4 Best Mobile POS Systems in 2021

Ring up customers on the go with a portable point-of-sale device or an accessory that transforms your phone into one.
Kurt WoockSep 24, 2021

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Mobile point-of-sale systems allow you to input customer orders and process transactions on a tablet, phone or proprietary mobile device. When comparing options, it’s helpful to consider three common costs:

  • Hardware: Some mobile POS hardware is free, while other devices can cost a few hundred dollars. Generally, the devices that attach to smartphones or tablets are less expensive than all-in-one devices.

  • Software: Using a POS system can mean paying a monthly subscription price while some POS software is free to use. Many have optional add-on features that cost extra.

  • Payment processing: In addition to the POS system itself, you’ll want to think about what payment processor works best for your business. Payment processing costs apply every time you have a card transaction.

The best options include a combination of fair pricing, advanced device capabilities and flexibility.

Clover: Best overall

Image courtesy of Clover

Software: $9.95 per month and up.

Mobile POS hardware: 

  • Clover Go card reader, which works with your own phone or tablet: $99.

  • Clover Flex all-in-one device: $499.

Payment processing: 

  • In-person transactions: 2.3% plus 10 cents per transaction with Clover Register plan ($39.95 per month); 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction with Clover Essentials ($9.95 per month).

  • Online transactions: 3.5% plus 10 cents per transaction. 

Pros:

  • Clover Flex prints receipts.

  • Offers competitive payment processing fees of 2.3% plus 10 cents per transaction for in-person purchases with Clover Register.

Con:

  • No free POS or hardware options.

Why we like it: The Clover Flex is an all-in-one device that includes an internal printer, which sets it apart from many other stand-alone POS devices that don’t. The Clover Go lets you swipe, tap and dip cards with one small device — something Square’s smallest devices don’t do. Card processing rates for Clover Essentials are in line with other providers while Clover Register rates are among the best, though it comes with a higher monthly fee.

Toast: Best for restaurants

Image courtesy of Toast

Software: Free and up.

Mobile POS hardware: Quote-based pricing for Toast Go 2.

Payment processing: Toast provides potential customers with custom pricing, which includes payment processing costs. The rates depend in part on your restaurant model (like a bar or restaurant).

Pros:

  • Hardware was built with restaurant-specific needs in mind. For example, the screen was designed to be visible indoors and outdoors and the company says the battery can endure heavy use — up to 24 hours — between charges.

  • The Go 2 lets the kitchen alert a server when their table’s food is ready.

Cons:

  • Requires a contract; generally, these are two-year agreements.

  • Quote-based pricing makes it harder to compare options.

Why we like it: Toast is built for a specific industry — restaurants — which is evident in the details found throughout the hardware and software it offers. Its all-in-one device, the Toast Go 2, was designed to last all day without a recharge and works well in dim indoor settings as well as outdoors. It can process card transactions up to three times faster than the original Toast Go, and it makes information sharing with the kitchen easier with multiple-language support and notifications sent to servers to let them know their tables' food is ready to go.

Square: Best for overall cost and transparency

Image courtesy of Square

Software: Free and up.

Mobile POS hardware: 

  • Square magstripe reader, which works with your own phone or tablet: First reader is free, then $10.

  • Square reader for contactless and chip cards, which works with your own phone or tablet: $49.

  • Square Terminal all-in-one device: $299.

Payment processing: 

  • In-person transactions: 2.5% plus 10 cents per transaction (2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction for restaurants or those using Square’s free version). 

  • Online transactions: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.

Pros:

  • Offers free hardware and POS software with the option to scale up.

  • POS software is designed to work well for both in-person and online businesses.

  • Pricing is competitive and transparent.

  • Plans are month-to-month; you can cancel the service anytime at no cost.

Cons:

  • The hardware lineup is best suited for Apple devices, though it also works with Androids. If you prefer Androids, check your device’s compatibility first.

  • The lowest-cost card readers don’t combine swiping capability with the option to tap or dip a card; instead, you’ll need two devices. The all-in-one Square Terminal accepts all three but costs $299.

Why we like it: Square works well for a variety of business types, including retail and restaurants. It offers free software and many of its hardware options work with the phone or tablet you already have, which can be helpful for new businesses looking to get started on a budget. Like the Clover Flex, the Square Terminal is an all-in-one device that includes an internal printer, but Square’s is $200 cheaper.

Square POS

Square
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on Square's website

PayPal Zettle: Best for offering alternate payment options

Image courtesy of Zettle

Software: Free.

Mobile POS hardware: Zettle card reader: $29 for first reader, then $79 each.

Payment processing: 

  • In-person transactions: 2.29% plus 9 cents per transaction.

  • Online transactions: 2.59% plus 49 cents per transaction.

  • PayPal or Venmo QR code payments: 1.9% plus 10 cents per transaction for purchases above $10 and 2.4% plus 5 cents per transaction for purchases $10 and below.

Pros:

  • In-person transaction costs are low compared to other flat-rate options.

  • Low-cost hardware and free software.

  • Option to pay with PayPal or Venmo gives customers additional payment options.

Cons:

  • Doesn't offer all-in-one POS devices like Clover or Square.

  • POS system has fewer overall features compared to other mobile POS devices.

Why we like it: PayPal Zettle’s ability to accept payments via QR code or Venmo can be a convenience for you and your customers. The pricing is competitive, especially if you do a lot of in-person business. The POS app is free to download, and there’s no monthly fee or contract to use it — you just pay per transaction. Zettle is new to the U.S. as of 2021 and over time, it will replace Here as PayPal’s POS system and payments platform for in-person transactions.