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Compare PDQ Machine Costs (2024)

What is a PDQ machine?

PDQ (Process Data Quickly) machine is a device that can process credit or debit card payments. Card machines were first called PDQ machines when they were introduced in the UK for the first time.

Card readers, card machines, and chip and pin machines all fall under the category of  PDQ machines because they all process card payments.

Why does your business need a PDQ machine?

PDQ machines allow your business to process cashless payments. According to a report from the BRC, in 2021, only 15% of all transactions were made with cash, while 82% were made on credit or debit cards. By accepting card payments, your business can meet the preferred payment method of the majority of customers.

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Breakdown of the PDQ machines costs

You need to understand the costs related to the PDQ machines so you can purchase the right system for your business. Here are the common costs that you need to keep in mind:

1 - Costs for setting up:

To start with, you need to consider the cost of setting up the system. An average setup fee could cost you between £100 and £150; however, some companies don’t charge any setup fees at all.

2 - Buying or leasing fees:

Now, you need to choose whether you want to buy or rent your PDQ system. Renting could be a good choice if you are on a budget and want to keep the costs low. This option usually costs about £15 a month on average, which can be very cost-effective. However, in the long run, this option can have its downsides. You cannot expand your system to accommodate your business growth, and a lot of providers have a time-bound contract. 

So, if you want to avoid this restriction, you can buy the equipment outright to avoid ongoing monthly rental fees and have more control over the system.

Purchase Option Cost Range Terminal Costs
Buy Outright
£19 - £230 + VAT
One-off upfront fee
£10 - £25/month
Regular monthly cost

3 - Monthly fees

Monthly costs related to PDQ machines are of two types: merchant account costs and the minimum monthly service charge.  

  1. You need to have a merchant account for your business. Merchant account costs are the fees charged to businesses for processing credit and debit card transactions through their merchant accounts. It’s calculated either monthly or annually, with a starting cost of £10.
  2. The Minimum Monthly Service Charge (MMSC) is the lowest amount a business must pay monthly for using a card machine service. It makes sure that the service provider covers its costs, even if a business’s card transactions are low. Typically, the MMSC is set at approximately £15/month.

 A PDQ provider that charges a monthly minimum usage is not the best choice for businesses that get a limited amount of transactions each month. If you don’t want to pay a monthly charge to accept payments, you can opt for other options. However, keep in mind that you need to pay monthly costs related to a fixed percentage of transactions in one way or another.

4 - Transaction fees

The transaction fee is applied whenever your business processes a credit or debit card transaction. They depend on your volume of payments.

The fee is usually a percentage of the transaction value (typically between 1% and 3%) or ranges from 10p to 30p per transaction or it can be a combination of both. The exact cost depends on the PDQ supplier you go for.

PDQ machine costs: Mobile vs. portable vs. countertop

There are different types of PDQ machines available: mobile, portable, and countertop. You need to consider their features, along with their costs, to choose what’s best for your business.

PDQ Machine Type Cost Features Benefits
From £15/month
Fixed location connectivity, High-security
Ideal for retail with a single payment point
From £20 - £25/month
WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity, Portable
Flexible for tableside or outdoor payments
Buy from £20 – £60
Uses mobile connection, Compact design
Perfect for on-the-go transactions

Buying vs renting PDQ machines

It is very common for businesses in the UK to rent a PDQ machine instead of buying one. However, if you want to purchase your PDQ equipment, you should start with a mobile card reader. It is a basic piece of hardware that can simply connect to your tablet or smartphone. It is also cost-effective and this way, you can start taking payments with minimal investment.

Options Pros Cons
One-off payment, avoiding monthly expenses.
Maintenance and repair costs post-warranty are high. Risk of technology becoming outdated.
Low upfront cost. Includes repair/replacement, and technical support.
Long-term contracts can be restrictive and more expensive over time compared to buying outright.

How to select the best PDQ machine for a business?

Here’s what you need to consider before looking for the PDQ machine for your business.

Which credit/debit cards do my customers use?

It’s important to know which credit and debit cards your customers frequently use. While most PDQ machines can handle a variety of cards, some may not support less common options like American Express. Select a PDQ terminal that goes well with the preferred payment methods of your customers.

What is the nature of my business?

The nature of your business location is important in selecting the type of PDQ machine you need. For businesses that are mobile or have sales at different locations, a portable PDQ machine is best for processing payments anywhere. However, businesses with a permanent location might find a countertop PDQ terminal more useful.

What is my budget?

You need to consider your budget when deciding whether to purchase a PDQ machine or rent it. You need to pay the expenses upfront to buy the PDQ terminal, and this could be more cost-effective over time. However, you can pay a fraction of the cost of buying the equipment and get in on rent. This option is more suitable for businesses with a limited budget.

What Types of Payments Are Accepted By PDQ Machines?

1- Credit and debit cards

PDQ machines in the UK accept Visa, MasterCard, and other types of credit cards. MasterCard and Visa are by far the most popular cards, almost 90% of UK citizens use these two cards. These can be processed via magnetic stripe, chip, or contactless methods.

2- Contactless payments

This is a popular payment method in the UK due to its convenience. PDQ machines accept contactless payments from contactless cards as well as mobile payment services like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and PayPal.

3- Chip and PIN

This is the standard method for card payments in the UK. As the name suggests, PDQ machines trace a chip on the card to process payments. The cardholder provides a PIN that accounts for extra security.  Almost all card transactions in the UK use this technology.

4- Magnetic stripe

This method is less secure and is being phased out in the UK. However, PDQ machines still support magnetic stripe cards to process transactions. A PIN might or might not be needed to finalise the transaction.

5- QR codes

PDQ machines can process payments through QR codes generated on customers’ smartphones. You can tap to pay with your credit card or digital wallet, like Google Pay, Apple Pay, or PayPal. This is a relatively new method that allows for secure and fast transactions.

6- Prepaid and gift cards

PDQ machines can also process transactions using prepaid cards and gift cards, especially if they are associated with major networks such as Visa or MasterCard.

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Yes, there could be additional hidden costs that you might not be aware of. Always review the full terms and ask for all related costs directly to avoid surprises like long-term contracts. Some providers, especially when renting, may tie you down in a long-term contract. If you work with such providers, it can become difficult to renegotiate these terms and you would have to complete the contract.

There’s no difference. PDQ machines and credit card machines are the same devices used to process card payments quickly. Both terms refer to the equipment that allows businesses to accept payments from credit and debit cards.

Yes, the cost of a PDQ machine directly depends on its features and capabilities. Basic models that support simple card payments are usually more affordable. However, PDQ machines that offer advanced features, such as contactless payments or the ability to accept a wide range of card types, can be more expensive.

Businesses should consider which features they need so that they can make a cost-effective decision.

Written by:

Isabella Robinson
Isabella Robinson
Isabella Robinson is a seasoned business content writer, leveraging several years of experience to craft impactful narratives that seamlessly blend business insights with engaging storytelling across diverse industries. Her expertise lies in delivering compelling content that resonates with audiences.

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