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What is a PDQ machine?
Product information

What is a PDQ machine?

5 min read

Many business owners are keen to ensure that customers can make payments in a way that’s fast, easy and safe. But have you ever wondered how the technology works? We look at the history and effectiveness of PDQ machines, and why for many small businesses, they’re at the top of the payment podium.

What does PDQ stand for?

PDQ, meaning ‘process data quickly’, is a term that emerged when the first payment machines that allowed people to buy goods using a card, rather than cash or cheque, were introduced.

At first, cards were placed in a machine – sometimes referred to ‘manual imprinters’ – that took an imprint of the card details, validated by a customer signature on paper. Copies were kept by the store and the customer, and a further copy was sent to the bank for verification. As it depended on a signature, there was a risk of forgery and fraud. It also relied on those paper slips reaching the bank in order for a payment to be made, so could often be a slow way to transfer money.

With the introduction of Chip and PIN technology, added security features meant the potential for fraud was reduced, with PDQ machines increasingly finding favour. Entering a four-digit PIN (personal identification number) may be more secure than depending on a signature; the chip in the card ‘connects’ automatically to the bank via the machine, checking and authorising the payment directly and quickly.

How do PDQ machines work?

The first machines using the new Chip and PIN technology were introduced to the UK in 2006, and were designed to speed up transaction verification and reduce fraud.

Before Chip and PIN technology was introduced, the customer’s card was swiped on the terminal, the cardholder would sign the receipt and the merchant would then check that the signed receipt matched the back of the card. Now, the customer inserts their card into the PDQ terminal, types in their personal four-digit PIN code and the card machine reads the chip data on the card. It then connects and sends a data message from the PDQ machine that is linked to the merchants’ acquirer account, through to the Scheme (i.e. Visa, Mastercard, American Express or a number of others in the market that regulate the process) through to the customer’s bank in order to check and authorise the transaction. Following this, a message is returned that will show on the PDQ machine with an authorisation confirmation or code.

When the transaction has been authorised, the payment is sent from the customer’s bank account to the merchant’s account, the customer gets the goods or service, and the merchant is paid.

In 2007, contactless payments were introduced, initially with a spending limit of £10. This additional flexibility allowed for a Customer payment card to be used just by tapping a card against a PDQ machine contactless symbol without need for a PIN, using wireless NFC technology.

Over time, contactless payment limits have been increased to £30, then £45, and are due to be £100 in late 2021. The speed and convenience of PDQ machines makes them popular with many businesses and consumers alike: in 2020, nine out of ten payments in 2020 were contactless.

The benefits of using PDQ machines

There are many benefits for customers in using PDQ machines. Here are the main ones:

  • Safety: using a payment card in a PDQ machine can reduce fraud, as someone trying to use the card without knowing the PIN is unlikely to be successful. Contactless cards have the same level of protection and you’ll occasionally be asked to enter your PIN when attempting a contactless payment due to SCA (Strong Customer Authentication).
  • Convenience: a customer has access to their money to use freely, and payments can be quick and easy. PDQ machines also reduce the need for cash-handling in a post-pandemic world, reducing the need to exchange cash, and speeding up payment.
  • Transparency: customers can see and understand what funds they have access to, potentially making managing their money simpler so they may be less likely to overspend or lose track of what they are spending.

Anything that makes spending for customers safer, easier and more efficient could be considered good for retailers too. PDQ machine payments can happen promptly and have the added benefit of helping to reduce fraud, cash-handling and administration.

PDQ machines from Tyl

At Tyl we have a range of card machines for different types of business, whether you’re on-site at your premises or out making sales remotely (fees and eligibility criteria apply).

The Clover Flex is an all-in-one POS system that takes payments and could help you manage your business at the same time.

The Ingenico Move 3500 is a simple pocket-sized portable card that lets you take payments on the go.

The Ingenico Desk 3500 is a countertop machine that accepts all payment methods in one place.

All these card machines have different features and benefits and they can all help you track your day-to-day sales. The Clover Flex operates using both Wi-Fi and 3G, while the Ingenico Move 3500 uses either Wi-Fi or 3G and the Ingenico Desk 3500 countertop card machine uses an Ethernet connection.

Find out more about which machine may be right for you, with comparisons, FAQs and more on Tyl’s payment systems.


This has been prepared by Tyl by NatWest for informational purposes only and should not be treated as advice or a recommendation. There may be other considerations relevant to you and your business so you should undertake your own independent research.

Tyl by NatWest makes no representation, warranty, undertaking or assurance (express or implied) with respect to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness, or reasonableness of the information provided.

Tyl by NatWest accepts no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of the information contained herein. However, this shall not restrict, exclude, or limit any duty or liability to any person under any applicable laws or regulations of any jurisdiction which may not be lawfully disclaimed.

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