To take credit and debit card payments face-to-face from customers visiting your retail store, café, or restaurant, you’ll need a PDQ machine.
It’s worth the investment – believe us.
Have you ever experienced the disappointment of visiting a shop only to realise that, when you get to the counter to pay for your goods, they only accept cash?
When the effect on companies’ turnover of not accepting card payments was recently assessed, researchers in America found that:
- 8 million customers abandoned their purchases in-store because they didn’t want the hassle of finding a cashpoint to pay for their goods, and
- 73% of people simply now won’t buy goods from a store which did not take credit or debit card payments.
In 2019, there were 97.3 million debit cards in circulation and 61.9 million credit cards in Britain.
As a nation, we hold an average of 2.5 cards per man, woman, and child.
Investing in a PDQ machine and opening a merchant services account does cost money – a small percentage of your ongoing sales volumes – but it will almost certainly lead to a rise in turnover in most cases.
BusinessCostSaver definition – a merchant services account provider organises the collection of payment from customers’ bank account on each sale made on a credit or debit card and the subsequent transfer of those funds to your business bank account. You need to select a provider at the same time as selecting a PDQ machine.
In this article, BusinessCostSaver considers:
- the five different types of PDQ card machine system you can choose,
- the types of card payments you can accept with a PDQ machine,
- how much PDQ machines actually costs,
- the main PDQ manufacturers in the UK, and
- how to take advantage of our free PDQ machine and merchant services account recommendation service.
The five types of PDQ card machine
The standard PDQ machine meaning or definition is “electronic hardware which is used by retailers and other companies to process payments made by customers on debit or credit card”.
There are five main types of PDQ card machine:
- countertop PDQ terminals
- portable PDQ terminals
- mobile PDQ machines
- PDQ apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers, and
- EPOS systems
Countertop, portable, and mobile PDQ terminals are more likely to be offered to you by merchant services providers which tie their customers into a contract of a year or more.
1. Countertop PDQ terminal
Countertop PDQ terminals are the terminals you see in retail premises next to static check-out tills.
They’re not designed to be moved, they’re plugged into the wall, and they’re often attached to the (E)POS system within a store.
They’re normally connected to a fixed telephone line or a Wi-Fi connection which they use to contact your merchant service account to authorise a customer’s payment.
2. Portable PDQ terminal
You’re more likely to see portable PDQ terminals in hospitality settings like restaurants, pubs, cafes, and hotels.
Waiters and bar staff use portable PDQ terminals so that their patrons can pay them at the table rather than expecting their patrons to pay at the bar.
Portable PDQ machines, which are normally battery-powered, connect to your merchant service account provider via the Wi-Fi in your premises.
3. Mobile PDQ machine
A mobile PDQ is essentially the same as a portable PDQ terminal except that it uses the mobile phone network to connect to your merchant services account supplier instead of Wi-Fi.
Out of the three main types of PDQ machine, mobile PDQ machines are the most expensive to purchase or rent.
And like portable PDQ machines, a major drawback is their reliance on battery power meaning that you always have to make sure that there’s a full day’s charge on your machine before doing any business.
Mobile PDQ machines are popular among travelling reps, market traders, debt collection firms, tradespeople, and taxi drivers.
4. App-based PDQ functionality
PDQ apps which link to your mobile phone, tablet, desktop, or laptop are more likely to be the main method of processing transactions offered to you by easy-come, easy-go providers like Stripe, iZettle, and PayPal.
5. EPOS facilities
EPOS systems are more suitable for larger retailers or hospitality providers.
That’s because of the extra functionality they offer like stock management, employee management, and their ability to integrate with accounting packages like Xero and Quickbooks.
While most EPOS system providers require you to find your own merchant services account provider and PDQ machines, some offer a joint package like Square, iZettle, and Spotify.
EPOS solutions can run in price from hundreds to thousands of pounds.
The 4 types of card payments accepted by a PDQ machine
Depending on the equipment you choose and the terms and conditions governing your merchant services account, you’ll be able to take up to four different types of payment:
1. Chip and PIN machine
With a Chip and PIN payment, your customer inserts their card into your PDQ machine and, when prompted, enters their 4-digit PIN code.
2. Contactless payment
Contactless payment cards use radio-frequency identification to transmit a cardholder’s details to your PDQ terminal.
There is currently a £45 ceiling on contactless payments – for any amount higher than that, your PDQ machine will prompt a chip and PIN verification from your customer.
The technology has since been adapted and improved so that your customers can use their smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch to transmit the same information.
Many of these apps do not have a transaction limit ceiling for extra convenience.
3. Magnetic strip and signature payments
Chip and PIN transactions largely replaced magnetic strip and signature payments when the technology was introduced in the mid-noughties.
With a magnetic strip and signature payment, your customer either:
- inserts their card into your PDQ machine or
- swipes it through the channel normally to the side of the screen.
The PDQ machine then prints a receipt which your customer must sign.
Retailers must then compare the signature on the PDQ receipt with the signature on the back of the card to verify identity.
This obviously imperfect system of verification led to significant levels of fraud which were later reduced by nearly a fifth following widespread adoption of Chip and PIN.
4. Keyed-in payments
With keyed-in payments, the customer reads out their credit card number, the expiry date, the CVC2 code (the number on their signature strip), and postcode.
You enter all this information into your PDQ machine via the keyboard together with the total amount of the transaction.
Keyed-in payments are very useful for accepting payment over the telephone.
How much does a PDQ machine cost?
There are three types of fees which you’re likely to encounter when selecting a PDQ machine and a merchant services account provider.
Individual aspects of service are chargeable with some merchant services providers and others aren’t.
In addition, those fees which are common across all merchant service provider tariffs can vary greatly.
Selecting the wrong tariff may sometimes mean that you’re paying up to treble what you would be with another supplier so it’s really important to shop around.
Initial investment costs
Many of the longer established merchant service providers charge an account set-up fee of up to £150.
Sometimes, these set up fees include the provision of a machine however some will attempt to charge you up to £800 for the purchase of a machine in addition to the set-up fee.
There is lots of room for negotiation with both of these fees especially if a provider knows that they’re in competition with other providers.
For newer entrants into the market, you may have to pay a terminal fee of between £20 and £200 for ownership of a machine based upon its complexity.
In general though, the cheaper the terminal, the more likely it will be that, to operate, it needs to connect to a mobile phone or tablet via an app.
Newer entrants base their business model around recruiting as many new customers as possible to build a critical mass of transaction values to allow them to negotiate lower fees with the other parties involved in the card processing network.
As a result, they do not charge many of the fees we list below although their actual transaction processing fees (what they charge you every time you use the machine) will often be higher.
Standard fees charged by most merchant services account providers include:
- Transaction processing fees – the per transaction charge
- Authorisation fees – up to 25p in addition to the transaction charge
- Terminal hire fees – the cost of renting your terminal from your provider if you haven’t purchased it outright
- Minimum monthly service charge – an additional charge (up to £25) if the total sales volume in the previous month was not as high as you were contractually obliged to put through their terminal.
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, customers can demand that the payment they made to you for goods and services you provided be reversed.
This request can be made for a variety of different reasons and merchant services account providers rarely expend particular effort into challenging these requests.
So, if someone attempts a chargeback, your expectation should be that they’ll be successful in their attempt.
Similar although less legally watertight rules cover purchases made on debit cards.
In the event of a chargeback, the entire value of the original transaction will be reversed plus you’ll be charged a processing fee of up to £20 by your provider.
Regrettably, chargebacks are an occupational hazard for companies accepting credit and debit cards.
Which companies are the main PDQ manufacturers?
The three largest providers are PDQ machines in the UK are Spire, Ingenico, and Verifone.
Theirs are the PDQ machines you’re most likely to be offered if you sign up to a more traditional merchant services providers whose existence predates the widespread adoption of the internet (for example, Barclaycard, HSBC, Worldpay, and so on).
Alternatively, they may offer you PDQ machines manufactured by, among others, First Data, Motorola, Fujitsu, Datecs, ITWell, and Bluebird Soft.
For no-commitment contracts offered by newer entrants to the market like iZettle, Square, and SumUp, you’re more likely to be charged for a very basic reader costing less than £50 which connects to your mobile phone via an app.
Spire, recently purchased by Castles Technology, offers twelve different PDQ machines, three of the most popular of which are:
A worldwide company headquartered in France, Ingenico’s 7,500 employees have been providing retail and hospitality clients with PDQ machines for 40 years.
Three of the most popular models they have in the UK include:
Founded the year after the formation of Ingenico in California, Verifone provides point of sale technology for retail and hospitality businesses worldwide.
Handsets currently bundled in with many longer-term merchant services account packages in the UK include:
Free assistance available on PDQ machine and merchant services provider selection
We’ve seen that, despite the initial and ongoing costs involved in obtaining a PDQ machine and merchant services account for your company, there are significant commercial and revenue benefits to allowing your customers to pay by debit or credit card.
If this is the course of action you want to take for the first time for your company or if you’re with another merchant services provider at the moment and you feel that you’re paying too much, let us help you.
We offer a free recommendations service to our readers to assist them in finding the right PDQ machine and merchant services solutions for their companies.
Simply fill in the form at the top of the page and we’ll get back in touch with you asking you a few questions about your business, how and where customers pay you, and any expansion plans you have for the coming years.
Using that information, we’ll then present you with one or more options which our team believes represents the best value for money for your business.
Our service is completely free and impartial. Better still, you’re under no obligation to accept any offer we recommend to you.