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Credit card processing for small businesses

Accepting credit card payments at your small business is almost mandatory these days as few people carry cash. Compare the options and costs in this guide.

There are plenty of ways for small businesses to accept credit card payments, including EFTPOS terminals, tap-and-go and online platforms. Use this guide to compare the different options available, including costs and other factors to help you choose a payment option that suits your business.

1. EFTPOS machines

EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) machines are secure and simple to use. Customers can swipe, insert or tap their cards against a reader to make payments. EFTPOS machines generally accept all domestic credit cards and come in 3 main categories:

  • Countertop terminals. These are attached to your point-of-sale (POS) computer system via a cable. You can use them to process card payments from a fixed location in your store. Payments are processed in under 1.6 seconds and are compatible with Ethernet or 3G. Countertop machines are suitable if you process your payments from one location (such as a cafe or retail store, where payments are accepted at the counter).
  • Mobile EFTPOS machines. These work in a similar way to countertop EFTPOS machines except they're portable. This type of EFTPOS machine could be beneficial for small businesses like delivery services, outdoor market stalls, cafes and restaurants where you can process payments at the customer's table.
  • Integrated machines. This option is integrated with your POS system via the Internet to help simplify sales reporting and reconciliations. They are best suited for businesses processing a high volume of transactions, such as supermarkets.

Where do you get an EFTPOS machine?

You can get an EFTPOS device from the vendor, usually a bank. For instance, if you decide to use St.George Bank as your business bank, they may provide you with an EFTPOS terminal to facilitate card transactions.

You don't own this terminal. Instead, you use this terminal during the contract and return it if you choose to move to a different machine or device down the track.

Alternatively, you can pay for a standalone point of sale EFTPOS device that you own outright.

What are the costs of using an EFTPOS machine?

Depending on the vendor, you could be charged a combination of the following fees:

  • Establishment fee. Some EFTPOS providers charge a one-off account establishment fee when you first sign up. This may be waived if you sign up for a set period, such as 2 years.
  • Monthly plan. Many EFTPOS providers charge a monthly fee, typically $29 to $150 per month.
  • Card transaction fees. Many EFTPOS vendors include a set volume of card transactions as part of their monthly plan costs. Others apply a separate percentage cost per transaction, equal to 0.9-1.8% of each card payment processed.
  • Additional payment fees. Extra costs may apply if you want to accept payments through services such as UnionPay or over the phone. Some providers also apply a higher card transaction fee for American Express and Diners Club cards.
  • Additional EFTPOS machines. EFTPOS plans typically include a single EFTPOS machine or a set number of machines before extra fees apply.
  • Printer costs. For EFTPOS machines that have internal receipt printers, you'll need to pay for additional printer rolls and ink. Some banks may provide printer rolls as part of the contract.

The specific fees charged vary between companies and plans. For example, one EFTPOS provider may offer a fixed monthly contract of $180, with no set-up fees and 1,000 included transactions each month. If you process more than the set number of transactions, additional fees apply.

In comparison, another provider may charge a smaller monthly rental fee of $50, along with a percentage fee of 1% of each transaction.

With either option, the total monthly costs also vary depending on how many payments you process through the EFTPOS terminal and their value.

Make sure you consider the relevant charges and your average number of monthly credit card transactions before deciding which EFTPOS plan is right for you.

Name Product Payment types Machine type Least-cost routing Cost
Tyro Pro
Visa, Mastercard, EFTPOS, American Express, JCB, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Portable
Yes
$29/month terminal rental fee

Up to $300 Visa Gift Card when you switch to Tyro. T&Cs apply.

Zeller Terminal
Visa, Mastercard, EFTPOS, American Express, JCB, Apple Pay, Google Pay
Countertop, Portable
No
$259 to own the terminal with no lock-in contract
Zeller payment terminals accept a large range of payment types including EFTPOS, debit, credit and contactless transactions and can be counter-top based or used as a portable terminal.
Zeller Virtual Terminal
Zeller Virtual Terminal
Portable
N/A
Zeller Tap & Pay
Zeller Tap & Pay
American Express, Apple Pay, Google Pay
Portable
N/A
PayNuts Pay Nothing EFTPOS
Visa, Mastercard, EFTPOS, American Express, AliPay, Apple Pay, Google Pay
Countertop, Portable
Yes
N/A
Special offer: $150 cashback for new PayNuts customers. Must apply and sign up by 30 June 2024. Terms and conditions apply.
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How to choose the cheapest EFTPOS option for a small business

In this scenario, let's say your business processes an average of $20,000 worth of card transactions each month. We compare the costs of 2 different EFTPOS plans based on their monthly fees and transaction fees.

Fee typePlan 1Plan 2
Monthly fee$180$50
Transaction fee0% for the first $15,000 a month, then 2% per card transaction for the rest of the month1% per card transaction
Cost for first $15,000 transactions$0$150
Cost for next $5,000 transactions$100$50
Total cost/m based on $20,000 transactions$280$200

Based on this scenario, Plan 2 is the cheapest option, with a saving of $50 per month compared to Plan 1. This is despite the fact that Plan 1 includes $15,000 of card transactions for free per month. For businesses with higher or lower monthly card transaction values, the results could be very different. It is important to consider your own business details when you are trying to find the most affordable EFTPOS option.

2. Mobile credit card readers

You can use a mobile credit card reader to process payments through your smartphone or tablet or to integrate into your POS system.

This type of mobile option usually involves either a card reader which you plug into your mobile device or an app you download and use for payments. Customers can then insert or tap their card against the card reader to make transactions.

Some popular mobile credit card readers in Australia include the following:

These products are compatible with iOS and Android devices, so you can manage them via an app. This option suits sole traders and smaller businesses that trade on the go. This includes vendors at a market, food trucks, plumbers and electricians.

Where do you get a mobile credit card reader?

These are standalone devices, not attached to any specific lenders or banks, so you'll need to purchase these separately from a retail outlet. You can expect to pay between $50 and $400, depending on the device.

What are the costs of using mobile credit card readers?

You'll pay a fee for the mobile card reader or app. Most mobile credit card processing services charge a flat fee. The following are the two most common methods of charging fees:

  • A percentage of the sale.
  • A percentage of the sale plus an additional fee per transaction.

How to choose the cheapest mobile card reader for a small business

You can usually choose between a higher percentage of the sale or a lower percentage of the same plus a fixed fee.

Fee typePlan 1: Higher percentage of the salePlan 2: Lower percentage of the sale + fixed 30c fee
Transaction fee1.5% per card transaction1% per card transaction, plus 30c
Cost for a $20 transaction$0.30c$0.32
Cost for a $50 transaction$0.75c$0.80c
Cost for a $100 transaction$1.50$1.30
Cost for a $250 transaction$3.75$2.80

The right choice for you will depend on the average dollar amount your customers spend per transaction on their card.

Finder survey: How often are people charged extra for paying by card?

ResponseFemaleMale
Less often27.58%26.91%
Not sure24.8%23.9%
At least once a week19.64%19.68%
2-3 times a month15.67%15.26%
Once a month8.73%8.03%
Daily3.57%6.22%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1004 Australians, December 2023

3. Online credit card processing services

The main ways you can accept credit card payments online are merchant accounts, payment gateways (such as PayPal, Braintree and SecurePay), BPAY and direct debits.

Where do you get an online credit card processing service?

These are online platforms that you sign up to virtually. You may pay a monthly fee or a percentage per transaction.

See Finder's guide to accepting credit card payments online for more details.

What are the costs of setting up online credit card processing for a small business?

The fees you'll pay will depend on the service you're using, but you may be charged the following:

  • Set-up fees
  • Account fees (usually charged monthly or yearly)
  • Payment processing fees

Depending on the volume of trade, you may be eligible for discounts. For instance, a small business that turns over $300,000 in card transactions per year may be eligible for cheaper percentages than a business that turns over $20,000 in transactions.

What to consider when choosing the right credit card payment processor

  • Business type. The right type of credit card payment option for you will depend on your business. For example, a countertop or mobile EFTPOS machine may work for you if you're running a cafe, restaurant or clothing boutique. If you own a small business that often sets up shop at different markets, a mobile credit card reader might make more sense.
  • Software integration. If you have existing POS software, you will need to find out whether the processing service will integrate with your current software. On the other hand, it may be time to migrate to a newer system. When doing your research, look out for EFTPOS, smartphone or tablet processing devices that offer the most comprehensive solutions, such as accounting or sales reporting features. This can help streamline your other business costs.
  • Card acceptance. Most options accept all major cards, but it's important to check before you decide. You should also consider if the service will charge different fees depending on the type of card being processed (for example Visa, Mastercard or American Express).
  • Revenue. The value of the machine should offset the cost of setting up a card payment service and any ongoing processing fees.
  • Surcharges. It is common for businesses to pass on the cost of processing to the customer by applying a surcharge if they pay with a card. If you choose to do this, make sure you have clear signage to inform customers.

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