If you own an ecommerce store, brick-and-mortar shop, or restaurant, you know the importance of having the right POS system (point-of-sale system).
A point-of-sale system allows businesses to complete the following tasks.
- Accept payments.
- Check out your customers.
- Manage your store inventory and staff.
Businesses have specific needs, meaning each one uses a different POS system.
If you’re a business owner, you may have the following questions:
- How much does a POS system cost?
- Are there free POS systems?
- Do I need a POS system?
POS system cost varies, depending on the type of system and its features and capabilities.
I wrote this article to provide in-depth information on POS system costs and give you a clearer idea of how much you’ll spend.
Let’s get started.
All ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retail stores use some type of POS system. For instance, some businesses might use cloud-based POS systems.
Remember, POS system costs vary. For instance, restaurant POS system costs can differ from retail POS system costs.
The average POS system costs $29 to $100 monthly for most small businesses with one register.
Larger companies and franchises needing multiple registers and other hardware often pay between $1,200 and $6,500 during the first year of their operation.
Once enterprise-level businesses have purchased their POS hardware, the average POS software costs range between $600 and $1,200 for each subsequent year (ex., for annual subscriptions).
System costs vary because each company has unique needs, and each POS supplier has specific pricing plans.
It’s also not uncommon for POS providers to charge per transaction or offer custom pricing on a business-to-business basis. Some even provide free services, although with limited features.
POS providers offering integrated payment processing often charge a small fee per transaction.
Don’t just choose the cheapest POS system in the market or skimp on features to save money at the expense of your business growth and operational efficiency.
POS systems costs can vary, depending on how much you spend on these three factors:
When picking your POS software, ensure it has all the crucial features you need to run your business, including inventory management, integration with your eCommerce platform, and reporting and analytics.
Remember, most POS systems operate under a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, meaning they have a monthly or annual fee, depending on their subscription tiers.
Generally, the pricier the POS system, the more advanced its features.
For instance, brick-and-mortar retail stores with multiple locations need greater control over staff and more in-depth reporting and analytics.
You can either buy or rent POS hardware, depending on your needs.
If you’re starting out and want to test the market before making huge investments, you can rent POS hardware from Shopify, Stacks, and other similar rental firms.
Renting POS systems is a good option for pop-up stores and startups. However, renting can be more expensive in the long run than buying your own POS hardware.
These are the basic POS hardware every retailer needs.
- POS terminals (also called registers)
- Receipt printers
- Cash drawers
- Card readers
- Barcode scanners
Aside from POS software and hardware, you also have to consider credit card processing fees and other payments with third-party providers.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a POS system with integrated payment processing because it simplifies your monthly costs, accelerates payouts, and streamlines customer experiences.
Another notable benefit of POS systems with integrated payment processing is that you spend less time reconciling charges while at the same time reducing inaccuracies in your reports.
Having a third-party provider handle your payment processing has certain disadvantages. It usually takes longer to receive your payouts, and you must manually reconcile payments from your card reader.
Before choosing your payment processor, ensure you read the fine print, especially regarding monthly software fees, higher payment processing fees, hardware costs, and long-term commitments.
I recommend choosing POS providers with transparent pricing plans.
While POS software, hardware, and payment processing fees are the three biggest factors influencing the POS system’s price, there are other things that also affect the final cost.
Here’s a checklist of things to consider when picking your point-of-sale system.
Some POS providers charge a fixed rate per store location, while others base their price on the number of registers or terminals.
If you have more than one POS terminal in your shop and want to save money, consider choosing a provider that charges a fixed rate per store location. In this way, you can have multiple terminals without paying extra fees.
Some POS system providers charge businesses per terminal, which can get very expensive if you have multiple store locations and want to equip your employees with their own register.
It makes sense to choose the “fixed rate per store location” pricing plan to get the most value for your money. In this arrangement, there’s no extra fee if you add more users or install your POS software on additional tablets or phones.
There are POS systems that restrict the number of users who can log in to the terminal. Meanwhile, some plans only have one user license, while others offer unlimited users.
As a general rule, choose a POS system that allows you to create as many staff logins as you need without worrying about additional fees.
Some POS systems allow merchants to sell an unlimited number of products, while others have set a maximum limit, which depends on the pricing plan.
Most POS suppliers offer multiple tiers for their products. That’s why you need to know the exact features to help you run your business smoothly.
As a general rule, pricier POS systems have more advanced features than those you can find from basic plans.
When selecting your POS system, look for a product that has these basic features:
- Inventory management
- Employee management capabilities
- Reporting and analytics
- Customer database
When you choose a POS solution that doesn’t include critical features, you’ll have to pay extra to access them.
If you need industry-specific features, chances are you have to pay additional fees. For example, catering and restaurant POS systems need to book appointments, charge deposits, and take pre-orders.
If you operate a business with numerous staff members, you’ll need a system with employee management features to handle staffing, scheduling, and setting sales commissions (if applicable to your business).
You need add-ons or apps to implement innovative marketing strategies or access in-depth analysis and reporting.
For instance, if you’re interested in online marketing to improve customer retention and sales, you need social media integrations, marketing automation, and customer segmentation.
You need to integrate your system with third-party software if you want a feature that your POS vendor does not offer.
I recommend researching POS systems that offer several third-party integrations, like Shopify, Clover, and Lightspeed.
POS vendors typically offer ecommerce and online ordering as an added cost. With omnichannel sales capabilities, businesses with physical and online stores can streamline their operations.
The cost to setup up your POS system and train your staff varies from provider to provider.
You should also consider these factors when picking your POS system.
Choose a POS system that offers an intuitive interface and workflows that allow your business to run smoothly. Also, select a platform that you can customize and grow with your retail store.
A POS system with a steep learning curve may impact your team’s productivity. Additionally, it takes longer to train your staff and may even affect customer experience (in-store operations may take longer).
Some POS systems are excellent for small businesses, while others are more suitable for large enterprises. Regardless of your size and operation, you need to choose a product that can support your growth.
Most POS systems come with monthly plans or annual subscriptions, both of which have pros and cons.
For instance, monthly plans give you more control and flexibility, whereas annual subscriptions lock you into an agreement that’s typically non-cancellable or non-refundable unless you pay a break fee.
I recommend taking advantage of free trials or signing up for a monthly plan before making long-term commitments.
If your business uses a single system to manage your online and in-person selling, inventory, payments, transactions, and customer data, it’s easier to improve customer experience.
By contrast, using two different systems to manage your online and in-person selling may lead to these problems:
- The inventory levels don’t adjust in real time, resulting in out-of-stock products and missed opportunities.
- There might be some discrepancies in the sales reports.
- It’s difficult to improve customer experience because of inaccuracies or delays in customer data.
- Having two separate systems is usually more expensive than maintaining a single POS system.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store and an ecommerce site, I recommend picking a POS provider with round-the-clock support.
Before you sign up for a plan, read the fine print, especially regarding the support you can expect, the channels you can use (phone, email, and live chat), and the operating hours of their customer support.
Many small and startup businesses may not have enough funds to buy a full POS system outright, so a leasing agreement may sound enticing to them.
In the long run, it’s more cost-effective to finance or get a small loan to purchase your own POS system. If you lease your equipment long-term, you may end up paying higher monthly fees and interest rates.
Square is one of the most popular POS vendors because the company offers affordable and durable hardware for different industries.
Square POS systems can range from $49 (contactless chip with card reader) to $1,319 (terminal bundle).
Average POS hardware costs vary depending on the equipment you need.
To give you an idea, a full POS hardware system (ex., handheld POS, terminals, cash drawers, card readers, etc.) for small businesses can range between $500 and $1,600.
If you’re a small retail business owner, you may not have enough funds to invest in full POS hardware. Fortunately, there are ways to have your own POS system without breaking the bank.
One solution is to use the Square contactless card reader ($49) and the Square swipe card reader ($10), which is compatible with iOS and Android devices. Meanwhile, its portable register costs around $300.
Another option is to choose a POS system that works with a wide range of third-party hardware devices, allowing you to utilize your existing receipt printers, payment terminals, and other equipment.
It depends. Some POS vendors offer proprietary hardware, which means you can’t use them with other POS software. As a result, switching to another system means investing in new equipment.
Yes. Many popular POS vendors, such as Square and Shopify, offer software that also works as a mobile app. For this reason, you can use your smartphones and iPads as register interfaces, self-check-in kiosks, and customer-facing displays.
While each business has a unique set of needs, all retail stores should have these basic POS hardware:
- Station (usually a computer or a tablet-based system to run your POS software)
- Credit card reader
- Cash drawer
- Receipt printer
However, you may want to invest in optional hardware to streamline your business and give customers a better experience.
- Scales (Retail stores with items priced by weight will need these equipment.)
- Self-service kiosks (A restaurant POS system typically has this feature.)
- Kitchen display system
- Digital menu displays
The most well-regarded POS solutions for restaurant owners and businesses are Square, TouchBistro, and Toast.
If you’re looking for a wide range of restaurant-specific features and a transaction fee-only model, you may want to consider Square as your first choice.
Here’s a list of the most popular POS system providers and their credit card payment processing rates.
- Shopify – 2.4% or 2.7% + $0.00
- Square – 2.5%-2.6% + $0.10 (depending on the pricing plan)
- Toast – 2.49% + $0.15
- Lightspeed – 2.6% + $0.10
- Clover – 2.3 to 2.6% + $0.10 (depending on the pricing plan)
- TouchBistro – Depends on which integrated third-party payment processor you have (It integrates with Moneris, EVO, and Chase, among others.)
- Revel Systems – 2.49% + $0.15
If you decide to accept credit cards, one downside is you have to pay a per-transaction processing fee and use a payment processor.
Meanwhile, many POS providers have their in-house payment processors, although a few allow third-party services to process these payments.
Note that some third-party payment processors offer better rates than your POS provider’s in-house payment processors.
The best payment processor depends on your business. For instance, smaller companies can benefit from a flat-rate payment like the one Square offers.
On the other hand, businesses dealing with large sales volumes may benefit more if they choose payment processors that follow an interchange-plus model.
If your POS provider allows a third-party payment processor, compare it with the in-house processor and see which ones provide better rates.
Stay away from payment processors with opaque pricing structures and penalty fees.
It can vary widely depending on the features, hardware, and vendor you choose. Some basic food truck POS systems can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, while more advanced systems with more features can cost several thousand dollars.
The cost also depends on the number of terminals or devices you need, as well as any additional hardware like card readers, cash drawers, and receipt printers.
I hope my guide made it easier for you to understand the cost of POS system for small businesses and the factors affecting them.
When choosing a point-of-sale system, decide according to the features you need instead of selecting the cheapest POS system.
I encourage you to take your time to research your options. Doing so allows you to list the best POS systems for your business and determine which is ideal for your needs.