SumUp vs Zettle 2021: The Battle of the Mobile Card Readers

SumUp vs Zettle logo

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 10 March 2021

Can SumUp zettle an old score? Or will Zettle prove that sum card readers are just better than others?


SumUp vs Zettle logo

SumUp and Zettle (formerly iZettle, prior to its acquisition by PayPal) both offer affordable, flexible solutions for merchants looking to accept credit and debit card payments. Which – right now, especially – is just about all businesses!

Small card readers, big names. But which of the two is right for you?

We wanted to find out. So, we compared the two companies – known in the industry as payment facilitators – across a range of the metrics most important to UK businesses. Read on to compare SumUp and Zettle’s card readers, ecommerce services, rates, customer support, and reviews.

Or, if you’re on the verge of a purchase, and you just need to know which one is better – right now! – we’ve summarised our research here for you.

SumUp vs Zettle: At a glance

SumUp wins. It has better customer support, more favourable customer reviews, and lower processing fees. According to our research, it’s also an easier option for creating – and selling through – an online store.

There’s also the issue of Zettle’s acquisition by PayPal, which has (understandably) shaken things up a bit in terms of what services Zettle will continue to offer. Going forward, we tip Zettle to make a comeback. But given the company’s current teething problems, we’d recommend new merchants – for now, at least – make SumUp their selection.


Card readers

We put SumUp’s flagship card reader – the SumUp Air – head to head against its Zettle counterpart, the 2.

As you can see below, the results are… inconclusive.

SumUp Air card reader 2021Zettle card reader 2 2021
SumUp AirZettle 2
£29 (excl. VAT)£29 (excl. VAT)
Accepts all major card typesAccepts all major card types
12-month warranty12-month warranty

Both card readers come with a 12-month warranty and free app. This app uses a Bluetooth connection to connect to your tablet or smartphone – from which you ring up transactions, and manage stock and sales.

Each card reader comes with a 12-month warranty, and both require either a wifi or 4G connection to operate.

Only SumUp, though, offers more than one variety of card reader.

And, if you don’t run your business from a fixed premises – or you rely on taking payments from more remote locations – you’ll want to forgo the Air, and opt for SumUp’s 3G card reader instead.

As the name suggests, this savvy piece of tech comes with an in-built SIM card. That means you won’t have to connect it to wifi, or even your own mobile data – so it’s the perfect companion for travelling businesses, such as market stall owners, or tradespeople.

Put simply, it’s one of the best credit card machines for small businesses out there. You can own it for a single, one-off cost of £99 (excl. VAT), and there’s also an option to buy it in a bundle with a receipt printer for £119 excl. VAT (discounted from £149 at the time of writing).

Winner: SumUp. Variety is the spice of life, and SumUp offers more card readers, to suit a wider variety of business owners and niches.

Plus, SumUp’s 3G card reader – with its unlimited supply of free mobile data, and up to 50 transactions off a single charge – is one of the finest pieces of small business payment technology on the market.


Ecommerce services

Both SumUp and Zettle provide merchants with a range of ways to take payments without even having to use the card reader.

Ideal for ecommerce businesses (or those that have had to become ecommerce businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic!), SumUp and Zettle both offer up a variety of online payment methods.

But who’s doing it better?

Online payments

This one’s simple – how easy is it to sell online with SumUp or Zettle?

As it turns out, very easy – although SumUp still has the edge over Zettle here.

With ‘SumUp Online Store’, you can create an online shop via the SumUp app in a matter of minutes. Adding your products is simple, as is setting up shipping details, and linking your shop to whatever social media platforms your business uses.

It’s free to do, and will cost you just 2.5% through each transaction you take through the store.

To set up your online shop with Zettle, however, requires integration with third-party ecommerce platform provider Selz. While the kind of online shop you can create with Zettle (via Selz) is both pristine and professional-looking, we found it a little less intuitive than with SumUp – in part, because it’s not all possible through a single app.

Verdict? If selling online is on your mind, pick SumUp.

Payment links

Both SumUp and Zettle allow you to send payment links to your customers, from directly within their respective apps. Whichever option you choose, it’ll cost you 2.5% of the transaction’s value.

Virtual terminal transactions

Virtual terminals are web-based portals via which you login, enter your customer’s card details (typically over the phone, to maintain PCI compliance), and take payment.

It’s a super convenient way to get paid – particularly if you work from home on a permanent basis, or lack the tools or time to set up a proper website.

Better still, SumUp’s virtual terminal is extremely easy to use. You just log in with the app, or access it via SumUp’s online dashboard from your computer. SumUp’s virtual terminal costs 2.5% per sale you make through it.

Zettle doesn’t offer a virtual terminal service – though, with the PayPal acquisition continuing to effect seismic changes on how Zettle goes about its business, it’s worth watching this space!

Did You Know?

Virtual terminals are the UK payment industry’s best-kept secret. How can they benefit your business, though – and who are the top suppliers?

Learn more about the UK’s best virtual terminals, with our 2021 guide.

PayPal QR code payments

Speaking of changes, Zettle has recently introduced an option allowing its merchants to accept PayPal-generated QR codes as payment. While that’s good news for PayPal users, it’s even better news for Zettle merchants, who – for the time being, at least – will pay a fee of just 1% per transaction to accept these types of payment.

For obvious reasons, this deal doesn’t also apply to SumUp merchants!

Read more: The Best Merchant Account Providers for Ecommerce in 2021


Price

Both SumUp and Zettle are well-known for (heck, have built their reputations around) their low fees. But since we’re splitting hairs, SumUp is the cheaper of the two, with a card-present rate of just 1.69% per transaction. Zettle’s rate for the same type of sale is 1.75%.

For the card readers themselves – which is a single, one-off fee, rather than an ongoing cost – there’s no separating the two. Both the SumUp Air and the Zettle 2 devices cost £29 (excl. VAT) a pop. Each provider’s charging stand  – which SumUp calls the ‘cradle’, and Zettle the ‘dock’ – costs £39 (excl. VAT), so there’s nothing to choose between there, either.

For card-not-present sales, it’s the same story – you’ll pay 2.5% per each sale you take via invoicing or through a payment link, whether you use SumUp or Zettle.

A close one, then – but SumUp’s low processing fees mean it shades this one.

Winner: SumUp…. just!

If interpreting these costs has your head spinning, don’t fret – we get it. Credit card processing fees are notoriously difficult to understand, which is usually why we recommend skipping the “hours of tedious research” stage, and skipping straight to the good stuff – that is, comparing tailored merchant services quotes for your business.

Here’s where our quick, quote-finding questionnaire comes in handy. Simply click one of the buttons below to answer a few questions about what you’re looking for in a card reader. We’ll use these to match you with one or more merchant services suppliers that fit your needs.

Then, these companies (or company, if there’s just a single supplier that’s right for you) will be in touch directly, to offer tailored merchant services quotes and advice.

It’s all free, and you’re of course under no obligation to go with any of the companies we match you with.

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1. Do you already accept card payments at your business? YES NO

POS (point of sale) equipment and apps

If you take payments online or on the go, your nifty new card reader – whether it’s from SumUp or Zettle – will be enough.

If you do most of your business over the counter, though, that card machine is going to start looking lonely. Pretty soon, you’re going to want to see what kind of value POS equipment can add to your bricks and mortar setup.

The good news is that both SumUp and Zettle integrate with some of the best EPOS providers in the space, such as Lightspeed and Vend. Where Zettle steals a march on its opponent, though, is that it allows you to purchase a wider range of additional equipment to get your counter singing.

These include:

  • Receipt printers
  • Social distancing screens
  • Barcode scanners
  • Cash drawers

The better news for SumUp fans, though, is that its acquisition of London-based POS provider Goodtill (which was finalised in November 2020) means that the breadth of its POS offerings is only likely to improve and expand going forward.

Additionally, both SumUp and Zettle offer a monthly subscription for bricks and mortar businesses – though in practice, they’re best-suited to those in the hospitality industry. Let’s take a look at how they compare.

Goodtill by SumUp

With intuitive, intelligent options for stock and waste management – plus tools for discounting and customer loyalty tracking – SumUp’s monthly POS subscription offers benefits both at the front and the back of house.

Reporting capabilities are included as standard, and your staff will be able to clock in and out with ease. And (if you trust your customers, that is!) there’s even a self-checkout mode to speed things up at the till. Good, indeed!

£29 per month

Zettle Food and Drink

Created solely for the demands of cafes, bars, and restaurants, we found Zettle Food and Drink to be one of the slickest customers around. Generating (and deciphering!) reports is a genuine pleasure, while setting up your products and onboarding staff is simple.

Unlike similar payment apps, it’s actually easy to issue refunds, and you should have no problems splitting bills at the table.

You can sample Zettle Food and Drink free for 30 days.

£29 per month

For more info about choosing the right payments partner for your bar or restaurant, check out our guide to the best merchant services for hospitality.

Winner: Zettle. As you can see, it’s again almost too close to call…almost. The versatility and value of Zettle's litany of POS equipment means it just shades SumUp here.

Big props also need to go to Zettle’s Safeguard Social Distancing Screen (£139, excl. VAT) – a timely innovation that’s sure to add peace of mind to staff and customers alike.


Customer support

When it comes to collecting money for your goods or services, you can’t afford to waste time if you run into an issue. Having customer support available when you need it is crucial – so which provider does it better?

We took a couple of factors into account to find out. One’s the level of phone support available, and the other is the overall level of customer satisfaction online.

It’s SumUp vs Zettle, going another round. Who are you putting your money on?

Phone support

When it comes to quality phone support, SumUp comes out on top. 

Its contact centre is open Monday to Saturday, and there’s someone to chat to 64 hours of the week. Support from Zettle, by contrast, comes in at 40 hours a week – it’s contact centre is only open between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

Customer satisfaction levels

SumUp is the more favourably reviewed provider of the two. Boasting a Trustpilot score of 4.3/5 from 2,699 reviews (at the time of writing), SumUp trumps its Zettle’s 3.9/5 rating (from 2,758) with ease.

We grabbed a couple of recent reviews of each provider to see what Sumup and Zettle’s customers are saying.

“I’ve used SumUp for four years now, and [its support team] is effortless to deal with – always helpful, and solves the odd query or problem almost instantly. I highly recommend SumUp.”

  • Julie, SumUp customer, 4th March 2021
“I rarely have problems with my SumUp card reader, card, or account. But when I do, SumUp is very professional and efficient, and quick to resolve any issues.”

  • Louisa, SumUp customer, 29th January 2021

To browse what more SumUp customers are saying – and ascertain whether it’s right for the needs of your businesses – head to our SumUp review.

Here’s some feedback about Zettle:

“I've been using Zettle for around three years. It's always been quick and reliable until the last couple of months – now, it seems to take an eternity to process a payment, and continually loses the Bluetooth connection between my tablet and the card machine.

“I'm not doing anything different. But, despite trying everything, the problem persists. Please fix it so I can go back to five stars for my review!”

  • Blackhall Late Store, SumUp customer, 1st March 2021
“I recently swapped my business from another supplier to Zettle, and I can honestly say that it’s been a breath of fresh air! Zettle is slightly more expensive, but I’ve experienced good service so far. It’s also quick and easy to set up.”

  • Matt, SumUp customer, 3rd February 2021

We should note here that some of Zettle’s most recent reviews have criticised what they perceive as the negative effects of the company’s acquisition by PayPal. These include the discontinuation or changing of services, slower processing times, connectivity issues, and a loss of Zettle’s original ‘small business’ ethos and focus.

We unpack all this and more in our Zettle review, written for 2021.

Winner: SumUp. Better reviews and more access to UK-based phone support make this an easy one. SumUp takes it home!

Final verdict

SumUp vs Zettle – there can be only one winner.

And, if you’ve been keeping track of the score (or, let’s face it, if you read our spoiler-filled summary at the beginning of the article) you’ll know that there is only one winner in this contest – and that’s SumUp.

Woman taking payment with a SumUp card reader

Beating out Zettle in the crucial battleground metrics of customer reviews and support, processing fees, ecommerce services, and card readers, SumUp is our top choice for small businesses looking to accept credit and debit card payments.

They were fine margins, though, and Zettle’s charm and enduring appeal will certainly hit the spot for many businesses.

Zettle has a lot to offer, for instance, to bars and restaurants, while its PayPal connections – as well as offering merchants lower fees right now – are sure to bear the fruits of additional benefits in the future.

Hope you enjoyed our SumUp vs Zettle breakdown. For extra resources to help you choose the right payments partner for you, be sure to check out our UK merchant account comparison, or read on to learn more about how to receive tailored credit card processing quotes.

Until next time!


Compare quotes from leading merchant services suppliers

We’re dedicated to helping the UK’ merchants make the best commercial decisions possible – particularly when it comes to taking payments.

We also believe that each business has its own set of complex requirements, and that the merchant services you choose need to reflect yours.

So, take 30 seconds to tell us a bit more about what your business’s unique circumstances are, and we’ll connect you only with the payment providers that are a good match for your needs.

When you click one of the buttons below to start our questionnaire, we’ll ask:

  • Whether you currently accept card payments, and – if so – who your provider is
  • Which industry you operate in
  • How you want to take payments – online, over the phone, or in-person only?
  • How much you’re aiming to process in card payments per month

When you’re done, the merchant services suppliers our algorithm connects you with – if there is a good match – will be in touch, to offer tailored, no-obligation quotes and advice.

Compare Quotes From Leading Card Reader Providers and Save
It takes just 30 seconds...
1. Do you already accept card payments at your business? YES NO
Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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