PDQ Machine

The Ultimate PDQ Machine Guide 2018

Last year, for the first time ever, credit and debit transactions accounted for more than half of all retail transactions and over half the value of all retail transactions. So not only are consumers spending more money with cards than cash but they’re also spending with them more often.

With consumers increasing moving away from cash and towards cards, businesses must accept card payments if they want to stay competitive.

To do that, you need what’s called a PDQ machine.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about PDQs, covering different types of PDQs, accepted payments types, costs and purchase options. If you have any extra questions, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!



  1. What Types of PDQ Machines are There?
    1. Countertop PDQ Machines
    2. Portable PDQ Machines
    3. Mobile PDQ Machines
  2. What Types of Payment Can PDQ Machines Accept?
    1. Chip & PIN
    2. Contactless
    3. Magnetic Strip
    4. Mobile Payments
  3. How Much Does a PDQ Machine Cost?
    1. Upfront Costs
    2. Monthy Fees
    3. Extra Fees
  4. Who Makes PDQ Machines?
    1. Ingenico
    2. Verifone
    3. Spire
  5. Should I Buy or Lease a PDQ Machine?
    1. Renting Advantages and Disadvantages
    2. Buying Advantages and Disadvantages


What Type of PDQ Machines are There?

What Type of PDQ Machines are There?

A PDQ (Processing Data Quickly) machine is a device that merchants use to accept card payments from their customers. These machines are also called point of sale terminals, credit card terminals or chip & PIN machines.

The machine works by reading the data stored on a customer’s card, accepting their PIN and then sending the information to the acquiring bank. The nitty-gritty details are quite complicated so I won’t go into it in much detail here. For a full explanation of the inner workings of a card payment, check out our blog post The Ultimate Payment Processing Guide.

In the UK, there are three different flavours of PDQ machine: countertop, portable and mobile. All three have different advantages and disadvantages so there’s not really one that’s better than the others for all situations.

In the next few sections section, I’ll look at all three kinds of PDQ machine, discussing their advantages, disadvantages and common use cases.

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Type #1 — Countertop PDQ Machines

Countertop PDQ machines are the most common sort of machine and you probably see dozens on a daily basis.

These machines are perfect for businesses that only take payment from one designated section of your premises. This is the case for most retail businesses where payment is made at a set checkout.

Countertop PDQ machines are physically attached to the POS system and communicate externally via a phone line or ethernet cable.

Common countertop PDQ machines: Spire T4220, Spire SPc50, Ingenico iCT220, Ingenico iCT250 and Verifone VX520.



  • Countertop PDQ machines are the most basic of the three so are usually the cheapest to rent or buy.
  • Transactions are usually completed the quickest because they have a fast cabled connection.



  • You are limited to taking payment in one location.


Type #2 — Portable PDQ Machines

Portable or moveable PDQ machines connect to a base station via Bluetooth or WiFi and are powered by a battery. This lets you take payments away from the base station. These types of PDQ machines are useful for when you have large premises and need to take payment anywhere within it and not just at a set checkout area.

Portable machines are most often used by bars and restaurants so staff can take payment from a customer at their table.

Bluetooth machines have a maximum range of around 100 meters. However, this is likely to be substantially less in buildings. WiFi machines should have a range of up to 50 meters when used inside.

Common portable PDQ machines: Spire M4240, Spire SPw60, Ingenico iWL222, Ingenico iWL252 and Verifone VX680.



  • You can connect several portable PDQ machines to one base station.
  • Portable PDQ machines allow you to take payment anywhere on your premises (within reason) and not just at a designated checkout or till.



  • The range is limited to Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity. If you have very large premises or want to take off premises payments, you might struggle.
  • You need to remember to charge portable PDQ machines.
  • Under heavy usage, portable PDQ machines may not last a full workday, leaving your staff unable to take card payments until the machine has recharged.


Type #3 — Mobile PDQ Machines

A mobile PDQ machine will use the mobile telephone network (GPRS or GSM) to stay connected outwith a fixed business location. In theory, this means you can use a mobile PDQ machine to take payment anywhere in the country. However, since you’re reliant on the mobile phone signal, you’re out of luck if there’s no reception.

Mobile PDQ machines are most commonly used by businesses where payment is taken off premises, for example, tradesmen, debt collectors, market traders, travelling salespeople and so on.

Common mobile PDQ machines: Spire M4230, Spire SPw70, Ingenico iWL221, Ingenico iWL251 and Verifone VX675.



  • Mobile PDQ machines allow you to accept payment off premises.



  • Reliant on mobile phone signal, which can be patchy in rural areas. To check coverage where you operate, check out Open Signal’s coverage map.
  • Mobile machines cost more than the equivalent countertop or portable model because they are more complex.
  • Transactions take longer to process on mobile terminals because the connection is usually slower.


What Types of Payment Can PDQ Machines Accept?

What Types of Payment Can PDQ Machines Accept?

Chip & PIN

This is a secure method of taking a face-to-face transaction. With chip & PIN transactions, a user must verify the card is theirs by entering a four-digit number that only they know. Chip & PIN was introduced in 2004 to help combat card fraud and is now the standard way of completing a card payment.



Contactless payment systems use radio-frequency identification (RFID) to communicate between PDQ machine and card to make a secure payment. Usually, there is a £30 limit set on contactless payments.

The first contactless credit cards were issued by Barclays in 2007 but it took another ten years for the technology to really find its feet. Nowadays, tens of millions of transactions are made using contactless cards every single day.


Magnetic Strip

This is an outdated (although still occasionally used) way of completing a card payment. The merchant would swipe your card through the PDQ machine, which would allow the machine to read the payment details. To verify that you were the cardholder, you would sign the receipt and the merchant would compare the receipt signature to the signature on the back of the card.


Mobile Payments

Mobile payment systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay are relatively new to the payment industry. Mobile Payments work in roughly the same way as a contactless payment with a couple of tweaks.

First, you set up the service on your phone by entering your payment details. Second, instead of communicating with the credit or debit card, the PDQ machine talks to your phone, retrieving the payment information and then continuing as normal. Like contactless payments, mobile payments usually have a cap of £30 per transaction.


How Much Does a PDQ Machine Cost?

This is a question we get asked a lot. And I mean, a lot.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a definite answer. Quite how much you’ll have to pay depends on your business, your requirements and your card turnover.

PDQ machines have a number of fees you have to pay throughout your contract. In the next few sections, I’ll run through common charges, which I have categorised into the following segments:

  • Upfront Costs
  • Monthly Fees
  • Extra Fees


Upfront Costs

Unfortunately, PDQ machines have a couple of upfront costs you have to deal with before you can get up and running.

  • Set Up Fees: A (sometimes avoidable) one-off fixed fee for the installation of new merchant facilities. The setup fee typically sits at around £50–150. If you negotiate with your supplier, they are sometimes willing to drop this fee.
  • PDQ Machine Purchase Fees: When it comes to the actual PDQ machine, you’ve got two options: purchase or renting. (More on the choice later.) If you want to purchase your PDQ machine, it will cost quite a lot, typically anywhere from £200 to £800, depending on how fancy the terminal is.


Monthly Fees

There are a bunch of monthly fees you should expect to pay, ranging from the basic cost of renting your PDQ machine to the percentage your acquirer charges on each transaction.

Here is a quick overview of what monthly charges you should expect and how much they will be.

  • Terminal Hire: This is the basic rental charge for your PDQ machine. Typically £14–16 for a fixed countertop machine, £17–21 for a portable machine and £20–24 for a mobile machine. If you have bought your PDQ machine outright, you obviously won’t have to pay this.
  • Merchant Service Charge: This is the charge on every credit or debit transaction you accept. Typically around 0.25–0.35% for debit cards, 0.7–0.9% for credit cards and 1.6–1.8% for commercial credit cards.
  • Authorisation Fees: An additional charge for every authorisation on every transaction to test the payment method. Typically around 1–3p per transaction.
  • Minimum Monthly Service Charge (MMSC): A charge levied if your transactions fall below a certain level. If your other fees come to more than the minimum monthly service charge, you aren’t charged the MMSC. Typically set at £10–20 per month. Since your provider is investing a lot of money upfront, the MMSC is there to ensure they make back their investment.

At Cardswitcher, we help merchants compare their payment processing options. You could save up to 40% in your card processing fees in just 2 minutes! Click here to get started!


Extra Fees

There are a couple of one-offs or irregular fees that you might experience over your contract. The most common is the chargeback fee, which kicks in every time a cardholder requests a chargeback. This typically sits around £10–20 per instance.

For a guide on how to reduce the number of chargebacks you receive, check out our blog post 5 Ways to Reduce Chargebacks.


Who Makes PDQ Machines?

This is where it gets complicated. There’s a bunch of organisations that resell PDQ machines and a couple that actually go so far as to rebrand the PDQ machines and sell them as their own.

In the UK, there are around 24 different companies selling devices, some you might have heard of (Fujitsu, Motorola, First Data) and others you might not have (Bluebird Soft, ITWell, Datecs).

in this section, I’m going to focus on the three biggest players in the UK market: Verifone, Ingenico and Spire. I’ll give you a brief history of the company and a quick rundown of their key products. Let’s get started!


Ingenico Group


Founded in 1980 in France, Ingenico is one of the largest payment terminal manufacturers operating in the UK. In terms of traditional retail, Ingenico is definitely the name to beat. Building on its wildly successful countertop PDQ machines, the company has come to dominate the retail landscape.

However, don’t think the company is sitting on its heels. Ingenico has launched a range of new products to support changing payment behaviours, including mobile products that integrate with smartphones.

Key Products:

  • iCT250: Countertop device designed for traditional retail environments with fixed payment points. Small, robust and easy to use, the iCT250 is one of Ingenico’s most successful payments.
  • iPP350:Countertop device designed for traditional retail environments with fixed payments points. The iPP350 is another immensely successful product from Ingenico. Outstanding processing times combined with a robust design make this a standout product.
  • Move/5000: Portable or mobile device. The Move/5000 supports 3G, GPRS, Bluetooth and WiFi to enable to you to accept payment in any situation. A powerful battery, big touchscreen and inbuilt printer make this an excellent choice for a wide range of businesses.




Verifone was founded in Hawaii in 1981. Since then, it’s expanded into 150 countries and generated $1.87 billion in revenue last year.

The company has a wide range of payment products, including full point of sale systems, standalone card terminals and automated payment solutions.

While Verifone isn’t quite as successful in the UK as Ingenico, it’s growing every year. It’ll be very interesting to see how the future of the industry plays out, especially with recent changes in payment behaviour.

Key Products:

  • P400: A countertop device with optional connectivity via Bluetooth and WiFi. This is Verifone’s new flagship device and comes with a sturdy design and a beautiful touch-enabled screen.
  • VX820: An older countertop device designed for traditional retail environments. The VX820 is probably the most popular Verifone PDQ machine and has done well because it does the basics very well.
  • VX680: A portable/mobile device designed for delivery services, stadium vendors and everyone in between. The VX680 supports WiFi, Bluetooth and phone networks so you’re as likely to see them in bars and restaurants as you are in true mobile settings.


Spire Payments


Back in 1978, George Wallner, David Saul and Leslie Fritz founded a payment terminal company called Hypercom. Hypercom performed very well in the south pacific and was acquired by Ingenico in 2011.

However, the UK and Spanish operations were sold separately to a private investment company and the new company was called Spire.

While Spire isn’t quite as successful in Europe as Hypercom is in the south pacific, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops over the next decade or so.

Key Products:

  • SPc50: Countertop device designed for busy retail POS systems. The SPc50 comes with dial-up, Ethernet and optional GPRS connectivity. This machine has a built-in thermal printer.
  • SPw70: Portable device designed for hospitality, retail and attended kiosks. The machine uses WiFi or a wired USB connection. The long-life battery promises 80 hours of standby or 300 transactions before it needs to be recharged.
  • SPw60: Mobile device designed for sporting or music events, trade shows, market stalls or short-term hire. The machine uses the phone network (GSM or GPRS) for connectivity and can also use WiFi if it is available. The long-life battery promises 80 hours of standby or 300 transactions before it needs to be recharged.


Should I Buy or Rent a PDQ Machine?

As I mentioned before, merchants have to decide whether they want to buy their PDQ machine outright or rent/lease it from a supplier.

There’s a bunch of advantages and disadvantages so it’s difficult to say one is definitely better than the other. In the next two sections, I’ll look at each option in detail and will discuss the pros and cons of each.


Renting Advantages and Disadvantages

Renting a PDQ machine is quite simple. You agree to pay your supplier a set amount every month for a set number of months. After the contract runs out, you either return the PDQ machine or allow your deal to auto-renew.

So why is renting a good idea?

Well, if your business doesn’t have a spare £800 to spend on an ‘all singing, all dancing’ PDQ machine, renting allows you to spread the cost out over several years. This is especially important if you’re buying multiple terminals for a business as the costs can add up really quickly.

Renting a terminal (usually) comes with more support than just buying one. If it breaks, just let your supplier know and they will replace it. (Note: Check your contract carefully as this isn’t always the case.)

Good points out the way, why is renting not such a good idea?

The big one is that you tie yourself into a multi-year contract. If your business requirements change, being locked into a contract isn’t always ideal.

Also, if you add up all your monthly payments, it will almost always cost more than just buying the machine outright.

Last, while you’ll get a guarantee and might be able to take out additional support, you’re usually on your own if anything goes wrong outwith the standard warranty.


Buying Advantages and Disadvantages

Buying is also fairly straightforward. You pay the full list price in one go and own the PDQ machine outright.

What advantages are there to this option?

Well, if you have the cash, this is a great option as it’s cheaper in the long-run. It also eliminates the on-going monthly rental fees.

And the disadvantages?

If you buy the terminal outright, you usually take on all the repair, support and upgrade costs once the warranty has expired. So if your PDQ machine stops working one day after your warranty expires, you either have to pay for a new one or pay for the repairs.

Depending on your luck, this can actually make outright purchase a more expensive option than renting.

There’s also problems with upgrading. If you want to upgrade your PDQ machine to the latest model, you have to buy it.

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