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Mobile credit card machines: choosing the right technology, at the right price

Allowing customers to pay with their credit card anywhere, anytime is no longer a luxury: it is expected as part of a standard shopping experience. However, when businesses think about choosing their mobile credit card machine, many choices of equipment are available, based on very different technologies, for different needs and uses.

What are the available technologies? What are the models? And what are the costs of acquiring and using mobile credit card machines?

Mobile credit card machines

Available mobile credit card machine technologies and models

PDQ terminals - 'Process Data Quickly' - or EFTPOS - electronic funds transfer at point of sale - or “chip and pin” machines are all “credit card machines”. Strictly speaking, mobile credit card machines rely on cellular connectivity to transmit data, but machines using Bluetooth or wi-fi connection are also available. Both may or may not have contactless payment capability.

Bluetooth PDQs

Bluetooth PDQs are more aptly described as “portable” credit card machines. They can work within up to 1000 feet from the base unit, and are therefore recommended for shops like restaurants or pubs. Models include:

- Ingenico’s Bluetooth iWL220,

- Ethnet’s MPT500 GRS, which also supports transmissions over cellular networks.

Wi-Fi PDQs

Although less common, wi-fi credit card machines are also available. They provide a somewhat greater range of use than Bluetooth models, with the added benefit of being able to connect to any wi-fi network, far away from the store. They are a cheaper alternative to truly mobile PDQs.

Models include Ethnet’s MPT510-Wi-fi PDQ.

Mobile PDQs

Genuine mobile PDQs can work wherever a cellular phone signal can be reached, which means pretty much everywhere. While providing more freedom of use, they are also more expensive and rely on a separate data plan to operate.

Models include:

- Mobile IWL25 by Cardsave,

- Portable iWL250 by Worldpay/Ingenico

Contactless payment

Contactless payment allows customers to pay small invoices without actually having to insert nor swipe their credit card into the PDQ, but just bringing it within inches of it. This technology is quickly becoming popular, and more and more credit card machines now support this feature.

Models include:

- 1-2-1 Mobile GPRS Terminal by Barclays,

- Portable iWL250 by Worldpay/Ingenico.


Prices and usage costs

Using a PDQ requires a machine, but also a merchant account, and a data plan. Different combinations are possible, at different prices, but total usage cost has to be the reference.

Mobile Credit card machines prices

Mobile credit card machines can be purchased, but they are more often not leased, as users need to have registered merchant account to operate them.

- Acquisition prices start at around £500,

- Leasing rates start at around £20 per terminal per month.

Usage costs

Usage costs include fees related to the necessary merchant account, and sometimes the cost of the data plan in case the business user chooses to buy the credit card machine.

- Merchant accounts fees can amount to £100 to £150, with or without setup and transactional fees.

- Data plans can be as cheap as £15 per month, depending on usage.


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