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4 POS Systems For A Cashless Economy

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cashless store

Want to go cashless? Cashless stores are becoming a hot trend in the retail world, as both consumer and technology trends impact commerce. Consumers are carrying less cash these days, and some people don’t carry any cash at all. At the same time, digital, cashless payment technologies are becoming more prevalent — these include not only credit card payments but also mobile wallets like ApplePay, and web-based payment platforms like PayPal.

While fully cashless stores — businesses that do not accept cash at all — are still pretty rare in America, some are cropping up here and there, particularly as we morph into an increasingly cashless society. Sweetgreen, a Washington DC-based salad restaurant, and Detroit-based clothing retailer Kit and Ace are a couple examples of cashless businesses. Amazon has recently made news with its cashless (and cashier-less) store, Seattle-based Amazon Go, and even Starbucks is beginning to experiment with cashless stores. Some European countries like Sweden and Denmark are also largely cashless, and these nations may very well be paving the way for the US.

Why go cashless? For businesses, going cashless can make for quicker transactions and more streamlined operations; it can also save money, as you don’t have to deal with the cost of handling and transporting cash. Customers also tend to spend more when they’re paying with a debit card, credit card, or mobile payments app. Not only that, but having the distinction of being one of the only cashless stores in your area could attract local media coverage and online buzz about your shop — studies have shown that millennials believe in the reality of a completely cashless future, and they cling to their debit cards with fervor (though they are eschewing credit cards in greater numbers). 

The cashless model can work well for a small, casual brick-and-mortar store, like a cafe, a food truck, or a convenience store, though it’s possible to implement the model with a larger chain store or restaurant — for example, Sweetgreen, Kit, Starbucks, and Ace are multi-location businesses. Are you a cashless store or a business that’s considering going cashless or accepting more digital payments? These four POS systems will help you get your cutting-edge cashless store or restaurant up and going.

What Makes a POS System Good For Cashless Payments?

A good cashless store POS has the following attributes:

  • Fast and reliable transactions: Slow or glitchy credit card processing is no good when customers can’t pay with cash!
  • Offline connectivity: Since cash is not an option, cashless stores need to be able to process digital payments (usually credit card payments but perhaps also ApplePay, Android Pay, etc.) in all circumstances, even if the internet goes out. In some cases, you can ensure that you stay online at all times using a backup server or 4G hotspot.
  • Secure: Digital payments are inherently less secure than cash, so the POS system you choose must be secure and PCI compliant to protect sensitive payment data.
  • Fair payment processing rates: With non-cash payments, you will pay a certain percentage of every sale in processing costs. You, of course, want to keep these costs as low as possible. In some cases, the POS provider offers in-house payment processing, and in others, the POS works in conjunction with an outside payment processor.
  • EMV-compliant: A cashless store POS should accept the latest digital payment technologies, including chip cards (EMV payments).
  • Responsive customer support: You will depend on customer service for your POS system and/or merchant account provider when something goes wrong with an electronic payment, which is something that inevitably happens from time to time.

Now that we’ve covered what to look for in a cashless store POS, here are some examples of point-of-sale systems that fit the bill.

1. Revel Systems 

  • iPad POS
  • Hybrid cloud-based — runs locally through your iPad and syncs all data to the cloud
  • Quick-serve and retail industries
  • Enterprise-level support
  • EMV-compliant
  • Full offline connectivity
  • Can use with your own choice of merchant account
  • Accepts several mobile payment types

revel systems

Revel Systems (see our reviewis an excellent POS for cashless stores because it is sleek and modern. Its appeal goes a lot more than skin deep, though — Revel is also fast and reliable, and robust enough to power enterprise-level businesses.

This iPad-based POS is mainly marketed to quick-serve restaurants, and some big names, like Cinnabon and Goodwill, use it to power their franchises. Revel can also be used quite effectively in a retail setting.

One big advantage with Revel is its full offline functionality. Very few point of sale systems allow you to process credit cards and execute all other POS functions offline the way Revel does. For an even faster and more reliable POS, you have the option to connect your Revel-equipped device to a proprietary iPad-ethernet connection — another rarity in the world of tablet POS’s.

Revel works with numerous third-party payment processors, allowing you to shop around to get the best processing rates. However, the monthly charge for this top-tier iPad POS may be higher than what you’d pay with some other competing POS’s. Revel is a full business management system and is priced as such, though it’s still much more affordable than a traditional Windows-based POS system. You will need to contact Revel directly to get a quote for your business.

Learn more about this five-star POS system by reading our Revel Systems review.

2. Square 

  • Smartphone (Android, Windows phone, iPhone) and iPad POS
  • Cloud-based
  • Food and retail industries
  • EMV-compliant
  • Accepts ApplePay, Android Pay, and other mobile payments
  • Runs on data connection when you don’t have internet
  • No monthly charge

Square POS for cashless store

While Revel is a good choice for a larger cashless business, Square (see our reviewis the perfect choice for startups, small retailers, and/or fast-casual restaurants. This easy-to-use POS works on any smartphone, as well as on an iPad, and customers are increasingly used to using Square in many settings, so it will seem familiar.

At a flat 2.75% on every swiped and dipped transaction, Square’s in-house payment processing does not provide the lowest rates in the industry. However, there is no monthly 

charge to use this handy pocket POS, so there is a very low barrier to entry. Similar to PayPal, you don’t even have to have your own a merchant account to use Square. Though it doesn’t have every feature out there, businesses that don’t process many sales per month might save money with Square versus with a paid POS.

While you can use this POS in your brick-and-mortar store on an iPad using the proprietary Square Stand (pictured above), Square is the best choice for small casual businesses, and particularly mobile businesses that take credit card payments on the go. Simply use the headphone jack reader to accept swiped card payments or the small Bluetooth EMV reader for chip cards and mobile payments. As long as you have a data plan, you will be able to take payments on Square without an internet connection. There’s also an “offline” mode that queues payments when you don’t have a connection.

A couple downsides to Square are inconsistent customer support and a touchy security system that may flag/freeze your account if you process a very large transaction or a higher-than-usual monthly sales total. You don’t need your own merchant account with Square, which makes it very quick and easy to get approved, though you don’t have as much freedom as you would with your own dedicated merchant account. Still, for smaller cashless (and perhaps cash-strapped) startups, you can’t beat the price of this pocket POS.

Learn more in our Square review.

3. Toast 

  • Android POS
  • Cloud-based with offline mode
  • Restaurant industry
  • In-house payment processing
  • Advanced restaurant feature set
  • Accepts EMV cards and SamsungPay
  • Starts at $99/month

Toast (see our reviewis the smart POS choice for a restaurant, large or small, that wants to go cashless. Pictured above with a 10″ touchscreen, Toast POS uses Android tablets exclusively, so this gives you some choices in terms of form factor that you wouldn’t have with an iPad POS; it also makes the hardware a lot less expensive.

Toast also has an offline mode that lets you continue to ring up transactions and perform other essential features even in the event of an internet outage. You can actually set your credit card authorization so that it will always behave as if it were offline. This makes the system faster since you don’t have to wait around for an official authorization, though it is slightly riskier to operate in this mode. The POS additionally supports a 4G backup data plan via a USB stick.

Toast offers in-house payment processing and offers to meet or beat the rates you’d get with another processor. However, you cannot use an outside merchant account with Toast; if you want to use your own existing merchant account, then Toast is not right for you.

Toast pricing starts at $100/month. This might sound like kind of a lot, especially if you’re upgrading from a “free” POS like Square. However, like Revel, Toast is a complete business management solution with features like CRM, inventory management, employee management, and more. Made specifically for the foodservice industry, Toast also includes restaurant-specific features like service areas and split-check functionality. Learn more about what you get with Toast in our Toast POS review.

4. Clover Mini 

  • Proprietary hardware POS
  • Cloud-based
  • For restaurant (quick-serve or full-service) or retail
  • Can also run on data connection
  • Accepts mobile payments, EMV cards, and gift cards
  • Sold by numerous vendors (some of them shady)

Clover Mini (see our reviewis a compact and customizable POS that might be just right for your cashless store or restaurant.

Let’s get the bad news over with first: Clover Mini’s parent company First Data doesn’t have the best reputation in the merchant world. Clover Mini also is sold by numerous banks and merchant account providers, and not all of them are reputable. Make sure that you are buying the system — which usually runs about $200 to $500 depending on who you buy it from — from a reputable source because in buying the POS you are also signing a merchant account agreement. So, don’t just look for the cheapest system, and please be especially careful if you’re buying it on eBay.

Recently, Clover launched Clover Connect, a direct-to-consumer sales channel through which you can purchase Clover directly from the manufacturer, which is good news.

Now, for the good stuff. The proprietary Clover hardware, pictured above, presents a pretty sleek alternative to the iPad and Android POS’s. Clover Mini has a 7” touchscreen interface and comes with a built-in receipt printer, a front-facing camera, and the ability to read barcodes/QR codes. You can plug in additional hardware such as a weight scale via one of its USB ports. The system is also portable, giving you the option of a “floating terminal” setup where employees can take payments from anywhere in your store/restaurant.

Clover is exceedingly easy to use and learn, and you can customize the system’s functionality via the Clover App market. Clover gives you the option to run the Mini over Wi-Fi or a data connection. If your internet goes down, you can run the Mini for up to seven days, queuing up transactions until your connection is restored.

Again, just make sure you use Clover with a quality merchant account provider or buy it with Clover Connect. Read our Clover Mini review to learn more about this pretty little POS.

Which POS Is Best For Accepting Cashless Payment At My Store?

The answer to this question depends on your business’s particular needs and budget, as well as the demographics of your customers. Keep in mind that all of these systems also allow you to accept cash transactions, so you always have the option to start taking cash if the cashless model doesn’t work out for you.

To sum them up quickly:

  • Revel: Advanced iPad POS for quick-serve and retail
  • Square: Mobile and iPad POS for casual businesses
  • Toast: Advanced Android POS for restaurants
  • Clover Mini: Proprietary mobile POS for restaurant or retail

It doesn’t always pay to dive into in fads, as anyone with a Segway or a laser disk player could tell you. But the writing is on the wall for cash as we know it; we are hurtling into a future as a cashless society. Amazon has gotten onboard, so it’s pretty much inevitable at this point, no matter how much older generations cling to their coins and paper money!

Many grocery stores, fast-food chains, restaurants, and clothing boutiques might not be ready to go completely cashless yet, but by investing in a POS system that handles cashless payments well, today’s merchants are investing in the survival of their brick-and-mortar stores.

Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Shannon is a writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English. She is the former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, an online trade publication. Shannon has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. She has been with Merchant Maverick since 2015, writing about POS software, small business loans, and financing for women entrepreneurs.
Shannon Vissers
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