Used by over 500,000 sole traders, freelancers and limited companies, Tide offers various financial services for small and medium-sized businesses, including 2 types of card readers to help you take payments.
In this review, I’ll examine the pros and cons of using the Tide, including comparing the Tide Card Reader and the Tide Card Reader Plus. I’ll also compare these readers to alternatives from other providers so you can be confident you’re making the right decision for your business.
Tide Card Reader Review: My Verdict
For existing Tide users, the Tide Card Reader is a great way to add on the ability to take payments. With no monthly subscription and a competitive 1.5% processing fee, it’s ideal for companies with low transaction volumes or who don’t want the hassle of a contract with a dedicated EPOS company.
It’s not perfect, however.
Firstly, there’s a £5 minimum transaction value.
Secondly, only Tide Business Account customers who have had an account for 90 days can apply for a card reader.
Thirdly, the hardware itself only has a 4-month warranty, which is much less than the 1 or 2 years’ standard offered by most other card reader companies.
If that works for you, it’s a nice simple reader. Having the choice of 2 readers means you will only pay for the features you need, and each reader comes with a free 4G SIM with lifetime connectivity, worth £5 per month.
While Tide’s card readers can’t be used over the phone, the Tide Business Account has a Payment Links service, meaning you can collect payments remotely through SMS, email, social media, and invoices.
With no offline mode, the readers rely on 4G or Wifi, which may be an issue if the connection in your area isn’t reliable. Payment clearing takes 1-3 working days, which is fairly standard.
Having to contact customer service to process a refund also seems like something which needs to be worked out at Tide, as this won’t work for businesses long term.
Pros & Cons of Tide Card Reader
- No Monthly Fees: Tide doesn’t charge monthly fees for using the card reader.
- Versatility in Payment Methods: The Tide Reader supports contactless, chip and pin, and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
- User-Friendly: Initiating payments can be done directly from the device or through the Tide app.
- Integration with Tide Business Account: Conveniently manage your business’s transactions and finances with one provider.
- Free 4G SIM with Data Connectivity: Enjoy lifetime data connectivity (worth £5 per month) to ensure your card reader remains connected to the internet.
- Quick Payments Clearing: Payments usually clear in your Tide Business Account account within 1-3 working days.
- Transaction Fees: While the 1.5% transaction fee is competitive for a portable reader, those turning over larger amounts would getting a better deal in a contract for a proper card machine
- Only For Tide Customers: You can only apply for a Tide Card Reader if you have a business account open for at least 90 days.
- 4G Dependency: The reliability of the 4G network may vary based on location, potentially affecting transaction processing speed in areas with poor connectivity. There’s also no offline mode.
- Face-to-Face Payments Only: The Tide Reader is designed for in-person transactions and does not support over-the-phone transactions. If you have an e-commerce business or want to take payments remotely, Tide Business Account customers can enable Payment Links for an additional processing fee.
- Limited Integration Options: The Tide Card Reader doesn’t connect to third-party software or business systems, which could be inconvenient.
- Battery Life: The Tide Reader battery will only last for 1 day, requiring regular charging if you need daily use.
- Transaction Clearing Time: Businesses with limited cash flow may need payments to clear faster than the estimated 1-3 working day payment processing time frame.
- Amex cards not included as standard
What are the Tide Card Reader Features?
Tide offers 2 types of card readers to suit different business’s needs. You must have a Tide Business Account before applying for a card reader. Read our Tide Business Account review for more information.
The table below compares the main features of the Tide Card Reader and the Tide Card Reader Plus.
|Tide Card Reader
|Tide Card Reader Plus
Taking payments on the go
|4-inch touch display
|5.5-inch touch display
|Requires Tide app
|Through the reader or the Tide app
|Proof of Transaction
|Paper and email
|Cellular 4G, Wi-Fi
|Cellular 4G, Wi-Fi
|Accepted Payment Types
|Contactless, Chip + Pin, Digital wallets
|Contactless, Chip + Pin, Digital wallets
|Visa, Mastercard, ApplePay, GooglePay, including corporate, consumer and international cards
|Visa, Mastercard, ApplePay, and GooglePay, including corporate, consumer and international cards
Both Tide Readers have a 1-day battery life and need internet access. You can connect through cellular 4G or Wi-Fi. As part of your package, you will receive a free 4G SIM, including lifetime data connectivity worth £5 per month to ensure your Tide Reader can be connected.
Regardless of which Tide Reader you choose, you can accept payments from Visa, MasterCard, Apple Pay and Google Pay. American Express is not accepted, and there is a minimum transaction value of £5.
Payments from cards issued outside of the UK are accepted, but the payment can only be made in pounds sterling. However, this is an area Tide wishes to expand on in the future.
All Tide Card Readers have a 1-day battery life and a 4-month warranty to safeguard against manufacturing defects.
You cannot return your device, but each comes with a 4-month warranty to safeguard against manufacturing defects. You can request a replacement card reader by sending customer support a message through the Tide app.
Tide Card Reader (standard) (£49.99)
The standard Tide Card Reader is designed to be more portable and convenient, perfect for taking payments on the go.
Operating on Android you can use the Tide mobile app to begin processing payments, and receipts are sent by e-mail.
- AMS1 terminal model by Adyen
- Size: 122 mm x 67 mm x 18 mm
- Weight: 170 g
- 4″ touchscreen display
- Email receipts only
Tide Card Reader Plus (£79 + VAT)
In contrast to the standard version, the Tide Card Reader is more durable and is designed for businesses that take frequent payments.
It operates on Android 9.0 and has a larger, 5.5-inch touch display for user-friendliness.
In addition to sending receipts by e-mail, you can print directly from the machine using 40mm paper rolls.
- S1F2 terminal model by Adyen
- Size: 200 mm x 78 mm × 56 mm
- Weight: 495 g
- 5.5″ touchscreen display
- With built-in receipt printer, and can send email receipts too
How Much Does a Tide Card Reader Cost?
Tide Card Readers have clear and transparent fees, as seen in the table below.
There’s no ongoing monthly payment for having a Tide Reader. Instead, you will make a one-off payment for your card reader and a further 1.5% payment processing fee on any transaction made through your machine.
|Tide Card Reader
|£49 + VAT
|Tide Card Reader Plus
|£79 + VAT
|From £0/mo (depends on plan)
|Transaction fee (contactless or chip)
|1.5% (all cards)
|Fee may apply
|Fee may apply
|You need a Tide Business Account
Can I Use a Tide Reader over the Phone?
No, the Tide reader does not support over-the-phone transactions.
Who is Eligible for a Tide Card Reader?
Tide Readers are only available if:
- You have a Tide Business Account
- Your business will be open within 90 days of opening your Tide Reader Account.
To be eligible for a Tide Business Account, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a UK-based business, including freelancing
- Have a valid photo ID such as a photo driving licence or passport
- Be registered with Companies House or HMRC.
- Have a valid UK residential address (if applying as a freelancer or sole trader).
The following types of businesses are unable to use a Tide Reader:
- Adult services and products, including escort services, fetish products and content of an offensive or sexual nature
- Casual dating services and international match-making services
- Financial and money service businesses, including e-wallets, cryptocurrency, credit protection, buy now, pay later schemes, bearer share entities, insurance, money transfer services, payroll and independent or unlicensed financial advisors.
- Bail bonds and bankruptcy lawyers
- Pawn shops, bidding fee and penny auctions
- Marketing services include direct marketing and certain social media businesses like click farms.
- Airlines and cruise lines.
- Cloud storage, VPN, file sharing and high-risk cyber lockers
- Endangered or protected animal and wildlife products
- Governmental services, such as embassies or consulates
- Hazardous materials, fireworks or flammable materials
- Intravenous therapy, medical services packages, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and animal pharmaceuticals.
- Live-streaming Services with in-app currency and donations
- Political, religious or social campaigning
- Tobacco, vaping, e-cigarette supplies and accessories
- Drugs, drug paraphernalia, and tools specifically intended for the production of drugs, including illegal drugs and those designed to mimic illegal drugs.
- Gambling services
- Military activity, including weapons, ammunition and firearm parts
- Decryption and descrambler products and services
How To Order a Tide Card Reader
- Sign up for a Tide Business Account by completing the application form on the Tide website.
- When your account is opened, download the Tide mobile banking app
- Order your Tide Reader through the Tide app
- Your Tide Card Reader will be delivered in 3 to 5 working days.
How To Use a Tide Card Reader
To Set Up Your Card Reader
- Check the Box: Make sure it hasn’t been opened, and check if the security seal, the red label with a barcode across the box lid, is unbroken.
- Unbox and Verify: Break the security seal and remove the device. Confirm that the serial number on the device matches the one on the box. Inspect for any signs of tampering, such as missing seals, screws, additional wires, or labels.
- Security Concerns: If there are any concerns about the package or device, contact Tide support immediately.
- Turn On: Press and hold the power button on the right until the display activates.
- Charge the Battery: Connect the device to a power supply and let the battery charge for at least 4 hours while proceeding with the next steps.
- Set-Up: On the Welcome screen, choose your preferred language. The device is automatically connected to the 4G network. If you prefer using WIFI, connect the device to your network.
- Confirm Store Details: Assign the device to your store by selecting the check mark button on the confirm store screen. If the displayed store isn’t yours, use the edit button to make the necessary changes.
- Ready for Transactions: You are now set up and prepared to process customer card payments.
How To Take Payments Using the Tide Card Reader
- Initiate the payment through the Tide mobile app or directly from your reader if you have the Tide Card Reader Plus.
- Input the transaction amount.
- Customers can insert their card using Chip and Pin or tap it for contactless payments.
- The transaction will be confirmed on the Tide Card Reader display.
Tide Card Reader User Experience:
From opening an account to processing payments, Tide has been designed with simplicity in mind.
You can apply for a Tide Reader by quickly completing an application to open a Tide Business Account and then purchasing a card reader.
Both Tide Readers have a 1-day battery life, allowing you to process payments conveniently whenever needed.
Daily account management is done through the app, allowing you to seamlessly integrate your Tide Reader with your Tide Business Account and monitor your card sales balance.
The app is available for devices running i0S 13.7 or later or Android 9 and above. You can’t use the Tide app on Windows phones.
Tide Card Reader Transaction Security
Your Tide Reader has been designed to be tamper-proof and strictly follows anti-fraud security measures.
The Tide Card Reader is a PCI PTS-approved Secure Card Reader, ensuring it complies with security standards.
Similarly, transaction details are immediately encrypted when processing a payment through your Tide Reader to protect confidentiality and integrity.
For customers using Apply Pay, transactions are encrypted and managed through Apple’s Secure Element, adding another layer to the overall security framework.
Tide Card Reader Compatibility
You can accept payment through your Tide Reader in Pound Sterling from all Visa and Mastercard-enabled cards, Google Pay, and Apply Pay. This includes consumer, corporate and international cards.
You cannot accept payment in foreign currency or from an American Express card.
Payments processed using your Tide Reader can only be transferred to your Tide Business Account. You can’t connect to another business account from another provider.
Whilst you can’t connect your Tide Reader directly to your accounting software, your Tide Business Account can be connected to:
- Free Agent
- Intuit Quickbooks
Tide Customer Support
You can contact Tide Customer Support by sending a message within the Tide mobile app or emailing email@example.com.
If you want to talk to someone over the phone, you can receive a callback by sending a message through the app or e-mailing the Customer Support Team and providing:
- Your telephone number
- Reason for requesting a call
You can get 24-hour fraud support by calling 159 from within the UK or +44 20 4587 0366 from another country.
Your Card Reader also comes with a 4-month warranty, protecting you from manufacturing defects.
Tide Card Reader Customer Reviews
Tide has a “great” TrustScore of 4.2 out of 5, with 73% of reviewers rating it 5 out of 5.
Users praise Tide for its “straightforward” and “up-to-date” service, “efficient” online platform, and “friendly” customer support. They comment on the ease of account setup, “helpful” explanations, and “seamless” card payments through the Tide Reader.
Many users highlight the quick and easy process of managing business expenses, invoicing features, and the overall convenience of the Tide app.
However, several customers have expressed “dissatisfaction” with Tide. Common complaints include unexpected account freezing, customer service responsiveness issues, and problem resolution delays. Users have reported difficulties accessing funds, disrupting their business activities.
Tide’s mobile app has an equally good average score of 4.8 out of 5 on the Apple App Store and 3.5 out of 5 on the Google Play Store.
The app’s “seamless” user experience and “smooth” interface” contribute to its popularity among small businesses. Users comment on the app’s efficiency and the ease of daily finance management.
However, there are concerns about the app’s usability, “unresponsive” chat systems, and some users’ perceptions that question the bank’s reliability. They comment on the app’s “glitches” and the lack of phone support.
Several users highlighted concerns related to Tide’s card reader functionality. Complaints ranged from difficulties using the card reader for transactions to issues with acceptance by specific merchants, particularly for IT services. They described their experience as “disappointing”, “frustrating” and “complicated”.
Alternatives to Tide Card Readers
|£49 or £79 + VAT
|Wifi, Cellular 4G
|Visa, Mastercard, Google Pay, Apple Pay
|£19 + VAT
|1.75% (contactless or chip & PIN), 6% +30p for Clearpay
|Wifi, hotspot, or cellular data
|EMV chip cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay
|£49 + VAT
|0.8% + 2p (UK consumer cards), 2.6% + 2p (international and commercial cards)
|Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, Apply Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay
|Smartpay Anywhere (by Barclaycard)
|£29 + VAT
|Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, JCB, UPI, Discover, Paypal, Google Pay, Apple Pay
|WisePad3 Reader (integrated with Shopify)
|1.5% – 2.% + 25p
|£19 – £344 per month for Shopify subscription
|Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diner’s Club, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay
|From £29 + VAT
|American Express, Mastercard, Maestro, Visa, Visa Electron, JCB, UnionPay, Discover, Diners Club, V Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Tide Card Reader FAQs
Can I order more than one Tide Card Reader?
No. You can only apply for 1 Tide Reader per Tide Business Account. However, Tide plans to introduce the ability to order multiple devices using 1 business account in the future.
Can I use the Tide Card Reader with multiple devices?
Yes. As long as you can access the Tide app on your device, you can use it to initiate payment and manage your account.
Can I accept multiple cards for a single transaction?
No. You can only receive payment from one card per transaction. You must split the balance into several transactions to take payment from multiple cards.
Can I use the Tide Card Reader for online transactions or e-commerce?
No. The Tide Reader was designed to be used to process in-person transactions.
Can I refund on the Tide card reader?
To issue a refund, you must contact customer support via the Tide mobile app. Tide hopes to introduce a refund feature in the future.