A cash register combines a secure cash box, advanced adding machine, and receipt printer into one operating unit. Many connect to credit card terminals and barcode scanners, and some incorporate inventory and point-of-sale (POS) software for added functionality.
The best cash registers for small businesses are:
- Square: Best overall cash register for individuals, startups, and small storefronts
- Sam4s ER-180u: Best low-cost portable electronic cash register
- Sam4s ER 925: Best electronic cash register for low- to mid-volume retailers
- Lightspeed: Best for high-volume or multilocation retailers and restaurants
- Sam4s ER 940: Best electronic register for low- to mid-volume restaurants
When selecting a cash register, small business owners have two basic options. You can use an electronic cash register (ECR) or opt for a register that operates with point-of-sale (POS) system software. ECRs work well for businesses that need a simple machine to tally sales, complete customer payments, print receipts, and store cash. POS systems do all of this, plus offer a complete suite of business management and reporting tools (some at a surprisingly low cost).
Nowadays, POS hardware costs the same or less than standard ECRs, and historic major ECR manufacturers—like Casio and Sharp—stopped manufacturing cash registers. So in this guide, we consider both ECRs and POS-based registers.
Learn more: POS systems vs Cash Registers
Top Cash Registers Compared
Monthly Software Fees
Integrated Card Reader
Built-in Receipt Printer
Built-in Cash Drawer
Number of Employees
Number of Tracked Items
$169–$799; though users can use iPads they already own
Starting at $0
$159.95–$198, depending on vendor
$748.34–$899.50, depending on vendor
Starting at $69
$699–$789, depending on vendor
Square: Best Overall POS Cash Register for Small Businesses
Square is a cloud-based, POS-driven register that gives you several low-cost register options. 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.
It is an all-in-one solution that combines a credit card processing service, software, and cash register in one system. Unlike the other picks on our list, if you use Square’s POS register, you can’t rate-shop merchant account providers. But 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. If you want, you can expand Square’s reporting and workforce management tools by signing up for a Premium service tier for $60 per month.
Square POS Cash Register Features
Square users who accept cash payments will need to purchase a cash drawer separately. If you plan to use an iPad or smartphone as your main register, you’ll need to connect a card reader. Users who subscribe to one of Square’s POS packages—Square for Retail and Square for Restaurants—will get a free card reader from Square. Others can typically find smartphone- and iPad-compatible Square readers at major office supply retailers for around $9.99 for a swipe reader and $49 for a contactless reader.
Square’s features include:
- Sales and checkout: Square’s touch-screen registers also support barcode item sales and accept credit card and contactless payments. Your system also records cash and checks, adds discounts and coupons, tracks open tabs, splits payments, and logs tips. Digital receipts are Square’s default—which allows you to collect customer contact information and save paper—but you print thermal receipts by attaching an optional thermal printer.
- Mobile sales: 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.
- Interconnectivity: You can 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. But be careful; when you accept offline credit card payments, you will have to accept the loss for any declined cards. A basic Square POS subscription allows you to operate Square on an unlimited number of devices.
- Inventory management: 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.
- Employee management: Like Lightspeed, Square supports unlimited staff logins, while the electronic registers on this list are limited to 10 to 50 staff log-ins. You can easily track employee sales and use your Square system to log employee hours for payroll. If you opt for the Free POS subscription, however, you’ll need to keep in mind that, at that tier, you can only have a single permission level—so all employees will have access to the same functions on the register. If you need customized permissions, you’ll need to upgrade to the Premium level.
- Customer management: 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.
Sam4s ER-180u: Best Low-Cost Portable Electronic Cash Register
Sam4s is a Korean electronics manufacturer that broke off from Samsung in 2003. With several legacy manufacturers bowing out of the ECR game, Sam4s is quickly becoming 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. So users can feel confident that customer support and replacement parts will be available for many years to come.
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. With a light 12-pound weight, this register is portable, so it can support crafters and hobbyists that frequent craft fairs.
Sam4s ER-180u Cash Register Features
The 180u is an all-in-one cash register unit; you don’t need to purchase a separate cash drawer and receipt printer—unlike the build-your-own cash registers from the POS systems on our list. However, you’ll have to add a standalone terminal from your merchant account provider to process credit cards. This model does not have a connection to an integrated credit card terminal.
Sam4s ER-180u’s features include:
- Sales and 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.
- Taxes and reporting: You can program up to four different tax rates into your 180u. Tax can be applied as an additional line items on the receipt, or you can set the register to roll the tax into the item price. 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.
- Interconnectivity: This register does not need internet access to operate. But whatever external card reader you get will likely need internet or phone line access to process card payments.
- Inventory management: While 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.
- 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.
Sam4s ER-925: Best Electronic Cash Register for Low- to Mid-Volume Retailers
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. Pricewise, 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. You can also 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 in to the register by attaching a magnetic fob. If you want to collect customer emails for your marketing efforts, or need a system with built-in payment processing, you’ll be better off with Square or Lightspeed.
Sam4s ER-925 Cash Register Features
The ER-925 register connects to a credit card terminal to integrate payments into your checkout. So, it beats the basic 180u right out of the gate since that register has no terminal connections.
Like the 180u, though, the ER-925 can’t match a POS-driven register’s inventory management and inventory tracking tools. However, it does include an SD card that can transfer your sales data to your accounting or reporting software, which helps with basic labor and inventory tracking. This solution isn’t quite as streamlined as a complete POS system, but it’s a solid middle-ground for shopkeepers with administrative time to spare.
Sam4s ER-925’s features include:
- Sales and 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. You can also attach an optional barcode scanner, scale, pole display, and change dispenser. Busy shops may also want to attach the optional second cash drawer so that two cashiers can work out of the same register.
- Taxes and 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.
- Interconnectivity: 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.
- Inventory management: The ER-925 detailed sales by product category and waste tracking features give you much more control over your inventory than the 180u. But they still do not come close to the real-time stock alerts provided by a POS-driven register. If inventory management is an essential feature for you, check out Square or Lightspeed.
- 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.
Lightspeed: Best for High-Volume or Multilocation Retailers & Restaurants
Lightspeed, like Square, is a POS-driven cash register that delivers 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 registers or locations. So, if you have a high-volume store or multilocation business, you need something more robust that can be networked. Lightspeed is one of the best options for businesses of that size and offers great value for its price point. Users should be mindful, though, as this cloud-based system needs a strong internet connection to keep the network running.
Lightspeed POS Cash Register Features
Just like Square, Lightspeed’s POS-driven cash registers deliver far more sales and operational features than ECRs, but Lightspeed offers more register options than Square’s iPad-based system. Lightspeed users can build a cash register solution to meet their exact needs—build a cash register around an iPad tablet or a Mac or PC, plus they can use Android tablets and iPhones as mobile registers. All of these connect to the shining star of Lightspeed’s feature set—advanced inventory management.
A top reason small businesses choose a POS register over a standard register is for the ability to track stock counts, pricing options, and customer data in real time. Here, Lightspeed truly delivers. Its advanced inventory management tools are top-notch, plus it has a robust purchase order system. For sellers managing extensive inventories and multiple vendors, Lightspeed’s fully integrated system takes the place of making daily updates on inventory spreadsheets and sales journals. Plus, you can oversee stock across store locations or in backroom and warehouse storage.
Lightspeed’s features include:
- 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 via email and SMS message.
- Taxes and reporting: Taxes automatically tally per rules that you set in the Lightspeed dashboard. 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 that you can view by custom timeframes to drill into your store’s key performance metrics.
- Interconnectivity: Lightspeed has an “offline mode” to continue operating even if the internet connection is interrupted. However, you should know that some networking functions won’t operate in offline mode and you assume additional risk for card payments that are processed in offline mode. If the card is later declined, you’ll be out of that money.
- Inventory management: Lightspeed 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 is running low, complete purchase orders, and track your vendors.
- Employees: As with all the systems on this list, Lightspeed allows you to create different employee logins to track sales by employee. You can also set customized permissions to block access to certain features. Technically the electronic registers support this same function with manager codes and keys, but with Lightspeed, you can create unlimited users with customized permissions directly in the Lightspeed management dashboard.
Sam4s ER-940: Best Electronic Register for Low to Mid-Volume Restaurants
The Sam4s ER-940 is the restaurant version of the ER-925. This register has all of the ER-925’s bells whistles, with several added restaurant features. For example, the ER-940 replaces the raised key keyboard with a flat, spill-resistant keyboard, designed to withstand any spills behind a counter or bar top.
The ER-940 also has optional connections to high-speed thermal receipt and kitchen printers. Busy bars and cafes will also appreciate the dual cash-drawer option that allows two cashiers or bartenders to work from the same register.
This sturdy electronic cash register is a good fit for small mom-and-pop restaurants that process orders and payments at a counter. The only restaurant function that it is really missing is inventory tracking. If you need a system that tracks your inventory to the ingredient level, you’ll need a POS-driven register like Lightspeed. And restaurants that serve a different menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner may find that even 150 keys are not enough to cover every dish they serve.
Sam4s ER-940 Cash Register Features
The Sam4s ER-940 includes optional connections to high-speed thermal receipt printers, kitchen printers, and kitchen display screens. You can also attach barcode scanners, scales, pole displays, and change dispensers.
Sam4s ER-940’s features include:
- Sales and checkout: The ER-940’s flat, spill-resistant keypad contains 150 programmable keys to accommodate even large menus. There are also keys to designate eat-in, drive-thru, and takeout orders. If your menu changes often, the key sheet is paper, so you can easily change it when your menu changes. Like the ER-925, the ER-940 includes a built-in thermal printer and a customer-facing display. It can also process cash, check, EBT, gift card, and credit/debit card transactions and supports dual cash drawer tills.
- Taxes and reporting: The ER-940’s reporting functions are similar to the ER-925’s. You can print daily reports for each cashier, print stock reports, item sales reports, and void and discount reports. You can also save your reports in the register’s internal SD card and transfer the information to a desktop computer or connect to a computer via the register’s PC utility for further analysis and reporting.
- Interconnectivity: The register itself only requires an electrical outlet to work, but if you attach an integrated or external card reader, you’ll need an ethernet connection to accept card payments.
- Inventory management: The inventory tracking in the ER-940 is basic. You can print reports that show how much of each complete dish you sold in a day, but the system cannot track at the ingredient level. For small restaurants, this might be fine—but if you want ingredient-level inventory tracking with low stock alerts, you’ll be better supported by Lightspeed’s Restaurant POS.
- Employees: Track up to 50 employees in your ER-940, with individual sales reporting for each. Like the ER-925, the ER-940 also features a training mode so that you can teach new staff how to use the register without invalidating your daily reports. Though like all the Sam4s registers, this one does not track employee time. You’ll need a separate time tracking system for payroll purposes.
A Note on Discontinued Cash Registers
A quick Amazon or eBay search will show a ton of results for discontinued Casio and Sharp cash registers. This can raise a question: Can you use a discontinued cash register for your small business? While both Sharp and Casio made excellent, high-functioning registers (that previously scored well on this list), we cannot recommend relying on a discontinued register for several reasons.
- The system may not have a manufacturer’s warranty.
- Replacement parts may not be available if something breaks.
- Many payment processors no longer integrate with discontinued registers.
- Without a detailed manual or customer support, you may struggle to program the register.
If you have a payment processor that will work with a discontinued register and are familiar with how to program it, you can probably make it work. Since Casio stopped manufacturing registers only in 2020, you may still be able to purchase a register with a year warranty and tech support. But with so many strong, well-supported registers and POS systems available at affordable prices, it doesn’t make sense to tie your business to obsolete hardware.
How We Evaluated Cash Registers
We compared each system based on its price, ease of use, and retail and restaurant features. We also 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.
With more customers relying on digital payments and fewer companies manufacturing cash registers, it can be challenging to find a 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 overall cash register for small businesses.
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.