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UPDATE | Credit card machines for small businesses have never been cheaper – how the options compare

Business Insider SA
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
  • Cash is no longer king, and most small businesses now also need to accept alternate forms of payment.
  • A slew of mobile point of sale (MPOS) machines are making this cheaper and easier than ever.
  • In most cases, the outdated banking model of paying monthly rental fees is no longer necessary.
  • You can now buy small portable devices for under R1,000.
  • But you'll still have to pay between 2.5% and 2.9% per transaction.
  • If you need a credit card machine for your business, our fee comparison table may help you decide which option is best for you.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

* This article has been updated below.

For years banks shrouded the world of point of sale and credit card machines in mystery. To accept credit and debit cards, businesses needed to submit application forms and meet sales teams before learning how much they would pay in monthly device rentals. 

After signing a rental agreement for a credit card machine, they would then have to pay transaction fees, which were - and still are - somewhat negotiable. 

But low-cost handheld mobile point of sales, or MPOS, devices have changed this - at least for small businesses. 

A handful of disruptive startups now import inexpensive card-reading machines, make them look original with custom branding, and sell them to businesses for a comparatively small upfront fee. They then make money on competitive transaction rates that often scale down as turnover increases.

Although some banks and more traditional card machine businesses in South Africa still operate on rental models, the startups make it quicker and easier for small businesses like restaurants, cafes, flea markets, and spaza shops to accept cash-free payments.

The cheapest MPOS machines require business owners to connect the device to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. The more advanced and pricier systems have features like built-in sim cards with unlimited transaction data, longer battery life, receipt printing, and high-definition touch screens. 

Although renting a device has mostly fallen out of fashion, many of the old adages still apply - you'll need to pay an upfront fee for the device and then a commission per transaction.

Most MPOS machines now also don't tie you to specific banks. Those operated by banks tend to offer clients better deals, whereas the younger startups don't discriminate.

Unfortunately, picking a clear winner is difficult. Your decision will likely be based on your monthly transaction turnover, current bank, and available cash for an upfront device purchase.

Here's how the cheapest MPOS systems available in South Africa compare:

Yoco Go

Yoco was one of the first to disrupt the point of sale industry in South Africa with cost-effective devices. The company has three innovative machines at different price points, but their cheapest offering is called Yoco Go. This device must be paired to a smartphone via Bluetooth to accept card payments, and customers pay by tapping, swiping, or inserting cards. The device links to a free app that allows businesses to manage stock and individual staff sales performance, analyse sales history, identify top products, and send digital receipts.

Upfront cost: R699

Fees: 2.95% to 2.6% per transaction, depending on monthly sales. Custom rates and benefits for monthly transactions exceeding R100,000.

Nedbank PocketPOS

Nedbank has also jumped into the MPOS game with an entry-level device that looks remarkably similar to others. They call it PocketPOS, and unlike heftier machines supplied by banks in years gone by, this has no monthly fees. PocketPOS has a simple feature set - a mobile battery with USB charging, a consolidated view of transactions, and security on a par with traditional POS systems. It's available to all major banking clients, though Nedbank offers discounted device and transaction fees to its clients.

Upfront cost: R1199 (excluding R115 delivery fee) Fees: 2.75% per transaction

Sureswipe LITE

Sureswipe LITE is a card-sized handheld MPOS machine that connects via a smartphone or tablet to accept card transactions. As with many other budget POS solutions, this device does not have a built-in printer, but the company sells a Bluetooth printer separately. Sureswipe does not sell their entry-level device outright, and it's available only via a rental agreement of R199 per month over 24 months. 

Upfront cost: R0

Monthly Cost: R199

Fees: 2.75%

Standard Bank PocketBiz

Standard Bank calls its MPOS offering PocketBiz. It's a small handheld device that accepts all major payment types and comes with a free merchant portal. The device also has a full-colour touch screen, connects via 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth, and will send receipts via email or SMS. Standard Bank charges an upfront sign-up fee for the device and an ongoing monthly terminal rental fee on top of card transaction fees.

Upfront cost: R590

Monthly cost: R169

Fees: 2.6%

FNB Speedee Zero

FNB has added a few MPOS solutions to their offerings, but its cheapest is the Speedee Zero. This is a simple handheld device that does not print out receipts but gives customers the option to receive them via email or SMS. The service also includes access to a merchant portal that allows business owners to log in and reconcile day-to-day transactions.

Upfront cost: None

Monthly cost: None

Fees: 2.75%

iKhokha Mover Pro

iKhokha is another startup disrupting the MPOS market in South Africa. Their budget offering, the Mover Pro, allows business owners to accept Mastercard and Visa payments anywhere using a smartphone or tablet Bluetooth connection. Shoppers can tap, swipe, or insert cards, and it sends all receipts digitally. Businesses must purchase the device for an upfront fee and pay a daily settlement fee for each business day traded.

Upfront cost: R299

Monthly cost: +-R50

Fees: 2.75%

ABSA SmartPay

SmartPay is ABSA's answer to the MPOS movement. It's a small device that accepts various cards with tap-and-go and swipe functionality. The bank does not offer an entry-level device like many others, and SmartPay instead has a range of features that add to the cost. These include dual sims, a colour screen, and no need to pair via Bluetooth or an application. Merchants also get access to an ABSA portal to manage transaction history.

Upfront cost: None (R250 delivery)

Monthly cost: R199

Fees: 2.5%

Capitec Mobile Card Machine

Capitec has recently made moves into the MPOS market with an entry-level machine called the Capitec Mobile Card Machine. As with most entry-level machines, the device does not have a built-in SIM card, but relies on a Bluetooth connection via a tablet or smartphone. It accepts Mastercard and Visa cards and can conduct various transactions including purchase, cash withdrawal, and refund. It offers a highly competitive rate and low upfront cost - but is, at present, only available to registered Capitec Merchants, unlike others at this level that allow all banking clients to purchase and transact on machines.

Upfront cost: R100 (Capitec merchants only)

Monthly Cost: None

Fees: 1.75%

Hellopay LITE

Hellopay offers three MPOS devices that offer varying features and prices. Their cheapest device is Hellopay Lite which functions like most other devices at this price point. It offers tap-and-go functionality and access to a business portal.

Upfront cost: R999

Monthly cost: None

Fees: 1.2% to 2.5% (Cheaper rates for debit cards and lower prices for transactions totalling R100,000 or more)

Telkom Pebble

Telkom recently moved into the MPOS market, which blurs the lines between mobile operators and fintech companies. They are selling a handheld mobile point-of-sale machine called Pebble as they would any other cellular device - for a fixed monthly fee, with bundled data, over a two-year contract.

Upfront cost: None

Monthly cost: R159 over 24 months, including 1GB of data

Fees: 2.5%

Here's how various MPOS options compare in upfront, monthly, and transaction fees.

* This article has been updated to include details of Capitec's MPOS system.

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