Wondering What The Best Point of Sale Systems For Small Businesses Are? These 7 Systems Will Help You Thrive
As a small business owner, you no doubt take great pride in your business and want it to be the best it can be. But at the same time, you have to be budget-conscious. Especially if you have a newer business, you probably can’t afford to have every single aspect of your establishment be “state of the art.” For most business owners, however, a point of sale (POS) system is something you can’t afford not to invest in. That’s because a good point of sale system will actually save you money in the long run, and free up time spent on management tasks like inventory, payroll, accounting, marketing, and others. You don’t want to pay for features you won’t use: you want a system that’s going to allow you to do everything you need to do without overpaying. So, customizability with multiple pricing options is key.
Whether you own a retail establishment, restaurant, service-based business, or a business that doesn’t fit neatly into any one box, there is a good chance that at least one of the POS systems on this list can meet your needs. But first, let’s take a look at what makes a POS system good for small businesses.
Other Featured Options:
- Shopify POS: Ideal for: Online retailers
- Payment Depot Mobile: Ideal for: Businesses that just need "the basics"
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
What Makes A Good Point Of Sale System For Small Businesses?
A POS system serves an important role for just about any small business. Beyond just sales tracking and reporting, a POS can do many other things that can save both your time and your money. A great point of sale system for small businesses will have the following characteristics:
- Affordable: Month-to-month SaaS pricing and affordable, tablet-based hardware ensures that you don’t have to make a huge expenditure on on-premise software and hardware system, which you may not even decide to keep. Hardware shouldn’t typically cost much more than $1,000-$1,500 per station. (Read more about how much a POS system costs.)
- Customizable: A system you can customize lets you built the perfect POS for your business, so you only pay for the features you want, and not the ones you could do without. You can also change or add features as your business grows.
- Mobile: Tablet or iPad-based (or proprietary mobile hardware) systems move around your business with you. Some POS systems may also have iPhone or smartphone capabilities so you can take payments when you’re away from your business, or even if you don’t have a storefront location.
- Cloud-Based: Modern web-based POS systems store all of your information safely in the cloud and allow you to access your business data from anywhere in the world.
- Modern Payment Support: Your POS should be able to accept not just cash and swiped payments, but also chip cards and mobile/tapped payments (NFC), and ideally also gift cards, coupons/rewards, and store credit.
- Integrated Payment Processing: A good POS should have integrated payment processing, either via an in-house payment processor or with an outside merchant account that you can integrate seamlessly.
- eCommerce Features: More and more small businesses are doing at least some sales online, so your POS should facilitate online sales, either via an in-house eCommerce module or by integrating with a service like Shopify or BigCommerce.
- Loyalty Features: Keep customers coming back with a custom loyalty program (in-house or integrated). Some POS systems even let you create a branded loyalty app for your customers.
- Business Management Features: A modern POS can and should handle everything from employee management and payroll, to purchase orders and vendor management. You’ll also likely benefit from industry-specific features such as table mapping and tipping features for restaurants, or advanced inventory management and for retail stores.
Looking For The Best POS System for Small Business? Try These 7 Options
The following cloud POS systems for small business are powerful, affordable, and customizable. Best of all, they are designed specifically with small businesses in mind.
- Pros: Affordable, easy to use, excellent customer service, with free plan available
- Cons: Not optimized for very large inventories or full-service restaurants
- Price: Call for quote
Founded by Jason Richelson in 2010 as an answer to poor-quality Windows point of sale software, ShopKeep is simple-to-use iPad POS software with many useful features. ShopKeep is especially popular with foodservice and beverage retailers, thanks to features like raw ingredient inventory tracking and onscreen tipping. However, it’s also good for small specialty retail outfits, or even hybrid businesses that sell some food products as well as merchandise.
In addition to a comprehensive register, ShopKeep includes useful back-end features like employee time tracking, real-time analytics, and marketing features. ShopKeep is also known for having great customer support. There are some inventory limitations—the register only supports 3,000 buttons—so it’s not geared toward businesses with very large inventories. ShopKeep lacks full-service restaurant features such as table mapping.
This POS integrates with most payment processors (including its own well-received ShopKeep Payments), giving you the flexibility you need to get the best credit card processing rates.
Notably, ShopKeep has a free plan, in addition to its custom-priced paid plans. ShopKeep’s free Starter plan includes one active register, one location, and one employee, plus limited reporting. However, you do get full inventory management and integrated ShopKeep Payments payment processing with a customized interchange-plus rate.
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- Pros: Dedicated Restaurant and Retail iPad POS systems for SMB
- Cons: Can get expensive if you want all features; costs more if you want month-to-month billing
- Price: $59+/month for Restaurant and $69+/month for Retail (billed annually)
Lightspeed is a major name in iPad POS, and for good reason. The company delivers premium-class iPad POS software for restaurant and retail operations, as well as a strong eCommerce product (which also integrates with its POS systems). Lightspeed’s complete and thoughtful feature set allows restaurant and retail businesses to not just process payments, but also handle pretty much every aspect of business management, from employee management to vendor management. There are self-ordering and kiosk options, digital kitchen displays, gift cards, and a built-in loyalty program: you get to decide which features you want and which ones you don’t want to pay for. Moreover, all the tools Lightspeed puts at your disposal are specifically designed for small-to-medium businesses.
Some favorite Lightspeed Restaurant features include a customizable menu, adjustable floorplan, staff profiles, tableside ordering, and mobile reporting. The system is priced reasonably at $59/month (or $69/month billed monthly), but you will have to pay extra for features like advanced reporting, loyalty, self-ordering, accounting software integration, and delivery integration.
Lightspeed Retail‘s feature set includes advanced inventory capabilities, multiple product variants, vendor purchase orders, and many others. Lightspeed Retail “Basic” is just $69/month ($79/month billed monthly), though you will only be able to access eCommerce, loyalty, analytics, and accounting software integration at higher price tiers. The $99/month “Starter” plan includes eCommerce, which lets you seamlessly sell online and in-store.
Lightspeed can integrate with various merchant accounts and also has its own in-house payment processor, Lightspeed Payments, offering 2.6% + $0.10 flat-rate processing.
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3. Clover POS
- Pros: Customizable, all-in-one POS with purpose-built mobile hardware
- Cons: Pricing and quality of merchant services depend on which Clover seller you choose
- Price: $29/month for Clover Station if purchased direct through Clover; or $69/month for restaurant package
Clover is a one-of-a-kind POS system that is mobile, modern, and uniquely designed for small businesses. Clover runs on proprietary Android-based hardware with a choice of several form factor options, including the Station, Mini, Flex, and Go, which you can mix and match to your liking. Clover’s software is similarly customizable, letting you pick and choose features from a vast app market to create a system that’s perfectly tailored to you, whether you have a retail, restaurant, or service industry business.
Clover’s clean, simple system is ideal for a business that values simplicity and ease of use. Once you purchase your Clover system—you’ll buy your complete hardware setup as a package, complete with bundled software apps—you can get up and going in minutes.
One of the only downsides of Clover is that all systems are sold with a First Data merchant account, which limits your choice of processors. Clover.com allows you to buy the system directly with flat-rate pricing and no long-term commitments, but there are also numerous Clover/First Data resellers, all of which have different pricing and service contracts. We recommend buying your system directly from Clover or from a recommended Clover reseller.
If you buy your system directly through Clover, you’ll pay just $29/month for the register and back-end apps, including Orders, Register, Promos, Rewards, Employees, Reporting, and others, regardless of how many registers/devices you have. For the Dining package for full-service restaurants, you’ll pay $69/month and receive additional apps such as Floor Plans, Bar Tab Auths, Tips, Shifts, Discounts, and Happy Hour. These plans include flat-rate payment processing with a rate of 2.3% + $0.10.
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- Pros: Versatile, Android-based restaurant POS system
- Cons: Monthly fee can get expensive if you use add-ons and/or multiple devices; can only use Toast payment processing
- Price: $79+/month
Toast is one of our favorite restaurant POS systems, in large part because it’s low maintenance. You get a highly intuitive and modern restaurant POS for a relatively low starting cost of $79/month, which comes with strong reporting and inventory management. At that price point, you have pretty much everything your small business needs to get off the ground. What’s more, Toast’s features hold their own with pretty much any other POS system out there, even though it doesn’t follow the ubiquitous iPad POS model, relying instead on an Android model that uses more affordable hardware and gives you more form factor options (compared to iPad-based systems).
Toast offers on-site installation and staff training if you need it and has some of the best customer service that we’ve come across in our reviews. Its internal reporting is not only robust, but also specifically designed for the restaurant industry, giving you a look at sales, labor, and product reports in an easy-to-navigate fashion.
This system’s menu creation feature is a very useful tool, as it can be customized with any number of modifiers to fit your specific business. Toast’s table layout function is extremely simple and you can set up your own restaurant in a matter of minutes.
Toast’s price can creep up quickly if you use a lot of handheld devices for servers or use services like loyalty, gift cards, or online ordering—but it is nice to have those options available if your restaurant needs them. Another potential downside is that you can only use Toast’s own in-house payment processing. In all, small business owners will have a hard time finding flaws with a system like Toast.
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- Pros: Simple yet feature-packed, free POS—only pay payment processing fees
- Cons: Not suited for high-volume businesses
- Price: $0/month (without add-ons)
Though many competitors and copycats have followed in its wake, Square was the first truly mobile POS system, and in many respects, it is still the best. Usable on virtually any device, Square’s free POS started as a basic payment processing solution. However, in the 10+ years since its founding, Square has fleshed out its business management features, and now includes everything from payroll to appointments, and even business loans. Certain features and industry-specific packages (such as Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail) do carry a monthly cost, but the core POS remains free; all you have to pay is the 2.6% + $0.10 payment processing fee. Square merchants can even accept gift cards for free and sell online-–also for free.
Square is not the most advanced POS out there, but it is certainly competitive with other cloud POS systems on the market and is especially popular with coffee shops, QSR, and small retail stores. As far as hardware, most Square POS setups use an iPad with a swiveling Square Stand, but some businesses use a proprietary Square Terminal, which also comes with a 0.1% discount on Square’s standard payment processing fee. You can also take the POS with you wherever you go to take payments on your phone, making it ideal for trunk shows and other events, casual micro-businesses that don’t have a storefront yet, and mobile businesses such as food trucks.
With Square POS being tied to the company’s third-party payment processing services, high-volume businesses processing more than $10K to $15K month will likely be able to get better rates and account stability by using a POS that allows them to use their own merchant account. However, for small, low-volume businesses, Square is hard to beat.
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6. Shopify POS
- Pros: Affordable POS that syncs in-store and online sales
- Cons: Can’t process credit cards offline
- Price: $9+/month ($79+/month if you want to attach a cash drawer and other POS equipment)
Affordable, scalable, innovative… these are just a few words commonly used to describe Shopify POS. Shopify is especially known for its strong eCommerce functionality, as this retail system started as an eCommerce company that made it easy for retailers to sell online. Shopify POS provides a bridge between your online and in-person sales, and provides all the standard retail POS features you’d expect from a cloud POS, as well as your own eCommerce website and blog.
Even if you don’t do eCommerce, Shopify is still an excellent POS for small retail businesses, and can be used on iPad or Android. Shopify offers fully integrated payment processing via Shopify Payments, and offers a unique pricing structure, whereby your monthly rate determines your credit card transaction fees. At the most basic $9/month “Shopify Lite” plan (which only allows social media selling and mobile sales), you get a credit card processing rate of 2.7% for in-person transactions, but just a few steps up at the $79/month plan, you get a very decent rate of 2.5%. You can integrate outside payment processors with Shopify, but there is an added charge to do so.
Some other perks of Shopify POS include unlimited products, inventory management features, advanced reporting, gift card functionality (at $79/month and higher levels), store credit, staff profiles, and the ability to accept multiple forms of payment for the same transaction. Responsive, 24/7 support is also included with all packages. Among the only drawbacks is that you need an internet connection to process credit cards.
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Payment Depot Mobile
- Pros: Budget-friendly Square alternative that comes with your own merchant account
- Cons: Pared down feature set
- Price: $10+/month
SwipeSimple is a mobile POS app offered by various resellers. Similar to Clover, pricing and quality of services varies depending on where you get it from. We recommend getting SwipeSimple from Payment Depot in particular because of their reliable merchant services and affordable pricing.
SwipeSimple’s feature set could be likened to a pared down version of Square’s. You can accept payments via a countertop register setup at your store using an iPad or tablet and Star Micronics’ mPOP cash drawer and receipt printer, or on the go with your phone (Apple or Android). There is also basic inventory management, reports, discounts, tips, digital receipts, and an offline mode, as well as 24/7 support and 24 to 48-hour deposits. But the main benefit of using SwipeSimple is that you get your own dedicated merchant account. Having your own merchant account equates to better account stability—merchants who have been burned by third-party payment processors such as Square or PayPal can certainly attest to this. This is not to say that third-party processing is inherently bad, but it just doesn’t work for all types of merchants, particularly those who don’t fit neatly into the “low-risk” category.
As for SwipeSimple pricing, Payment Depot offers two distinct pricing setups. For low-volume merchants, it’s $10/month with 2.6%+ $0.10 flat-rate processing. Yes, this is $10/month more than Square charges, and you don’t get all the features of Square, but for a business owner that doesn’t need those features but would benefit from the stability of having their own merchant account, SwipeSimple by Payment Depot could be ideal. Payment Depot will also provide a free chip and swipe Bluetooth card reader, the Swift B200 (or you can pay $25 for the Swift B250 chip and tap reader).
For higher volume businesses using SwipeSimple, Payment Depot offers $49/month membership pricing with interchange-plus rates. This could be an excellent deal for a business that sells more than $10K/month and/or whose average ticket size exceeds $10. All in all, Payment Depot provides excellent pricing and services for SwipeSimple and could be the perfect fit for small businesses looking for a Square alternative.
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Didn’t Find What You Were Looking For? Check Out These Small Business POS Resources Instead
Didn’t find exactly what you were looking for on this list? That’s okay! We have plenty of other small business POS content, including information on the best POS systems for specific industries. We even have an in-depth look at the best free POS systems for businesses on a tight budget:
- Best Free POS Systems
- Best POS Systems for Cafes
- Best POS Systems for Food Trucks
- Best POS Systems For Bars & Nightclubs
- Best POS Systems That Integrate With QuickBooks
- Best Salon POS Systems
- Best POS Systems For Truckers & Trucking Companies
- Best POS Systems For Boutiques
What’s The Best POS System For Small Business?
There is no “one size fits all approach” to choosing a POS, since different kinds of businesses have different needs. To find your perfect POS system that makes the final cut, you will need to ask yourself what your must-have features are, how much you can afford, and what features you anticipate needing down the line. Luckily, even if you choose a POS and later decide you don’t like it, it’s pretty easy to switch to another POS, as long as you choose a monthly pricing plan (instead of an annual commitment) and non-proprietary hardware. Also, most systems offer a free trial so you can decide on a POS system before committing to it.
Because a POS is such an important investment, it might be a good idea to finance your POS system with a small business loan if you can’t afford to purchase a good system yet. If you need more help choosing a POS system for your small business or financing a POS system, please leave me a comment on this article and I’ll do my best to assist.
A Last Look At Our Top Picks
- ShopKeep POS
Summary - Ideal for: Small specialty vendors & quick-serve restaurants
- Lightspeed POS
Summary - Ideal for: Small-to-medium restaurants and retail businesses
- Clover POS
Summary - Ideal for: SMB in retail, restaurant, or service industries
- Toast POS
Summary - Ideal for: Full-service restaurants
Summary - Ideal for: Low-volume and mobile businesses in any industry
- Shopify POS
Summary - Ideal for: Online retailers
- Payment Depot Mobile
Summary - Ideal for: Businesses that just need "the basics"