Compare PDQ Machine Costs: Our Guide

PDQ machine closeup

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PDQ machines will cost anywhere between £19 and £179 + VAT to buy and £9.95 and £75 + VAT per month to lease.

PDQ machines (or card machines) are payment-taking devices, essential to businesses that depend on in-person payments. With our nearly 15 years of experience, we advise you to choose wisely in order to keep the checkout experience running smoothly while not breaking the bank – a must in the current economic scenario.

A recent remedial package by the Payment Systems Regulator established that PDQ machine providers should be more transparent on their prices and fees. Despite that, pricing and contract length still vary greatly between these companies – and you have to watch out for their fine print!

To help you out, we’ve prepared a guide with the ins and outs of these devices, as well as the costs associated with them, backed by our own independent and thorough research. To check it out, read on.

PDQ machine costs:

  1. Countertop: from £15/month
  2. Wireless/portable: from £20 – £25/month
  3. Mobile: buy from £20 – £60

Clicking any of the links above will allow you to compare quotes to find the right PDQ machine provider for your business.

However, with a fair amount of players in the market, all of them doing roughly the same thing (taking payments), we understand that picking the right one isn’t exactly straightforward. We can help with that if you use our free comparison tool. Through our tool, you can quickly get bespoke card machine prices sent your way.

What is a PDQ machine?

PDQ itself stands for “process data quickly,” while a PDQ machine is a device used to process payments made with credit and debit cards, as well as digital wallets. Nowadays, they’re more commonly known as card readers or chip and PIN machines, and are an essential piece of hardware for merchants.

PDQ machines can come as countertop, portable, and mobile devices. The first type works wired from a counter, the second works using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and the third allows you to take payments on the go using mobile data (such as 3G and 4G).

How much does a PDQ machine cost?

Our research divides card machines into two categories: mobile (providers that offer pay-as-you-go) and traditional (providers that offer a contract). Mobile readers start from a one-off fee of £16 + VAT, and cost an average of £58 + VAT. Our research also shows that transaction fees for mobile readers average out at 1.60% per transaction.

Traditional card readers aren’t usually sold outright, but leased instead, with costs averaging £15 per month per reader. Unlike their mobile counterparts, they also charge account fees, which start from around £9.95 per month, with an average of £25 per month. On the other hand, their transaction fees are lower: they gravitate between 0.4% to 2.75%, although the average is 1.30% per transaction.

In the following breakdown, we’ll cover the main card machine costs in more detail.

1. Contract and setup fees

The first cost you’ll need to consider is the setup fees of the card machine you choose. Traditional providers, such as Barclaycard, charge as much as £150 to get you started. However, oftentimes these fees should be much lower – and some companies, such as takepayments, might not charge at all. Mobile providers, on the other hand, forego them altogether, as they operate in fixed-term contracts.

The more pressing concern when signing a contract relates to its length and flexibility. If your business is likely to grow in the coming years, it makes little sense committing to a restrictive long-term contract. Thankfully, many providers recognise that it pays to present a service that grows with your business’ needs.

2. PDQ machine purchase or lease

Next up is deciding whether to buy or lease your card reader. The cheapest PDQ machines to buy are typically mobile card readers. Their price varies between £19 (Square) to £179 (Stripe), which you pay upfront.

If you’re looking at a traditional countertop or wireless PDQ for your retail business, you’re better off renting or leasing a card machine. This typically costs an average of £15 per month.

When you rent a PDQ, there aren’t too many upfront costs, but you might have to pay a fee such as £60 to get the machine set up or installed.

3. PDQ machine monthly fees

Monthly fees are pretty common when using PDQ machines. Thankfully, merchant account monthly fees are usually low, an example being Worldpay’s minimum fee of £9.95 + VAT.

Some suppliers – particularly those that offer mobile card readers – forego monthly fees altogether. Make sure to read the fine print because these companies still take a usage (or transaction) fee for their services.

The most typical monthly card machine cost consideration is a minimum usage limit. This is to ensure the provider can profit from usage fees – essentially making it worth their while. This fee is called a Minimum Monthly Service Charge (MMSC).

The MMSC is generally set at around £15 per month. It may not seem like a lot, but if you only deal with a few transactions each month, then a PDQ option with a monthly minimum usage might not be the best option for your small business.

If you don’t want to pay a monthly fee to take payments, there are plenty of pay-as-you-go readers that don’t have them. However, you’ll pay a percentage of every transaction you take.

The table below will give you clear examples of what you can expect to pay.

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0 out of 0

Zettle Reader 2

SumUp Air Reader

Card Machine Type

Mobile

Card Machine Type

Mobile

Score
4.8
Score
4.2
Best For

Features

Best For

All-round excellence

Hardware Cost

£29

Hardware Cost

£49 + VAT

Monthly Fee

£0

Monthly Fee

£0

Transaction fee
  • 1.75% for card payments
  • 2.5% for payment links and invoices
Transaction fee

4. PDQ machine transaction fees

To process payments on any PDQ machine, you’ll need to set up a merchant account. This is your agreement with a credit card payment processor, and it’s the main thing you need to accept in-store payments, online, and over the phone.

Transaction fees are set by your chosen provider and depend on the amount of payments you’ll be taking. Transaction fees are calculated either as a percentage of the transaction price (around 1% to 3%), or as a set fee of 10p to 20p. Sometimes, it’s a combination of both – a small percentage, plus a few pence per transaction. It differs from provider to provider and is based on the pricing package you choose.

Other companies only charge a usage fee after a certain threshold of transactions has been reached. Handepay, for instance, charges 10p per transaction, but only after you’ve made 400 transaction. This works out cheaper for smaller businesses that accept fewer transactions every month.

Your PDQ transaction costs will also relate to the level of risk attached to your industry. Fees for high-risk industries are notably higher because there’s a greater chance of chargebacks.

How does a PDQ machine work?

Once a customer makes a payment via the machine (either by contactless or chip & pin), an authorisation request is sent to the card issuer through the machine, or through to the customer’s bank. If there are sufficient funds, the authorisation is given and the funds are sent from the customer’s account to the merchant’s account.

PDQ machines: Buying vs renting

Renting a PDQ machine is a secure and cost-effective solution for accepting face-to-face card payments.

It is commonplace for businesses to rent a PDQ machine in the UK instead of buying one. And, if we’re honest, it’s much more straightforward. When you sign up with a merchant account provider, the company will provide you with a PDQ machine, equipped with everything you need to start taking payments. You’ll sign a contract with the provider, and will have the option to rent a card machine for around £15 per month.

However, if you’re set on owning your PDQ machine outright, a mobile card reader should be your first port of call.

Buying

The main advantage to buying a PDQ machine is that it only requires a one-off payment, meaning you’re avoiding yet another monthly expense for your business. However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies as you’ll still need to pay transaction fees.

X You’ll also need to remember when buying your card machine that, once the warranty is up, maintenance and repair costs become an expense. You might also end up stuck with a device that’s out of date as technology improves.

Renting

Need a PDQ, but don’t have the cash right now? Renting is your best bet. With credit card machine rental, you also receive repair and replacement options, ongoing technical support, and the possibility of upgrading your machine over time.

X However, signing a rental contract ties you down – potentially for years. And with less flexible suppliers, this can quickly become a problem. Also, the longer you keep the equipment, the more expensive it will be when compared with buying the equipment outright.

What are the types of PDQ machines?

There are three types of PDQ machines: countertop, wireless (or portable), and mobile. Read on for our top picks, or dive into the table below to compare PDQ machine costs and get quotes from top suppliers.

Type of PDQ machineCost
CountertopFrom £15 per month
Wireless/portableFrom £20 – £25 per month
MobileBuy outright from £20 – £60

Countertop PDQ machine

A countertop PDQ machine (a static PDQ terminal) connects to the card payment network via an ethernet cable or phone line. These are most popular in the retail sector, where the point of sale is usually at the till.

You won’t find these PDQ machines available to buy new – instead, you’ll need to rent them from your chosen merchant account provider. The good news is that countertop PDQs are the cheapest to hire.

barclaycard reader on counter
This Ingenico Move/5000 is a countertop PDQ machine we caught in action in a pharmacy in Old Street, London

Wireless/portable PDQ machine

Wireless PDQ machines connect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. They give you the flexibility to move about and take card payments within a fixed range (usually around 100m). They’re perfect in a restaurant or bar setting, where the point of sale is at the customer’s table. Monthly rental prices are around £15.

verifone v400m on a counter
We examined this portable Verifone card machine at a pub in Old Street, London

Mobile PDQ machine

With a mobile PDQ machine (a mobile card reader), you’re able to take card payments anywhere with a signal. They work with either a dedicated SIM card, or by connecting to your smartphone or tablet.

Mobile PDQ machines are a firm favourite of small business owners because of the flexibility they offer – and for the relatively low up-front cost. The bonus is that they allow you to accept card payments in remote areas, without needing to rely on wifi or a power outlet.

Unlike the other types of PDQ machines, you don’t need to rent mobile devices. You can buy mobile PDQ machines outright, such as the Square reader, for as little as £19.

A Zettle card reader on a counter
We examined this Zettle Card Reader 2 as it took payments at Batch1 at Boxpark, London

Looking for a provider that sells a variety of PDQ machines? VeriFone could be the answer. Find out if it’s right for you in our VeriFone review.

3 questions your business should ask when choosing a PDQ machine

Finding the best PDQ terminal for your business can be tricky. With so many providers out there, how do you go about picking yours?

Here are three questions to ask yourself when choosing a PDQ machine for your business:

1. What cards do my customers use?

All PDQ machines accept payment by credit cards and debit cards. But some cards, such as American Express, can only be processed with select PDQ terminal providers. Know your customers – and their cards – to avoid embarrassment at the till.

2. Where is my point of sale?

If it’s in a muddy field at a music festival, you’re likely going to need a mobile PDQ machine. If it’s in store, a countertop PDQ will often be the most cost-effective choice.

3. What’s my budget?

If you can afford the cost of a larger upfront sum,  it will pay to buy your PDQ machine outright in the long run. If you’re trying to keep costs to a minimum, then renting is a better option.

Next steps

As we’ve covered, there are a lot of costs to bear in mind when choosing a PDQ machine for your business – setup fees, reader price, monthly fees, and transaction fees being the main ones. However, after our breakdown, you should be equipped now to conduct your research and pick the one most suited to your needs.

If you’re short on time and feel like cutting to the chase, no problem: just use our free comparison tool. Through it, we’ll quickly match you with trusted providers. They’ll then be in touch to provide bespoke quotes tailored to your needs.

FAQs

What are PDQ payments?
PDQ payments refer to payments made via a PDQ machine, AKA a card reader.
What is a card machine called?
Card machines are known by a few different names, including PDQ machine, card reader, or a terminal.
Can I have a card machine without a business account?
No, you’ll need a business bank account to take payments via a card machine.
Can a PDQ take payments when the cardholder is not present?
PDQ machines can still be used even when the cardholder is not physically present. Simply enter their card details manually to take card payments over the phone.

Is there anything a PDQ machine can’t do?

We’re not sure. If you’d like to start comparing PDQ machines from top suppliers, why not check out our page dedicated to the best credit card machines for small businesses? Or to get tailored quotes for your business, take a minute to fill out our quick form.

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Written by:
Zara Chechi
Zara is a Payments Expert, specialising in writing about Point of Sale systems. With a Law Degree from City University of London, she has used her legally-honed research and analytical skills to develop expertise in the Business Services world. Featured in FinTech Magazine, she quickly became an expert in payroll, POS systems, and merchant accounts.
Reviewed by:
Ruairi uses his 3+ years of research experience to uncover insights which can help Expert Market provide the best business solutions for their users. He has done this by meeting with business owners to find out what is important to them and what challenges they face on a daily basis. Ruairi specialises in tools that can be used to grow your business and has done research for a wide range of categories on Expert Market, such as EPOS, Website Builders, and Merchant Accounts.