A guide to card payment machines for freelance hairdressers, beauty therapists and barbers

By Mark McPherson on October 21st, 2021

The past twelve months has seen a huge increase in card payments. And with contactless limits increasing to £100, we take a look at card payment machines that offer affordable solutions to the growing number of hairdressers, beauty therapists and barbers working on a freelance or mobile basis who are taking payments in this way.

What a card machine can do for your hairdressing or beauty business

Let’s start with Point of Sale (POS). Most card readers come with their own app or software to help users manage different parts of their business. This is ideal for hair and beauty freelancers who don’t have the resources to keep their own books, or the money to hire an accountant.

For example, each time you use the payment reader, a record of that transaction is made and stored. Having an organised record of each transaction makes life so much easier when it comes to filing taxes. You can also monitor costs and profits, giving you more time to focus on marketing your most popular products or services.

Refunds are also easy to process, and having the tech to issue refunds quickly gives your business creditability. In the hair and beauty trade, unlike some other businesses, you won’t need to issue many, but mistakes do happen.

Other POS services include the option to sell and design your own gift cards, set up storefronts, and sell through Facebook and Instagram. You can also accept payments over the phone.

There are a number of card machines on the market and each vary in price and function. We zoom in on three machines that might be good bets for hair and beauty pros on the go.

Card Machines

1. SumUp Solo 3G £99

The most expensive of our picks, SumUp 3G offers some additional benefits for the steeper price. Connectivity is key for freelance hairdressing and beauty professionals, and being able to take payment wherever you’re working is a priority. Cheaper card readers connect using wifi, but the SumUp 3G has a built in sim card and includes free unlimited data. This is ideal for freelancers who visit a client’s home and want to avoid asking for a wifi password, or having to connect to a smartphone to take payment.

2. Zettle Card Reader 2 £29

Our mid-range option has less bells and whistles, but still has the functions you need to keep your business running. Its app support is excellent, and you’ll be setting up your own web-shop, and selling gift cards, in no time. Zettle are also upfront with the fees they charge for different payment types. And yes, it comes in black.

3. Square Card Reader £16

The cheapest in our selection, the Square Card Reader comes in at under £20. The free app has loads of options, such as adding more devices as your team grows, and the ability to view real-time inventory. Square also has free customer service, open 24/7, should you have any issues.

Charges & Fees

Card and transaction fees have become a bit of sticky issue in recent years. In 2018 surcharge fees were banned, and businesses are no longer allowed to add hidden charges when they sell products.

However, banks and card issuers still charge fees when payments are processed. This has forced some business owners and freelancers to raise the price of their services to cover fees.

Unfortunately, if you’re taking card payments, fees are unavoidable. Most card readers are free to use and do not require a monthly or annual subscription, however a fee applies for each transaction made.

Below is an overview of the fees for the devices we looked at earlier. As mentioned, Zettle have a clear breakdown of fees charged for different payment types. SumUp and Square, however, are not as transparent with fees prior to purchase.

It’s worth doing some research before you purchase a card reader to find out what fees you’ll have to pay. Limiting the type of payment you accept may help avoid extra charges.

Type of Payment Accepted

Customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to paying for goods and services. From physical to digital, there are more than a dozen ways to process transactions.

Here is a list of what’s accepted for each device.

On average it takes between 1-3 days for funds to appear in your account. Again, it’s worth checking the payment type to see if any charges apply when you withdraw funds. For example, PayPal charge a fee when you transfer money from your PayPal account into your traditional bank account.


Card readers have security features to keep you and your customers safe. These features are fairly standard for each device, and include:

  • PCI Compliance
  • Encrypted Payment Data
  • Encrypted end-to-end hardware

It doesn’t matter how much security you put in place, data breaches happen and are becoming more common. Yes, working as a freelance hairdresser, beauty therapist or barber, you are less of a target for data thieves, but this doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

If customer data has been compromised you must let your clients know ASAP. Explain what data has been lost (email, home addresses, phone numbers) and what steps you’re taking to minimise the impact. This includes misplaced USB’s and data printed out and left somewhere by accident.

As always, check out what else is available on the market. What we’ve covered are suggestions to point you in the right direction. No one knows your freelance business better than you, and what use your card reader for, will be based on your personal circumstances.

Already use a card reader? We’d love to hear any tips, advice and recommendations you can share with the community.

Leave your story in the comments below.

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