Best Cash Registers for Small Businesses

An electronic cash register or POS system can ring up customers. The best choice depends on your business.

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The best cash registers are simple to set up, are reasonably priced and offer the features your business needs to get the job done. After all, an unnecessarily complicated system can turn checkout into a headache for you and your customers.

Standard electronic cash registers often work best for brick-and-mortar businesses that need to take payments only. But if you want additional business management capabilities, consider a point-of-sale, or POS, system with register functionality. Here are some of the best cash registers for small businesses.

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Types of cash registers

For this list, we looked at two types of cash registers:

  • Simple electronic cash registers (that ring up sales but do little else).

  • POS-based cash registers. These devices function as accessories or components of a larger, more sophisticated POS system.

You can purchase a basic electronic cash register online or at an office supply store for a few hundred bucks, but a POS-based cash register with all the features and accessories can cost thousands of dollars. What you pay depends on what you want; for example, with both types of cash registers, you might want to buy bar-code scanners and separate credit card readers in addition to your base setup.

Best simple electronic cash registers, or ECRs

A traditional cash register may be a good choice if you don’t want many features or don’t want or aren’t comfortable with a tech-forward checkout system. Many are easy to use and have simple, essential features for ringing up sales.

The best options may let you calculate sales tax, tips and discounts; process returns and exchanges; print daily sales totals; connect with external bar-code scanners (purchased separately); and/or track employee use. Here are some ECRs to consider:

Sam4S ER-900 Series: Good overall

Sam4S ER-900

Pros:

  • Handles sales tax and value-added tax.

  • Works with up to 20,000 price look-up codes, or PLUs.

  • Comes with a magnetic stripe reader.

  • Different keyboard layouts to suit your needs.

Cons:

  • Stores only 90 days' worth of data.

  • Must back up sales data to an SD card.

  • Swipe-only card reader. Additional hardware is required to process contactless payments and mobile payments.

  • Can’t track inventory at the ingredient level.

Why we like it: The ER-900 series, made by South Korean firm Sam4S, is a reasonably beefy cash register with a large cash drawer and an attached card reader. It can handle sales tax and up to 20,000 PLUs (those five-digit numbers often spotted on produce stickers). You can track up to 99 different clerks. Also, you can add scanners, remote printers, scales, coin dispensers and other peripherals. Again, factor in the cost of a separate merchant account for credit card processing.

Sam4S ER230-EJ: Good for mobile businesses

  • Hardware: About $260.

  • Payment processing: Price varies depending on which processor you use.

Sam4S ER-230EJ

Photos courtesy of Sam4S.

Pros:

  • Small and portable.

  • Has a backup power battery.

  • Programmable, moveable keys allow for customization.

Cons:

  • Stores only 90 days' worth of data.

  • No card reader.

  • Must purchase separate cash drawer.

Why we like it: If you’re running a food truck, selling at fairs or operating some other pop-up-type business, this portable, battery-powered cash register could come in handy. But if you want to take credit cards, debit cards or mobile wallets, you’ll need to get additional hardware and use the device’s ethernet and UBS ports to devise a workaround, which could be a headache.

Royal POS 1500: Good for restaurants

  • Hardware: $699.95.

  • Payment processing: Price varies depending on which processor you use.

Royal POS-1500

Photo courtesy of Royal.

Pros:

  • Can split tickets, give discounts, suggest tips and print cooking instructions.

  • Works with card readers, bar-code scanners, scales and kitchen printers.

  • Can create some reports; must be exported to Microsoft Excel or PDF.

  • Touch screen.

Cons:

  • Tailored to restaurants but could work in retail environments.

  • The cash drawer costs an extra $129.95.

Why we like it: The Royal POS 1500’s touch screen design gives it a streamlined look and allows users to customize their checkout processes more easily. It also works in 17 languages and can be programmed for use by specific staff members. In addition, you can customize how receipts look. But, at 22 pounds, it’s hefty.

SAM4s ER-180u: Good for low-cost portable

  • Hardware: $139 to $265; varies by vendor.

  • Payment processing: Price varies depending on which processor you use.

SAM4s ER-180U

Photo courtesy of SAM4s.

Pros:

  • All-in-one keyboard, cash drawer and receipt printer.

  • Lightweight and portable.

  • Low cost.

Cons:

  • Minimal features.

  • Does not integrate with a card reader.

  • Customer support varies by vendor.

Why we like it: This small, lightweight register is a good option for businesses on the go — though it’s still bulkier than a mobile POS app or card reader. The device has 16 keyboard departments and up to 500 price look-ups, with sales tracking for up to 10 employees. It has a small built-in cash drawer and can print receipts.

However, the device does not support an integrated card reader, so you’ll need to purchase and use an external reader to accept credit and debit cards. And like any other traditional cash register, you’ll need a separate merchant account to process credit card payments.

Best POS-based cash registers

POS-based cash registers may be a better choice for businesses with multiple locations — or that also sell online or on the go. These systems can match all the features of an ECR but also often offer more add-ons and have credit card processing built in. (Payment processing fees apply.) This type of cash register can be a more sophisticated, flexible way to process payments.

Square: Good overall

  • Software: $0 and up.

  • Hardware: Register is $799; contactless and chip card reader, compatible with Apple and Android devices, is $49.

  • Payment processing: Varies by plan. A free retail plan is 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction, 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction, and 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed transaction.

Square cash register

Photo courtesy of Square.

Pros:

  • The first magstripe credit card reader is free; a free plan is available.

  • Offline mode allows you to accept magstripe payments without internet access.

  • Live support by phone, chat or email.

Cons:

  • Loyalty program and email marketing features cost extra.

  • Can’t create and print bar codes in the free version.

Why we like it: Square’s point-of-sale system stands out with its transparent pricing, live support and many valuable features. No monthly fees (unless you have add-ons). Because Square works on iPhones, Androids and iPads, you can ring up sales on a brick-and-mortar-store cash register and mobile devices, which might be handy if you do pop-ups at farmers markets, trade shows or music festivals.

The Square Register includes a built-in touch screen for you and a smaller, customer-facing touch screen. Purchase of this terminal comes with Square’s free software, which is NerdWallet’s pick as the best overall POS system. The software includes payment processing, as well as an array of features like sales tracking, tips, gift cards and online store capabilities.

Square’s plans for retail and restaurants — with both free and $60-per-month tiers — come with industry-specific features, including barcode printing, table tracking, product modifiers and more. Any of these plans can be used as the software with your Square Register.

For $1,439, you can get the Square register with all accessories included: a contactless and chip card reader, dock, cash drawer, receipt printer, kitchen printer and paper.

Square POS

Square
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on Square's website

LightSpeed Hardware Kit: Good for multilocation businesses

Software: $39 per month and up for restaurants and $69 per month and up for retail.

Hardware: Quote only.

Payment processing: 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person payments.

Lightspeed POS

Photo courtesy of Lightspeed.

Pros:

  • 24/7 support.

  • Robust inventory management.

  • Integrations for accounting, marketing, payroll and more.

  • Free PCI compliance and fraud prevention.

Cons:

  • IPad or desktop not included.

  • Higher cost for software, and no transparency on hardware cost.

  • Annual contracts required for lower pricing.

  • More expensive plans if you don’t use LightSpeed Payments.

Why we like it: LightSpeed offers an iPad or desktop hardware kit for both retail and restaurants. The kit comes with a receipt printer, cash drawer and scanner; iPads and desktops must be purchased separately. You can purchase add-ons like a label printer and card reader as well.

The company offers paid software plans for download on your device, which integrate with LightSpeed Payments for credit card processing. Features include advanced inventory, customer and employee management, e-commerce options and a variety of third-party integrations. The software is ideal for managing inventory across multiple locations; additional registers cost $29 per register per month.

Toast: Good for restaurants

  • Software: $0 per month and up.

  • Hardware: $600-$1,400 plus add-ons.

  • Payment processing: Quote only.

Toast cash register

Photo courtesy of Toast.

Pros:

  • Free plan available for restaurants with one or two POS terminals.

  • A self-ordering kiosk system offers customers contactless order and payment options when paired with Toast Tap.

  • Live support is available by phone, email or chat.

  • Offers 0% interest financing, subject to approval.

Cons:

  • Some features, like online ordering and the loyalty program, may cost extra based on your package.

  • Cash drawer not included.

  • Primarily just for restaurants.

  • One- to three-year contracts.

Why we like it: Toast's POS system makes it easy to change menus, track tables, split checks, add tips and apply discounts. It also lets you take online orders, manage multiple locations, track employee sales and accept payments at the table.

The Starter Kit comes with the Toast Flex POS terminal, a tap-to-pay device and router, plus built-in software. You can add on additional hardware including a cash drawer, kitchen display screen and order printer.

This register bundle is available for purchase with a $69 per month software plan, though Toast offers a free plan that can be used with one or two terminals. Payment processing is also built-in and may come at lower rates with higher-priced plans. Delivery services can be added on to any plan.

Clover: Good for interface and hardware quality

  • Software: Pricing varies, as multiple third parties sell Clover.

  • Hardware: $99 for a card reader, $599 for a hand-held device, $899 for a mini system and $1,699 for a larger system with a cash drawer.

  • Payment processing: The same rate applies to all card types; it starts at 2.3% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction and 3.5% plus 10 cents for keyed transactions. If you use an outside processor, different rates apply.

Clover's Station Duo with a screen on top of a cash drawer, a receipt printer beside it and a customer screen facing the reader.

Photo courtesy of Clover.

Pros:

  • Cash drawer and receipt printer included.

  • Accepts payments when the internet is down and processes them when you are reconnected.

  • Equipment can be returned within 60 days for a full refund.

  • Phone and email support.

Cons:

  • Payment processing through Fiserv, not in-house.

  • No free hardware options.

  • Pricing can be vague and can require contacting a salesperson.

  • A virtual terminal costs $14.95 per month if you don’t purchase a software plan.

Why we like it: Clover's POS system stands out with its durable and versatile hardware, making it easy to accept orders at the counter and on the go. You also can pair the hardware and software with a different merchant account, such as one from Wells Fargo, SunTrust, PNC, BBVA or Citi. Payment processing is built-in, and the software can be customized for restaurants, service or retail businesses. The Standard plan — which pairs with the Station Duo register — has features including inventory management, discounts and coupons, sales tracking, refund processing and more.

The Station Duo is Clover’s most powerful register. It can process payments, scan barcodes and print receipts like Clover’s Mini — but it also includes a second, customer-facing touch-screen display as well as a cash drawer and receipt printer. The terminal can be paid for monthly, or bought outright plus a monthly software subscription.

Clover

Clover
Shop Now

on Clover's website