The 5 Best Point-of-Sale Systems for Small Businesses
Process payments, manage inventory, and create loyal customers with these best-in-class POS systems. Whether you run a restaurant or retail store, find the right POS systems for your small business.
Best POS system overallSquareNo-cost starter subscriptionEasy-to-use software and hardware
Best POS for retailShopify POSAffordable payment feesPowerful e-commerce tools
Best loyalty programRevelCustomizable CRM and loyalty programTools built for restuarants
Best POS for inventoryShopKeepUnlimited inventory tools24/7 customer support
Easiest accounting setupIntuit QuickBooksSeamless accounting servicesSubscription-free model
It used to be that as a small-business owner, you had just a few ways to accept payments from your customers. Window signs brightly proclaimed, “We take cash, check, and all major credit cards!” Inside, customers would rummage through their wallets for bills, scribble out a check, or hand you a credit card to swipe at a bulky cash register.
Today, smartphones, cloud computing, and RFID technology enable even the smallest businesses to become point-of-sale (POS) wizards. The best POS systems combine payment processing, inventory and customer management, payroll and accounting, and other services into powerful POS hardware and software packages.
But if you’ve done any online searches for POS systems yourself, you’ve likely discovered something overwhelming: there’s a staggering pile of POS solutions to choose from. Search no more. Instead, let us sort through the crud and recommend the right POS systems for small businesses.
Square Point of Sale: The overall best POS system
Our pick for best POS system for small-business owners is Square. It’s free to start, easy to use, and chock full of useful features. These benefits make Square a great choice for new business owners who need simple but powerful features from the get-go.
Square is a common favorite of mobile businesses like food trucks and boutique retail shops. In fact, we also picked Square as the best mobile POS system for small businesses. For an all-in-one system for taking payments wherever your customers are, pair the Square POS and mPOS systems together to give your business an extra boost.
Taking customer payments is easy with Square’s credit card readers and point-of-sale mobile app, which works with most Android and Apple devices; for example, many Square users run their businesses with iPads. You can create customized receipts to send via email or print from a receipt printer. Plus, you can keep open tabs, split checks, and manage your inventory in real time—all within Square’s point-of-sale software.
- Zero monthly cost for the basic plan
- Software and hardware that's easy to set up and use
- Transparent transaction fees
- Pricier transaction fees than some major processors
- Higher fees for manual entry
Square provides detailed reporting and analytics and lets you send invoices, track employee shifts and timecards, and manage multiple locations. You can also run email marketing, customer loyalty plans, and gift card programs from Square’s point-of-sale software.
Now the downsides. Transaction fees with Square Point of Sale tend to be more expensive than what major credit card processing companies charge—and you can’t opt out. Square’s transaction costs can add up if you process loads of payments a day.
You can lower your transaction fees by purchasing the Square for Retail plan, which costs $60 a month per location. Square also provides customized pricing and features for retail businesses with sales greater than $250,000. But if your business has grown to that level, you may want to consider another POS option on our list.
Pricing and transaction fees
Square POS doesn’t have a monthly fee, and the company keeps its transaction fees pretty simple (for the most part):
- Tapped, dipped, and swiped payments: 2.6% + 10¢
- Keyed-in and card-on-file payments: 3.5% + 15¢
- Square Register (purchased before 8/20/19) payments: 2.5% + 10¢
That being said, Square offers other plans geared for certain types of businesses. With Square for Restaurants, for example, you get POS software that’s geared specifically for restaurant use. The downside? The plan costs $60 per month for each of your locations, plus an extra $40 per month for each additional POS system you use.
Square for Retail plans have the same monthly fees as the Square for Restaurants plan, but they come with discounted transaction fees (2.5% + 10¢ for in-person payments). And if your business is more service-oriented and has multiple employees, Square Appointments plans offer lower transaction rates (2.5% + 10¢) and flexible monthly pricing. Specifically, businesses with two to five employees pay $50 per month, while businesses with six to ten employees pay $90 per month.
Vend offers a comprehensive and customizable point-of-sale suite solution for retail business. Vendo isn’t quite as fully featured as Square and doesn’t offer a free subscription. But with plans that start at $99 per month, you get in-depth inventory, customer, and accounting management in a professional and impressive package.
Shopify POS: The best POS system for retail stores
Shopify gained a reputation in the retail space as a premier web-based POS platform. The company now over 1 million business customers worldwide using its e-commerce, Amazon marketplace, and point-of-sale services.1
The company’s powerful e-commerce integration translates into an impressive point-of-sale solution for retail brick-and-mortar stores too. Shopify POS is a service that’s easy to set up and highly customizable to fit small businesses and scale up as your business grows.
- Affordable basic subscription and processing fees
- Free 14-day trial
- Robust e-commerce tools
- No subscription-free plan
- Limited reporting on the basic plan
- Extra fees for using third-party payment providers
Shopify offers three major plans plus one scaled-down “Lite” plan for doing retail business on Facebook only. Plans differ on their monthly price, fees for payment processing, and breadth of included services.
The $29 Basic Shopify plan is an affordable option for smaller retail businesses that are online, in a single retail location, or selling in-person at pop-up stores and local markets.
Shopify’s transaction fees are also a little complicated. Online or keyed transactions range from 2.4% + 30¢ to 2.9% + 30¢, depending on your plan. Meanwhile, in-person transaction fees fall between 2.4% to 2.7%—again, depending on your plan.
If you opt to use a payment provider other than Shopify Payments, however, you’ll also be assessed a third-party payment provider fee, which can be anywhere from 0.5% to 2% per transaction. So if you want to use a Shopify system and Shopify software, you may want to steer clear of Square, PayPal, or other payment gateways.
|Plan||Monthly price||In-person payment processing fee||Third-party payment provider fee||Learn more|
|Shopify Lite||$9.00*||2.7%||2%||Get Started|
|Basic Shopify||$29.00*||2.7%||2%||Get Started|
|Advanced Shopify||$299.00*||2.4%||0.5%||Get Started|
Features on the basic plan include two employee accounts, a custom domain and website, shipping label printing, security and fraud tools, and 24/7 customer service. Shopify also provides integrated inventory control and order shipping tools, plus moderate discounts on shipping rates through partnerships with the US Postal Service, UPS, and DHL.
Unfortunately, you have few reporting options with the Basic Shopify plan. So for more advanced analytics, lower processing fees, marketing automation, and better discounts, you’ll need to upgrade to the more expensive plans.
Still, for retail businesses that want a straightforward POS system for online and in-person sales, Shopify packs a potent punch.
Runner-up: Springboard Retail POS (Now Heartland Retail)
Springboard Retail recently merged with Heartland retail and is now called Heartland Retail. According to Heartland’s website, “with this cloud-based Retail Point of Sale solution becoming part of Heartland, we can continue to scale and support the outstanding product Springboard Retail has built, and continue to grow our customer family of more than 100,000 retail customers.”2
Heartland Retail packages start at $80 a month and include multi-location support, customer management, and advanced inventory and purchasing features. It’s a point-of-sale system designed specifically with retail in mind, giving it an edge over more general offerings.
Revel Systems: The best POS system for customer loyalty
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools can help turn passive, infrequent buyers into loyal advocates for your brand. One POS provider we looked at, Revel Systems, offers what we think is the best CRM service to come packaged with an iPad restaurant POS system.
The Revel Systems POS system was mostly created for bars, quick-service restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries. Food and beverage service businesses can benefit from Revel’s customizable loyalty programs.
- Customizable customer loyalty and management services
- Tools built for food and beverage businesses
- Loads of software integrations
- Nontransparent pricing
In addition, Revel Systems is built to speed up front-of-house order taking with its Mobile Order Taker system, which communicates seamlessly with stationary devices. And comprehensive inventory, analytic reports, and QuickBooks integration can help you understand your business and customers better.
Revel recently listed their prices online. Installation and onboarding of their POS system costs $649. After that, you’ll be paying $99 a month per terminal which is billed annually and requires a 3-year contract.
Revel does not list their processing fees, but we were able to get in contact with an agent who said the flat rate is 2.49% + 15¢ per transaction if you’re using Revel hardware. You can also use your own processor. If you have an existing processing fee statement, Revel says they are willing to provide a custom rate.
You should also consider demoing Toast, another restaurant POS system with food and beverage customers in mind. Toast’s integrated CRM software can help you build an inventory of loyal customers and craft messages and promotions to keep your guests happy and your business profitable.
ShopKeep: Best POS system for inventory management
ShopKeep just added pricing information to its website. There are three different plans available:
- Basic for $49 per month
- Essential for $79 per month
- Advanced for $179 per month
Each of ShopKeep’s plans has a different set of features. Essential and Advanced plans have Quickbooks integration, for example, a feature not available in the Basic plan. Also, the Advanced plan has a customer loyalty program and social media tools that both Basic and Essential don’t have.
ShopKeep has also recently listed its transaction fees. If you choose to use ShopKeep as your payment processor, your processing rate will be 2.5% + 10¢.
- Unlimited inventory management
- Simple, intuitive software and hardware design
- 24/7 customer support
- Obscure pricing
- Limited support for multiple locations
- iPad-only POS system
ShopKeep is pretty stingy about sharing plan details. In fact, the only way to contact them about sales information is to call them. We contacted ShopKeep this month and they told us their pricing ranges from $69 per month up to $199 per month.
Each of ShopKeep’s plans likely comes with different limits for the number of registers and employees you can have on your plan. You’ll also probably need to upgrade your plan if you want to offer gift cards or sell online.
ShopKeep is also less-than-forthcoming about its transaction fees for payments processed through its ShopKeep Payments systems. On the plus side, ShopKeep advertises customized payment processing rates and hardware packages. Theoretically, that means you’ll pay only what makes sense for your business. But you’ll have to request a quote to see for yourself if ShopKeep actually makes sense for you.
Bindo is another iPad POS system that boasts sophisticated—yet user-friendly—inventory management features. Pick your own credit card processor and Bindo will handle just about everything else, from shift management and cash drawers to e-commerce and order management.
QuickBooks Point of Sale: Best POS for integrated accounting
QuickBooks by Intuit hardly needs an introduction—the company has been powering the accounting needs of businesses for decades. Now you can combine Intuit’s point-of-sale software, accounting services, and POS hardware to effortlessly run your own small business.
- Effortless integration with Intuit accounting software
- One-time purchase with no monthly fees
- Software compatible with Windows desktops and tablets
- Expensive rates for full-featured plans
- Simple payment processing and inventory management
- No iPad compatibility
Unlike other paid POS systems on our list, QuickBooks requires you to purchase your POS software outright. The price varies depending on the system you choose, and it’s a one-time payment. But its high up-front price might put it out of reach for small or new businesses.
|Plan||One-time purchase price||Learn more|
From there, you’ll need to sign up for a QuickBooks Point of Sale Payments plan. There are two standard options, and each one offers its own monthly rates and transaction fees. Alternatively, you can call QuickBooks customer service to get a quote on a custom plan.
You’ll also need to keep in mind that QuickBooks plans don’t include any hardware, so that’ll be an additional cost to consider.
|Plan||Monthly fee||Swipe/dip payment fee (with PIN)||Swipe/dip payment fee (no PIN)||Keyed transaction fee||Learn more|
|Pay as you go option||$0.00||1%||2.7%||3.5%||Get Started|
|Monthly subscription||$19.95||1% + 25¢||2.3% + 25¢||3.2% + 25¢||Get Started|
It’s true that the prices are a bit complicated. But if you’re a QuickBooks user for accounting and payroll, you can’t find a better solution for integrating those services into your POS system. And with QuickBooks hardware and software, you can take any type of payment from just about any device—barcode scanner, touch screen terminal, iPad, or mobile reader.
QuickBooks locks a lot of its services into the higher-priced plans—a definite downside. Integrated inventory and employee management, customer loyalty programs, and multi-store management all require purchasing the more expensive plans.
Runner-up: TouchBistro Restaurant POS
Using Intuit’s accounting software but with a different iPad POS solution? TouchBistro—an iPad-based POS system tailored to restaurants, bars, and breweries—partners with Shogo to provide integrated QuickBooks accounting services. TouchBistro also provides unique floor plan, table, and menu management, as well as CRM features.
POS systems: Honorable mentions
There are dozens more POS system options for businesses to choose from. While the ones above represent our favorites, we like three more that are worth mentioning:
What is a point-of-sale system?
A point-of-sale, or POS, system is the hardware and software that allows a business to process customer payments for products and services. Specifically, point-of-sale refers to the physical place where the transaction happens.
Traditionally, POS systems were physical cash registers that accepted only cash, checks, and credit cards. The term also includes receipt printers, cash drawers, barcode scanners, and other devices.
Modern mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) software and credit card readers let businesses use mobile devices, like iPads, to process customer payments from almost anywhere. And many POS systems are capable of accepting almost any type of payment, including contactless payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
POS systems now do more than just process payments. Many products, including the ones we have reviewed here, serve as essential business hubs that handle everything from inventory, customer, and employee management to accounting, payroll, and shipping services.
What are common features of a POS system?
Modern POS systems include a variety of features that help you manage your day-to-day business operations. Features vary by product, but here are some of the most common POS system features:
- Payment processing: This is the hardware and software required to accept customer payments. Your POS system may include terminals, credit card readers, barcode scanners, cash drawers, and online e-commerce platforms.
- Accounting and payroll: Your POS system may include accounting services or integrate with third-party software like QuickBooks. Manage your costs, revenues, invoices, and payroll to keep track of your business and find opportunities to improve profits.
- Inventory management: Many POS systems help you keep track of your product inventory, allowing you to enter specific details about each item you sell and track your product receiving, sales, and shipping.
- Employee management: Employees can clock in, process payments, and enter product and customer information with these features. And you can track staff schedules, productivity, sales activity, and more.
- Reporting and analytics: Gain valuable insights into your business with reporting and analytic features. Dashboards give you a bird’s-eye look at important information, including sales, inventory, and revenue data. Or dive into the details with sales summaries and historical comparisons with more advanced, real-time reporting features.
- Customer relationship management (CRM): CRM features let you store information about customers to understand them better. Manage customer loyalty programs, offer discounts and gift cards, or create promotional campaigns to turn one-time customers into advocates for your business.
How to choose the right POS system for your business
If you’re setting up your first POS system or considering switching to a new product, ask yourself the following questions to help make your decision.
Is the POS system built for my type of business?
Many POS systems are tailor-made and marketed to specific types of businesses, especially full-service restaurants or retail. For example, ShopKeep and TouchBistro build their systems around food and beverage businesses like quick-service restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. So these POS systems have powerful tools for quickly taking orders in the front of the house and keeping up with the hectic operations and inventory needs in the back.
In contrast, VendHQ and Flint mostly target small businesses in the service industry, like contractors, designers, and trainers. These businesses should look for features like invoicing, e-commerce, and CRM.
What’s more, if you manage multiple employees, you’ll want a POS solution to help you. Many systems let you individually track employee details, shifts, payroll, and more and then send that data to accounting software. Anything that helps you streamline staff management—and potentially lower labor costs—is a plus.
Weigh the costs of setting up a new POS system against the included features. Some options offer free or low-price subscription plans with scaled-down functionality. These can be great for newer, smaller businesses just getting started.
How will I need to accept payments?
Traditional POS or mPOS? That is the question. Consider how you or your staff will be taking payments from your customers. Will patrons come to you at a counter or cash register? If so, a traditional, stationary POS system may make sense.
But if you need to take payments on the go—from customers wandering around the floor or coming up to a roving truck—you’ll need a mobile POS and card reader system that accepts payments. Fortunately, most modern POS systems either include their own mPOS technology or work with existing products you can buy. Square Point of Sale, our pick for best overall POS system, has an excellent all-in-one solution for taking payments through stationary or mobile devices.
Also, make sure you know what hardware and software works with brands you’re considering. Some POS systems are built just for Android devices while others work with only Apple’s iPad. If you have existing hardware, you may want to choose a POS system that works with what you already have.
Do I need to manage a large inventory?
Some less expensive POS systems and plans are built primarily for payment processing. But what if you’re running a restaurant or retail business with hundreds of products, ingredients, or parts to keep track of? In that case, you’ll want to consider a POS system that includes or integrates with a robust inventory control system.
How much reporting and analytic information do I need?
For newer, smaller businesses, you may not need advanced and expensive POS system reporting features. But if you’re looking for deeper insights into details like profits, labor costs, and historical comparisons, look for retail POS systems that offer advanced real-time reporting.
What is the preferred method of payment for my customers?
In a world driven by technology, how are customers paying for stuff? Can your business survive with a cash-only approach, or do you need to jump into e-payments to keep up?
We used Pollfish to survey 500 Americans about their payment habits. We asked about payment methods, including which ones they used most commonly and which ones they thought were the safest and most convenient.
In our survey, 34.8% of Americans use credit cards and 36.2% use debit cards, which gives us a total of 71% of Americans using cards. And unsurprisingly, 71% of Americans think that a credit or debit card is the most convenient payment method.
It turns out that convenience is king, which ultimately means that cards are king. Most people pay with cards these days, followed by cash. Very few people (only 5.2%) pay with either checks or RFID mobile payments (sometimes called contactless payments).
RFID mobile payments are contactless payments made through mobile services like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, meaning you don’t have to swipe your card’s magnetic strip or dip your card’s chip into the card reader.
Furthermore, even though over 71% of Americans use cards the most, only 42.8% feel using a card is the safest payment method.
Only 16% of respondents said swiping a card is safest. But Americans have more confidence in chip readers: 29.8% said a card with an RFID chip is the safest way to pay.
When it comes to safety, cash still feels like the safest way to pay. Almost half of our respondents said cash is the safest, but only 23.8% said they use it the most.
So if you’re a business, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to pay for your products and services. That means you need to accept both debit and credit cards. A cash-only plan isn’t viable anymore.
The takeaway: Square is the POS smart bet
Although you should consider your business’s unique POS system needs, we think Square offers the best overall package to fit most small businesses, from restaurants to retail shops.
Square’s simple and affordable POS hardware and software let you take payments anywhere your customers can meet you. And with a zero-cost starter plan and a competitive processing fee, Square is an affordable solution for building a solid point-of-sale base.
Did you know a POS system can help streamline your accounting? To get started, pair your POS software with one of our top inventory management software options.
At zhulitouzi.com, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.
1. Shopify, “About.” Accessed August 6, 2020.
2. Heartland, “Read the Announcement.” Accessed August 6, 2020.