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Choosing the best card machines for your business

The amount of information available, as well the choice of products and solutions, can be overwhelming. Help is at hand.

Some of the benefits of card machines for small businesses

PDQ machines allow businesses to take card payments from customers, meaning shoppers can pay the way they want to. In turn, this can mean increased sales and customer loyalty when you combine a range of payment options with other elements of a great shopping experience, like customer service. PDQ stands for “process data quickly”. There’s an ever-growing number of PDQ machines available and they’re tied to a wide range of card payment processing offers.


Using PDQ machines, also known as card machines or card readers, could potentially lead to:  

Increased sales

If a customer comes in with a card but no cash, you want to be able to sell to them by accepting a card or digital wallet payment. Without a card machine, you may miss out on that sale and more importantly, that customer might not come back again.

Improved customer loyalty

Giving customers what they want, when they want it is one of the easiest ways to encourage loyalty and repeat purchasing. After all, if a customer gets great service, finds the product they want at a price they’re happy with, and can then pay for it quickly, they’re more likely to shop with you again than someone who hasn’t had a good experience.

More customers

By accepting a range of payment methods, you’re allowing customers with different payment preferences to shop with you. The more ways there are to pay for your goods and services, the more customers you’ll have access to.

Time saved for you and your customers

Research shows that contactless transactions are 15 seconds faster than cash. That’s great for the customer paying, who will want the transaction itself to be quick and easy. It’s great for other customers who won’t have to queue for so long. And it’s great for your business, because you can offer a seamless payment experience for your customers.

The 4 types of card payments accepted by a PDQ machine:

1. Chip and PIN machine

  • With a Chip and PIN payment, your customer inserts their card into your PDQ machine and, when prompted, enters their 4-digit PIN code.

2. Contactless payment

  • Contactless payment cards use radio-frequency identification to transmit a cardholder’s details to your PDQ terminal.

    The technology has since been adapted and improved so that your customers can use their smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch to transmit the same information.

3. Magnetic strip and signature payments

  • Chip and PIN transactions largely replaced magnetic strip and signature payments when the technology was introduced. With a magnetic strip and signature payment, your customer either inserts their card into your PDQ machine or swipes it though the channel. The PDQ machine then prints a receipt which your customer must sign for you to compare with the signature on the card.

    This system of verification led to significant levels of fraud which were later reduced by nearly a fifth following widespread adoption of Chip and PIN.

4. Keyed-in payments

  • With keyed-in payments, the customer reads out their credit card number, the expiry date, the CVC2 code (the number on their signature strip), and postcode. You enter all this information into your PDQ machine via the keyboard together with the total amount of the transaction. Keyed-in payments are very useful for accepting payment over the telephone.

Choosing the card machine that's right for you

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to picking a card machine for your small business. And that’s an important tip to bear in mind because it can be easy to go for the first or cheapest option when you want to start accepting card payments.

Have an idea of how much you think you’ll take in card payments each month.

Your card turnover is your negotiating power, as that’s the amount of business you represent to processors. All processors offer better rates to bigger merchants. However, banks and acquirers do to a greater extent. It’s also true that very small merchants should choose payment facilitators. Not only do you get free POS and additional flexibility, but the rate will be much cheaper. iZettle caps their rates at 1.75% for any type of merchant – merchant accounts from big banks will go much higher.

Calculate your average transaction value.

The average spend per card transaction is even more important than your total turnover in identifying the best rate for you. This is because of different ways of formatting rates. Some are in a “percent plus” format (e.g. 1% + 10p) whereas others have a flat percentage rate (1.75%). Payment facilitators are particularly likely to offer a flat percentage headline transaction rate.

Here’s an example of why it matters:

Imagine rate A is 1.75% with iZettle, and rate B is 1% + 5p with AcceptPay.

If you have a £5.00 average spend, like a to-go cafe, you’d pay 8.75 pence per transaction with iZettle and 10p with AcceptPay, so rate A is better. If you have a £50.00 average spend, like in a clothing boutique, you’d pay 87.5 pence per transaction with iZettle and 55 pence per transaction with AcceptPay. Therefore, the cheaper rate depends on your average transaction size.

Work out how you want to take card payments from your customers.

The “type” of merchant account is normally divided into three. Card Present is anything through a card reader, including contactless cards, and cards stored virtually on phones via e.g. ApplePay. (Card machines now come with the equipment to read contactless payments as standard, so it’s not something you need to think about.) E-commerce payments are a different kind of merchant account – most providers will do both, but your rates could differ and they’re considered separate accounts. Finally, MOTO “mail order / telephone order” is a type of card not present account, which are offered less frequently now. Make sure your merchant account supports the type of payment you’re looking to take.

For example, if you run a bar or restaurant, it might be important for you to be able to take the card machine to your customer at their table. If this is the case, it makes sense to choose a portable card reader. If, however, you have a fixed till point, a desktop card reader might be what you need. And if you run market stalls or pop ups, it might be that you want to test taking card payments. If so, a WiFi-enabled, pay-as-you-go card reader like Barclaycard Anywhere, that links to an app on your smart device might be a good way to start out.  

Think about your business growth, not just what things look like right now.

It can be tempting to go for a card reader that fulfils your needs right now. However, some options are better when it comes to scaling with your business. Again, when you’re researching card readers for your business, it’s worth asking this question of the payment provider you’re talking to.

Why different card machines have different transaction costs

  • Transaction costs, also known as authorisation fees, refer to the charge your payment processor applies to check that there’s enough money in your customer’s account to fulfil the purchase. When you have a contract in place between your business and a payment processor, you’ll be paying to:
  • - Rent your card reader or readers on a monthly basis

  • - Have a merchant account

  • - Have your payment processor authorise payments, and much more.

If you opt for a pay-as-you-go card reader, you buy the card reader outright and your transactions costs are set and probably non-negotiable.

Now you're up to speed on card machines

Now you’ve got a good idea of what card readers are, some of the benefits you could see for your small business, and access to related information on topics like merchant service fees, it’s time for the next step.

Explore the range of AcceptPay card readers to see which one could help you improve the shopping experience for your customers.  

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