So you’ve started a small business, and now you’re ready to get paid. But choosing a point-of-sale system isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.
Many POS systems are on the market, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
Here are eight of the most popular options, broken down by the type of business they best fit.
Businesses that want versatility: Square
- Price: Flat 2.75% processing fee per swipe; 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually entered transactions
- Features: Free mobile card reader at sign-up; Square Stand, which costs $169 and becomes a cash register when you connect it with an iPad; for large businesses, Square offers a POS system for $999 with fully integrated software and hardware
Square is one of the most versatile payment systems on the market. It works with iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and integrates with QuickBooks, Xero and other apps. And with the Square Stand, you can connect additional hardware, including a cash drawer, receipt printer and barcode scanner — though it only works with iPads.
The free Square app allows you to build a customized register by entering prices and photos for items and organizing them by category. The app also lets you accept payments offline; accept cash, checks and gift cards; send receipts; and track inventory.
A separate and free Square Dashboard app lets you see sales reports, manage employee time sheets and send invoices.
Square also recently announced the launch of Square Register, a fully integrated POS system that comes with software and dual-screen hardware. This allows customers to see products as they are rung up and eliminates the need for merchants to purchase a tablet or phone. The register retails for $999.
Businesses with an online store: Shopify
- Price: $29 per month for the basic plan to $299 per month for the advanced plan; credit card rates depend on the plan type and range from 2.4% per transaction for in-person sales to 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions
- Features: Comes with a customizable online store and blog, plus analytics dashboard; integrates with other apps such as MailChimp and Xero, as well as social media platforms for selling products
Shopify is a good option for online businesses. It lets you easily build and customize your online store with templates, accept orders and payments online, and integrate your shipping carrier. You can also integrate with and sell products on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Pinterest.
To accept in-person payments, Shopify offers two card readers: a tap, chip and swipe reader that accepts contactless payments for $89 (and a stand that comes at an extra cost), and a chip and swipe reader for $29.
Businesses with brick-and-mortar stores: ShopKeep
ShopKeep is designed specifically for restaurants and retailers.
Its free app works with iPads, and you can purchase additional hardware including card readers, register stands, cash drawers and receipt printers to customize your setup.
The company’s payment processing service, ShopKeep Payments, will process credit card transactions at variable rates, depending on your type of operation, years in business and other factors. Or you can use a third-party processor.
Businesses that want a customized POS system: Clover
Most other systems work with an iPad or Android tablet; Clover’s hardware, however, is proprietary. The company offers portable POS system options called Clover Mobile and Clover Go.
Clover Station, which includes a receipt printer and cash drawer, carries a monthly service fee, says Mark Schulze, head of Clover App Market. Clover Station is best for brick-and-mortar stores.
You can lease or buy the Clover Mini, Clover Mobile, Clover Station or Clover Go from various vendors, including Bank of America and Sam’s Club.
Clover also helps you track sales, inventory and timesheets, gain a better understanding of your customers and their shopping habits, and helps you create your own branded gift cards.
Businesses with large operations or multiple locations: Revel
Revel is ideal for larger brick-and-mortar businesses that need a robust POS system. It requires an iPad but offers several hardware options and add-on applications. You can integrate features that are specific to your type of business. For example, restaurants can get ingredient inventory management and tableside ordering, and retailers can get inventory tracking and gift-card programs. Revel’s hardware is preconfigured, so you can take it out of the box, plug it in and get started.
To get Revel, you have to speak with a sales representative, who will help you decide on the appropriate combination of hardware and software features for your business. Pricing depends on the type of business you own, the number of terminals you need, the volume of transactions you have and the features you choose, among other factors, Revel spokesman Richard Tso says via email.
Revel works with third-party processors such as USAePay, Mercury, FreedomPay and WorldPay. It integrates with QuickBooks and PayPal.
Businesses with large invoice transactions: Intuit QuickBooks Payments
- Price: Free to use with QuickBooks online; 2.9% processing fee plus 25 cents when a customer pays an invoice online with a credit card, and 3.4% plus 25 cents when a credit card is manually entered
- Features: Lets you invoice and accept payments, provides invoice tracking and reminders for payments, allows free bank transfers and comes with automatic bookkeeping
Intuit QuickBooks Payments is a solid option for businesses that already use QuickBooks accounting software, because the two sync. It’s also good for businesses that have large transactions. If you charge more than $7,500 per month, you can save up to 40% on payment processing costs, according to the company.
Transactions are free when your customer pays you via bank transfer instead of credit cards. For example, if you’re a lawyer with a $10,000 invoice, getting paid online via credit card will cost you $290.25, while receiving a bank transfer would cost you nothing.
Businesses that want to be completely mobile: Flint Mobile
- Price: Plans run from the free basic version (10 invoices per year, up to 10 clients) to the enterprise version at $149.99 per year (unlimited invoices and online sales, unlimited clients); 2.9% processing fee plus 30 cents for scan or key entry, online sales and invoice payments
- Features: Lets you scan cards with your smartphone camera — no reader needed; personalizes receipts and invoices; lets you send and manage invoices on the go
Flint Mobile is unique because it uses your phone’s camera to scan customers’ cards, so no extra equipment is required.
Flint is also the only company listed here that charges different rates for credit and debit transactions. The scan rate for debit cards is 1.95%, while the credit card rate is 2.95% plus 30 cents — higher than that of competitors.
The free Flint app works on iOS and Android devices. It lets you send invoices, collect online payments and track cash and check payments. Flint has an online portal that lets you view and analyze transaction data, download Excel files and sync with QuickBooks.
Businesses that accept a lot of PayPal payments: PayPal Here
- Price: $14.99 for PayPal’s mobile card reader; $79 for PayPal’s chip card reader. Flat 2.7% processing fee per swipe; 3.5% plus 15 cents to key in cards; 2.9% plus 30 cents to invoice
- Features: Accepts all payment types; provides inventory management; lets you add up to 1,000 users to one account; generates custom sales reports
If you sell products online and accept PayPal but also want a way to allow in-person payments, PayPal Here is a good option. It’s a free mobile app that works with iOS, Android and Windows smartphones and tablets. The PayPal Here mobile card reader, which plugs into your device’s headphone jack, costs $14.99. The chip card reader costs $79, and lets you process chip cards and contactless payments.
With the app, you can create and send invoices, record cash and check payments, and view sales reports. It integrates with your online PayPal account, so you can track online and in-person payments under one system.
Small-business POS systems: Summary of options
For related information, visit NerdWallet’s resources on how to start a business.
Updated Nov. 7, 2017.