What is a PDQ machine and how do they work?

Heard the term ‘PDQ’ but not sure what it means? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out what a PDQ machine is, how it works and, most importantly, what it can do for your business.

What is a PDQ machine?

What is a PDQ machine?

A PDQ machine is just another name for a card machine – a device that lets you process payments from your customers made by debit and credit card.

What does PDQ machine stand for?

PDQ stands for Process Data Quickly. A PDQ machine is also sometimes referred to as a Point of Sale (POS) terminal or card reader, but most commonly as a card machine. As the name suggests, it allows businesses to take
customer card payments for their goods or services quickly and easily.

How do PDQ machines work?

You can process transactions using a PDQ machine by following these four simple steps:

  1. Ask your customer to slot their credit or debit card into the PDQ machine and enter their PIN
  2. A request for approval of the payment will automatically be sent to the customer’s card provider (e.g. NatWest)
  3. Once the transaction is approved, the funds will be sent from the card provider to your merchant account
  4. After a predetermined number of days, known as the ‘settlement period’, the money will be moved from your merchant account to your business bank account

If your customer is paying via contactless, you can skip step one and simply ask them to hold their card or compatible device on the PDQ machine’s contactless payment reader instead.

How do PDQ machines work?

What are the benefits of using a PDQ machine?

What are the benefits of using a PDQ machine?

In 2017, there were 16.3 billion payments made by credit or debit card in the UK alone. Here are just some of the ways accepting this method of payment can benefit your business:

  • Increased security: no need to keep large amounts of cash on your premises, plus you can benefit from the built-in security features of card payments
  • Less chance of human error: taking more card payments means it’s likely you’ll have fewer cash-related errors
  • Convenience: card payments are quick and easy (particularly when contactless) so save time for both you and your customers
  • Improved brand reputation: businesses who take card payments are often perceived as more trustworthy by consumers
  • More sales potential: a PDQ machine will allow you to process transactions from a wider (non-cash paying) audience


Types of PDQ machines

There are many different styles of PDQ machine to choose from, including:

  • Countertop
  • Mobile
  • Portable
  • Countertop

Here’s a bit more detail about each of them, including what type of business they can benefit and why.

Types of PDQ machines


When it comes to traditional face-to-face payments, countertop terminals are great for businesses with a fixed sales point or location, like shops, retailers and supermarkets. They usually sit next to the till and can’t be moved around the premises like mobile and portable models, but they don’t tend to take up too much room. As they stay plugged in, you don’t need to worry about running out of battery.


Often pocket-sized, mobile PDQ machines are by their nature perfect to use on-the-go. You don’t need a fixed till, but you do need a mobile signal or GPRS to process payment. Most mobile terminals come equipped with a ‘roaming’ SIM card, which connects to the strongest mobile network available when you’re accepting payments. They’re particularly handy for events, pop-up shops and even customer’s homes. Just don’t forget to charge them.


Also known as wireless Chip and PIN machines, portable PDQ terminals work in a similar way to countertop styles. But instead of being physically connected to your till, they process transactions via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This makes them ideal for restaurants, cafes and takeaways, where it can be useful to take the PDQ machine directly to your customers. That way, they don’t need to get up until they want to leave, and you can manage taking payments without a queue forming.


Contactless card payments usually come as standard with countertop, mobile and portable PDQ machines and allows you to process payments in a matter of seconds. You can take contactless payment not only by credit and debit card, but also via Samsung Pay, Google Pay and Apple Pay enabled devices. Keep in mind that for all methods except Apple Pay, there’s an upper limit of £45.

How much does a PDQ machine cost?

There are some fees and costs associated with using a PDQ machine to process card payments. These include merchant fees, card charges and other costs relating to which specific type of PDQ machine you choose.

Find out more about card processing fees.

Next steps

Want to find out more about PDQ machines and how they can help your business? Get in touch with our team today who will be happy to help.

Date Published: 28/01/2021