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|Best For Small Business|
|Best For Restaurants|
|Best For Retail|
As a retail store, restaurant, or small business owner, are you having a hard time keeping track of all your inventory, sales reports, customer and employee management and other crucial information? If so, you’re likely not using the latest point of sale technology — and you don’t know what you’re missing! Today’s POS systems can do all of this and much more. If you’re thinking about making the leap into the 21st century POS world, or you’re not happy with your current POS system, we’ve done our homework and give you our recommendations for the best POS systems on the market.
What is a POS System?
The most basic definition of a POS system is any setting where a customer pays a merchant. In the old days, the POS system was a simple cash register. As technology evolved, most POS systems adopted electronic cash registers, scanners, touch screens and customized hardware and software.
Today’s POS systems, however, are much more functional than just recording transactions and producing receipts — and they can save you valuable time, money, and resources, leaving you room to focus on other business priorities. The latest POS software keeps track of your inventory in real-time, allows you to run analytics to help you with future merchandise ordering, and provides excellent customer management tools. You can even keep track of this information across multiple stores — and on the go!
What Factors Should You Consider?
There are hundreds of POS systems on the market, and each offers a wide variety of features. So, it’s a good idea to start pinpointing some of your most important considerations. Some factors you need to think about before you start searching for the best POS system for your business include:
Type of Business
Many POS systems are industry specific, particularly for retailers and restaurants. Some POS systems are versatile enough to adapt to several different types of businesses. In this comparison article, we review a variety of POS systems to give you our recommendations for whatever type of industry you’re in.
Your pricing options can vary widely depending on your business needs, how much hardware you need, the types of features you want in your software and whether you need to include credit card processing in your overall POS system pricing.
- Hardware: Your hardware costs depend on a few factors. How large is your business? How many locations do you have? Do you want POS technology that works with mobile devices, or a server-based POS system that requires more hardware (and is more costly)? Items you may need include checkout stations, cash drawers, touch screens, barcode scanners and receipt printers among other things.
- Software: Pricing for POS software typically is either a one-time licensing fee or on a monthly subscription basis.
- Integrations: As with most business software these days, you can customize your POS software with a number of different integrations and add-ons. In many cases, these will run you an added fee — and can get pretty expensive depending on the POS system you choose.
- Credit card processing: If you don’t already have a merchant account and a payment processor, you’ll need to factor those into your budget. Tip: Some POS systems accept a variety of payment processors, while others are very limited. Make sure the payment processor you choose works with your chosen POS system.
Cloud-Based or Server-Based Software
The more traditional POS systems run on server-based software, which you have in-house, but newer cloud-based POS technology is revolutionizing the way a business can run and access their POS system. Instead of having your data stored on your own system, it’s stored online “in the cloud.” What does this mean for your POS potential? You can access your POS data anywhere via any device. All of the POS systems we review in this article are cloud-based.
Ease of Use
This factor should be a no-brainer, but a lot of people get caught up in choosing hardware and software features (it can be overwhelming, for sure) and forget to take ease-of-use into account. Once you narrow down your choices, go online. There are hundreds upon hundreds of POS system online consumer reviews, where you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of how the system works once in place.
Customer support from your POS system provider is a huge consideration. What if your system hits a glitch in the middle of a busy shopping weekend? You’ll need quick, responsive tech support that can get you back up and running ASAP.
Beginning on October 1, 2015, small businesses that haven’t incorporated POS systems that accept EMV-chip credit cards will be held liable for fraud instead of the card issuer or bank. This feature is a biggie if you want to avoid credit card fraud liability!
There are hundreds of POS systems on the market. We’ve done our homework to give you our recommendations for retail shop owners, restaurants and other small businesses. We chose our winners based on a number of factors: features, ease of use, tech support, cost and more.
ShopKeep is our winner for Best POS System for Small Businesses. It is an excellent iPad-based POS system for all types of small- to medium-sized companies. Its cloud-based monthly subscription fee is one of the lowest we’ve seen, and the system is simple, intuitive and easy to use. You also get excellent analytics, inventory management, and employee and customer management tools. ShopKeep gets overall top ratings from users for everything from functionality to technical support. And you’re not required to purchase any hardware to subscribe if you already have compatible hardware in place. We highly recommend Shop Keep. You can try it out without obligation with their 14-day free trial.
- $49 per month per register (discount for four or more registers)
- Hardware starter kit: $859 (doesn’t include iPad)
- One year warranty, free shipping & 30-day money back on hardware
Revel is another popular and well-respected, cloud-based POS system for iPad. Although it’s on the expensive side compared to similar systems, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Revel offers fast transaction processing, robust reporting and excellent inventory (down to raw ingredients), customer and employee management tools, in addition to a lot of great restaurant-specific features. In Always On Mode, for example, you can keep your POS up and running during a power outage or slow Internet speed to keep turning tables over quickly. You also have access to API developer tools and integrations with ecommerce stores, QuickBooks, and a number of different payment processors. Any drawbacks? Revel takes a learning curve to set up and they charge you a start-up fee, which varies depending on your industry.
Revel POS doesn’t include pricing on its website, although they indicate that they do have a free trial. You must contact them to get pricing quotes for hardware and monthly software fees. We did find some secondhand information online that reports that Revel is expensive compared to similar systems.
Vend is an excellent choice for retailers of any size. Another iPad- and cloud-based POS system, Vend is extremely simple to use and even offers a free plan (although, you don’t get much with it). Vend lacks some of the features that full-service restaurants or those in the hospitality industry need, but that’s not their niche. Some of their unique features include the ability to use your iPad camera as a barcode scanner and an excellent responsive design ecommerce tool that makes your website look great on any device. If you’re a retail merchant or even a quick-service, over-the-counter food business, give Vend a try. You get a 30-day free trial to see if it’s right for your business.
- 30-day free trial
- Hardware bundles starting at $485.59 (iPad not included)
- 30-day money back guarantee
Vend offers a 30-day free trial and discounts if you subscribe for their annual plan. The following software pricing plans are for one register. Additional registers are $39 per month (or $35 per month for an annual contract). Phone support 24/7 is an additional $19 per month.
|Free Plan||Starter Plan||Advanced Plan||Multi-Outlet Plan|
|Price Per Month||N/A||$69||$99||$199|
|Price Per Month (Annual Sign-up)||N/A||$59||$89||$169|
|Number of Locations||Single||Single||Single||Multiple|
|Number of Active Products||10||500||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Number of Customers||1,000||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Number of Users||1||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Tech/Customer Support||Community||24/7 Email||24/7 Email||24/7 Email & Priority Phone|
Other POS Systems Reviewed
Click on a POS system you’re interested in to jump to our review.
Launched by a career restaurateur and purchased by Groupon in 2012, Breadcrumb’s iPad- and cloud-based POS System is exclusively for food service establishments. They offer customized solutions for quick- and full-serve restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Breadcrumb is extremely intuitive and runs smoothly. It has good table and customer management features and highly customizable menu tools. And they have an excellent leasing option for hardware (one of few we’ve seen). However, Breadcrumb is lacking some features that other food service POS systems offer, namely ingredient management and an ecommerce integration. And there are more than a few online user complaints about their poor customer service.
- Must contact Breadcrumb to get hardware purchasing prices
POS Software Plan (monthly fees; no contract required; unlimited users)
- $69 per month; 1 terminal
- $99 per month; 2 terminals
- $129 per month; 3 terminals
- $159 per month; 4 terminals
POS Hardware Leasing + Software
- $99 per month; 1 terminal
- $199 per month; 2 terminals
- $279 per month; 3 terminals
- $339 per month; 4 terminals
Clover POS is an all-in-one touchscreen system that operates on its own unique hardware. One of the great things about Clover is that you can purchase their hardware bundles at a number of different places — Sam’s Club, Amazon, restaurant supply stores — and many major banks also carry Clover. It’s easy to set up and get your business up and running. The downsides? Clover doesn’t handle larger-scale retail shops or restaurants well, and the basic Clover POS software doesn’t cut it compared to other POS systems. They do have a hearty App marketplace to fill in the gaps, but you’ll have to configure it yourself. If you’re not tech savvy, this could prove difficult. A lot of users complain about their poor customer and tech support. If your business is a small restaurant, Clover could be a great solution. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Pricing for Clover varies, depending on where you purchase the hardware bundle, which includes a terminal, stand, printer and cash drawer. Bundles on Amazon are available for $1,200 from third-party vendors. And the software packages vary depending on where you purchase your bundle. Sam’s Club, for example, offers monthly rates starting at $19 per month.
There are a lot of positives about cloud-based Lightspeed POS systems. First, Lightspeed is compatible with iPads, PCs and Macs, so you can use whichever system you’re most comfortable with. Second, Lightspeed has a fully integrated and hosted ecommerce store option. This means you can sell your products in your store and online. And third, their inventory, employee and customer management features are robust. The drawbacks? Although Lightspeed offers a restaurant POS system, it doesn’t have as many features as similar systems. Lightspeed is expensive, and they charge you extra fees that similar systems don’t (added fees for advanced reporting, extra employees, etc.). We also found a number of user complaints over the last several months about significant system down time. This is a huge downside for a busy retail store or restaurant. Still, there are a ton of positive user reviews online, so Lightspeed is worth consideration.
If you’re interested in purchasing hardware from Lightspeed, you must contact them for pricing. Their software pricing is below. Lightspeed does offer a 14-day free trial.
Retail POS software
- Small Shop Plan: $89 per month ($76/mth with 14-month plan); one register and 5 employees
- Medium Shop Plan: $149 per month ($128/mth with 14-month plan); 2 registers and 10 employees
- Large Shop Plan: $259 per month ($222/mth with 14-month plan); 4 registers and 20 employees
- $51 per month per additional register (plus 3 extra employees)
- $9 per month to add an additional employee to any plan
- $21 per month for Advanced Reporting
Restaurant POS Software
- Small: $59 per month; one register; no integrations
- Medium: $102 per month; 3 registers; integrations included
- Large: $205 per month; 7 registers; integrations included
Most of us know Shopify as an online ecommerce platform, but Shopify actually has an in-store, iPad-based POS system for retailers. It’s an excellent option if you’re selling online and have a physical store with excellent syncing, reporting, inventory management and more. But if you’re not interested in selling online, Shopify POS system isn’t your best choice. Why? You’re required to pay for a Shopify ecommerce subscription in order to obtain the retail POS system, which is an additional charge per month. And without using the ecommerce POS, Shopify’s Retail POS Lite plan doesn’t give you many features.
- Hardware starter kit: $779
- 30-day money back guarantee
- 14-day free trial
- All pricing plans include unlimited products and 24/7 phone and email support
- No contract required
- Lite plan: $49 per month
- Basic plan: $69 per month
- Pro plan: $129 per month
- Unlimited plan: $229 per month
Square POS System is extremely popular for small merchants and start-ups. Why? The Square app is free to download, and they don’t charge a monthly fee. Square works on both iOS and Android devices, so it takes little time to get your small business up and running. But what you save upfront may end up costing you down the line. You’re required to process all your payments through Square, and they’re notorious for placing holds on larger transactions. If you only occasionally need a POS system, Square could be the perfect fit for you. But if you depend on your business income to earn a living, you could face cash flow issues.
Hardware Starter Kits: starting at $486 (iOS and Android devices not included)
How Do POS Systems Work in the Field?
Check out the video below to see how ShopKeep helps one small business owner.
The Best POS Software Drives Your Business
The POS systems we’ve reviewed in this article can all help propel your business into the modern age. You’ll stay on top of inventory, sales reports, employees and customers like never before. And there are other benefits. According to Hospital Technology’s 2015 POS Software Trend Report, more than half of restaurants surveyed reported that their top goal driving their POS upgrade is to enable new payment options, such as e-wallet. And 47% noted that adding mobile POS and becoming EMV compliant were crucial business goals. Food for thought, indeed! Consider one of the POS systems we’ve recommended to stay on top of your sales and more.
Which POS System have you found the most beneficial for your business?