Tide have released a credit card reader that links with a Tide bank account. This makes it one of the first card readers where banking and customer card payments are fully integrated. So today I’m taking a deep dive in to how to set it up, how to take payments, how long it takes to receive your money and generally how everything works.

This is an honest review based on my own personal experience of testing a Tide Card Reader Plus. Tide have not paid for this article to be written nor do they have any editorial control over the content. This article contains some affiliate links – these help to cover the costs of running this free website so if you think a Tide Card Reader suits your needs click here to give it a try and as a thank you Tide will give you £100 cashback. Please read the full T’s & C’s at the bottom of this article.

Accept contactless payments with the Tide card reader
Tide Credit Card Reader – Full Review and detailed overview

Key Takeaways

  • Easy to use credit card reader
  • Simple set-up process
  • Can be used completely stand-alone (Plus version)
  • In-built receipt printer (Plus version)
  • Full integration with Tide bank account
  • No contract and no monthly fees
  • No product library or cart functionality yet
  • £100 cashback (subject to terms)

Table of Contents

What credit card readers are available from Tide?

At the time of writing Tide are offering two different types of card reader. The Tide Card Reader and the Tide Card Reader Plus. Tide sent me the Plus version to have a look at so most of this article will be based on that. In all honesty for the sake of an extra £10+VAT I would personally opt for the Plus regardless unless you’re looking for something more compact. The additional functionality is well worth it. More about that later on.

Tide Card Reader and Card Reader Plus
Tide have two types of card reader, prices correct at time of writing

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How much does a Tide card reader cost?

The pricing structure is incredibly simple. You buy the Tide card reader outright – currently £89+VAT for the standard version or £99+VAT for the Plus. There’s no monthly fee, no contract and a competitive 1.5% transaction fee. So if a customer pays you £10 by contactless payment you’ll pay a fee of 15p.

  • Card reader: £89 or £99+VAT
  • Contract length: No contract
  • Monthly cost: Zero
  • Transaction fee: 1.5%

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In a rush? Tide card reader in a nutshell

Tide Card Reader Plus being used for a chip & pin payment
Tide Card Reader Plus
  • Full 4G and WiFi connectivity
  • Plus device can be used stand-alone
  • Lifetime free 4G connectivity included
  • Standard device is used in conjunction with the Tide app on your phone
  • Plus device includes an in-built receipt printer
  • Payments generally clear in 1-3 working days
  • Accept Visa, Mastercard, ApplePay, GooglePay, full contactless support, chip & pin, smart watch payments etc.
  • No Amex support at the moment
  • No contract
  • £1 minimum transaction value
  • 1.5% transaction fee

At the moment Tide are offering £100 cashback to new customers. To make use of this offer use this link or the referral code SBTPOS when you sign up. Please read the terms and conditions below.

You must have a Tide account to use this card reader so you can either do all of your banking via Tide or just use your Tide account for card payments. In the latter scenario you would transfer funds to your chosen bank account as and when required. Also bear in mind at the moment Tide have their own business savings account with a generous interest rate of 4.33%. You can open a savings account from within your normal Tide bank account.

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Getting started – what’s in the box?

How to use a Tide credit card reader - full review
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I was sent the Tide Card Reader Plus. This is the slightly larger and more advanced card reader with an in-built receipt printer. This device can also be used stand-alone, whereas the standard Tide Card Reader needs to be used alongside the Tide app on your mobile phone. Here’s what I received:

  • Card reader
  • Receipt paper roll (57mm x 40mm)
  • Angled USB-C / USB-A charging cable
  • UK power adapter (USB-A, 2.0A, 10W)
  • Mobile SIM card (already installed in the card reader)

I simply inserted the receipt roll, turned on the card reader and we were ready to go. It came with 80% charge as standard.

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What connectivity and features does the Tide Card Reader Plus have?

The Plus reader is slightly larger than the standard reader with a decent size 5.5″ touch display and in-built printer. It measures 20cm x 7.8cm x 5.6cm and has a quoted weight of 495g. My reader weighs 527g with the receipt roll installed.

At the base of the unit there’s a card slot for chip & pin payments. On the right hand side there’s a swipe slot for legacy magnetic card payments (not sure if this is still used). The head of the unit is used for contactless payments, in the same area as where the receipt roll is stored. The receipt roll simply drops in place. No messing around with rollers and cogs!

On the very front of the unit there’s a barcode scanner but this doesn’t seem to be used at the moment. On the left hand side there’s a power button and rubber flap with an AC adapter connector (not used), USB-C charging connector and headphone jack (not used).

Finally on the back of the unit there appears to be a dock connector (not used) and compartment cover to access the battery and dual sim card slots. Only a single SIM card is used. This is provided for free with lifetime 4G access.

The barcode scanner doesn't seem to be used
There’s a barcode reader but that’s not used at the moment

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Setting up the card reader for the first time

Setting up the Tide Card Reader Plus was incredibly simple. When it first booted up I confirmed the language (English) and then left it for a few minutes to sort itself out. It gave me the option of connecting to a wireless network, which I did. A couple of minutes later and we’re ready to take card payments! You don’t need to use Wi-Fi providing you have a 4G signal but it’s nice to have the option of either.

While trying to break it I accessed the Apps option from the Settings menu. This required the default passcode of ‘0000’ to access. As soon as I entered the Apps menu it started doing a software update. This took several minutes and to be on the safe side I re-booted the unit once it was finished. I have no idea if it was necessary to do this – this step was more down to my own personal tinkering!

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Connecting to the Tide app

The Plus card reader can be used completely stand alone but using it via the Tide app gives you a bit of added functionality, such as the ability to add a ‘Description’ for each transaction.

Interestingly it took literally zero effort to pair the card reader to the app – it would appear to be pre-paired and doesn’t rely on Bluetooth. I accessed the Tide app on my mobile phone, clicked the ‘Card Reader’ button and it just worked. It works even with Bluetooth turned off on my phone, so it must connect over the internet somehow. This is very different to the likes of Zettle where the card reader speaks to your phone over Bluetooth.

Using the card reader with the Tide app
The Tide app seamlessly connects to the card reader

Within the Tide app there’s a big ‘Take a payment’ button. Hit that, enter an amount and optional description, click ‘Charge’ and you then have 2 minutes to complete the transaction on the card reader. Remember with the Plus device you don’t need to use the app at all!

Ready to take payment with the Tide card reader
Card reader is ready to take a payment

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Payment methods accepted

To complete the transaction your customer simply needs to provide their chosen payment method. I tested the unit with a range of payment options and they all worked perfectly. My first attempt at contactless prompted for chip & pin authorisation. After that contactless worked perfectly with that card. Options include:

  • Contactless
  • Chip & PIN
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Mobile phone
  • Smart watch
All standard payment methods accepted

I tested Google Pay via a Wear OS smart watch and it worked fine. I also tried an Android mobile phone with Google Wallet, again this worked perfectly and instantly.

Accept smart watch payments with the Tide card reader
Payments can be accepted by smart watch (e.g. Google Wallet & Apple Pay)

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How do I take stand-alone card payments?

One of the unique advantages of the Tide Card Reader Plus is that it can be used stand-alone without your mobile phone. No Bluetooth pairing to worry about, no worrying about people calling you when you’re in the middle of taking a payment from a customer. Simply tap the ‘Payment’ button:

Taking a manual payment on the Tide Card Reader Plus
Tap the ‘Payment’ button

Enter an amount and click ‘Continue’:

Taking a manual payment on the Tide Card Reader Plus
Enter the amount and tap Continue

Then allow your customer to pay by contactless, chip & pin or whatever they prefer. Simple as that!

Taking a manual payment on the Tide Card Reader Plus
Get your customer to present their card or payment method – done!

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How do I manage card payments and issue refunds?

It’s very easy to access historic card payments from within the Tide mobile app. Simply click ‘Card Reader’ from the Payments screen and all card payments are listed in date order on the default Card Reader tab. Filter options are as follows:

  • All
  • Pending
  • Paid
  • Failed
  • Cancelled

At the moment there’s no functionality to search for or export individual card transactions.

Clicking on an individual payment allows you to access more information such as the description, payment date / time and reference ID. You can also create a PDF receipt from here by clicking the ‘Share’ button (it would make more sense if this was renamed to ‘Receipt’).

If you need to refund a customer you just click the ‘Request customer refund’ button and confirm. Simple as that. Refunds can’t be issued directly from the card reader – they can only be initiated via the Tide app (mobile or desktop).

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Managing card payments from the desktop web interface

Things get a little more obscure in the desktop web interface. To access card payments you need to click Tools & services -> Get Paid -> Card Reader. This is a little convoluted when there’s plenty of space for a direct link on the main left-hand menu for such a key feature, I’d suggest under ‘Payments’.

Tide web interface
Accessing card payments from the desktop app
Tide web interface
Accessing card payments from the desktop app
Tide web interface card transactions
Historic card payments

From this point functionality is very similar to the mobile app. Clicking on an individual payment allows you to access more information. You can also create a PDF receipt from here by clicking the ‘Download’ button (once again it would make more sense if this was renamed to ‘Download Receipt’). If you need to refund a customer you click the ‘Request customer refund’ button as before.

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How long does it take to get paid?

In my tests it took less than 2 days for payments to enter my bank account. Payments taken after 6pm on 26th June entered my account on the morning of 28th June. In my tests I carried out 6 x test payments of £2 each (£12 obviously!). I received £11.82 from Tide – so 18p transaction fees were automatically deducted at 1.5%.

Tide web interface

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What about receipts and receipt printing?

The Plus card reader has the receipt printer built in and it uses standard 57mm x 40mm thermal till rolls. When you complete a transaction it asks if you want a receipt. If you select Yes it will rapidly print a Customer copy and Merchant copy receipt. If you select No it still prints the Merchant copy. If you don’t want any paper receipt I’ve found taking the receipt roll out solves this.

You can also produce a PDF receipt but there’s no automation for e-mailing this to a customer. You would need to download it and then send it via your communication platform of choice (WhatsApp, e-mail etc.). At the moment the receipt format cannot be customised but it does the job.

Tide card reader sample receipt
Default electronic customer receipt

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Advanced features

The card reader itself has a few more advanced features built-in that you may find useful. These can be accessed by tapping the ‘Transactions’ button on the home screen.

Tide card reader advanced features
Tap the transactions button to access advanced features

You’re then presented with a ‘locked’ menu of:

  • History
  • Totals
  • New transaction

To access these options you need a special PIN and this should have been provided as part of your welcome e-mail from Tide. If you haven’t been provided with a PIN you’ll need to contact Tide support. This is different to the default admin PIN of 0000.

You can then get access to all historic transactions and a wealth of associated data. From here you can also print a Customer or Merchant receipt copy for any transaction. Interestingly you can’t do refunds from here – they can only be performed via the Tide app.

Tide card reader transaction history
Transaction history directly on the card reader

From the ‘Totals’ menu you can view periodic summary totals of all credit card transactions. This is very useful to take an end-of-day or end-of-week total for accounting purposes. You can print the total summary from here and also reset the totals if required:

Tide card reader periodic account totals
Periodic totals can be viewed from the card reader

Finally there’s a menu option to force a new transaction. This includes the following options:

  • Payment
  • Bypass AID prio

Bypass AID prio stands for “bypass application identifier priority”. Both of the above options should only be used if directed to do so by Tide support.

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That’s it in a nutshell! It’s really straight forwards. If all you want is a simple card reader where you enter an amount and charge your customer, Tide’s offering is great. It has some unique advantages over other readers including the in-built printer and 4G capabilities. The fact that the Plus machine can be used as a stand-alone device is a huge advantage. No more reliance on your mobile phone! Here’s my very subjective list of pros and cons based on the Plus card reader:

No app requiredNo pre-defined products (yet)
In-built printerNo export functionality (yet)
In-built 4G & WiFi connectivityNo support for American Express
Integrated with Tide bank account
Very easy to set up
Very easy to use
Tide Card Reader Plus – Pros and Cons

There’s some missing features in terms of pre-defined products, barcode scanning, reporting and full POS functionality. However for most small businesses this probably isn’t an issue. Payments are fast and effortless. The machine is really easy to use and you don’t need a separate app to control your card reader.

Remember there’s no contract, no monthly fees and at less than £100+VAT for a fully functional stand-alone reader with receipt printer, it’s competitively priced. Also remember that Tide are offering £100 cashback with this link or use the code SBTPOS to make use of that offer. Please read the full offer terms below.

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Tide offer terms & conditions

Tide are offering readers / viewers of the Small Business Toolbox £100 cashback when you successfully open a Tide account and purchase a Tide Card Reader. The card reader must be purchased within 60 days of opening your Tide account and you must take a minimum of £500 in transactions within the first 60 days of opening the account. To make use of this offer you must use this link or the partner code SBTPOS when you open your account. This offer is only available to new Tide customers. Tide reserve the right to withdraw this offer at any time without notice. Please read Tide’s full offer terms here.

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Last Updated on 3 July 2024 by Andy Mac