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This is your definitive guide to PDQ machines. From what does PDQ stand for? To how much does a PDQ machine cost? And what’s the best card machine for your small business? We cover it all, and more...

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What is a PDQ machine?

Simply put, a PDQ machine is an electronic device that allows businesses to process card payments. Check out the video below for a more in-depth explanation:


What does PDQ stand for?

PDQ stands for: “Process Data Quickly”. Which is a pretty good description of what the machines do.

You may also have heard of them referred to as: credit card machines, chip and pin machines or credit card terminals. Confusing, right? To keep things simple, in this article we’re going to stick with PDQ machines.

How does a PDQ machine work?

Way back in time, we’re talking pre-Facebook days here, people had to actually swipe the magnetic strip on their card through a PDQ machine and sign their signature on the receipt every time they wanted to buy something. Can you imagine?

Thankfully those days are over now. The introduction of chip and pin means that credit card and debit card transactions can be processed securely in a matter of seconds. A revolution for the small business owner in particular.

A lot happens in those few seconds, though. After the customer enters their unique four digit PIN, card details are sent to a merchant bank. The merchant bank contacts the cardholder’s bank via the card association to check available funds. The card holder’s bank — known as the issuing bank — fires back a response, which is displayed on the screen of the PDQ machine: either “Approved or “Payment Not Authorised”.

So it’s not an exaggeration to say that modern PDQ machines have completely changed the face of the retail landscape, both for merchants and consumers.

What about when the cardholder is not present?

PDQ machines can still be used even when the cardholder is not physically present. Simply enter card details manually to take card payments over the phone. (Is there anything a PDQ machine can’t do?)

Before setting up your PDQ machine

Before you can use your PDQ machine you will need to open a merchant account. A merchant account is where the money goes before it’s paid into your business bank account, and without one you won’t be able to process card payments.

Conveniently, most merchant account providers also offer PDQ machines to rent or buy as part of a complete merchant services package. For an additional charge, you can also choose to add a payment gateway for processing online payments and a virtual terminal for taking card payments over the phone.

Rates vary depending on the volume of card transactions processed. So in most cases the best PDQ machine for small business owners is the one that comes with a dedicated small business merchant account.

▶ Read: Compare Top UK Merchant Account Providers

Types of PDQ machines


There are three types of PDQ machines for business owners to choose from: mobile, countertop and wireless.

Mobile PDQ machine

A mobile PDQ machine can be used to take card payments anywhere with mobile phone signal. They work with either a dedicated SIM card, or by connecting to your smartphone or tablet via an app.

Mobile PDQ machines are a firm favourite of small business owners because of the flexibility they offer and the relatively low up-front cost of buying them. They let you take card payments in remote areas without WiFi or a power outlet, and models such as the iZettle card reader can be bought outright for as little as £39.

▶ Read: Best Mobile PDQ Machines for Small Businesses

Countertop PDQ machine

A countertop PDQ machine — sometimes referred to as a static PDQ terminal — connects to the card payment network via an an ethernet cable or phone line. They’re most popular in the retail sector, where the point of sale is usually at the till. Rental costs start from as little as £15 a month.

Wireless/portable PDQ machine


Wireless PDQ machines connect via Bluetooth or Wifi, offering users the flexibility to move about and take card payments within a fixed range — usually of around 100m. They’re perfect in a restaurant or bar setting where the point of sale is at the customer’s table. Monthly rental prices are typically £20 to £25.

Contactless payment

All modern PDQ machines feature a contactless payment facility as standard — if yours doesn’t, you’ve been sold a dud!

Advantages of PDQ machines


Investing in a PDQ machine can have a big impact on your company’s bottom line. Here’s why…


Increased sales: A 2016 UK study by Mastercard found that, on average, Britons now carry less than £5 cash on them. So If your business is limited to only processing cash payments then you’re at a serious disadvantage. Simply put: no PDQ machine equals fewer sales.

Increased revenue: It’s been proven that customers typically spend more when paying by card. Because when you’re not physically parting with any money, a quick stop for coffee can easily turn into a full blown lunch — and a muffin for dessert. A PDQ machine helps you to upsell your products or services.

Increased security: A PDQ machine will reduce the amount of cash your business handles. And thanks to chip and pin card reader technology, instances of card payment fraud are now rare.


Costs and fees: The costs associated with PDQ machines may put some some retailers off. But in most cases an increase in revenue more than makes up for the fees you pay to providers.

How much does a PDQ machine cost?

For the terminal itself you can expect to pay between £10 and £25 rental per month, though some providers give you the option to buy it outright. To do this, you can expect to pay around £100 for a countertop PDQ machine and £200+ for a wireless or portable model.

Transaction fees are typically around 0.5% to 1.5% for debit cards and 1% to 2% for credit cards. But these vary from provider to provider, so it’s important to contact multiple providers when you compare PDQ machines to ensure you’re getting the best rates.

▶ Read: Compare PDQ Machine Costs

Cheapest card payment machine

Providers such as iZettle offer a mobile pdq machine designed specifically for small businesses. Costing just £39, it’s the go-to terminal for merchants in search of the cheapest card payment machine for their business.

How to Compare PDQ machines

Finding the best PDQ terminal for you business can be a tricky. Because with so many providers out there, how do you go about choosing between them?

Here are three questions to ask yourself to do a fair PDQ machine comparison:

  1. What cards do my customers use? All PDQ machines accept payment by credit cards and debit cards, but there are some cards, such as American Express, which can only be processed with select PDQ terminal providers. Know your customers — and their cards — to avoid embarrassment.
  2. Where is my point of sale? If it’s in a muddy field at a music festival, you’re going to need a mobile PDQ machine. If it’s in store, a countertop PDQ will often be the most cost effective choice.
  3. What’s my budget? If you can afford the cost of a larger upfront sum, in the long run it pays to buy your PDQ machine outright. If you’re trying to keep costs to a minimum then renting is a better option.

▶ Read: PDQ Machine Rental

If you’re ready to talk to suppliers, you can do a PDQ machine price comparison by simply clicking on one of the icons below and filling out our webform. We’ll contact leading suppliers on your behalf to get you free quotes tailored to your specific business needs.

Or scroll down to read our PDQ machine reviews.

PDQ machine comparison — finding the best PDQ machine for your business

EFT Vega3000 Countertop Terminal

Vega3000 Countertop Terminal

The Vega3000 Countertop PDQ terminal is one of the most widely used — and colourful — PDQ machines in the industry. Boasting WiFi, GPRS, Bluetooth and USB connectivity (the full house!) it provides a fast, reliable and cost effective solution for businesses of all sizes. The operating system uses the latest high-tech security software to safeguard transactions, without impacting on processing speed. There’s a touchscreen model available, and both contactless and magnetic stripe payments can be processed as standard.

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Ingenico iCT250 Countertop Terminal

Ingenico ICT250

The Ingenico iCT250 is a robust, cost effective countertop terminal perfect for businesses in the retail sector. Equipped with keys so large even your gran could use them and a colour screen display, it meets the payment industry’s highest security requirements for a PDQ machine. It connects to the Cardnet network via the internet or a traditional phone line and accepts all forms of payment, including magstripe and contactless. The built in printer churns out an impressive 18 lines per second.

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Ingenico iWL252 Portable Terminal

Ingenico iWL252

The Ingenico iWL252 is a lightweight and robust portable terminal with long-range Bluetooth connectivity and built in thermal printer. The state-of-the-art lithium ion battery is designed to run all day, even in the busiest retail environments. With a bright, colour screen display and large, finger-friendly keys the intuitive operating system can be easily navigated even in the low light conditions. Like all Ingenico terminals, the iWL252 meets the highest security standards required of a PDQ machine and accepts chip and PIN, magstripe and contactless payment as standard.

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Ingenico iWL251 Mobile Terminal

Ingenico iWL251

The Ingenico iWL251 Mobile Terminal is the ideal choice for merchants that need to take card payments on the go — think cab drivers, market traders, food stall vendors. In fact, we’d go as far to say it’s the best mobile card reader for UK businesses. It comes with a dedicated roaming SIM card and connects via the 3G/GPRS network. The iWL251 runs Ingenico's renowned Telium 2 Advanced operating system. The result of over 30 years’ development, Telium 2 Advanced is embedded in a staggering 20 million PDQ machines worldwide.

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Verifone Vx520 Countertop Terminal

Verifone Vx520 Countertop Terminal

This tank of a terminal is a no-frills, feature-rich countertop PDQ machine that delivers day after day, payment after payment — in even the busiest retail environments. As a Verifone customer, you gain access the company's much lauded Estate Management software. Connecting all the payment devices in your business, this acts as a central information hub where you can monitor transactions and view employee performance reports.

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Verifone Vx680 Mobile Terminal

Verifone Vx680 Mobile Terminal

The Vx680 is Verifone’s most compact terminal yet, but it doesn’t compromise on features. Boasting an almost IMAX-sized colour touchscreen display, as well as Bluetooth, 3G and WiFi connectivity, it’s one of the most versatile mobile PDQ machines on the market — and a favourite of business owners the world over.

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Best PDQ machine for small business owners


Looking for the best card payment machine for your small business? Check out our top picks:

Countertop PDQ Machine

Ingenico Desk 3000

The Desk 3000 series from Ingenico is part of a new generation of PDQ machines designed to meet the needs of 21st century small businesses. Equipped to handle over 2,500 payment applications in 170 countries, including Apple and Android Pay, the Desk 3000’s intuitive operating system, Telium, can be integrated with a host of business apps to provide greater insight into sales and employee performance.

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Portable PDQ Machine

Ingenico iWL 200 Series

Ingenico’s iWL 200 portable terminal is a favourite of small business owners the world over. And it’s easy to see why. For starters it’s reasonably priced compared to other portable PDQ machines. And it’s robust, seriously robust — but lightweight, too. It comes with a full range of features, including a colour screen display and built-in thermal printer; accepts all forms of payment; and connects via bluetooth or WiFi. What more could you want?

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iZettle mobile PDQ machine

iZettle card machine for small businesses

The best mobile for small business owners in the UK? It could only ever be the iZettle reader. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the this compact mobile PDQ machine has redefined the card payment game for small businesses, spawning a host of copycat devices. Small enough to fit in your pocket, it connects via an app on your smartphone or tablet and can be bought outright for as little as £39.

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Getting a PDQ machine for your business

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