How To Choose Between A POS VS Cash Register For Your Small Business
Learn the differences between a POS system versus a cash register and how to determine which is better for your small business.
One of the most important decisions you make as a small business owner is how you will accept payments from your customers. Will you stick with the traditional cash register, or would a modern point of sale (POS) system be a better fit?
Whether you’re still on the fence about a POS vs. a cash register, evaluating costs, or don’t even know what a POS system is, this post is for you.
We’re going to explore the differences between cash registers and POS systems to help you better determine which is right for your business. Avoid unnecessary costs and headaches by choosing the right tools for your business.
Keep reading to get started on the right track.
Table of Contents
- The Key Differences Between POS VS Cash Register
- Which Is Best For My Business Needs: POS System VS Cash Register?
- Point Of Sale VS Cash Register Features
- POS VS Cash Register Pricing
- POS VS Cash Register Ease Of Use
- Cash Register VS POS: FAQs
- POS VS Cash Register Comparison: The Final Verdict
The Key Differences Between POS VS Cash Register
|Cash Register||POS System|
|Pricing||A cash register can be purchased for around $100 to $1,500+. No monthly subscription fees are required to use a cash register.||Basic POS software starts at $0. More advanced software may cost as much as $100+/month. Hardware costs range from free for a basic card reader to $1,000+ for a full setup that may include equipment like multiple terminals, customer-facing displays, kitchen displays, and barcode scanners.|
|Payment Methods||A cash register can be used to accept cash payments. Standalone equipment will be required to accept cards and other forms of payment.||POS systems can be used to accept cash, credit cards, debit cards, and contactless payment methods, such as Apple Pay.|
|Multilocation Management||Cash registers do not sync with other cash registers and are not ideal for businesses with multiple locations and/or registers.||Many POS systems can be synced across multiple terminals or locations.|
|Reporting||Daily sales can be calculated with a cash register.||POS systems have more advanced reporting. This may include detailed sales reports, cash flow analysis, employee reports, and more.|
|Additional Features||Cash registers are useful for calculating and accepting cash payments. No additional features are available.||POS systems may include many unique features, including employee management, time tracking, inventory tracking, and more.|
|Integrations||Cash registers do not have built-in integrations.||POS systems may integrate with other software and apps, such as accounting software, employee management software, or inventory management software.|
|Ease Of Use||Cash registers are easy to use and require little training.||POS systems may be a bit more difficult to use, but there are a number of user-friendly features available. Additionally, many POS providers offer numerous resources and customer support to help install, implement, and use your new system.|
Cash registers may be a great choice for cash-only businesses that want a simple way to accept payments.
However, a POS system is better suited for businesses that want to accept multiple forms of payment, in-depth reporting, and customer loyalty programs. If you’re undecided on which is best for your business, check out the key differences between POS systems and cash registers in the table above.
Another thing to think about is mobility: A cash register is a fixed piece of equipment that stays in one place. Many POS systems offer mobile options that allow you to use tablets, smartphones, or other small devices that easily move around your business. You can learn more about mobile POS options in our Beginner’s Guide To mPOS Systems & Software.
Which Is Best For My Business Needs: POS System VS Cash Register?
If you’re unsure whether a POS system or cash register is the best choice for your business, consider the following.
Choose A POS System If…
A point of sale system is best for:
- Businesses that need detailed sales, inventory, and employee reports
- Businesses that want to sync multiple terminals in one or more locations
- Businesses that want to track and manage inventory
- Businesses that want advanced tools including employee management, marketing, customer loyalty, and gift card programs
Choose A Cash Register If…
A cash register is best for:
- Businesses that want an inexpensive and simple way to accept payments from customers
- Businesses that will primarily accept cash payments
- Businesses that want an easy-to-use device that requires little or no training
A point of sale system, otherwise known as a POS, is a computerized system utilizing a combination of software and hardware to perform various functions beyond just ringing up a sale. A POS register system comes with a variety of software features, but some may have an additional fee. POS business tools may consist of:
- Inventory tracking
- Employee tracking and reports
- Advanced sales reports
- Loyalty program
- Marketing tools
- Managing multiple locations
A POS system is an all-in-one solution that’s designed to simplify the way you run your business. An easy-to-use POS system can also help take some of the workloads off of your employees. These systems can also be used to run vital reports to assess the health of your business and may even boast features to help you better serve your customers.
- All-in-one solution
- Numerous features
- Advanced reporting
- Multiple location management
- May be expensive
- May have ongoing fees
- Some POS systems are difficult to learn and use
Cash Register Overview
A cash register is an electronic, non-computerized device that has one primary function — recording a sale and collecting cash. A cash register can also include a receipt printer, barcode scanner, and a cash drawer to hold money. Some of the specific features, such as product library capacity or issuing unique ID codes for your operators, may vary.
It’s safe to say that a traditional cash register is a relatively simple piece of equipment, and while a workhorse when it comes to tallying a sale, that’s all you can expect. If both simplicity and low cost are what you are after, the cash register is a great option. You can purchase one for a few hundred dollars and start ringing up your sales. If you are looking for more integration and control, however, a POS system may be the better fit.
- No ongoing costs
- Simple to use
- Requires additional hardware to accept payments other than cash
- Not suitable for multiple locations
- No advanced reporting
- No features and integrations
Point Of Sale VS Cash Register Features
A basic cash register vs. a POS system isn’t going to have many — if any — features other than allowing your business to calculate customer totals, print receipts, and accept cash payments. On the other hand, modern POS systems come loaded with great features beneficial to your business.
While the features your POS system is equipped with varies, let’s take a look at some of the most popular features offered by many POS providers.
Also, keep in mind that not all features are available with every POS system, and some may only be available for an additional fee.
Multiple Payment Methods
Sure, your business can be cash-only, but only accepting cash can hinder the growth of your business. With a POS system, you can offer multiple payment methods, whether it’s a traditional credit or debit card or a more modern option (such as Apple Pay).
Cash registers are set up to accept cash only. While you can purchase a separate standalone card reader, this isn’t exactly an integrated solution. You will also have to add in the additional costs of buying the equipment and paying credit card processing fees and other applicable fees.
If you have more than one location or even just multiple registers within the same business, the right POS system syncs all of your terminals. That makes it easy to track sales and run reports without hassle. One drawback to a cash register is that you can’t sync registers or locations. All of this means more room for human error and less capacity for personalized customer service.
Omnichannel Selling Tools
If you want to reach customers online, through mobile devices, and in your brick-and-mortar location, you can’t go wrong with a POS system. Many POS systems offer omnichannel selling tools that provide a seamless buying experience for your customers, whether they’re in your store or browsing on their smartphones. Unfortunately, a similar feature isn’t available on a standard cash register.
Returns & Refunds
Processing returns and refunds are made easier with a POS system. You can also keep track of returns, refunds, and chargebacks with POS system reporting.
A cash register is stationary, meaning that your customers have to come to you to pay. With a mobile POS system, smartphones, tablets, or other portable devices can be moved around your store. Mobility is ideal for restaurants, repair shops, and other businesses that want to take payments on the go.
Keep track of your inventory with inventory management, which is available on many POS systems. You can input items, keep track of stock, and even manage ingredients using the built-in tools on your POS system. Get alerts for low stock or out-of-stock items, and run reports to keep an eye on your inventory levels.
Reward your most valuable customers by setting up a customer loyalty program. A POS system makes this process easy, from simplifying the way you input customer data to allowing you to create a points-based rewards system for your business.
Employee Management & Scheduling
There are varieties of employee management and scheduling tools available with POS systems and POS integrations. Some features include employee scheduling, time tracking, payroll features, and employee onboarding.
Selling and accepting gift cards can be easily done with a POS system. Many POS providers have built-in gift card programs that allow you to create digital and/or physical gift cards and accept them online or in your store.
Most POS systems have a number of basic reports, such as sales volume and gross profits. Other POS systems have additional reports that allow you to track chargebacks, refunds, out-of-stock items, customer shopping habits, and cash flow analysis. You can even purchase add-ons and integrations that provide more advanced reporting customized to the needs of your business.
The same can’t be said of cash registers. When it comes to getting detailed reports about how, when, and where your products sell, inventory tracking and management, or customer engagement, you’re out of luck. You’ll need to piecemeal other software and products together to form the complete solution you need.
A POS system allows you to easily integrate with other programs and apps that your business uses. You can even find and use other integrations that provide additional features important to your business and your customers, such as loyalty programs and advanced reporting. A cash register alone does not have the same functionality.
POS VS Cash Register Pricing
POS pricing varies widely based on the equipment and features you use. But if you’re on a budget, don’t worry — there are some reliable and free POS software and apps on the market. You can even get a basic card reader for less than $100 — or sometimes even free.
A basic POS setup can be low-cost, but pricing can start to creep up fast as you add on additional features or equipment. For example, your setup may include the following equipment:
- Customer-facing display
- NFC mobile wallet reader
- Barcode scanner
- Tablet Stand
- Kitchen receipt printer
- Cash drawer
- Additional tablets for mobile or wait staff
Generally, you can purchase a hardware package of essentials for around $700. You may be able to save some money with bundled hardware deals or special discounts, so shop around. You can also save on upfront costs by taking advantage of financing options offered by some POS providers.
Hardware is just one part of the equation, though. You will also need to purchase software, add-ons, and integrations. There are a number of providers that have free basic POS software with features such as basic inventory and reporting. If you have a smaller shop, you may get by paying nothing for a reader, as companies such as Square offer free card readers with their accounts.
When it comes to identifying the best option, compare long-term and short-term costs, and be very cautious with long-term contract agreements. Read How Much Does A POS System Cost? Everything You Need To Know About Software & Hardware Prices for a look at some of these costs. Before you commit to an annual contract with a POS system (even if it saves you money), test it out on a monthly basis to ensure the software is really right for you.
A cash register, on the other hand, doesn’t have pricing structures that are quite so complicated. You can purchase a basic cash register without the bells and whistles for around $200 or less. If you have a low-volume business that mostly accepts cash payments, this could work for you. There are also more expensive versions with features such as touch screen monitors that could run you $1,500 or more.
In most cases, you’ll find that a cash register is less expensive than a POS system. However, there are several budget-friendly POS systems on the market. Many business owners find that the functionality of in-depth reporting, marketing, and inventory management is worth any additional costs.
POS VS Cash Register Ease Of Use
A cash register is very simple and easy to learn with just a little bit of use. A POS system may seem a bit overwhelming, but the most popular systems today are very intuitive and simple enough for POS newbies to master in no time. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use solution, look for the following user-friendly features:
Let’s face it — using a touch screen device has become second nature for most of us. So why not bring this same technology into our businesses? Many POS systems utilize touch screen tablets, smartphones, and even touch screen displays for you and your customers, making it easy to take orders, track inventory, schedule employees, and input customer data.
If you opt for a cash register, some touch-screen versions are available, but they may come with a premium price tag.
Another great thing about POS systems is that many offer solid customer support. Look for a provider that offers round-the-clock 24/7 support and resources, such as training videos, tutorials, and online knowledgebases, to help you get the most out of your system.
Most POS systems allow you to set custom user permissions. You can set different permission levels for employees, managers, and owners, allowing each group to access specific functions and features.
Depending on the POS system you select, employees can log in with their own PIN or password to make sales, clock in and out, and perform other tasks. This is not only an easy way for employees to clock in and get to work, but this also simplifies task sheets and sales reports for your business.
Some employee portals also include onboarding materials, so you can have employees read, sign, and submit documentation more quickly than using traditional onboarding methods.
Many POS providers offer basic systems that can be upgraded with additional hardware and add-ons. There are plenty of systems on the market that are essentially plug-and-play with no troubleshooting required. So whether you want to add a new piece of equipment (such as a kitchen display) or increase your number of registers, make sure to pick a provider that offers hardware and software that’s easy to install, implement, and use in your business.
A POS system is your best choice if you want your equipment to integrate with other apps and software. Depending on the system you choose, you may have an assortment of integrations to choose from, including:
- Accounting software
- Marketing software and tools
- Online ordering
- Takeout and delivery
- Inventory management
- Employee management
- Loyalty programs
- Advanced reporting
Make sure to research the integrations available through each POS provider. Also, note that some integrations may require a monthly subscription or additional fees, so keep this in mind if you’re sticking to a budget.
Most cash registers do not have any integrations. Some cash registers can be connected to a computer using a serial cable and will transfer your data to accounting software. However, this process can be quite tedious, and this function isn’t available on every cash register.
Cash Register VS POS: FAQs
POS VS Cash Register Comparison: The Final Verdict
So let’s recap. If you only plan to accept primary cash payments, don’t have a lot of inventory, or have a small budget, you can certainly manage to get by with a cash register. However, keep in mind that you won’t get the advanced sales reporting, customer reporting, or other features that you get with a POS system. The data you glean from tracking product sales can be invaluable when it comes time to plan and market, so keep in mind what you have to gain, too!
If you plan to accept cash and credit cards, it’s worth having a POS system that can combine reporting for both cash and card sales — as well as all the other features you get with a POS. You will incur added costs with this solution, but remember that you have options here, too. For instance, mobile POS systems operate with a mobile device, and they often throw the first card reader in for free. The mobile option may be simpler than a full-fledged POS, but they still offer you more reporting and business tools beyond just ringing up a sale.