What’s the Difference Between Card Machines and Card Readers?

Credit/debit card machines and card readers are not exactly the same thing, although they are often used interchangeably.

POS card machine

Let’s find out what separates the two and how those differences affect a business.

What Exactly Are Card Machines and Card Readers?

Card machines and card readers are both electronic devices, which are used to facilitate electronic fund transfers via credit/debit cards from the customer’s credit/debit account to that of the merchant’s.

In this regard, they offer the same basic feature, which is why people often confuse them as one and the same. There are significant differences, though, as you will find out next.

How Does a Card Reader Differ from Card Machines?

A card machine is typically what we have all seen in the past and the present while swiping our credit/debit cards at any offline counter. They can be defined by the following characteristics:

  • They are the classic chip and PIN card machines most of us are used to seeing
  • These have a screen, a pad for the customer to type in the PIN, and a slot for swiping credit and debit cards
  • They come in 3 variants; countertop/fixed, portable and mobile card machines
  • Card machines do not need a mobile or computer software to function

Card readers on the other hand, are a much more recent addition to the segment, and they can be easily identified or separated from the traditional card machines by looking for the following attributes:

  • They are significantly smaller than card machines; most are about the size of compact feature-phone, or even a credit/debit card itself
  • These are rectangular in shape, have a much smaller screen than keypad, as compared to card machines
  • A card reader generally requires a mobile or computer application to function
  • There is a card slot where the card isn’t swiped, but kept in, during the time of the transaction
  • A card reader is at once portable and mobile

Which One Do You Need?

The biggest unifying factor that ties the card reader and card machines together is their ability to accept payments on behalf of the registered merchant.

Therefore, it is more important that you worry about choosing the right merchant service provider because that’s what really matters.

UTP Merchant Services is a good example that can be found at https://www.utpgroup.co.uk/card-machines/, where you can find out whether a card reader or multiple card machines will be necessary to suit your business’s requirements.

They come highly recommended because of three main advantages which they hold over the competition:

  • They are one of only two merchant services to work with Barclaycard
  • They boast fast transaction processing speeds; 60 minutes to a few hours at most
  • All of their card machines and card readers come with in-house technician support

As it happens, the size of these devices also corresponds well to their applicability and usage. Just choose the bigger card machines if your business needs the high-volume transactions that they can support, but a small card reader will do fine in case you are only just starting out, or do not yet have needs that can justify the added expense.