Best Cash Registers for Small Businesses in 2023
This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
There are two main types of cash registers: electronic cash registers (ECRs) and point-of-sale (POS) systems. ECRs provide the most basic functions—tallying sales, completing customer payments, printing receipts, and storing cash. However, as the global market for traditional cash registers declines and many major ECR providers have stopped manufacturing cash registers, most businesses get their cash register hardware from a POS software provider. This ranking includes both register types.
Based on our evaluation, the best ECR and POS cash registers for small businesses in 2023 are:
Best POS cash registers:
- Square: Best touch-screen cash register for individuals, startups, and small storefronts
- Lightspeed: Best POS cash register for high-volume or multilocation retailers
- Toast: Best free POS cash register for restaurants
- TouchBistro: Best POS register for high-turnover food businesses
Best electronic cash registers:
- SAM4S ER-180U: Best portable cash register for mobile businesses and low-volume sales
- SAM4S SAP-630R: Best electronic register for grocery and convenience stores
- SAM4S ER-925: Best electronic register for low- to mid-volume retailers
Best Cash Registers Compared
Monthly Software Fees
Integrated Card Reader
Built-in Receipt Printer
Built-in Cash Drawer
$149–$799* (depending on model/kit)
$0–$60 (custom plans available)
$69 per terminal
$200–$300 (depending on vendor)
$1,700–1,799 (depending on vendor)
$649–$789 (depending on vendor)
* Monthly financing available
** Pay-as-you-go financing available
Looking for something for a specific business type? Check out our rankings of the best point-of-sale solutions for retailers, restaurants, and small businesses.
Square: Best Touch-screen Cash Register for Small Businesses
- Free cloud-based software
- Affordable hardware with payment plan options
- Incredibly user-friendly; setup can be completed in minutes
- Built-in payment processing makes for fast setup
- Must purchase cash drawer separately; does not support dual cash drawers on a single register
- Built-in payment processing means you can’t shop around for lower rates
- Needs internet access to process credit card payments
- Touch-screen cash register
- Easily expandable hardware
- Built-in credit card processing
- Track unlimited items and variations
- Track unlimited employees.
- Specialized options for retail and restaurant businesses
- Easy to add gift cards, online ordering, employee timekeeping, marketing, loyalty, and more.
What We Like
Square is a cloud-based, POS-driven register with several low-cost hardware options. An all-in-one solution that combines a credit card processing service, software, and cash register, Square is our top choice for the best small business POS systems. Unlike electronic cash registers, Square lets you process sales and run your entire business from your smartphone or tablet. Or, you can use one or more countertop registers to meet any in-store selling need.
We recommend Square as the best POS-driven cash register for small businesses because it delivers a complete suite of sales, payment, inventory, and business management tools for free.
Unlike the other picks on our list, with Square’s POS register, you can’t rate-shop merchant account providers. However, Square’s payment processing is very small-business-friendly, with simple flat-rate fees and no startup or monthly account fees for a baseline subscription.
The flagship Square POS is free to use; all you pay for are processing fees for credit and debit card purchases. It can run on consumer-grade tablets like iPads, and Square sends you a free magstripe card reader when you open an account. So, if you already have an iPad, you can get started completely for free. This is one of the cheapest cash registers available for small businesses.
Square also has specialized POS offerings for retail, restaurant, and appointment-based businesses. All of these systems have a free entry-level subscription, with additional features like customizable user permissions available for a $60 monthly software fee.
See a breakdown of Square POS fees below, and check out our complete guide to Square POS pricing for more.
(or $39/mo over 24 months)
(or $14/mo for 12 months)
(or $27/mo over 12 months)
Square designed touch-screen terminal with customer-facing display and built-in card reader
iPad stand with built-in card reader
Handheld POS and card reader
Square Processing Fees
- Card present: 2.6% + 10 cents
- Keyed-in: 3.5% + 15 cents
Square POS Monthly Software Fees
- Basic Square: $0
- Square for Retail: $0–$60 per month
- Square for Restaurants: $0–$60 per month
- Square Appointments: $0–$60 per month
- Free online store: Square supports online sales via its free Square Online Store website in addition to in-person sales. You can receive online orders for pick up, delivery, or shipping directly in your Square register.
- Taxes and reporting: You can add and manage taxes from your Square online dashboard or the Square app on your register. Taxes automatically tally per set rules.
- Offline functionality: Square’s register allows you to record sales and process cash payments without an internet or cellular connection. You can also spool credit card payments that will run automatically when you regain an internet connection.
- Inventory tracking: Your Square system stores detailed product lists and adjusts your inventory in real time as you sell items in-store or online. You can easily add new products from any internet-enabled device by logging into your Square dashboard.
- Unlimited staff log-ins: Square supports unlimited staff logins, and at the Plus and Premium levels, you also get unlimited user permissions. You can easily track employee sales and use your Square system to log employee hours for payroll.
- Detailed customer profiles: Unlike the ECRs on this list, Square saves customer contact information and tracks sales by customer. You can use this information to help guide customers to items they might like on future visits or use it to feed customized marketing and promotions.
Need to bring your own processor? Square is extremely user-friendly, but you can’t bring your own payment processor. And unless you process more than $250,000 annually, you can’t get a custom rate. If you want to keep an existing processor or shop for rates, consider any of the electronic registers on this list. If you want an iPad-based register with more payment integrations, check out Lightspeed.
Lightspeed: Best Register for High-volume & Multilocation Retailers
- Robust features with advanced inventory and reporting tools
- Connect multiple registers and locations
- Cloud-based system with real-time data sync
- Browser-based POS requires internet access to operate
- Monthly software fees can get pricey
- Printers and cash drawers are not built in; you must purchase them separately
- Multiple options for integrated payment processing
- Operates on iPads or desktop computers
- Specialized software for retailers and restaurants
- Top-of-the-line inventory tracking and reporting
What We Like
Lightspeed, like Square, is a POS-driven cash register with a comprehensive set of store management tools. Users can track inventory in real time and manage purchasing, staff, and business tasks across multiple locations. Like Square, Lightspeed also connects in-store and online sales. As a POS-based register system, Lightspeed lets you set up several registers in one or many locations and connect all data within one centralized, cloud-based software system.
The ECRs on this list lack the ability to link multiple locations. And the only ECR that can be networked with other registers—the SAM4S SAP-630R—is the most expensive option on this list. So, if you have a multilocation business, you need something more robust that can be networked. Lightspeed is one of the best options. Users should be mindful, though, as this cloud-based system needs a strong internet connection to keep the network running.
Unlike Toast and Square, Lightspeed does not offer a $0 monthly software subscription. But it does offer a 14-day free trial of the retail POS, so you can try it before committing.
Vault iPad stand
iPad POS or Kiosk stand
Tap, Swipe, dip, and PIN-enabled mobile card reader
Bluetooth and USB-Network tethered thermal receipt printer
Lightspeed Processing Fees
- Processing fees:
- Card present: 2.6% + 10 cents
- Keyed-in: 2.9% + 30 cents
Lightspeed Monthly POS Software Fees
- Lightspeed Retail
- Lean: $69
- Standard: $119
- Advanced $199
- Lightspeed Restaurant
- Starter: $69
- Essential: $189
- Premium: $399
- Sales and checkout: Lightspeed supports touch-screen or computer-controlled checkout screens and barcode scanning for item entry. You can also program discount codes and coupons to apply via code entry or barcode scan and handle open tickets and tabs for restaurant sales. Your Lightspeed register saves customer data and transaction history for quick returns. As with Square, you can print receipts or send them via email and SMS message.
- Reporting: Lightspeed’s reporting is the most detailed of any system on this list. You can print standard reports for sales, labor, and stock counts and integrate your performance data with accounting software to automate administrative tasks. The system contains hundreds of preset reports you can view by custom time frames to drill into your store’s key performance metrics.
- Offline functions: Lightspeed has an “offline mode” to continue operating even if the internet connection is interrupted.
- Inventory management: Users can store detailed inventory lists, track parts and ingredients, and sync inventory with an online store and multiple locations. Lightspeed also has granular ingredient-level stock tracking, features to manage product variants and custom orders, and sophisticated inventory reporting. Your system will alert you when inventory runs low, complete purchase orders, and track your vendors.
Hate monthly software fees? If you otherwise like Lightspeed’s touch-screen register but hate monthly fees, check out Square (which offers free register software). Restaurants should check out Toast’s pay-as-you-go plan. If you want to go electronic, the SAM4S SAP-630R is your best bet.
Toast: Best Free Cash Register for Restaurants
- Mobile POS and self-service kiosk terminal option
- Track inventory at an ingredient level
- Loads of hardware peripherals for kitchen displays, digital menus, self-service kiosks, drive-thrus, and handheld terminals
- Requires a Toast Payments subscription; no payment integrations available
- Printers and cash drawers are not built in; you must purchase them separately
- Requires a two-year contract
- Touch-screen operation
- Restaurant-supporting order screens
- Manages complex modifiers
- $0 upfront option for register hardware
- Built-in credit card processing
- Google online ordering integration
- Track unlimited items with modifiers
- Unlimited employee log-ins
What We Like
Toast is a cloud-based POS designed for restaurants; in fact, it is our top-recommended restaurant POS system. It operates on Toast-designed POS hardware for terminals, self-service kiosks, kitchen displays, and handheld order and payment devices.
Two things set it apart from the competition on this list: It is designed specifically for restaurants and offers hardware at no upfront cost. You’ll pay higher payment processing fees if you opt to pay-as-you-go for hardware, but if you are a new, small, independent restaurant, you’d be paying higher processing fees no matter what system you use.
There are a couple of downsides, though. Toast is the only system on this list that requires a lengthy contract (two years). Like Square, Toast also locks you into its built-in payment processor, Toast Payments. Though, Toast has a history of matching or beating competitors’ processing rates if you can provide documentation.
Toast has two options for new users that only need one to two POS stations. You can purchase your register equipment upfront, or you can pay $0 for your hardware and opt for higher credit card processing fees. These are itemized below:
Guest Self-Service Kit
Pay upfront: $799 + $69 per month
Pay-As-You-Go: $0 and 2.99% + 15 cents per in person transaction
Pay upfront: $609 + $69 per month
Pay-as-You-Go: $0 and 2.99% + 15 cents per in-person transaction
Pay upfront: $999 + $99 per month
Pay-as-you-Go: $0 and 2.99% + 15 cents per in-person transaction
Toast Processing Fees
- If you pay for hardware upfront: 2.49% + 15 cents processing fee
- If you pay as you go for hardware: 2.99% + 15 cents processing fee
Toast Monthly POS Software Fees
- Quick Start Bundle (for up to 2 POS stations): $0
- Core: $69
- Growth: $165
- Build Your Own: Custom quote
- Restaurant-grade hardware: Restaurant POS systems take a lot of damage, but Toast is ready for anything with an IP54 spill-proof rating, fast processing times, and sleek minimal design to fit any brand.
- Tableside service: With order-ready notifications, tableside payments, and guest feedback portals at checkout, your staff will be able to deliver better and faster service.
- Menu management: Sync your menu with your inventory so that you can stay on top of diminishing ingredients and view what items are low with inventory countdowns.
- Online ordering: Integrate your online orders onto your POS device so the kitchen doesn’t miss a thing—and neither do your inventory controls.
- Order with Google: Through an integration with Order with Google, Toast restaurants can accept online orders directly from Google. The Order with Google menu syncs seamlessly with your Toast Online Ordering menu and hours of operation, so you don’t need to update another online menu.
- Training and installation: All Toast account holders will get free installation of all POS systems, in-person training, and 24/7 phone support.
Need more flexibility? Toast’s biggest drawback is the required two-year contract. It also doesn’t have tools for retailers. If you need something more short-term, consider Square. If you want a POS-driven register for retail, consider Lightspeed.
TouchBistro: Best POS Register for High-turnover Food Businesses
- User-friendly system is easy to train staff on
- Can operate via Wi-Fi- or LTE-enabled routers to support mobile businesses like food trucks
- Integrates with multiple payment processors so you can shop for low rates
- Requires monthly software fees
- No free trial or free baseline subscription
- Printers and cash drawers are not built in; you must purchase them separately
- iOS-based touchscreens are very user-friendly
- Easy to self-install
- Quote-based pricing tailored to fit your needs.
- Unlimited items and employee log-ins
What We Like
TouchBistro is an iOS-based POS system that, like Square and Lightspeed, operates on iPads. Like Toast, TouchBistro is also designed to support food service businesses. This system includes ingredient-level inventory in the baseline POS, but it is much simpler and less automated than Lightspeed’s inventory module, making it a great fit for quick service restaurants and coffee shops that experience high staff turnover.
It is one of the most user-friendly iPad registers on the market. Most users say they can train staff to use the system in under an hour. If you’ve ever operated an iPhone, you’ll know how to operate TouchBistro. But, using this system requires a baseline cost of at least $69 per register per month. Unlike Square and Toast, TouchBistro does not offer a free baseline subscription, and unlike Lightspeed, it does not offer a free trial, either.
Touchbistro doesn’t list hardware or payment processing fees; you’ll need to contact them for a custom quote. But, expanding the sections below will show you some available options.
TouchBistro Terminal Kit
Kitchen Display Screen
iPad stand, cash drawer, card reader, and receipt printer
Kitchen display stand
POS stand with customer-facing display
TouchBistro Processing Fees
TouchBistro payment processing fees are custom-quoted. You can choose from TouchBistro Payments, Square, or TSYS for processing.
Monthly Software Fees
TouchBistro starts at $69 per terminal monthly. If you need more than one terminal, you can get a custom quote for monthly software. The per-terminal cost is typically lower if you need multiple stations.
- Sales and checkout: TouchBistro operates like a big iPhone and supports customizable speed screens for order combos. You can attach a second iPad to create a customer-facing display, and purchase cash drawers, barcode scanners, and card readers separately for custom-quoted prices.
- Templated reporting: TouchBistro includes all the necessary reports to track your sales, labor, and costs by shift, day, week, and month. The reports are templatized, so you don’t need to waste time building them, and most reports auto-generate charts and graphs so you can quickly analyze your data at a glance.
- Interconnectivity: TouchBistro terminals easily network to one another, and you can self-configure your hardware by following the system’s detailed tutorials. The POS also integrates directly with popular tools for online ordering and delivery, loyalty, and automated inventory tracking.
- Inventory management: TouchBistro includes ingredient-level inventory management in the baseline POS for no extra cost (unlike Toast and Lightspeed, which charge extra). You can manage stock levels directly from the POS.
- Employees: TouchBistro includes an unlimited number of employee log-ins with customized permission levels. The terminals also act as your time clock so you can track employee hours and tips for payroll reporting. You can pull detailed reports for employee productivity, showing how often they apply voids and discounts alongside their sales and tip data. Time sheet reports are detailed, showing you paid and unpaid breaks, overtime, and even penalties accrued for New York State’s Spread of Hours law.
Need more robust tools? Toast and Lightspeed both have deeper reporting capabilities than TouchBistro. Lightspeed’s ingredient-level inventory is also much more automated (though only available with the priciest monthly subscription). If you need a register without monthly subscription fees, check out Square or any of the ECRs on this list.
SAM4S ER-180U: Best Portable Cash Register for Mobile Businesses
- Lightweight, portable register; great for pop-up retailers
- Built-in receipt printer and digital price display support streamlines sales functions
- Basic tools are uncomplicated for small retailers
- Does not support an integrated card reader
- Only supports 10 employee logins and 500 product listings
- 10 employee logins
- 500 supported price look-up (PLU) codes
- Four programmable tax rates
- Electronic Journal captures up to
2,000 lines of transaction history
- Customizable receipts
What We Like
The ER-180U is SAM4S’s entry-level economy register. This compact register is streamlined to support the smallest retailers. The 180U does not contain any ports to connect an integrated card reader, so this register works best for cash-only transactions. With only 10 supported cashier profiles, it is also best for small operations with a small staff. At a light 12 pounds, this register is portable, so it can support crafters and hobbyists who frequent craft fairs.
Several legacy cash register manufacturers (Casio, Sanyo) have stopped making ECRs. So SAM4S has quickly become a global frontrunner in the electronic register category. Its products are sold in 70 countries, and it claims to support 15% of the overall cash register market. Users can feel confident that customer support and replacement parts will be available for many years to come. This is why we recommend this brand and do not recommend you purchase a used register from a brand that no longer offers customer support.
The Sam4S 180U can be purchased from multiple retailers for around $250 This is a one-time fee with no ongoing monthly fees, making this system one of the cheapest register options on the market.
SAM4S ER-180U Hardware
SAM4S ER-180U Payment Processing
You will need to secure a separate credit card processor to accept card payments. You’ll also need to purchase a separate card reader to run card payments, as the 180U does not have a built-in card reader. This allows you the flexibility to choose whatever merchant services provider you like, but using a non-integrated card reader can increase your transaction times.
- Simple checkout: You can get your 180U with either a standard greyscale, numerical keyboard or a programmable, color-coded keyboard. This register tracks cash, check, or credit card payments, though you must run cards on an external card reader. You can also accept split tender payments (i.e., cash and charge). Change due will show on the cashier and customer-facing displays for cash payments.
- Tax tracking: You can program up to four different tax rates into your 180U. Tax can be applied as an additional line item on the receipt, or you can set the register to roll the tax into the item price.
- Basic reporting: The 180U tracks and stores up to 2,000 lines of sales transactions in an electronic journal, and it includes some basic built-in reports, such as a financial report and those for cash declaration, price code look-ups, and sales by cashier. You can also print your entire electronic journal to use that information to complete other reports.
- Simple inventory management: While it is not exactly inventory tracking, you can use the information from your electronic journal to update your inventory. If you need real-time inventory tracking, you’ll be better served by Square or Lightspeed.
- Track up to 10 employees: The 180U features separate profiles and sales tracking for up to 10 employees. This is the lowest number of employee profiles available from any register on this list, but for small retailers, 10 may be enough.
Need something stronger? If you need detailed, real-time inventory tracking, you’ll need a POS-driven register like Square or Lightspeed. If you need ingredient-level inventory tracking for a food service business, TouchBistro is your best bet. Though, if you don’t mind spending a little more for advanced tools, both Toast and Lightspeed’s restaurant inventory modules are even more robust.
SAM4S SAP-630R: Best Electronic Register for Grocery & Convenience Stores
- Built-in touch-screen speeds checkout process
- Tracks 100,000 PLUs
- Tracks 100,000 PLUs Connects to cloud-based SAM4POS for remote reporting
- SAM4POS app costs extra
- Cannot track inventory expiration dates
- Touch-screen and keypad operation
- EBT processing
- Tobacco rebate and loyalty integration
- Tracks 100,000 UPC numbers
- Additional ports to connect: barcode scanner, scale, external card reader, external pole display, and Dallas key port
- Wi-Fi connectivity available for tablets, printers, and scales
- Cloud accessible reports
- Scheduled report emails to keep tabs on operations
What We Like
SAM4S’s SAP-630 combines a 9.7” Android touch screen with a built-in keypad, cash drawer, and receipt printer to create a hybrid cash register that acts like a POS. The addition of the integrated Android touch screen gives you the ability to manage 100,000 inventory items, great for grocers and convenience stores. You can also tether an optional handheld Android tablet via the SAM4POS app to process sales on the floor or count inventory. You can purchase this register with either a retail (SAP-630R) or a hospitality (SAP-630F) configuration.
The SAP-630 is the most expensive register on this list and must be purchased from an authorized SAM4S retailer. But for the price, you get six months of technical support and assistance with programming and setup. This register is also a true POS/ECR hybrid, so some services (like loyalty and rewards programs) require monthly fees. But for the basic sales and inventory tracking functions, you’ll only pay the upfront cost. Setting up this register requires some functions—like a custom screensaver—to be configured by the dealer you purchased from.
The SAM4S SAP-630 register is available in retail (SAP-630R) or food service (SAP-630F) models. You can purchase it through various online and brick-and-mortar retailers that sell registers. Prices vary by vendor and configuration but typically range from $1,700–$1,799. This is a one-time price. There are no monthly software fees unless you choose to enroll in the cloud reporting app (which we discuss in the Features section).
SAM4S SAP-630 Hardware
SAM4S SAP-630 Payment Processing
Like the other ECRs on this list, the SAP-630 does not include built-in credit card processing. You’ll need to secure a payment processor and obtain a peripheral card reader to accept card payments on this register. You get the benefit of shopping for the lowest available processing rates, but this also increases your setup time.
- Sales and checkout: The SAP-630 includes a keypad for quick entry, a touch screen for deeper-level functions like product searches, a cash drawer, and a digital customer-facing display. The only thing you’ll need to attach is an optional card reader and a barcode scanner if you use one. On the touch screen, you can search products by UPC or item description.
- Cloud reports: You can navigate reports on the register using the report mode on the touch screen. Or—like the POS-driven models on this list—you can access reports via the cloud on your smartphone. Though unlocking mobile reporting functions on the SAP-630, you’ll need to pay an extra fee for the SAM4POS app. Unlike the other SAM4S registers, the SAP-630 does not clear your data whenever you print a “Z” report. You can pull reports for custom date ranges from the register or the reporting app, just like a POS.
- Flexible connections: You have the option to connect a handheld tablet via Wi-Fi, so you can process payments on the sales floor or count inventory. Additionally, you can network multiple SAP-630 registers via ethernet connection and communicate with remote label printers via Wi-Fi.
- EBT Payments: This register can accept EBT payments and integrates with tobacco company loyalty programs to drive tobacco sales.
- Built-in labeling and sales by weight: An optional BTP-L520 label printer prints high-resolution item and shelf labels for quick inventory scanning. The register can connect to mobile scales to weigh items sold by weight and subtract tares.
- Track unlimited employees: This register can track an unlimited number of employees The touch screen includes fast log-in tools that prompt your employees to clock in and out directly on the register. So, you won’t need an additional time tracking system. You also have the option to use Dallas keys for employee or manager access.
Need something simpler? The SAM4S SAP-630’s combination configuration is a fascinating option for small businesses, but it requires an authorized dealer to configure it. If you prefer simple self-installation with options for built-in processing, check out Square or Lightspeed.
SAM4S ER-925: Best ECR for Low- to Mid-volume Retailers
- Integrated card reader and dual cash drawers are available
- Does not need internet access to operate
- Several options for customizable peripherals including additional printers
- No customer data entry
- Need to find a payment processor
- Upfront cost can be high, depending on your chosen peripherals
- Up to 50 employee logins
- Tracks up to 3,500 PLUs
- 100 mix-and-match discount options
- 6-line pre- and post-receipt messages
- Additional ports to connect: barcode scanner, scale, external card reader, external pole display, and Dallas Key port
What We Like
The SAM4S ER-925 is a sturdy electronic cash register built for retail businesses. It is popular with gift shops, ceramics studios, candy shops, and other mid-volume retailers. Price-wise, this register is a big step up from the much more affordable 180U, but it offers a lot more features, including customizable peripheral hardware.
You can attach a barcode scanner, scale, and external pole display. Also, you can choose from an integrated card reader or an external reader. To speed service up, you can add an optional Dallas Key reader, allowing cashiers to quickly log into the register by attaching a magnetic fob.
SAM4S ER-925: From $649–$789 (price varies by vendor and add-ons)
SAM4S ER-925 Payment Processing Fees
- You will need to get a separate merchant services account. Rates will vary.
SAM4S ER-925 Hardware
- Efficient checkout: Dual displays show transactions to customers and cashiers in real time. You can accept cash, check, EBT, gift cards, and credit/debit card payments, split tenders, and process voids, returns, and discounts in the register. Busy shops may also want to attach the optional second cash drawer so two cashiers can work out of the same register.
- Expanded reporting: The ER-925 supports X reports (which display totals without resetting your system) and Z reports (which reset your register when printed). This register includes a number of reports that its sister register, the 180U, lacks. In addition to basic sales and financial reports, you get stock reports, discount and void reports, and segmented sales reports by category or tender type. The register’s PC utility lets you transfer your reporting information to a desktop computer via an internal SD card or direct PC link for deeper reporting and further analysis.
- Works offline: The register does not require an internet connection for cash transactions and reporting. However, if you accept credit cards, you’ll need an ethernet connection to feed the integrated card reader.
- Supports up to 50 employees: This register tracks up to 50 employee logins. An optional Dallas Key port allows cashiers to access the register quickly by attaching their personal electronic fob. The ER-925 also includes a training mode, so you can train new employees on the register without compromising your daily reports.
Need marketing and loyalty tools? If you want to automatically collect customer emails for your marketing efforts, the ER-925 is not a great fit. Both Lightspeed and Square offer much more robust customer management tools (and Square’s are priced based on your actual use). Both also offer built-in payment processing, which speeds up your setup process.
We compared each system based on its price, ease of use, and retail and restaurant features. Also, we considered the availability of popular peripheral hardware, like barcode scanners, kitchen printers, label printers, and card readers. If there is one piece of equipment that a small business needs to operate seamlessly, it’s the one that handles the money. So, available support and warranties were a big consideration here, as registers can be tricky to program on your own.
The selection and evaluation of the registers and POS systems on this list were performed by Fit Small Business’s top retail and restaurant experts. Read about their real-world retail and restaurant experience below:
Mary King With more than 14 years of hospitality experience, Mary has used cash registers and POS systems in coffee shops, food trucks, full-service restaurants, quick service restaurants, bars, hotels, co-working spaces, event spaces, and retail stores. She has several years experience advising bar and restaurant owners, and 3+ years evaluating POS systems.
Brigitte Hodge is a retail specialist and staff writer with brick-and-mortar management experience. Before joining FSB, she managed a storefront for several years, working in everything from merchandising, to buying, to sales analysis. Brigitte also has a background in writing, research, and publishing, with an undergraduate degree in writing.
Meaghan Brophy has 10+ years of retail experience, during which she has operated a variety of different cash registers and POS systems in different settings and applications.
Since working in retail, Meaghan has 7+ years of experience writing for retailers, including 4+ years experience evaluating POS systems.
How to Choose a Cash Register
Choosing the right cash register for your small business is a huge decision. You and your staff will use this system every day; a register that lacks functions or is overly complex will quickly cause headaches. Here are a few questions to ask when choosing a cash register.
First, consider your business needs. How much cash and how many credit card payments do you expect to handle? Do you plan to sell online, and if so, do you want your online store to communicate with your cash register so you never sell an item that’s out of stock?
A small business with minimal transactions may only need a basic cash register, while a larger business may require a more advanced system with additional features like barcode scanners and inventory tracking.
Next, consider your budget. Cash registers can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the features and capabilities.
Another important factor to consider is how user-friendly the register is. Your register should be easy to use, with a user interface that is easy to navigate during business rushes.
When you shop online, it is tempting to purchase the cheapest cash register available. But these cheap cash registers are typically older electronic models that are no longer manufactured. You’ll need to rely on your ability to interpret a written user’s manual with no in-person assistance or active customer service. For some people, this setup won’t be a problem. But then you’ll also have to train your staff to use the register (and trust that they are ringing in sales correctly).
Most businesses nowadays need a user-friendly system that comes with configuration assistance. A touch-screen POS-driven cash register is familiar to younger workers who are comfortable operating smartphones.
Finally, consider any additional features you may need, such as the ability to generate reports or manage a customer loyalty program. If you only need to process cash transactions, then a simple electronic register may be all you need. But if you want to track inventory in real time, manage customer purchase histories, or operate a rewards program, a register that has the support of a POS system is what you need.
Cash Register Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The best cash register for your business is the one that securely accepts and tracks your most commonly accepted payment types. If you accept a large volume of cash, the best register will include lockable cash drawers and possibly even dual cash drawers so two cashiers can use the same register. If you accept card payments, you’ll need a register with an integrated or attached card reader. In either case, you’ll also want a register that tracks transactions by cashier so you can easily identify errors or a pattern of suspicious transactions.
Depending on your business type, you can use a smartphone, iPad, or other touch-screen tablet as a cash register. All you need to do to turn one of these devices into a register is download a POS or payment app and attach a cash drawer or bank account to receive cash and digital payments.
For solopreneurs, mobile business, and service businesses that accept card payments, a smartphone, card reader, and attached bank account is all you need. Brick-and-mortar stores that want to securely accept cash will want a stationary tablet with an attached cash drawer.
The best brand of cash register varies by business type and your budget. For many business types, our retail and food service experts have found Square’s suite of registers to be the best for the widest range of business types.
Discontinued and used cash registers are available on sites like Amazon and eBay. Because configuring a cash register can be a tedious, sensitive process, we do not recommend buying discontinued cash registers, though. Managing your business’s money—especially if you deal in a high volume of cash—is simply too important to rely on a product that does not come with active customer support or hardware warranties.
With more customers relying on digital payments and fewer companies manufacturing cash registers, it can be challenging to find an electronic cash register for your small business. If you are willing to expand your search to include POS-driven registers, you’ll have more options. For its affordable price, ease of use, and popularity with small businesses of all types, we named Square the best cash register for small business.
While this POS-driven register requires users to purchase a cash drawer separately, it also gives small business owners access to Square’s full suite of business tools. If you’re unsure about diving into a POS-driven cash register, you can try Square for free on hardware you already own.