What is a PDQ machine?

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In this article we’ll cover:

  • What a PDQ machine means for payments

  • The different PDQ machines available

  • Payment methods handled by a PDQ terminal

  • The benefits of choosing the right PDQ machine for small businesses

  • Building an ecosystem that allows your business to grow

From contactless to mobile, the variety of payment methods has grown substantially in the past few years. Technology moves quickly, and using a PDQ machine allows small businesses to accept a large variety of cards and payment apps, both quickly and safely.

What does a PDQ machine mean for payments?

PDQ stands for “Process Data Quickly”, a fast process that allows you to make and receive POS payments in the blink of an eye. The PDQ machine merely refers to a machine that reads a credit or debit card while ensuring that the card user is also the cardholder by requesting a PIN number. This is also known more widely as a Chip and PIN machine.

The predecessor to today’s PDQ terminals were card terminals whose security system depended on the store’s employee to compare the signature on the back of the debit or credit card to that on the recently-signed receipt. While the best at the time, we now consider this method quite insecure given the Chip and PIN technology we have now.

The different types of PDQ machines available

There are three main types of PDQ machines designed to suit your business’ needs:

Countertop: The classic type of PDQ machine that “sits on the counter” in a designated payment area. They are the most widespread PDQ terminal in use as they have been around for the longest time and are most commonly seen in supermarkets and petrol stations.

Portable: Using Bluetooth technology, these portable PDQ terminals connect to a main unit in the store. The secondary units become wireless PDQ machines allowing employees to process payments away from the counter, taking the PDQ to the customer, effectively reducing customer waiting times and alleviating congestion at the till. The perfect solution for busy restaurants and bars.

Mobile: The latest evolution of PDQ terminals, mobile PDQ machines allow merchants to accept card payments anywhere they have WiFi or mobile data coverage (3g/4g/5g). Taking the POS to the customer, it becomes as mobile as your smartphone. Traveling sole traders, popup stores, trade events and cab drivers can all easily utilise this wireless point of sale (mPOS).

Payment methods handled by a PDQ terminal

PDQ machines are designed to handle a variety of payment types, including new payment methods with ever increasing popularity. 

Chip and PIN

The “Classic” card payment method is available on all PDQ machines, simply insert a card and enter the PIN

With over 50% of all payments in the UK made by debit and credit card according to UK Finance’s “UK Payment Markets 2021” report, having a basic Chip and PIN PDQ machine allows businesses to take their cut of an 18.5 billion payments pie.


In 2020, a quarter of all payments in the UK were contactless. Compared to the meager 7% of payments in 2016, we’re looking at an explosive trend, encouraged by the pandemic. Standard PDQ machines are being upgraded across the country with NFC capable terminals accepting contactless payments.

Mobile payment apps

Forgot your debit or credit card at home? Thanks to apps such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, consumers are now paying with their smartphones using the NFC functionality of PDQ machines. According to UK Finance, a third of the adult population used mobile payment apps in 2020, and with popularity growing amongst the 16-34 year old crowd, having an NFC capable PDQ terminal is becoming a necessity.

The benefits of choosing the right PDQ machine for small businesses

PDQ terminals using chip technology provide utmost security for both you and your customers, as well as protecting against fraud which was previously rampant among credit card users.

The benefits of having a PDQ machine in your place of business are not limited to security. The use of cash has been on a steady decline, and we’re now looking at a cashless future for payments, as contactless and mobile payments replace cash for small purchases.

  • Security and safety: card payments are secured, and no longer having large amounts of cash on hand reduces the risks related to robbery, counterfeiting and internal theft.

  • Customer expectations: PDQ machines enable you to meet customer expectations in terms of payment flexibility, increasing the chances of repeat business.

  • Streamlined operations: having a mobile capable PDQ machine allows you to prevent congestion at the till, whilst processing fast payments and speeding through queues! Card and mobile payment app payments are the fastest way to get paid.

  • Autonomy: PDQs are no longer bulky, fixed devices that sit on the counter. Newer options, such as the SumUp Solo provide a lightweight mobile device with day-long battery life and streamlined connectivity.

  • Affordability: PDQ machines were previously supplied by banks with a number of charges, reducing their accessibility for small businesses. Today, a number of solutions, including SumUp’s Air, provide all the functionality you need to take your business to the next level, without breaking the bank.

Is your business ready to tackle card payments? Get the SumUp Card Reader! Increase your payment acceptance by taking debit, credit and contactless payments. Pay only 1.69% per transaction. No monthly contacts. No hidden fees. Ever.

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Building an ecosystem that allows your business to grow

Small businesses have many affordable and reliable options for PDQ machines. All of SumUp’s options are mobile, allowing you to take your card reader with you wherever and whenever you need. 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 the local trade fair? The SumUp 3G and printer covers all those needs and more.

SumUp lives to provide the flexibility needed for small businesses. We have merchants who are band members selling merchandise on tour, dog trainers working outside and comic book convention exhibitors who all use SumUp’s card readers as and when they need.

We know that a business’ needs extend beyond accepting payments, which is why we’re building an ecosystem designed to help your small business grow, at your own pace, with our support. Whether you need a free online business account with a free contactless mastercard, a POS to further streamline your business, or have big plans to go online with an Online Store, we’re ready to help with no upfront costs.


  1. PDQ machines have become a necessity across small businesses due to the increase in both traditional and contactless card payments, alongside the steady decline of cash.

  2. Traditional PDQ terminals provide chip and PIN payment, but businesses across the country are renewing their devices with NFC capable PDQs, providing their customers with payment flexibility.

  3. SumUp offers PDQ machines as part of their ecosystem, including all the tools your business needs to grow, all on a transactional payment model allowing you to pay for what you use, and nothing else.

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