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Best credit card reader

Which credit card readers are best?

When you have a small business, the easier it is to collect funds from your customers, the more they appreciate doing business with you. A quality credit card reader can make both you and your customers happy, so it’s important to choose the right one.

When purchasing a credit card reader, you want one that is trustworthy and easy to use. Our top pick from MagTek is both versatile and reliable and comes with a 6-foot USB cable. To find out more about this product as well as what features to look for in credit card readers, keep reading.

What to know before you buy a credit card reader

Reader type

There are three ways a card reader can extract information from a credit card: reading a magnetic strip, reading a chip, and working through near-field communication (aka contactless payment).

  • Magnetic strip reader: This is the most common type of portable device. To operate, simply slide the card through the reader to transfer information from the card to your device.
  • Chip reader: A chip reader is similar to a magnetic strip reader, only it offers an additional layer of protection to make it more difficult for identity theft.
  • Contactless payment: This method allows information to be exchanged simply by waving (or tapping) the card (or your device) in front of the reader. This also features an added layer of security. It’s currently the most expensive type of reader.

What to look for in a quality credit card reader


It’s important to check if the card reader you’re considering is compatible with the device and software you already have. A reader that only works with Apple products will not be of much use if you only own Android devices.


While encrypting information so it can't be stolen seems like it should be the standard way every card reader operates, it unfortunately is not. Luckily, encryption doesn't drive the price of a card reader up, but don’t just assume the model you’re considering has this feature.

Keypads and printing

Many portable card readers simply attach to your device and act as an input, allowing you to quickly transfer the information on the card to an app on your device where it can be processed. At the higher end, however, you can purchase a small terminal that has a keypad directly on the reader (so the customer can input a PIN). Additionally, a card reader may feature a small printer so you can give the customer a physical copy of the receipt. You’ll pay a good bit more for these features.

How much you can expect to spend on a credit card reader

For a small business that only occasionally needs a credit card reader, you can get a very basic swipe model for $10-$50. These models tend to have no bells and whistles and only allow you to swipe. If you prefer to have a number pad to enter PIN codes for debit cards or you need a portable model that prints receipts, it’s possible to spend up to $300.

Credit card reader FAQ

Q. Why do I need a credit card reader?

A. With fewer and fewer individuals using cash, you may need a credit card reader to stay in business. This includes individuals with door-to-door services such as babysitting, lawn mowing, tutoring, and more.

Q. Does a credit card reader need to be cleaned?

A. If you want to get the longest life out of your credit card reader, yes. While there are a variety of cleaning hacks available, the best and easiest method is to purchase a small pack of cleaning cards that are used once a day or once a week, depending on how often you perform transactions.

Q. How long does it take to receive funds from a credit card transaction?

A. Because there are so many variables involved (many revolving around the type of merchant account you have), the time it takes to receive funds can vary. Anywhere from 1 to 3 days is a good estimation of when the funds will be in your account.

What are the best credit card readers to buy?

Top credit card reader

MagTek’s Dynamag Magnesafe Triple Track Magnetic Stripe Reader

Our take: A convenient, accurate, and easy-to-use card scanner that works with a wide variety of devices.

What we like: This triple track magnetic stripe reader comes with a 6-foot USB cable and offers bidirectional reading.

What we dislike: Very rarely, users may have an issue with compatibility due to encryption. However, most found the card reader works exceptionally well.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Top credit card reader for the money

Square Mobile Credit Card Readers 

Our take: A highly affordable on-the-go gadget that turns your smartphone into a credit card reader via the headphone jack.

What we like: This card reader works with Apple and Android devices with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. It’s compatible with all major credit and debit cards.

What we dislike: Some users felt the play in the headphone jack connection made it a little difficult to get a good read, but that was usually a minor issue.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Worth checking out

2xhome’s POSMATE Mini Credit Card Magnetic Reader

Our take: An affordable yet versatile card reader that doesn't require any software to operate.

What we like: This programmable card reader works with both Windows and Mac operating systems. Besides credit cards, this model can read the magnetic strip on gift cards, licenses, and more.

What we dislike: This is not an encrypted card reader.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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