How Much Does A POS System Cost? Everything You Need To Know About Software & Hardware Prices
A point of sale system is a major investment for any retail or restaurant business, and not one you should undertake lightly. Your POS system is what allows you to take payments, and any issues with your point of sale can potentially impact your bottom line. An unreliable POS system might not let you accept payments during outages; a POS that charges exorbitantly high fees can cut into your profits as well.
POS pricing can vary widely. Some products may require purchasing costly hardware upfront, while some may look like a bargain but lack necessary functions like advanced customer service or a loyalty program (which then must be purchased as add-ons).
These days, in addition to performing the essential function of accepting payments, POS systems can do a lot to keep your business smoothly running. Indeed, many modern point of sale systems are also full-fledged business management systems that have the ability to track inventories, log employee hours, manage customer relationships, and much more. So, by picking a good POS system, your POS can actually save you money in the long run.
There are many POS systems out there, ranging from basic to advanced, cloud-based to onsite, Apple to Android. And of course, there is a wide range of prices for these systems as well. In this article, I’ll try to give you a good idea of how much a retail and/or restaurant POS system costs.
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What You Need To Know About POS System Prices
Before we get into ballpark figures, here are some factors that can affect pricing.
- Legacy VS SaaS: While the older legacy (on-premise) POS systems in use 15-20 years ago could easily set you back $5,000-$7,000 just for the hardware, with a modern cloud POS, you should be able to get a complete, single-register hardware setup for somewhere around $1,000 to $1,500. The standard hardware setup typically includes a credit card reader, iPad or Android tablet, iPad/tablet stand, cash drawer, and receipt printer.
- Separate Software & Hardware Costs: POS software costs are not included in the cost of the hardware, though the same company might sell both. Typical POS software costs might range from $60 to $100/month, though they can get even more expensive than that if you use extra services, such as gift cards, delivery tracking, advanced inventory management, etc.
- Add-On Services VS Third-Party Integrations: Add-on services are POS features offered at an additional monthly cost. They might include an in-house loyalty program, gift card support, or an online ordering module. Third-party integrations include business software made by other companies that will work with your POS software. For example, instead of using the inventory management add-on offered by your POS company, you might opt to use third-party inventory software you like better or that is more affordable.
- Multiple Registers/Handheld Devices: Some businesses need multiple registers, or even handheld POS devices. This can get pretty pricey, as most POS software charges by the number of registers or POS devices you have. However, additional registers might cost less than the first register. For example, a POS company might charge $69/month for the first register, and $39/month for each additional register.
- Contracts Billed Monthly VS Annually (& Multi-Year Agreements): Sometimes, you can get a better price on POS software costs if you pay upfront for the entire year, rather than month-to-month.
- Payment Processing Costs: Payment processing may or may not be offered by your POS company, though for the most part, it is separate from the cost of the POS itself. Most POS companies offer in-house payment processing, though sometimes they provide the option to integrate with third-party merchant accounts as well. Sometimes, the monthly POS software plan you’re on corresponds to a different credit card processing rate—for example, the Shopify POS “Basic Shopify” ($29/month) plan charges a credit card processing rate of 2.7%, while normal “Shopify” ($79/month) users get a rate of 2.5%.
How To Budget For Buying A POS System
To determine the actual magnitude of your POS expenditure, you’ll first need to figure out what POS hardware you really need — you may be able to get by with a few basic pieces like a tablet, cash drawer, credit card scanner, and receipt printer. Or, you may require a barcode scanner, a kitchen printer, scales, extra tablets for servers to take orders digitally (in a restaurant scenario, obviously), or even self-serve checkout kiosks.
Perhaps even more important than hardware, you also need to know what software features you need, since those are the features you’ll be paying for every month. For example, do you just need credit card processing and basic payment management, or do you also want add-ons such as loyalty, inventory, or delivery management? Do you have other business software you want to integrate, e.g., QuickBooks? How much can you comfortably afford to pay for POS and related services? It might be helpful to make a list that divides POS features into categories like “must-have,” “nice to have,” and “don’t need.”
Something else to consider is software costs vs. labor costs. A higher subscription cost could mean hours of labor saved doing things like inventory. POS systems can also make tracking people’s hours easier, especially in restaurants where they might work multiple roles at different hourly rates. But of course, there is no sense in paying for features you will never use.
Your Guide To POS System Costs & Prices
The size and type of your business will in large part determine how much you can need to spend on POS. A retail business will pay for different features than will a restaurant, and a small one-person business might get away with just using a free mobile credit card terminal such as Square POS.
In this section, I’ll give some ballpark figures for what you can expect to pay for POS software made for different industries. Keep in mind that these are general estimates, because all POS systems are different. Bear in mind as well that these are software prices (I’ll talk about hardware a little later).
How Much Do Retail POS Systems Cost?
Retail POS systems are designed for use by various types of stores, such as boutiques, liquor stores, bookstores, grocery stores, and just about any other type of store you can think of. These systems are meant to handle large and diverse inventories, but you may have to pay for add-ons like eCommerce if you want to sell online as well as in-store. Features like advanced analytics, loyalty, and gift cards may also cost extra.
Generally, a cloud-based retail POS system will cost anywhere between $60 to $100/month depending on how many features and terminals you have, but most businesses will spend somewhere around $79/month for a single-register setup.
Some popular iPad POS systems for retail include Lightspeed Retail ($69+/month), Shopify ($79+/month), Square for Retail ($60/month), Revel Systems ($99+/month; also can be used for restaurants) and Vend ($99+/month). You can find more pricing information and other details about the top retail POS solutions in our post on The Best Retail POS Systems
How Much Do Restaurant POS Systems Cost?
Restaurant POS systems are industry-specific products that can handle features like tipping, open tabs, menu management, and a digital ordering system. Bars and nightclubs have similar needs as restaurants and typically need a restaurant POS. There are some hybrid systems, like ShopKeep and Square (the free version), that can handle either retail or quick-service restaurants, or some combination thereof. With that said, most restaurants (especially full-service restaurants), will benefit from using a POS system built especially for restaurants.
Cloud POS software for restaurants generally costs about the same as retail POS software, with most systems starting at $60 to $80/month before add-ons. Some popular systems include Toast ($79+/month), Upserve ($59+/month), Lightspeed Restaurant ($69+/month), TouchBistro ($69+/month), and Square for Restaurants ($60+/month). Keep in mind that these prices are for the most basic package and are billed annually in some cases; at the higher end, restaurant POS software can get as high as $300/month.
Extra monthly costs are going to come in if you want features like employee management, gift card support, online ordering, kitchen display system, a self-ordering kiosk, or a customer-facing display.
Learn more about restaurant POS options and pricing in my post about The Best Restaurant POS Systems.
How Much Do Niche POS Systems Cost?
Very specialized POS systems can be more expensive than a general POS because they are typically smaller companies with dedicated service and highly tailored features. For example, POS systems designed specifically for rental businesses, salons, or bookstores need to have industry-specific features. Some examples of niche POS systems include MINDBODY ($125+/month) for fitness studios, XCharge (pricing not disclosed) for automotive repair shops, and Cashier Live ($75+/month) for pharmacies and specialty retail. The more specialized features a system has, the more it is likely to cost.
Understanding POS Hardware Costs
Hardware is actually not the largest component of a POS system’s long-term cost. However, it can seem like a major expenditure when you’re first getting started.
Fortunately, today’s lightweight, cloud-based POS systems come with significantly lower hardware costs than the clunky, on-premise systems of yore. Most modern systems use a slim touchscreen “register”—typically an iPad or Android tablet—and operate on a software as a service (SaaS) model. No huge Microsoft machines; no expensive Windows software licenses.
Apple hardware is generally more expensive than Android hardware, and proprietary systems like Clover require even pricier hardware.
How Much Does An iPad POS System Cost?
iPads can get pretty expensive, but in most cases, POS systems don’t require the most tricked out iPad available; usually you can get away with using a standard 32GB iPad, which costs $329. You may also want to add an iPad mini or iPhone for mobile usage. Associated hardware such as an iPad enclosure, cash drawer, or receipt printers and paper, bar code scanners, and kitchen printers can add to the cost of each register, though buying everything in a bundle can drop the cost.
Often, you can buy hardware bundles for your POS directly from the vendor. These bundles don’t always include the iPad itself, in which case you can purchase the device separately. While bundles provide the basics—a tablet stand/enclosure, cash drawer, and receipt printer—you may also need to purchase a router, networking cables, and in some cases a local server (Mac or PC). A barcode scanner, debit pin pad, and kitchen printer may or may not come with your hardware bundle.
- Square Stand Kit For iPad — $1,005 (including $329 iPad)
- Square Windfall Stand Station w/kitchen printer – $1,471 (including iPad)
- Shopify Custom Kit — $589 (not including iPad)
- ShopKeep Basic Hardware Kit For iPad — $809 (not including iPad)
For an Android hardware comparison, Square offers a Windfall Stand for Samsung Galaxy Tab Kit for $994, including the $289 Galaxy Tab, and Toast hardware bundles start at just $699.
Keep in mind that restaurant POS hardware can be more expensive than retail, since kitchen printers, weight scales, and additional server tablets can potentially push your total initial hardware cost to up to $3,000 or so for a 1-2 register setup. And if you want to get really fancy, many restaurant POS also offer kitchen display systems and digital menu boards.
How Much Does A Proprietary Hardware System Cost?
Proprietary POS hardware means that you don’t use a standard hardware system made by Apple, Android, Microsoft, etc. Rather, you use custom-built hardware offered by the POS company. Clover is a popular POS system that exclusively uses proprietary hardware, including the Station, Flex, Mini, and Go; Square also offers proprietary POS hardware in the form of Register and Terminal, though you can also use your own hardware with Square. Additionally, both Upseve and Toast both offer purpose-built handheld devices for restaurant servers.
Generally, proprietary POS hardware is a little more expensive, but the POS company usually offers a warranty and hardware support so it could be a worthwhile tradeoff.
As follows are some prices for proprietary hardware bundles:
- Clover Station — $1,349 (includes Station, cash drawer, receipt printer)
- Square Register Kit – $1,329 (includes Square Register, cash drawer, receipt printer, paper)
These proprietary POS devices have a smaller form factor and can either be used by themselves or in conjunction with a complete POS setup with a larger terminal, cash drawer, external scanner, etc.:
- Clover Flex – $499
- Clover Mini – $749
- Square Terminal – $299
- Square Register – $799
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Where To Buy A POS System
For the most part, it’s best to buy the POS hardware from the POS provider. Some have proprietary hardware, while others are open source, in which case you might be able to save money by sourcing your own components (tablets, stands, barcode scanners). Usually, the POS provider recommends buying the hardware from them to ensure maximum compatibility. If you can use open source components, double-check they’re the right ones first. Some providers mark up open-source components if you buy them through their website, but at least they’re sure to be the right ones.
POS systems are also sold through various resellers, but POS resellers vary in quality and generally have a bad reputation. For example, Clover is sold through a vast network of resellers, in conjunction with merchant services. Though prices for the actual system don’t vary all that much, many of those companies offer terrible rates and sneaky contracts with lots of hidden fees, so it’s much better to buy your system from Clover itself.
Worried About The Cost Of A Point of Sale? Learn About POS Financing Options
Yes, a POS system is an upfront cost. And it can even seem like a scary one that makes you consider some alternative pricing options. Whatever you do, don’t lease your POS system. Leasing might seem like a good idea at the outset, but you will find yourself paying way more for your system than it would cost to buy it outright, while also getting stuck in a lengthy service contract that you can’t get out of without paying a huge fee.
If fronting the cash to buy hardware or a legacy system seems like a challenge, some other financing options might be available to you. For example, some POS companies will offer 0% financing so you can pay off the system in monthly installments, 0r they may offer free hardware in exchange for signing up to use their software for a certain period of time (usually up to 3 years).
Another option is to get a small business loan to finance your POS system. While loans are affected by your credit score and providers offer many different interest rates, a loan is still going to cost less than a lease and you’ll definitely own the hardware when you’re done with it.
The Final Word On How POS Systems Affect Your Bottom Line
POS systems can be costly. It’s easy to overpay, but POS systems can also save money in time spent doing tasks like inventory, and eliminate the need for third-party business management software.
So how much does a POS system cost? As you can see, the answers can vary depending on your needs. But most single-register businesses should be able to get the POS hardware they need for $1,500 or less and spend less than $100/month for the POS software. However, if budget is a concern, it’s definitely possible to get away with paying less than $1,000 for your hardware and $60 or less for your monthly software fees, especially with a free POS system like Square or ShopKeep.
That leads to the next conundrum: which system should you buy? As I’ve made pretty clear in this post, there are quite a few systems to choose from. Check out our POS software reviews for detailed information on different providers, and be sure to take a look at this comparison of our favorite POS systems as well.