What is a PDQ Machine? Meaning & How It Works?

pdq machine
Photo by Mikhail Nilov

The number of payment methods available to the typical customer has increased dramatically in recent years, whether it’s a card, contactless, or smartphone. Technology advances quickly, and employing a PDQ machine enables small business owners to accept a wide range of cards and payment apps quickly and securely.

This article will explain what a PDQ machine is, what it means for payments, and what types of PDQ machines are available. We’ll also go over the payment methods PDQ terminals may accept, as well as how to pick the best PDQ machine for your small business. 

What Does a PDQ Machine Imply in Terms of Payments?

A PDQ machine is any device used to handle credit or debit card payments. PDQ stands for “Process Data Quickly.” Today, PDQ machines are more generally referred to as chip-and-pin machines or card readers. Card machines, which predated today’s PDQ terminals, relied on merchants matching the signature on the back of the customer’s card to that on the recently signed receipt. While it was the most secure way at the time, contemporary PDQ devices are far more secure.

What Was the Operation of the First PDQ Machines?

Customers had to swipe their credit or debit card through the first PDQ machines to make a payment. The machine subsequently printed a receipt, which the consumer had to sign to authorise the payment.

Staff would then need to compare the signature to the one on the back of their card to ensure that they were identical. It was a time-consuming and dangerous procedure! If a customer’s card was lost or stolen, the thief just needed to perfect the signature on the back of the card to commit fraud. Thankfully, PDQ machines have progressed greatly since then.

How do PDQ Machines Now Work?

Because old PDQ machines may readily be used for card payment fraud, banks introduced a new technology in 2006 to address this: PINs and chips.

Your consumer inserts their debit or credit card into the card machine to use the chip and PIN. Instead of a signature, customers enter a four-digit PIN code. This PIN should be unique to them and kept private.

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of what happens:

  • When a consumer inserts a credit or debit card into your PDQ machine, it will prompt them to enter their PIN. They can also tap their card against the PDQ terminal for a contactless payment that does not require a PIN for lower-cost goods.
  • If the PIN is accurate, a request for approval will be submitted to your customer’s card provider to check if funds are available in their bank account.
  • Once accepted, the funds will be sent from the customer’s account to your merchant account.
  • The funds will subsequently be transferred to your company bank account (the length of the transfer depends on your provider).

Chip and PIN are regarded as a faster and more secure way to pay, and yearly counterfeit card fraud losses have decreased by £81.9 million between 2004 and 2014.

Types of PDQ Machines

Different types of PDQ machines are appropriate for various types of enterprises. To have a more comprehensive payment system, your firm may use a range of card machines. There are three basic types of PDQ machines, each designed to meet certain business requirements.

#1. Countertop

The most frequent sort of PDQ machine, you’ve probably seen them in supermarkets or gas stations. These terminals are located behind the counter and are physically linked to the main POS system by a phone or Ethernet wire. Countertop card payment devices are linked to a base station in your store at a defined payment point. Your broadband router and the mains electricity power them.

Who should make use of it?

A shop or salon, for example, has a set point of payment or sales counter.


  • Reliable point of sale that does not require a fee 
  • Usually provides you with access to the most competitive transaction fees


  • There is no mobility, even within your property. clunky, antiquated devices

#2. Portable

Portable PDQ terminals link to a base unit via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so they are not limited to a countertop. However, depending on whether they are connected via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, their range may be limited to 50 or 100 metres. So they’re great if you want to accept payments wherever you are on your business premises, but they might not be the best option if you want to be paid on the go.

Portable card payment machines include a docking station but are battery-powered, allowing you to move them around and accept payments from wherever on your business premises.

Who should make use of it?

Allowing your workers to accept tableside payments is ideal for a restaurant or cafe.


  • Far greater mobility than a countertop card machine
  • More modern, streamlined designs


  • It requires charging and may fail if the Wi-Fi signal is low

#3. Mobile

Mobile PDQ machines, the most recent iteration of PDQ terminals, enable merchants to accept card payments anywhere they have Wi-Fi or mobile data access (3G/4G/5G). By accepting payments via the internet, the wireless PDQ machine becomes as mobile and adaptable as your smartphone. The mobility of a wireless point of sale (mPOS) can help travelling salespeople, food truck entrepreneurs, exhibitors, and taxi drivers.

They’re often small and compact, with flat-rate transaction costs that don’t bind you to a contract. They can be used in conjunction with a mobile receipt printer and improved with docking stations for a more comprehensive payment point configuration, but they typically send receipts via email.

Who should make use of it?

Pop-up stores, street food sellers, market traders, and any mobile business


It allows you to accept payments from wherever you are. Sleek and compact designs are both useful and aesthetically pleasing for a small business looking to present a modern image on a PDQ machine. 


It can be unstable if you’re in an area with a weak cell connection, preventing you from accepting card payments; it’s usually only available with a fixed-rate transaction price.

Payment Method Handled by a PDQ Terminal

PDQ devices are designed to accept a wide range of payment methods, including developing payment methods. 

#1. Pin and Chip

This is the most often-used card payment option, and it is available on all PDQ devices. Insert a card and enter your PIN. In 2020, over 50% of all payments in the UK were made by debit and credit cards. Having a PDQ machine that supports chip and PIN is highly important to any organisation.

#2. Contactless

Nearly one-third of all payments in the UK will be contactless by 2021. When only 7% of payments in 2016 were contactless, we’re certainly witnessing an explosive development. Because contactless payments are becoming more popular, businesses are equipping themselves with NFC-equipped PDQ terminals that can accept contactless payments.

#3. Apps for Mobile Payments

Consumers are increasingly using NFC-equipped PDQ machines to pay with their cell phones, thanks to payment programs such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. More than 80% of people in the UK have used mobile payments, and 64% prefer them to traditional card purchases. Mobile payments are most common among people aged 16 to 34, but they are gaining popularity across the board. Having an NFC-equipped PDQ terminal is an excellent long-term investment.

Cost of a PDQ Machine

PDQ machines can be rented or purchased from any major payment processing or merchant services provider. The gadgets themselves can range in price from £15 to £150, depending on the type. However, for tabletop and portable devices, it is most popular to rent them for £15 to £25 per month. While we’ll be looking at devices, keep in mind that PDQ device costs do not exist in a vacuum. 

If you purchase a device from a specific card machine manufacturer, you will also be using their payment processing services; it’s all part of the same bundle. This includes paying any monthly fees and transaction costs. These recurring fees differ from provider to provider, so shop around for a charge structure and pricing strategy that work for your company.

Tips on Choosing an Appropriate PDQ Machine for Your Small Business

There are numerous reasons to invest in a chip-based PDQ terminal. Here are just a few of the ways a PDQ machine might help your small business:

  • Safety and security: Having the correct PDQ machine for your small business ensures the security of card payments, and minimising the quantity of cash you handle may lessen the danger of robbery, counterfeiting, and internal theft.
  • Customer anticipation: PDQ machines allow you to satisfy consumer expectations by providing payment flexibility, increasing the likelihood that they will return. Fewer individuals use cash these days, and more people use contactless and smartphone payments for modest purchases.
  • Operations have been streamlined: Having a mobile PDQ machine can help you process payments faster and cut down on lineups at the checkout. Card and mobile payments are the quickest ways to receive payment.
  • Autonomy: PDQ terminals are no longer big gadgets that must be placed in a certain location. Modern PDQ machines, such as the SumUp Solo, are portable and lightweight, with long battery life, Wi-Fi connectivity, and limitless free mobile data.

How Does a Credit Card Reader Machine Work?

Credit card readers work by taking information from a customer’s credit or debit card, delivering it to the payment processor, and receiving information back from the customer’s bank. The transaction is approved if the card reader identifies available funds.

What Are the Drawbacks of a Card Reader?

Disadvantage No. 1: Some credit card chip processors can be slow. What makes chip cards more secure can also slow down some chip transactions. Credit card chip scanners typically require an additional piece of software known as middleware to produce a unique code for each transaction.

Why Do Banks Continue to Use Card Readers?

Using a card reader when banking online allows us to confirm that it is you and keeps your money safe and secure. We won’t always ask you to use it, but there’s always the possibility that you will.

Is It Okay for Anyone to Use My Card Reader?

Yes, you should be able to use another bank’s card reader, but you can only use your own bank card and PIN. For your protection, only use a card reader from a reputable vendor and ensure that the back label is intact.

Is POS the same as PDQ?

A payment terminal, also known as a POS terminal, credit card machine, PIN pad, or EFTPOS terminal (or by the earlier title PDQ terminal, which stands for “Process Data Quickly”), is a device that interfaces with payment cards to make electronic financial transfers.

How Does a Card Reader Figure Out My Pin?

The ‘chip’ in the cards is roughly the size of a pinhead and stores the four-digit PIN code. The card reader scans the chip when the customer inserts their card, and the transaction is confirmed when the customer inputs their corresponding identification number.

Can Someone Use My Card if They Don’t Have It?

Card-not-present fraud (CNP) is a type of fraud that does not require the presence of a physical card. If you don’t have enough security measures in place and a thief acquires your debit card information, they can use it to make fraudulent online or over-the-phone purchases.

Is it necessary to maintain PDQ receipts?

For audit purposes, merchant copies of PDQ receipts must be kept for a rolling year of 12 months. Merchant copies retained for 13 months or more can be destroyed through confidential shredding. Receipts should be kept in a safe place and filed chronologically.


Although it is not a widely used name, PDQ or credit card machines, are a popular method of accepting payments. Whether you choose a standard or smart gadget to assist you in operating your business, keep in mind that card payments are becoming more popular across Europe. Their popularity will only expand in the aftermath of COVID-19 since we perceive them to be safer and more sanitary methods of payment.


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