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Best POS system 2021: Which is right for you?


Most commonly used in retail and hospitality businesses, a point-of-sale system (or POS) combines hardware and software to accept mobile and card-based payments. But with so many POS products on the market, it can be challenging for small business owners to pick the right one for their needs.

In terms of functionality, a typical POS system provides a way for businesses to accept payments made with credit cards, debit cards, and mobile devices. Best-in-class POS systems will include additional features, such as secure payment processing and integrated software that streamlines accounting and administrative tasks.

To find the right POS system, you should consider which features you need for your business — whether that’s simple transaction processing, accounting and invoicing capabilities, or inventory management functionality. On top of that, you should also think about how much you’re willing to spend on a POS system (including the hardware, software, rental fees, and payment processing costs). 

Keep reading to get our picks for the best POS systems of 2021.


Minimalist POS system with optional software add-ons

Square’s POS system is known for straightforward pricing, minimalist hardware, and a user-friendly interface. Beyond standard payment acceptance, Square’s POS product offers a range of additional features including software for customer relationship management, invoicing, customer loyalty, inventory management, and reporting and analytics. Both Square’s POS app and its sales-oriented Square Dashboard offer a variety of analytical reports, with statistics such as sales summaries, growth comparisons, busiest hours, and employee sales. The company also offers free phone support Monday through Friday, and additional support via email, social media, and live chat.

In terms of pricing, merchants can get a Square chip card reader for free, or pay $49 for a reader that also takes contactless payments. Square also sells the iPad-compatible Square Stand for $169, and the Square Register (which includes a display, a stand, and a customer-facing display for card and contactless payments) for $799 plus transaction and processing fees. Square charges a 2.6% transaction fee plus 10 cents for in-person payments. Manually entered card payments cost a bit more (3.5% plus 15 cents), as online and over the phone transactions demand a higher fee due to greater fraud risks.

Pros

Cons


Seamlessly combines hardware and software for better business management

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Clover’s POS system is known for being highly flexible and deeply integrated with its hardware. Clover has several built-in features for sales and business management, and also offers a range of free apps that extend the capabilities of the software. The system is sold as a standalone POS system, which gives merchants the freedom to choose a payment processor. Alternatively, you can purchase a Clover Account service plan to get access to the company’s payment processing software on your phone, laptop, or other device.

Clover’s all-in-one POS system, Clover Station Solo, starts at $1,349 for the most comprehensive set of products. Clover Mini, another all-in-one POS system, sells for $749, and its Clover Flex card reader retails for $499. In terms of customer service, Clover offers free phone, email and web-based customer support to its existing merchants.

Pros

Cons


Robust POS system with impressive features for retail businesses

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Lightspeed offers specialized point-of-sale systems for restaurants, retail, and e-commerce operations. Its cloud-based software lets businesses manage inventory and marketing, monitor sales, manage employees, and process payments. The software also works with third-party platforms for additional marketing, customer loyalty, and employee management capabilities. Lightspeed’s hardware is all iPad based, save for cash drawers, receipt printers and barcode scanners which are available bundled or a la carte through various hardware providers. 

Pricing depends on the package or bundle you choose, and for the most part, the company requires a customer quote for exact pricing. For software, its basic retail POS service (called Lightspeed Lean) starts at $69 per month and its Lightspeed Standard plan starts at $119 per month. A Lightspeed Advanced plan starts at $199 per month. In terms of support, the company has a 24/7 support team and is reachable via phone, email and online chat. 

In November 2020, Lightspeed acquired rival POS provider ShopKeep, which offered an iPad-based point-of-sale system for retailers and restaurants. An earlier version of this list highlighted ShopKeep as one of the best POS providers for businesses. According to Lightspeed’s website, the company is still supporting existing ShopKeep merchants and updating ShopKeep’s software and hardware offerings. 

Pros

Cons


Highly customizable POS system with several plan tiers

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Vend, also owned by Lightspeed, is a cloud-based point-of-sale system for retailers known for its ease of configuration and customization. Vend offers a range of reporting and analytics tools to help manage sales, customer data, inventory, and customer experience. Vend offers free customer support via phone, email, and live chat for all plan levels.

Vend’s POS software is designed to work on various devices including Macs, PCs, and iPads, and is compatible with a range of third-party hardware, including receipt printers, barcode scanners, and cash drawers. Vend does not run its own payment processing network and instead integrates with third-party systems including PayPal, Square, and CardConnect. In terms of cost, Vend offers a Lite plan for $99 per month (when billed annually), a Pro plan for $129 per month (when billed annually), and an Enterprise plan that requires a customer quote. 

Pros

Cons

  • Software-only product means that you’ll need to purchase third-party hardware for payment processing

  • Basic plan doesn’t include certain software integrations


Designed for businesses with online and physical storefronts

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Shopify is known as an e-commerce platform provider, but the company also offers point-of-sale software for its small business merchants with both online and brick-and-mortar operations. The POS product is tightly integrated with Shopify’s website platform and offers a range of reporting and analytics features including an actionable dashboard of sales, orders, and traffic, along with retail sales and finance reports.

Shopify’s POS software can run either on Android or iOS devices, but the company also sells its own branded hardware for merchants, including a tap and chip card reader. A standard retail hardware bundle sells for $159. On the software side, Shopify POS Lite comes included with all Shopify plans. Otherwise, you’ll pay $29 per month for the Basic Shopify plan, which is designed for new ecommerce businesses with few in-person sales. There’s also the more robust mid-level Shopify plan for $89 per month, as well as the Advanced Shopify plan that starts at $299 per month. Shopify also offers 24/7 phone and email support for its merchant POS customers.

Pros

Cons


Specialized POS and management system for bars and restaurants

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Toast makes a point-of-sale and management system exclusively for the restaurant industry. Toast’s technology platform combines restaurant POS, front-of-house, back-of-house and guest-facing technology with a bevy of third-party applications. The POS software also offers detailed analytics into things like net sales and labor costs, as well as support for loyalty programs, online ordering, and digital gift cards.

Toast’s proprietary, ruggedized Android-based hardware suite includes a 14-inch terminal, a three-in-one payment processing device, and a terminal hub and printer. In terms of pricing, Toast offers new customers a zero-cost entry bundle that includes a Toast Flex POS terminal, a Toast Tap payment device and router and POS software. The Essentials plan starts at $165 per month and the Growth plan starts at $272 per month. Fees for each plan are charged per terminal and can include additional costs for desired software and hardware add-ons. 

Toast manages the payment processing for its customers and promises a flat, transparent rate that varies by customer and card mix. Toast is also regarded for its approach to customer support, which is available 24/7 via multiple channels. In addition, the company offers an implementation team that will configure and install Toast for customers.

Pros

  • Built for all types of culinary establishments, including restaurants, bars, and food trucks

  • Free starter kit option

Cons

  • Payment processing fees vary depending on your business

  • Gift cards, loyalty program, and marketing features only included in highest-tier package


Subscription-based POS software for your iPad

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Revel offers an iPad-based point-of-sale system for retailers and restaurants that boasts a user-friendly interface and extensive functionality. This POS system offers integrated inventory and customer management functionalities, along with an analytics application that tracks hourly sales, order history, payment and sales summaries, and product mix. Other features include low stock alerts, integrated scheduling, and payroll logs. Revel also offers 24/7 phone support for existing customers. 

Pricing for Revel’s POS software starts at $99 per terminal per month. Customers can purchase additional hardware such as card readers and receipt printers from third-party providers like Ingenico. If you don’t already have an iPad, Revel also offers a hardware and service leasing program through Apple Financial Services to reduce upfront costs. Payment processing is available either via Revel’s in-house service called Revel Advantage or through third-party processors. 

Pros

Cons


Integrated POS and ecommerce management solutions

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Wix is known as a website-development platform provider, but the company now offers a wider range of commerce services, including point-of-sale hardware and software bundles for business owners who want to accept in-person payments connected to their Wix online storefront. The POS services are integrated with Wix ecommerce accounts, providing fully-synced inventory, orders, fulfillment, CRM, analytics, data, and reports. Sales are automatically reflected across the Wix POS device, Wix Business Manager, and Wix Owner app.

The Wix Retail POS hardware kits come with an HP terminal that is pre-installed with the Wix POS software, which Wix develops in-house and provides at no additional cost. Transactions are processed through Wix Payments via the Stripe Terminal card reader, with standard, fixed processing rates for in-person payments (2.6% per transaction + $0 USD).

Wix sells its POS services in three different kits. The premium tier is equipped with HP hardware, including a terminal with customer display, cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer and the Stripe Terminal card reader for $750. The Retail Essentials bundle includes a tablet with customer display, Wix POS software, compact card reader and its charging dock and costs $550. The Wix Mobile Card Reader sells for $49.

Pros

  • Lower processing fees than other POS providers

  • Fantastic inventory, fulfillment, and analytics integration for Wix customers

Cons


Basic POS system from a global financial software leader

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NCR Silver is an iPad-based point-of-sale system that touts ease of use, setup, and customization. The system offers robust reporting functionality, along with tools for customer loyalty, email marketing, employee management, and inventory management. Additional services such as accounting and bookkeeping are available via partners such as Intuit.

In addition to NCR Silver, there are two NCR Silver Pro POS system bundles, which are designed specifically for restaurants: the Table Service Hardware Bundle and the Fast Casual & Quick Service Hardware Bundle. You’ll need to get in touch with an NCR sales representative to get specific pricing for your business.

The company does not provide credit processing and therefore works with a range of third-party companies, which will add additional fees. In terms of support, NCR offers 24/7 customer support via phone, email, chat, or text.

Pros

  • Subscription costs include hardware

  • Cloud-based software offers easy insight into sales, inventory, and more

Cons


Integrated POS and accounting solutions for small businesses

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QuickBooks’ point-of-sale system integrates tightly with the company’s small business accounting platform, making it an attractive option for existing QuickBooks customers. In addition to ringing sales and accepting payments, the QuickBooks POS also offers robust support for managing customers and inventory. With real-time inventory management, users can see what products are selling best, profits made from each sale, and when it’s time to reorder merchandise. 

QuickBooks sells its POS software for a one-time, upfront cost. The Basic plan — which lets users sync with QuickBooks accounting software, accept payments, track inventory, create reports, and ring sales — starts at $960 and that does not include hardware. Additional plans with more functionality include the Pro plan, which costs $1,360 plus hardware, and the Multi-Store plan, which starts at $1,520. In terms of customer support, QuickBooks provides a variety of online resources but its phone support is limited to business hours Monday through Saturday. 

Pros

  • One-time, upfront cost might appeal to some business owners

  • Strong integration gives you comprehensive insight into your business finances

Cons

How did we choose these products?

The POS vendors included in this list were chosen based on an analysis of popular reviews combined with years of experience reporting on and writing about the payments space and its key players. 

Which one is right for you?

There are a number of important factors to consider when comparing point-of-sale providers. For most business owners, it’s helpful to narrow things down to the essentials: Cost, hardware and software options, payment method coverage, payment processing options, hardware and software interoperability, and customer support. 

FAQ

What do you need in a POS system?

At a minimum, your POS system should be able to process debit and credit card transactions. Ideally, it should also allow you to run sales reports and understand how your business is performing.

But on top of that, you’ll also want a system that has extra features that are specific to your industry. For example, if you own a clothing store, you’ll likely want a POS that allows you to manage your inventory. Or, if you run a restaurant, you might look for a POS that lets you see how many tables you have open.

Will I need to pay a subscription fee for my POS system?

It depends on which provider you choose. With companies like Square, you’ll only pay for hardware (and payment processing fees). In comparison, providers like Toast charge a monthly or annual subscription fee for their software.

What do I need in a POS system?

At a minimum, your POS system should be able to process debit and credit card transactions. Ideally, it should also allow you to run sales reports and understand how your business is performing. But on top of that, you’ll also want a system that has extra features that are specific to your industry. For example, if you own a clothing store, you’ll likely want a POS that allows you to manage your inventory. Or, if you run a restaurant, you might look for a POS that lets you see how many tables you have open.

Will I need to pay a subscription fee for my POS system?

It depends on which provider you choose. With companies like Square, you’ll only pay for hardware (and payment processing fees). In comparison, providers like Toast charge a monthly or annual subscription fee for their software.

Do I need a POS system for my business?

If you have a physical retail store or hospitality venue, you should have a POS system to accept card payments, understand your cash flow, and analyze sales performance. But POS systems also allow you to do much more than basic payment processing, helping you market your business, reward loyal customers, and streamline your accounting.

Are there alternatives worth considering?

In the list above, we’ve focused on robust POS systems from recognizable industry brands. But if you want something simpler or less well-known, you might consider one of these options: 

  • Helcim: $199 card reader, with no monthly fees and transparent credit card processing fees based on your business

  • TouchBistro: iPad required, with monthly fees starting at $69 and transparent credit card processing fees based on your business



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