The 5 Best Point-of-Sale Systems for Small Businesses

We compared and analyzed over 20 different products to bring you these best-in-class POS systems. Our picks will help you process payments, manage inventory, and create loyal customers.
Best overall
Square
Square POS
Starting from
$0.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No starting fees
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Free mobile reader
Best POS for retail
Shopify
Shopify POS
Starting from
$9.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No starting fees
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Free mobile reader
Best loyalty program POS
Revel
Revel POS
Starting from
$99.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    $674.00 starting fees
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No free mobile reader
Best POS for inventory
lightspeed logo
Lightspeed POS
Starting from
$69.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No starting fees
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No free mobile reader
Easiest accounting POS
Quickbooks
Intuit QuickBooks POS
Starting from
$0.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    $1,200 starting fees
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Free mobile reader

What does a POS system do? The best POS systems combine payment processing, inventory and customer management, payroll and accounting, and other services into powerful POS hardware and software packages.

Our top choice is Square, a POS system with features designed specifically around modern small businesses. It’s free to get started and easy to grow with. But, if you’re looking for something a little more tailored to your industry, we’ve reviewed some other great options as well.

Check out our top picks below to learn more about which POS solution is best for your business.

Best POS systems for small business

Pricing and plans

Brand
Lowest starting fees
Lowest monthly fee
Credit transaction fee (swiped)
Learn more
Square

Square

None$0.002.6% + 10¢
Shopify

Shopify

None$9.002.4%
Revel

Revel Systems

$674.00$99.002.49% + 15¢
lightspeed logo

Lightspeed

None$69.002.6% + 10¢
Quickbooks

QuickBooks

$720$0.001%

Data effective 6/21/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

When comparing POS brands, the price is only a small part of the equation. If you can afford multiple brands listed above, the next thing to determine is how valuable that brand’s offering will be for your business.

For example, Revel is one of the most expensive programs listed, but it also has more hardware options than some of the other brands in addition to exclusive features for restaurants. Implementing that type of hardware and software combo in your restaurant can significantly speed up your workflow and help you serve more customers.

It’s important to note that in addition to the prices listed above, you may want to purchase or rent point-of-sale hardware. The hardware can range from a free mobile reader to top-of-the-line POS systems that cost thousands of dollars. The hardware option you choose should largely be dictated by the needs of your business.

If you plan on using the hardware for the foreseeable future, you may want to consider buying over renting. If your hardware will be used in a restaurant as a stationary POS, you’d probably want a more substantial setup over a mobile reader.

Square Point of Sale: Best overall

Square Point of Sale
Square
Square
  • Starting monthly fee: $0.00
  • Check
    No starting fees
  • Check
    Free mobile reader

Our pick for the 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.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Zero monthly cost for the basic plan
Pro Bullet Software and hardware that's easy to set up and use
Pro Bullet Transparent transaction fees
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Pricier transaction fees than some major processors
Con Bullet 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 can be more expensive than what other POS providers are charging. The transaction costs can add up if you process loads of payments a day.

That said, 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% + $0.10
  • Keyed-in and card-on-file payments: 3.5% + $0.15
  • Square Register (purchased before 8/20/19) payments: 2.5% + $0.10

Square also 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 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% + $010 for in-person payments).

What’s nice about these additional plan types is that they are optional. So, if you want more functionality and features, it’s easy to add them to your POS at any time with Square.

Shopify POS: The best POS system for retail stores

Square Point of Sale
Shopify
Shopify
  • Starting monthly fee: $9.00
  • Check
    No starting fees
  • Check
    Free mobile reader

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 ecommerce, Amazon marketplace, and point-of-sale services.1

The company’s powerful ecommerce 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.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Affordable basic subscription and processing fees
Pro Bullet Free 14-day trial
Pro Bullet Robust ecommerce tools
Weaknesses
Con Bullet No subscription-free plan
Con Bullet Limited reporting on the basic plan
Con Bullet 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.

Shopify plans and pricing

Plan
Monthly price
In-person payment processing fee
Third-party payment provider fee
Learn more
Shopify Lite

$9.00*

2.7%

2%

Basic Shopify

$29.00*

2.7%

2%

Shopify

$79.00*

2.5%

1%

Advanced Shopify $299.00*

2.4%

0.5%

Data effective 2/15/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

*With annual billing

Runner-up: Heartland Retail POS (previously Springboard Retail)

Springboard Retail 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 has packages that 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

Square Point of Sale
Revel
Revel Systems
  • Starting monthly fee: $99.00
  • Check
    $674.00 starting fees
  • Check
    No free mobile reader

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.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Customizable customer loyalty and management services
Pro Bullet Tools built for food and beverage businesses
Pro Bullet Loads of software integrations
Weaknesses
Con Bullet 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.

Installation and onboarding of Revel’s POS system costs $674. 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 its 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.

Runner-up: Toast

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.

Lightspeed: Best POS system for inventory management

Square Point of Sale
lightspeed logo
Lightspeed
  • Starting monthly fee: $69.00
  • Check
    No starting fees
  • Check
    No free mobile reader

Keeping track of your inventory can be a nightmare if you don’t have the right tools. Lightspeed can save you time and hassle with its powerful inventory management tools built into a solid iPad POS system.

Lightspeed’s inventory management makes it easy to track and control your inventory:

  • Create product variations like size, colour and material
  • Bundle items to sell together
  • Track inventory levels and SKUs at multiple locations
  • Import up to 10,000 items
  • Automate discounts
  • Track unit costs
  • Anticipate shopping trends

There’s so much you can automate with Lightspeed’s inventory tools, taking the headache out of a lot of your daily processes.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Detailed inventory management
Pro Bullet Modern POS equipment
Pro Bullet Worldwide payment acceptance
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Some important features locked behind more expensive plans

Lightspeed offers five different plans:

  • Basic for $69 per month
  • Starter for $99 per month
  • Standard for $119 per month
  • Advanced for $169 per month
  • Pro for $229 per month

Each plan has increasingly more features. With Basic, you get POS software, payment processing, and a free terminal. With Starter, you get all features from Basic plus eCommerce tools. Standard adds accounting integration, Advanced adds loyalty tools, and Pro adds detailed analytics. All plans have transaction fees of 2.6% + 10¢ per transaction.

Lightspeed has made it possible to do international business on its systems no matter your plan. While many POS systems only operate in the US or in their home countries, Lightspeed allows you to manage businesses in multiple countries using one system.

That’s why Lightspeed is a truly unique system for businesses

Runner-up: Bindo

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 ecommerce and order management.

QuickBooks Point of Sale: Best POS for integrated accounting

Square Point of Sale
Quickbooks
QuickBooks POS
  • Starting monthly fee: $0.00
  • Check
    $1,200.00 starting fees
  • Check
    Free mobile reader

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.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Effortless integration with Intuit accounting software
Pro Bullet One-time purchase with no monthly fees
Pro Bullet Software compatible with Windows desktops and tablets
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Expensive rates for full-featured plans
Con Bullet Simple payment processing and inventory management
Con Bullet 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.

QuickBooks POS plans and pricing

Plan
One-time purchase price
Learn more
Basic $720
Pro $1,020.00
Multi-Store $1,140.00

Data effective 6/21/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

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%

Monthly subscription

$19.95

1% + 25¢

2.3% + 25¢

3.2% + 25¢

Data effective 2/15/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

*Available only with QuickBooks Desktop Point of Sale 18.0

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:

Acme
Acme Point of Sale
With plans starting at $69 per device per month, Acme Point of Sale has earned a positive reputation as a POS solution for specialty retailers. From candy and tobacco to groceries and guns, retail businesses can access features like detailed reporting and analytics and inventory optimization.
Ambur
Ambur Point of Sale
Ambur Point of Sale offers several plans, including a $59 monthly “Single” plan. It’s a restaurant POS system that can help your startup eatery or drinkery take orders, manage tables and menus, and get real-time inventory and staff alerts.
Flint
Flint
Flint is a simple, beautifully designed POS system tailored for service-style businesses like beauticians, personal trainers, and designers. The system includes useful features like Apple Passbook customer reward coupons, customized receipts, and an intuitive reporting dashboard. Our favorite feature? The Basic plan is totally free and lets you manage up to 10 clients and invoices per year—a great way for fledgling service businesses to try out the POS system.

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.

And if Square isn’t quite what you’re looking for, our other picks are great alternatives:

  • Shopify is for retailers who want a POS that can manage both online and in-person transactions.
  • Revel Systems is a great choice for a more focused and feature-rich restaurant POS experience.
  • Lightspeed will make managing a complicated inventory system a breeze in addition to allowing you to do business across the globe.
  • Quickbooks makes it incredibly easy to both manage your POS and your books.

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.

Related content

Point-of-sale FAQs

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 ecommerce 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, TouchBistro built its system around food and beverage businesses like quick-service restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. This POS system has 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, ecommerce, 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.

Megaphone
Hint
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).

Info
What’s an RFID mobile payment?
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.

Methodology

Our rankings were created by comparing over 20 of the top POS systems on the market today. We looked at pricing, features, customer satisfaction, and usability. We also took into account the most common and important business use cases like, for example, a POS for managing a restaurant. Once all these considerations were accounted for, the top 5 were determined.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, 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.

Sources

1. Shopify, “About.” Accessed December 14, 2020.
2. Heartland, “Read the Announcement.” Accessed December 14, 2020.

Sarah Ryther Francom
Written by
Sarah Ryther Francom
Sarah is Business.org’s senior content editor. She has more than 15 years of experience writing, editing, and managing business-focused content. As the former editor-in-chief of Utah Business magazine, Sarah oversaw the state’s premier business publication, developed several custom publications, and managed all business-to-business content. She also co-authored a business book with FJ Management CEO Crystal Maggelet. Sarah is passionate about helping small-business owners reach sustained success.
Recent Articles
What is a POS Report?
What is a POS Report?
Learn more about how POS reports and sales data can help your business grow. Every...
Best Tablet and iPad POS Systems
Best Tablet and iPad POS Systems 2021
We’ve compared and analyzed the best tablet and iPad POS systems and narrowed the field...
EPOS definition
EPOS Systems: What Are They and How Do They Work?
Electronic point-of-sale systems are here to stay, so it’s crucial to know what they are...
The Pros and Cons of Using Self-Checkouts
The Pros and Cons of Using Self-Checkouts
Self-checkouts are becoming more widely used by consumers every year. In fact, 48.7% of consumers...