Card readers to buy or rent for temporary events

choosing between temporary event card readers

Card Readers to buy or rent at temporary events 

This article is designed to take you through the different options for temporary events – to buy, to rent, or to forget card readers altogether and just get people to pay through their mobile. But which is the best? It depends based on who you are and what you value. But here’s your choices:

1) Renting a card reader

2) Buying a cheap mobile card reader 

3) Using an Order & Pay system such as StoreKit Order & Pay 

Please note that all of these choices require acting in advance of your temporary event, because you’ll have to set up your merchant account and have your details confirmed by your payment processor.

The difference between my choices

Briefly, mobile card readers tend to be cheap to buy, quicker to set up, and unlike traditional card readers, they tend to come without commitment. You can also get started in 1-3 days.

Traditional card reader contacts are poorly suited to stop-and-start processing. However, it’s possible to rent these card readers at a premium from a third party. This is likely to be more expensive and more hassle than buying a mobile card reader for most merchants, but we’ll go through the exceptions below. 

The final choice is an Order & Pay system. You don’t need to rent or buy card readers for these – customers are invited to use their mobile phones to scan a QR code on a menu, and it takes the user to a website or app. In some circumstances, this has been shown to boost orders in the region of 30%. 

Internet Considerations

With the exception of a few highly specialist systems, all payment processing uses the internet to work. With each system, we’ve explained your internet considerations below their costs.


Order & Pay systems for temporary events

Get it here

Estimated Costs

Rate:  1.59% + 9p across any card

Card reader cost: £0.00 

Hardware: £0.00 

Additional fees: None

Order boost: up to 30% 

Internet Considerations

In order to use the Order & Pay system, your customers need to be able to connect to the internet to view the menu or pay. This could be their own cellular data or local WiFi.

If you’re concerned that WiFi or data might not be possible for a large number of customers, you could consider buying a “5G router”. It’s a powerful source of cellular data which you can sign into and use as though it were WiFi. Unlike a WiFi router, these do not need to be connected to an ethernet port – just a source of power. They’re somewhere in the region of £200.00.

Advantages of the Order & Pay approach 

It boosts orders. A good Order & Pay system boosts orders. It’s been reported widely and you can read our full article on how and why it boosts orders to get the nitty details of how and why. The short version is that people are more likely to be “upsold” sides, starters, desserts, drinks, and bar snacks – or in the context of retail, associated items. 

There’s £0 startup costs. All of the other options require that you buy or rent something. Since you’re going entirely on users’ mobiles here, the only cost associated with Order & Pay is printing the QR codes. It’s true that you can spend lots on this if you like – gold leaf QR codes are possible, but not recommended by your accountant – but there’s a series of options, from paper, laminated, to metal and wood. Here’s some suggestions to get started. 

There’s no rental fees or other commitments. Traditionally, card readers are rented and come with a commitment of up to five years. This isn’t the case with Order & Pay systems, nor mobile card readers. 

You can try it and see if you like it. StoreKit is a payment processor, meaning that our Order & Pay system is free to create an account, and to build a menu – you only pay on a per transaction basis. This isn’t the same as commission which is included in some other prices – ours does not come in addition to a third-party processor like Stripe.


It’s better suited to table service. In late 2020 the government mandated table ordering in drinking venues in response to covid-19. This article is being written during that period, so if you’re a business wanting to upscale to table service, this is a great way to do it without having to hire extra staff or teach waiting competencies.

How to get started Mobile your menu – StoreKit Order & Pay

Set up your order & pay menu and see how you get on. Please note: although it should only take 15 minutes to set up a menu, the application process for payments can take a while for the bank to approve. For that reason, you need to ensure you apply for payments at least three weeks before your event.

Buying a mobile card reader for a temporary event

mobile card reader temp events

Rate: 1.69-1.75% across all cards 

Card reader cost: £9.00-£100.00. An iZettle reader can be bought for £9.00 from StoreKit when you sign up via this link.  

Hardware cost: as little as £0.00. You need a phone or tablet to run the app in order to accept payments at a minimum, and some apps such as iZettle allow you to email receipts if one is really needed. It’s also not difficult to rent iPads from B2B companies, but these are designed for bulk rentals – if you’re a single seller it might be easiest to talk to a local second hand technology shop about a rental deal. 

Receipt printers and iPad stands are harder to rent and they cost around £200-300 and £50-300 respectively to buy outright. If you choose to buy a whole till, it’s likely to cost you around £1,000. Try our kit builder to see your own costs. 

Additional fees: £0.00

Internet Considerations

With one exception, Mobile card readers require the use of an app on your phone or a tablet in order to work. 

Therefore, you need to ensure that your own device has an internet connection. But that’s all you need to think about. 

You can do that in any of the following ways. First, you could connect to local WiFi. Second, a cellular connection via a SIM card (note that some iPads do accept SIMs, and you can take out a contract like you would with a phone SIM provider). Third, a cellular connection via a 3G or 4G dongle. 

Advantages of Mobile Card Readers

Cheap start-up costs. Card Readers should cost you less than £100. StoreKit can discount the iZettle reader to £9 when you sign up using this link. If you already have a tablet, then your main costs are covered.

Mobile card readers run via an app which runs on a mobile device or tablet, so you’re going to need to buy one if you don’t have your own. These devices usually have to be Android or Apple – there’s nothing available for Huawei, Windows, or the long tail of other phone operating systems.

It’s faster to go through the checks. Order & Pay system has a slower payment application process than these kinds of payment processor. You can get started with these in a few days – if you order before 4PM, we offer next day delivery, and then you can start payment processing in the next couple of days.

No complexity. Like Order & Pay, but unlike card rental fees, there is no complex hidden fees – perfect to know exactly what you’re going to spend and to limit your risk.

The payment rate is often the best. If you have a low average transaction size, you have a low card turnover, or your event has an international element and you expect to see a wide number of attendees, your rate is likely to be better with these. Watch the second half of this video to understand why.

There’s one additional thing to note, which is that for traditional processors, a single weekend does not represent that much business, and therefore there’s low negotiating power.

Which card reader?

Here’s an article which ranks our favourite cheap mobile card readers. But our favourite is iZettle.

Buying a Sum Up 3G reader for a temporary event

sum up mobile 3G reader

Get it here

Rate: 1.69% across all cards 

Card reader cost: £99.00  

One of these readers is not like the others, which is the Sum Up 3G reader (in contrast to the more popular Sum Up Air reader, in the above category). The Sum Up 3G reader does not link to a mobile phone app, and comes preinstalled with its own 3G cellular data connection, so your phone doesn’t need to be connected to the internet. It’s battery powered and it can charge overnight. 

It works as follows: you type in the amount, and they pay the amount. This is a low throughput solution and we’d advise that the apps in the previous category are faster in generating prices on readers for a quick till experience. 

If you want the most simple solution to accept payments without any use of apps, smartphones, devices, or anything else, and you don’t want the hassle of rental described below, this is your answer.


Renting Ingenico or Verifone Card Readers

Some banks, such as Valitor, do permit you to hire card readers on a short term basis. The rate they offer is discretionary, and it will depend a lot on things like your expected card intake – if you represent Glastonbury festivals, they will offer you a better rate than if you’re a single person doing a trade show. 

Therefore, the numbers below are approximations based on our contact with providers. And you may have to ask for a quote to get the complete picture. 

Rate: Previously, we’ve seen rates which are between 1.5% for cheap cards (standard UK debit) and 2.5% for expensive cards (business cards from foreign locations) 

Card Reader cost: day costs are expensive per day (£50-90 pd) but for a week or month they come down considerably. A month is likely to be between £150-£200. 

We’d note that you need to spell out the exact setup and connection options you require as the specs of your card reader are likely to affect your price. 

Other costs: watch out for other costs  – banks tend to itemise every expense they take on and send it to you as a discrete fee. PCI costs and delivery costs could be two to watch out for. 

Hardware: you don’t need any hardware. If you want to increase your throughput, you might need to rent a whole ePOS system. This can normally be done in the region of £300 for up to a month. We’d recommend calling us to talk through your different options here.



Total Costs 

 Order & Pay Traditional Rental Mobile Card ReaderSum Up 3G
Card Reader£0 (customer mobiles) £60-200 (rental) £9 (bought) £99 (bought)
Rate 1.59% + 9p 1.5-2.5% by card 1.75% 1.69%
Hardware Costs £0£0-300 (to rent) £0-1000 (to buy) £0
Other Costs £0 PCI compliance, shipping, various others£0 £0
Software Costs free software ePOS software can be bought separately free software no software

Other Attributes 

 Order & Pay Traditional Rental Mobile Card ReaderSum Up 3G
ThroughputVery high
Increases ordersVia menu engineering, upselling, and improved throughput Via increased throughput if used with ePOSVia increased throughput No
Internet Customers use their own data and local WiFi GPRS versions include SIM, can connect to local WiFi
Uses your phone’s internet connectionPreinstalled 3G internet connection comes with device
Best suited for Table Service Bar or counter service Rapid bar or counter service Occasional payments in remote environments with multiple users
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