What is a PDQ machine?

PDQ machines help small businesses take payments quickly and easily. Find out more, and compare quotes

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  • The Startups Team

PDQ machines – or more commonly card machines – are the cornerstone of any successful small businesses today. As fewer and fewer shoppers carry cash, retailers and service providers are increasingly expected to accept card payments.

Whereas just over a decade ago retail transactions with cards meant a tedious back and forth of receipt signing, today’s PDQ card machines can process payments in a matter of seconds.

But what is a PDQ machine? How do you choose between a mobile card machine and a portable or countertop device? And which are the best PDQ machines for small businesses?

What is a PDQ machine?

A PDQ machine is just a card machine or chip and pin machine, and the chances are you used one the last time you bought something.

PDQ stands for “Process Data Quickly” – and that’s exactly what they do. Most of us aren’t keen to hang around paying, and card machines help you and your customers breeze through the check-out.

PDQ machines approve card payments quickly and securely by reading information from a chip that is embedded in the card, and can work both in person or over the phone.

How does a PDQ machine work?

PDQ machines vary a little from device to device, and some will have slightly different features, but they all boil down to four simple steps:

  1. Chip and pin – The customer enters their credit or debit card and PIN into the machine.
  2. Authorisation requested – This triggers a request for payment approval from the card issuer (e.g. HSBC).
  3. Authorisation granted
    – Once the card terminal gets the all clear, the credit card processor (e.g. Worldpay) receives the funds from the card issuer into your merchant account (or current account) – this can take anything from a few hours to a few days.
  4. Funds transferred – As soon as the money reaches the merchant account, it’s moved (often automatically) into your business account (minus any credit card processing fees).

Hard to get your head around? Here's an example of a PDQ machine in action to help clear things up:

How does a PDQ machine work

How to get a chip and pin machine

PDQ machines are sometimes supplied to business owners as part of a package when they set up a merchant account. A merchant account is just the holding account you need to accept credit and debit card payments, and links to your main or business bank account.

But many small businesses hire or buy PDQ machines when they kit out their workspace with an Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system, or as a stand-alone mobile device for businesses on the go.

Your PDQ machine will either connect directly to your EPOS system, and work with your staff barely lifting a finger, or it’ll be hooked up via wireless or mobile connection, so transaction details can be entered and amended as needed.

PDQ machines for small businesses

Since first entering the UK retail scene in 2004, card machines have been helping business owners of all sizes up their sales, and process payments more pain-free and securely than ever before.

More sales

As well as boosting your sales from the growing number of customers who don’t have cash, those who do pay by credit card may spend more.

Less admin

Taking digital payments also reduces the need for, and hassle of, handling large amounts of cash. That means you can save on trips to the bank.

Better protection

The main purpose of PDQ machines is to cut down the fraud risk for cardholders (i.e. your customers) and account holders (you).

Before this, credit and debit cards used magnetic swipe technology, which was far less secure than chip and PIN payments today, where the customer enters their secret digits to authorise the transaction.

Types of PDQ machine

Picking the right card machine for you will depend on the size, type and location of your business.

Here is a breakdown of the different types of PDQ machines to give you an idea of your options:

  • Countertop chip and pin machine – Tethered to one location
  • Portable chip and pin machine – Usable around your small business site
  • Mobile chip and pin machine – Usable wherever there is mobile reception

Most PDQ machines now accept chip and pin, contactless and swipe payments, but mobile and portable terminals give you much more flexibility.

The Startups Team
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