POS Software & Hardware Pricing Guide: 2021
We break down POS hardware and software costs and provider specialties by industry so that you can easily determine which system is right for your business.
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 also cut into your profits.
So by picking a good POS system that has everything you need, your POS can actually save you money in the long run. As follows are some of the main advantages of having a good POS:
- It makes it easy for customers to pay using their preferred method
- Drives customer loyalty
- Tracks employee hours and performance
- Adjusts your inventory with every sale
- Collects sales data that helps you make business decisions
Table of Contents
How Much Does A POS System Cost?
POS systems can cost anywhere from $0 to $1,700 for the POS hardware and $0 to $300/month for the software (per terminal). Yes, some companies offer free POS software, and some even include free POS hardware. But those systems usually have strings attached. The average cloud POS system cost is about $1,300 for hardware and $69/month for software.
How Your Type Of Business Can Impact POS Cost
Various factors related to your business can affect your POS system price. For example, a store with a large inventory will likely pay more than a store with a limited inventory.
Here are some POS cost factors and how they could impact your bottom line (both in upfront and monthly costs):
- Number Of Registers: POS companies typically charge you based on 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.
- Inventory Size: Some POS systems and plans can only support smaller inventories and may state a limit on the number of items you can have in inventory. Systems that support a very large number of SKUs typically cost more. Note that some budget POS systems may theoretically allow unlimited inventory but could suffer lower performance with very large inventories.
- Number Of Employees: Most POS software plans include a certain number of employees at each price level. If you need advanced employee management features (such as employee scheduling), your POS system may charge you for each employee in the system.
- Overall Size Of Business: The larger your business is, the more you can expect to pay for your POS, particularly if you have a multilocation business. Most POS systems charge more for multilocation businesses. In addition to needing more registers, larger businesses also have more complex needs, such as inventory transfers from one location to another.
- Type Of Industry: Different industries have different POS needs. Salon businesses, for example, need a booking feature that integrates with the POS, while restaurant businesses need a POS that connects with kitchen printers and handheld ordering devices. And a quick-serve business should probably have a guest-facing display. Generally, the more industry-specific features you need, the more you can expect to pay.
- Add-On Features Needed: Add-on services offered at an additional monthly cost might include an in-house loyalty program, gift card support, or an online ordering module. Alternatively, you may opt to use a third-party integration to sync another business software system with your POS. 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.
POS Software Costs
POS software costs differ from one vendor to the next, but you’ll notice that similar systems are offered at similar rates. Usually, you will have to pay a higher fee if you want to go month-to-month (vs. annually), and you may also be charged more if you do not use the POS company’s in-house payment processing.
Here are some POS rate examples from top POS vendors (for a single register):
- Lightspeed: $59-$69+/month
- Square: $0+/month
- Clover: $39.95+/month
- Revel Systems: $99+/month
- Toast: $0+/month
POS & Credit Card Processing
Payment processing may or may not be offered by your POS company, though for the most part, it is separate from the POS cost. Most POS companies offer in-house payment processing, but sometimes they provide the option to integrate with third-party merchant accounts as well.
Sometimes, your monthly POS price 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%.
Here are some more examples of payment processing costs with different POS systems:
- Lightspeed: 2.6% + $0.10
- Square: 2.5 – 2.6% + $0.10 (depending on plan)
- Clover: 2.3 to 2.6% + $0.10 (depending on plan)
- Toast: 2.49% + $0.15
- Revel Systems: 2.49% + $0.15
- PayPal Zettle: 2.29% + $0.09
- TouchBistro: Depends on which integrated processor you choose (integrates with Chase, Moneris, EVO, and others)
Hardware POS System Prices
Hardware is actually not the largest component of your long-term POS 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 touch screen “register” — typically an iPad or Android tablet — with a card reader, cash drawer, and receipt printer. Or, if you have an all-in-one POS, such as a Square Register, your entire POS hardware setup may be contained in one device.
The following POS vendors all offer starter hardware bundles, including a terminal (iPad or another type of touch screen with stand), card reader, cash drawer, and receipt printer that you can purchase for under $1,400 — or in some cases, even under $1,000:
Hardware add-ons can include a customer-facing display, kitchen display system, kitchen printers, barcode scanners, handheld ordering devices, or even self-order kiosks.
Proprietary Hardware Systems
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 Clover Station, Clover Flex, and Clover Mini. Square also offers proprietary POS hardware in the form of Square Register and Square Terminal, though you can also use your own hardware with Square. Additionally, Toast offers purpose-built terminals as well as handheld ordering devices for restaurant servers.
Generally, proprietary POS hardware is a little more expensive, but the POS company usually offers a warranty and hardware support, which could be a worthwhile tradeoff.
Here are some examples of proprietary hardware POS costs:
- Square Register Kit: $1,269; includes Square Register with built-in payments and guest display, cash drawer, and printer
- Toast Starter Kit: $1,317; includes Toast Flex terminal with guest display, card reader, cash drawer, router, and printer
- Clover Station Solo: $1,369; includes Clover Station terminal with built-in card reader and scanner, cash drawer, and receipt printer
- Clover Station Duo: $1,649; includes Clover Station terminal, cash drawer, receipt printer, and guest-facing display with built-in payment acceptance
iPad POS System Prices
iPad is the most popular hardware for cloud POS systems. Square, Lightspeed, Shopify, Revel, Vend, and many other POS systems run on iPad. Some systems, such as Square, give you the option to use an iPad or Android tablet, per your preference.
As for the cost, you can usually get away with using a standard 32GB iPad, which costs $329. If you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, you can get a basic iPad POS hardware bundle for under $1,000, including the iPad.
Often, you can buy iPad 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 — an iPad stand/enclosure, card reader, 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.
Here are some examples of iPad POS bundle pricing:
- Square Stand Kit For iPad: $968 (including $329 10.2″ iPad)
- Shopify Startup Bundle With Barcode Scanner: $789 (not including iPad)
- PayPal Zettle Store Kit Standard: $828 (including iPad but no cash drawer)
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 one to two register setup. For example, the Square Stand Restaurant Station with a kitchen printer is $1,488 (including the iPad).
And if you want to get really fancy, many restaurant POS systems also offer kitchen display systems and digital menu boards.
Mobile POS System Cost
Need a fully mobile POS to take on the road or to use for line-busting? In that case, you may be able to use just a card reader with a mobile phone or iPad. Often, you can use a mobile POS without a monthly software fee, so all you pay is just the processing fee and the cost of the card reader. Mobile POS card readers range from $0 to $99.
- Square POS: $0/month, free headphone jack reader or $49 Square contactless and chip reader
- PayPal Zettle: $0/month, $29 for first chip and tap reader with display and PIN pad ($79 for subsequent readers)
- QuickBooks GoPayment: $0/month, $49 chip, tap, swipe reader
- Shopify Lite: $9/month, $49 tap and chip reader
- Clover Go: Monthly pricing depends on the plan, $99 chip and tap reader
Need something a little sturdier? These proprietary mobile POS devices are portable but more robust than a mobile reader. These are also called “smart terminals.” They can be used to take payments, print receipts, and perform other POS functions without a connected phone or iPad and may or may not require a paid software plan. To use a smart terminal without Wi-Fi, however, you may need to purchase a separate data plan.
The following mobile POS terminals have a built-in payment reader and receipt printer:
- Clover Flex: $499
- Square Terminal: $299
- Poynt Smart Terminal: $299 and up (depends where you buy it from)
A Look At Specific Industries & POS Pricing
This section will 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. Also, these are software prices and not hardware costs.
Very specialized POS systems can be more expensive than a general POS because they are typically smaller companies with dedicated services and highly tailored features. The more specialized features a system has, the higher your POS system will cost.
Cost Of Retail POS Systems
Retail POS systems are designed for use by various types of stores, such as boutiques, liquor stores, bookstores, and just about any other kind 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 such as eCommerce if you want to sell online as well as in-store.
Generally, a cloud-based retail POS system will cost anywhere between $0 to $300/month depending on various factors, but most small businesses will spend around $69/month before add-ons. Advanced analytics, loyalty, and gift cards typically cost extra, driving up your total POS system cost to at least $100/month.
- Lightspeed Retail: $69 to $199/month (billed annually)
- Vend By Lightspeed: $99 or $129/month (billed annually)
- Square For Retail: $60/month for Plus plan (basic free plan also available)
- Revel Systems: $99+/month (billed annually)
You can find more pricing information and other details about the top retail POS solutions in our post on the best retail POS systems.
Cost Of Restaurant POS Systems
Restaurant POS systems are industry-specific products that can handle features such as tipping, open tabs, menu management, and a digital ordering system. Some hybrid systems (Clover and Square POS) 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 ranging from $0 to $300/month, with an average POS cost of about $69/month before add-ons. After add-ons, such as loyalty, gift cards, online ordering, your total spend will be at least $100/month.
- Lightspeed Restaurant: $59+/month (billed annually)
- Square For Restaurants: $60/month for Plus plan (basic free plan also available)
- TouchBistro: $69+/month
- Toast: $0/month (paid plans start at $69/month)
- Clover Table Service Restaurant Plan: $69.95/month
Learn more about restaurant POS options and pricing in my post about the best restaurant POS systems.
Bar POS System Costs
Bars and nightclubs have similar needs as restaurants and typically need a restaurant POS. So you can expect to spend at least $69/month for a bar POS. Your POS may or may not include beverage inventory software made specifically for bars, and you’ll want to make sure your POS integrates with whatever bar inventory software you use. This will likely increase your total POS price.
In addition to the restaurant POS systems mentioned above, the following systems are popular with bars:
To find more POS suggestions for bars, read Keep The Drinks Flowing With These 6 Great POS Systems For Bars.
Salon POS System Costs
Salons have specific needs, such as online booking with text and email reminders for clients and an employee scheduling system to match employees to appointments. Some POS systems have these functions built-in, though it’s also possible to use a retail POS with add-on software for booking features.
Overall, the range is somewhere from $39 to $499/month; most businesses can expect to pay at least $80/month for salon POS software.
Some salon POS system costs:
- Square Appointments: $0 to $90/month (depending on number of staff calendars)
- MINDBODY: $135+/month
- Harbortouch: $39+/month for Salon plan
- Shopify: $79/month + $19/month for Sesami scheduling integration
- Clover: $39.95/month for Register plan + $19.99/month for Salon Scheduler integration
Read Add Style To Your Business With 5 Amazing POS Systems For Salons & Spas for more information on salon POS systems and costs.
Grocery POS System Cost
Grocery stores are a type of retail store, and, as such, there is a wide range of grocery store POS system costs, similar to those of standard retail POS systems. However, you’ll need to make sure your retail POS has certain features specific to grocery stores, such as EBT, debit acceptance, and scale integration.
While smaller markets may be able to use a free POS such as eHopper or Square, a larger grocery store will likely pay closer to $100/month for its POS.
Here are some popular grocery POS systems:
- Square: $0+/month
- Loyverse: $0+/month
- eHopper: $0+/month ($29+/month for EBT)
- POS Nation: $99+/month
Operate a small grocery store? Read Why Square Is A Great Free POS For Markets & Grocery Stores.
Cost Of POS Systems For Speciality Shops
Like grocery stores, specialty shops are a type of retail, and many specialty stores can use a regular retail POS, regardless of how niche a product they sell. In many cases, your choice will come down to whether the retail POS integrates with whatever specialty software you use. There are also POS that cater to specific types of stores. For example, Cashier Live caters to pharmacies and hardware stores because it integrates with management systems for those types of retailers.
Overall, you can expect to spend at least $75/month on a specialty retail POS. Here are a few pricing examples:
- Cashier Live: $75+/month (good for pharmacies, hardware stores)
- Franpos: $199+/month (good for pet stores)
- Quetzal: $75/month (specifically for clothing and shoe retailers)
Where To Buy A POS System & What To Avoid
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.
Why We Don’t Recommend Leasing POS Equipment
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. Or they may provide free hardware in exchange for signing up to use their software for a certain amount of time (usually up to three 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.
POS System Cost: FAQs
Final Thoughts 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 such as inventory and eliminate the need for third-party business management software. If you choose a cheap POS system, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying in other ways — such as credit card processing fees or having to buy additional software to do the things your POS can’t.
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 possible to get away with paying less than $1,000 for your hardware and using a free POS app, such as Square.
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.