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How Much Does A POS System Cost?

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POS system costA point of sale system is a major investment for any retail or restaurant business, and not one you should undertake lightly. Your POS 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 payment processing fees can cut into your profits as well.

POS pricing can vary widely. Some products may require purchasing costly hardware up front, 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. 

Our Top Picks for Point of Sale Software 

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restaurant pos software

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Best for

Advanced retail features

Free POS

Credit card processing options

Ease-of-use

All-in-one service

Monthly fee

$99+

$0

Get a quote

$9-$29

$60

eCommerce integration

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Free trial

14 days

Always free

None

14 days

30 days

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.

POS Hardware Costs

 

POS hardware cost

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. To determine the actual magnitude of this expenditure, you’ll 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.

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. 

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.

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. Unless you’re using a proprietary system, you might be able to save money by sourcing the hardware yourself, or you can use the hardware you already have.

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Here are some examples of hardware bundles you can purchase from various POS providers or their partner vendors:

In addition to a bundle providing the basics, 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 receipt printer may or may not come with your hardware bundle.

Your type of business will dictate how much you can expect to spend as well. A retail store will often require different kinds of hardware than restaurant POS systems. Optional kitchen printers, weight scales, and additional tablets can potentially push your total initial hardware cost to up to $3,000 or so for a 1-2 register setup. Of course, the more registers/terminals you have, the more expensive your system will be. Most companies do offer additional registers at a discounted price, however. Generally, Apple hardware is more expensive than Android hardware, and proprietary systems like Clover require even pricier hardware.

Some POS providers (like Lightspeed) give you the option to lease POS hardware for a monthly charge, rather than buying the hardware upfront. To lease your POS hardware, you might expect to pay something like $100/month.

POS Software Costs

POS software cost

In the past ten years or so, most software businesses have moved into “the cloud,” and POS software is no exception. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems use a monthly subscription model rather than offering one-time upfront fees, but this is actually a good thing because there is a stronger emphasis on support. Not only does the monthly fee allow you to use the POS service, but it generally also includes access to support and frequent updates, both essential features for a well-oiled POS system.

In addition, cloud POS software fees almost always include remote data storage, which means you don’t need to house or maintain a local server for your POS.

POS software typically includes features like sales reports, inventory management, employee management, marketing features, CRM, and more. Most systems that are fairly robust can be purchased for around $50 a month on the low end to just over $100 on the higher end depending on what services you’re looking for.

The following are some examples of current monthly rates for single-location businesses from popular cloud POS systems:

Our Top Picks for Point of Sale Software 

Lightspeed POSSquare POSShopify POSSquare For Retail

Lightspeed Retail

Square POS

ShopKeep POS

Shopify POS

Square For Retail

Clover POS

restaurant pos software

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Best for

Advanced retail features

Free POS

Credit card processing options

Ease-of-use

All-in-one service

Monthly fee

$99+

$0

Get a quote

$9-$29

$60

eCommerce integration

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Free trial

14 days

Always free

None

14 days

30 days

Larger businesses with multiple terminals and/or multiple locations may pay several hundred dollars per month in software and support fees, but these businesses may also be able to negotiate custom rates based on their size, industry, monthly sales volume, etc.

POS Payment Processing Fees

POS payment processing

Credit card processing fees aren’t technically a POS system cost, but since more POS providers are offering integrated merchant account services these days, I thought it would be worthwhile to touch on this expense too. In some cases, a POS will pair with a handful of merchant accounts from which you can choose, and in others, you must use the POS provider itself as your merchant account.

In cases where the POS provider is also the merchant account provider, sometimes the monthly service price you pay is commensurate with the rate you’ll pay for credit card processing. For example, with Shopify POS, you’ll pay 2.4% with the $79/month “Pro” plan, or 2.2% with the $179/month “Unlimited” plan. Square, on the other hand, has no monthly charge, but the credit card processing fee you’ll pay is 2.75% — which is kind of on the high side.

Sometimes you have the option to choose between your POS’s in-house processing solution or your existing merchant account. For example, you can get a Clover Station merchant account through Clover Connect, or opt for another merchant account provider like Bank of America. ShopKeep offers processing through ShopKeep Payments, or you can use the POS with a compatible outside merchant account of your choosing. However, with a system like Toast, you can only use Toast’s in-house payment processing.

The Best Credit Card Processing Companies for Small Businesses

Of course, your total merchant account fees will depend on your sales volume; learn more about how much you should be paying in credit card fees. If you want even more information about negotiating rates, download our free beginner’s guide to payment processing or check out our cost analysis workbook for credit card processing.

Total Cost Of A POS System

To generalize a bit, single-register businesses can expect to pay about $1,250 for their initial investment, plus about another $1,000 per year to use the POS software (including updates and customer support, but not including credit card processing transaction fees).

If you’re still curious about the cost of a POS system, Toast has a pretty good article on legacy vs. cloud POS system costs. One of my colleagues here at Merchant Maverick has also written an excellent post on the benefits of a low-cost cloud POS system compared to traditional point of sale software.

Final Thoughts

So how much does a POS system cost? As you can see, the answers can vary, but hopefully, this has given you a ballpark idea of what you can expect to spend.

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.

If budget is a concern, you will probably want to minimize your POS system costs. It’s definitely possible to get away with paying less than $1,000 for your hardware and $50 or less for your monthly software fees, especially with a POS system like Square. But if you have a growing business and you want a system that will scale as you expand, the most cost-effective thing to do in the long term is to invest in a more expensive system that will grow with you.

In either case, you can count on us to help steer you in the right direction. Check out our POS software reviews for more info.

Our Top Picks for Point of Sale Software 

Lightspeed POSSquare POSShopify POSSquare For Retail

Lightspeed Retail

Square POS

ShopKeep POS

Shopify POS

Square For Retail

Clover POS

restaurant pos software

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Best for

Advanced retail features

Free POS

Credit card processing options

Ease-of-use

All-in-one service

Monthly fee

$99+

$0

Get a quote

$9-$29

$60

eCommerce integration

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Free trial

14 days

Always free

None

14 days

30 days

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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5 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Steven Reinblatt

    Hi Shannon,

    Thanks this was a very useful article. Do you have a sense what the cost of implementation is? Also, what about systems that a Tier 1 retailer would implement. Do you have any sense for what the costs would be?
    Thanks

      Shannon Vissers

      Hi there! We write mostly about tablet-based POS systems for small-to-medium businesses so I’m not sure how much a Tier 1 retailer would pay. However, some large chains are starting to use tablet POS systems also. For most cloud-based iPad/tablet POS systems, businesses can expect to pay about $1,250-$1,500 for the initial hardware setup and then $70-$150/month for the software, depending on your size and setup. (These costs are per-location.) The installation cost depends on the system, but for example Toast POS installation starts at $499 and Revel Systems has a flat-fee installation cost of $649.

      Here’s an article I wrote on franchise POS systems that might work for a tier-1 retailer.

        Ron Zanetti

        Thanks Shannon; I really enjoyed reading this and it help me begin to understand the landscape. I’m a fan!

          Tronchaser

          Actually the cost of the Clover Station without the barcode scanner is $999 and the monthly fee is $39.95. If a merchant pays more than that, then the ISO rep is marking it up for profit. Some reps sell it cheaper than that because there is a sales bonus involved, they’ll drop the price and just not make as much of bonus. The standard Motorola barcode scanner is $79. After sales tax and shipping a Clover at your door will cost around $1150-$1250. The existing QuickBooks integration and the upcoming integration (scheduled to roll out in March) with the Schedule App and Gusto Payroll means that Clover can really be the one stop shop for a business management system for merchants, handling everything from gift cards and geo-fencing to customer retention programs and direct depositing your employee paychecks. Find a trust worthy ISO rep that charges interchange pass through at 15 basis points and $0.10 a transaction (not for small tickets) with no junk fees and you’ve got about the best deal going. You may be able to do better on the merchant account pricing but this is a good starting point. Don’t buy a flat rate with a monthly fee, a merchant doesn’t get the savings on regulated debit if you do that.

            Shannon Vissers

            Yeah, that’s the price from Clover Connect but markups vary from one vendor to the next, as you mention.

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