s a small white square. Old but powerful you can’t really go wrong.

Zettle is on par and tends to have a card reader that’s separate from the POS. A big win for Zettle is the card detection range (CDR) is almost twice that of most other readers. So much so that when I bought my coffee the other day I didn’t have time to switch my card when I opened Apple Pay even though I was a foot away… (don’t quote me on the distance claim)

SumUp and Dojo have good card readers, and you can’t really go wrong with them either.

But please please please, if you do go down the card reader route, then avoid the black boxes of yesteryear. They are slow, low-powered and fail often.

With Trilo we don’t use card readers, instead, you’re able to take payments with your phone, or tablet, or simply have QR codes for payments on products around your shop.

We’ve done this for a few reasons, from speed of launch (you can take payment with Trilo in less than 5 minutes), to costs (zero costs 😁), and why would have chunks of plastic lying around when they are something holding on from the last century?

How much does a phone card reader cost per transaction?

Phone card readers are pretty new on the scene, with pin-on-glass as it’s known only really starting to be a thing in the last few years. The transaction fees for phone-based card readers tend to be similar to standard ePOS; you’ll end up paying around 1.75% and then potentially a penny payment.

If we look at a Square payment vs a Trilo payment, this is where Trilo really comes into it’s own. When a Square payment costs you at least 1.75%, and it will take several days to arrive in your bank, Trilo doesn’t have any costs at all.

The reason here is that cards have all sorts of middlemen, who charge anything from 0.1% to 1% each, which are all bundled into Square’s fees. Whereas with Trilo, there are no middlemen; the money simply goes straight from your customer to you. This means

All in all if you want to accept cards with an old-school plastic card reader you'll end up paying several different fees combined. If you want to overhaul and supercharge your business, then you'll be able to switch to Trilo and get paid immediately with zero costs up front and no transaction fees what so ever. As you know, we run on a simple subscription. Nothing more, nothing less, and most importantly no hidden snaky fees...