What is a PDQ machine?

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In this article, we’ll cover what a PDQ machine is, what it means for payments and, which different PDQ machines are out there. We’ll also explain what payment methods PDQ terminals can handle, and how to find the right PDQ machine for your small business. 

Whether it’s a card, contactless or mobile, the number of payment methods available to the average consumer has grown significantly in recent years. Technology moves quickly, and using a PDQ machine allows small businesses to swiftly and securely accept a large variety of cards and payment apps.

What does a PDQ machine mean for payments?

PDQ stands for “Process Data Quickly”, and a PDQ machine is a term for any device used to process credit or debit card payments. PDQ machines are today more commonly known as Chip and PIN machines or card readers.

The predecessor to today’s PDQ terminals were card machines that relied on merchants comparing the signature on the back of the customer’s card to that on the recently-signed receipt. While it was the best method at the time, modern PDQ machines are considerably more secure.

The different types of PDQ machine

There are three main types of PDQ machine, each designed to suit different business needs.

  • Countertop: These are the most common type of PDQ machine; you’ve seen them at supermarkets or petrol stations. These terminals sit at the counter and are physically connected to a main POS system wih a phone or ethernet cable. 

  • Portable: Portable PDQ terminals use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to a base unit, which means they’re not tied to a countertop. However, they may be limited in range to 50 or 100 metres, depending on whether they’re connected via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. So they’re good if you want to accept payments anywhere within your business premises, but may not be the best fit if you want to get paid on the go.

  • Mobile: The latest evolution of PDQ terminals, mobile PDQ machines allow merchants to accept card payments anywhere they have Wi-Fi or mobile data access (3G/4G/5G). Using internet access to take payments makes the wireless PDQ machine as mobile and versatile as your smartphone. Travelling salespeople, food truck owners, exhibitors and taxi drivers can all benefit from the versatility of a wireless point of sale (mPOS).

Payment methods handled by a PDQ terminal

PDQ machines are designed to handle a variety of payment types, including newly emerging payment methods. 

Chip and PIN

This most common card payment method is available on all PDQ machines. Simply insert a card and enter the PIN. 

In 2020, over 50% of all payments in the UK were made by debit and credit card. Clearly, having a PDQ machine that supports chip and PIN is extremely valuable for any business.


In 2021, nearly a third of all payments in the UK were contactless. When you consider that only 7% of payments in 2016 were contactless, we’re clearly looking at an explosive trend. The popularity of contactless payment means businesses are outfitting themselves with NFC capable PDQ terminals that can accept contactless payments.

Mobile payment apps

Thanks to payment apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay, consumers are now using NFC capable PDQ machines to pay with their smartphones. Over 80% of the UK has used mobile payments, and 64% prefer it to traditional card payments.  Mobile payments are most popular amongst the 16-34 year old crowd, but are gaining ground with every demographic. Clearly, having an NFC capable PDQ terminal is a good investment for the future.

Choosing the right PDQ machine for your small business

There are many reasons to invest in a PDQ terminal that uses chip technology. Here are just some of the ways a PDQ machine can benefit your business:

  • Security and safety. Having the right PDQ machine for your small business keeps card payments secure, and reducing the amount of cash you handle may reduce the risks of robbery, counterfeiting, and internal theft.

  • Customer expectations. PDQ machines enable you to meet customer expectations by offering them payment flexibility, making them more likely to return. Fewer consumers rely on cash these days, and more people are using contactless and mobile payments to make small purchases.

  • Streamlined operations. Having a mobile PDQ machine may help prevent congestion at the till letting you process payments faster and shorten queues. Card and mobile payments are the fastest way to get paid.

  • Autonomy. PDQ terminals are no longer bulky devices that need to sit in a fixed spot. Modern PDQ machines like the SumUp Solo are lightweight and fully portable, with long battery life, Wi-Fi connectivity and unlimited free mobile data.

Affordability. PDQ machines used to come with a host of monthly fees, subscription costs, and other charges, making them less accessible to small businesses. Today, a low-cost PDQ machine like the  SumUp Air offers everything you need to take your business to the next level, without breaking the bank.

Is your business ready to offer card payments?

Then pick up a SumUp card reader and you’ll be able to accept credit card, debit card, contactless, and mobile wallet payments. Pay only 1.69% per transaction. No monthly contacts. No hidden fees.

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Building an ecosystem that allows your business to grow

If you’re a small business looking for a PDQ terminal, there are a lot of affordable options. All of SumUp’s card readers are mobile, meaning you can use them wherever you do business. Taking your food truck to the local market? Slip the SumUp Air in your pocket alongside your smartphone and you’re good to go. Need to print receipts for customers at your local trade fair? The SumUp 3G and printer bundle has you covered.

We’re here to help businesses thrive, so we offer card readers to suit any budget. Our merchants include dog trainers, comic book convention exhibitors, and bands selling merchandise on tour. They can all get paid wherever they work using one of our card readers.

We know that a business’s needs extend beyond accepting payments, which is why the SumUp ecosystem features a host of tools to make running your business easier. As soon as you create a SumUp profile and download our free app, you’ll have a host of services available to you that help run your business. Among the tools we offer are: 

  • Easy and quick Invoices that make it a snap to bill clients for your services. 

  • Payment Links and QR codes that you can use to accept remote payments from customers. 

  • A free business account that makes managing your money easier and comes with a complimentary Mastercard.

  • An Online Store platform, so you take your business online in minutes, for free and with no coding knowledge required.

We also offer an all-in-one POS system if you’re looking for something that can manage your entire business from a single screen. From inventory management software to menu creation to accounting integrations, everything you need to run any type of business is there. 

Thanks to the greatly increasing number of people paying by card and phone, PDQ machines have become a necessity for any business. The most useful PDQ terminals are NFC capable in addition to accepting chip and PIN payment since they give customers more payment flexibility.

SumUp offers PDQ machines as part of our ever-growing business tool ecosystem. Everything we offer operates on a pay-as-you-go model, so you’ll only ever be charged for what you use, with no hidden costs or binding contracts.

Find the right card machine for you

We offer a range of card reader machines, all created with the small business owner in mind. Every SumUp card payment machine is quick and easy to set up, impressively multifunctional and entirely portable. But each device offers a slightly different feature set. Here’s a simple overview.

SumUp Solo

  • Accepts payments as a standalone device

  • Works with Wi-Fi, plus free unlimited mobile data with built-in SIM card

  • Fast-charging battery up to 8 hours of battery life

  • Comes with a charging station

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SumUp Solo and printer

  • Connects easily via WiFi, plus free unlimited mobile data with built-in SIM card

  • Print 800 receipts on a single charge

  • Save time with double fast charging and reaching full battery in just one hour

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SumUp POS Lite

  • Powerful software for retail and hospitality businesses

  • Process orders, accept payments and generate reports

  • Compatible with your SumUp card reader

  • No fixed monthly fees or binding contract

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With SumUp, you can quickly and easily accept credit and debit card payments with your smartphone or tablet.