This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
There are several free point-of-sale (POS) software in the market, each offering different sets of functionalities. Most free POS systems have at least register and basic inventory functions while the best also include built-in payment processing and ecommerce tools, multiple payment methods, customer relationship management (CRM), and reports.
We tested top POS systems with forever free plans and evaluated each software based on the quality of available features.
The five best free POS software for small businesses include:
- Square: Best overall best free POS
- Loyverse: Best for quick-service restaurants
- Toast: Best for full-service restaurants
- PayPal Zettle: Best for solopreneurs and PayPal users
- Helcim: Best free basic POS with cheap payment processing
Learn more about POS systems and how to choose the best one for your business.
Top Free POS Systems Compared
There are many low-cost POS systems available with advanced features for less than $100 per month. See our guide to the best POS systems for a peek at the best competitively priced POS systems on the market.
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Square: Best Overall Free POS for Small Businesses
Of all the products we have tested for this update, we find that Square offers the most robust free POS system, with no use limits, and features often found only in paid plans. You can sell in-store, online, and on mobile, and the platform has specialty POS systems for restaurants, retailers, and salons. While its processing fees are more expensive than most―PayPal Zettle offers the least expensive rates―its free plan offers great value for the hobbyist selling at the county fair or the brick-and-mortar business with online sales.
Square continues to lead our list, earning an overall score of 4.22 out of 5. It provides the widest range of free plan options along with a free magstripe card reader to get businesses started right away. It is also the easiest to use, most popular, and best for advanced features—both paid and free. Meanwhile, Square locks users into its built-in payments solution, which some small businesses may find limiting.
The free magstripe/swipe card reader is available with a headphone jack or lightning connector and works even if you are online. You can purchase a second reader for $10.
- Basic POS software: $0 per month
- Advanced POS system: $60 to $69 per month
- Card-present processing fee: 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction
- Keyed-in processing fee and card on file: 3.5% plus 15 cents per transaction
- Online payment processing: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction
- Card readers: From $49
- Terminals: From $149
- 30-day free trial for Plus plans
- Invoicing Plus: $20 per month
- Team Plus: $35 per month
- Payroll: $35 per month plus $5 per employee
- Marketing: Starts at $15 per month
- Loyalty program: Starts at $45 per month
POS and upgrades: Square’s POS system offers all the functions needed to run your store as well as have an online presence. If you need advanced features, the Pro plan costs $60 a month ($69 for Appointments POS). This is more expensive than some of the other providers on our list, which have plans of $50 or less. However, the paid plans still offer a good value overall, as comparable systems cost around $75 to $100 per month.
Payment processing: You are locked into using Square for payment processing. The other free POS software on this list either have lower rates or let you bring in a third-party app. However, Square does offer discounts for businesses doing more than $250,000 a year in credit card processing.
Hardware: Square’s free plan includes a mobile POS app, so you can start selling even without a card reader. On top of that, it also gives you your first magstripe reader free while an EMV chip reader costs only $49. Full POS systems run from $149 to $799. These prices compare well to most of the software on our list. Get the complete guide to Square fees.
Notable Square Features
- Restaurants: Square has a kitchen display system (KDS) and basic time clock functions as well as menu and table management. However, Square KDS requires a Pro plan subscription at $60 per month.
- Appointments: Square offers a version of its free POS system for one staff calendar. You can schedule appointments, send reminders, and sell items or classes. None of the other POS systems on our list include calendar functions like this.
- Multichannel sales: Like Zettle, Square works for multichannel sales, from the free online store to the Square payments button on your social media. One of its best free features of Square is the strong integrated contactless ordering, pickup, and delivery features.
- Integrations: If you need something that Square does not provide, it’s easy to find a third-party integration. Square integrates with more third-party applications than any of the free POS systems on our list.
- Invoicing: If you need invoicing capability, then Square can provide this for free. The processing fee for invoice payments is 2.9% plus 30 cents, or 1% if paid by automated clearing house (ACH), which has a minimum of $1.
- Mobile app: With a 4.8 out of 5 rating based on about 340,000 reviews, Square POS ranks No. 40 for Business in the Apple App Store. Users on Google Play give it 4.8 stars with nearly 169,000 reviews. Square also tops our list of the best free iPhone credit card readers.
Square can track customer information but, for loyalty, you need the add-on. Look at Loyverse if you need this feature for free.
Unless you have the paid Team Management add-on, you can only assign single permission and simple login capability. Helcim includes advanced team management features in its free plan.
When to Upgrade Square
Unlike the other POS software on this list, Square gives you plenty of reasons and ways to upgrade. In addition to getting advanced inventory, reports, and team management, there are paid add-ons for loyalty, marketing, and payroll. No other POS system offers so many native add-ons. Cost to upgrade: $12 to $72 for software and from $49 for hardware.
Loyverse: Best for Inventory Management & CRM for Quick-service Restaurants
Loyverse is a popular free POS system because it offers so much for free: POS, analytics, inventory, kitchen display, and customer display. The free KDS is one reason we recommend it for quick-service restaurants (QSRs), but it also has inventory tools like variants and real-time tracking for small food-based retailers. Loyverse is also the only system on this list that offers a free integrated loyalty program as most popular POS software charge extra for this feature.
If you are running a restaurant and don’t want to use Square as your payment processor, Loyverse is worth considering because it lets you choose your merchant service. Loyverse earned an overall score of 4.05 out of 5, scoring better than Toast and Square for flexible hardware options and upgrade cost. It also rivals Square in terms of restaurant features. The absence of key tools like employee management and ecommerce prevented the system from getting a better score.
- POS is free
- Payment processing: Varies―separate merchant account required
- Card readers starting at: Not applicable
- POS systems starting at: Varies
- Employee management: $5 per month, per employee
- Advanced inventory: $25 per month, per store
- Integrations: $9 per month, per store
- 14-day free trial on add-ons
POS and upgrades: Loyverse’s POS, dashboard, kitchen display, and customer display programs are all free. The free loyalty program on top of a robust suite of POS features also gives users a huge incentive for choosing Loyverse. Aside from Square’s restaurant version, most of the POS systems on our list with kitchen display options charge or put it in a paid plan, while others need a third-party application.
It has no upgraded POS plan, but if you want to add employee management or advanced inventory, those cost $25 per month. These prices are better than the prices Square and Toast charge for their add-ons. However, Loyverse alone charges for the ability to integrate with third-party systems.
Payment processing: Loyverse works with multiple payment processors and merchant accounts, including Zettle. As such, you can shop around for the best rates. If you get interchange-plus pricing, it may be cheaper than Square.
Hardware: You’ll get a card reader from your payment provider. Square, Toast, and Zettle either give or sell you one. Loyverse, in the meantime, sells its POS systems for $439 and up, which is more expensive than Square or Zettle. The terminals are Android-only. You need a tablet for iOS.
Notable Loyverse Features
- Restaurant features: Loyverse has register and inventory features that make it excellent for small or quick-service restaurants. These include split payments, menu creation, composites for tracking ingredients, kitchen printers, KDS, and tracking stock of items that are produced from ingredients. It’s a great choice if you just need the basics.
- CRM and loyalty: Loyverse takes the lead for its customer management and loyalty features, with Zettle a close second. It not only lets you store customer information and create a points-based program, but it also lets you create loyalty cards and track purchase history. This is part of the free system.
- Multiple integrated payment processing: Unlike Square or Helcim, Loyverse does not tie you to its payment processor. Instead, it offers several payment integrations from Worldpay, SumUp, and PayPal Zettle.
- Mobile: Loyverse has 4.6 out of 5 stars on the Apple App Store with around 270 reviews and 4.3 out of 5 stars on Google Play with more than 9,000 reviews. Users say it’s a great app with great customer support.
Loyverse can integrate with Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce but if you prefer native ecommerce tools in the free plan, try Square. If you want delivery integrations to go with your online store, try Toast.
While Square and Zettle let you integrate with third-party software, Loyverse charges extra to have access to third-party integrations, consider Square or Zettle as an alternative.
When to Upgrade Loyverse
Busy restaurants and caterers wanting to track ingredients should consider adding Loyverse’s advanced inventory and employee management, which includes time clocks, sales tracking, and efficiency reports. Better yet, restaurants that have the budget for a paid system should consider investing in one of our recommended restaurant POS systems. Cost to upgrade: $5 to $25 for add-on software.
Toast: Best for Full-service Restaurants
Toast has an impressive pay-as-you-go plan which includes a complete software, payment processing, and hardware solution without an upfront cost or monthly software fee. This is a welcome addition for full-service restaurant owners who love the software but find its hardware requirements too expensive.
A full menu and inventory management features come with the free plan, so it’s a great option for sit-down restaurants that only need a single checkout.
Toast earned an overall score of 3.97 out of 5 overall in our evaluation. You would not find another zero upfront cost option with industry-grade hardware and full-featured software anywhere else. However, the processing fee is considerably higher and the free plan is only meant for single-user access, so you can’t add team management tools. Software and hardware upgrades are also quite expensive.
Pay-as-You-Go Starter Kit
- Upfront cost: $0
- Monthly software cost: $0
- Card-present transaction fee: 2.99% plus 15 cents (platform rate)
- Keyed-in transaction fee: 2.99% plus 15 cents (platform rate)
- Add-on software cost (Growth Plan): 0.4% per transaction (includes online ordering, email marketing, loyalty management and gift card management)
- Contract length: Two years
- Inactivity fee: $85 per month; fee waived if at least one credit card transaction is processed in the preceding 90-day period
POS and upgrades: Toast offers two basic plans: the pay-as-you-go and standard plans. Both include a long-term contract, but the pay-as-you-go option doesn’t charge you anything upfront. However, you get higher transaction rates and an inactivity fee of $85. Higher subscription plans range from $69 to $272 per month and give you access to optional add-ons and team management tools instantly.
Payment processing: A single platform rate of 2.99% plus 15 cents is applied for both card-present and card-not-present transactions if you subscribe to the pay-as-you-go option, and an additional 0.4% if you subscribe to the set of add-on tools. Processing rates for the standard basic plan are 2.49% plus 15 cents for card-present and 3.5% plus 15 cents for card-not-present transactions.
Overall, Toast’s payment processing rates are competitive if you consider options like Square, which has 2.6% plus 10 cents per card-present and 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed-in transaction.
Hardware: The Toast hardware kit comes with two free plan options: A countertop kit (Toast POS Flex terminal, Toast Tap payment device, and router) and a handheld kit (Toast Go2, wireless access point, and router). There is no upfront or monthly subscription cost, but the processing fees are significantly higher.
The standard plan countertop hardware kit has an upfront cost of $799, which consists of a Toast Flex POS terminal, while the standard handheld kit cost starts at $609, Toast Tap payment device, and a router. An optional customer display costs an additional $200. It’s $389 plus $50 per month for the software fee for the handheld kit.
Notable Toast Features
- Toast loyalty: This allows you to sign up your customers from the checkout counter and link their credit cards, so there’s no need for a separate loyalty card. You can also customize your points-based rewards program and offer personalized rewards by analyzing your customer’s buying history.
- Toast marketing: Manage your email marketing task from a single platform with Toast marketing. It allows you to create message templates and customize them according to your customer’s purchase history and track your marketing campaign’s performance in real time.
- Digital ordering: Toast POS software supports online ordering and mobile app orders with the Toast Takeout app. Your inventory is integrated, so available menu items are always updated. If you add Toast Delivery, you have the option to choose between managing your in-house delivery team or integrating with third-party delivery apps.
- Toast Inventory: Toast Inventory allows you to track ingredients and monitor inventory for low stock. You can manage your menu and sync it in real time, so you don’t display items that are no longer available. xtraCHEF adds the ability to scan invoices, place orders and payments to suppliers, get rebates from manufacturers, and more.
Toast’s free plan is meant for a single user. Therefore, it does not support employee and payroll management tools. Consider Loyverse as an alternative because, with its free plan, you can choose to add the feature. PayPal includes basic team management in its free plan but doesn’t have the restaurant features.
When to Upgrade Toast
Toast’s free plan is perfect for small, full-service restaurants, but you will have to consider upgrading to a paid plan if you find that your business is expanding quickly or you wish to add mobile, online, and delivery to your source of revenue. Additionally, you might want to upgrade if you see a steady increase in your monthly sales from both online and dine-in customers to save on transaction fees. Cost to upgrade: From $69 for add-on software.
Learn more in our full Toast POS review
PayPal Zettle: Best for Solopreneurs & PayPal Users
PayPal Zettle is a free, full-featured POS system (replacing PayPal Here) that offers both in-person and online sales solutions. It also allows you to accept card payments, gift cards, and digital wallets as well as peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, such as Venmo and PayPal quick response (QR) codes. This makes PayPal Zettle a great option for solopreneurs, hobbyists, and other microbusinesses.
For this update, PayPal Zettle earned an overall score of 3.79 out of 5, standing out from the other providers in our list for offering native integration to PayPal payment options. Popularly known as the best alternative to Square for mobile and POS payments, PayPal Zettle beat Square for pricing but fell short on inventory and sales management tools. It also does not support offline payment processing and lacks vendor and loyalty management features like Helcim.
PayPal Zettle Pricing
- Card-present processing fee: 2.29% plus 9 cents
- Keyed-in processing fee: 3.49% plus 9 cents
- QR code processing fee: 1.9% plus 10 cents for transactions of $10.01 and above, 2.29% plus 5 cents for transactions of $10 and below.
- Card readers: $79 (first card reader discounted $29)
- Terminals: From $249
POS: Zettle’s entire POS system is free with the use of PayPal’s payment processing. There are no premium plans like Square but also no limited uses or features.
Payment processing: PayPal Zettle charges 2.29% plus 9 cents for card-present transactions, and 3.49% plus 9 cents for keyed-in transactions, which are extremely reasonable for flat-rate fees and considerably lower than Square’s fees. Helcim charges interchange-plus rates while Loyverse lets you choose your own payment provider, so you may find better prices with an interchange-plus merchant service.
Hardware: PayPal Zettle does not have a free card reader like Square but sells you your first reader at a steep discount. You can use this with your tablet or desktop, but if you want to upgrade to a full countertop setup, Zettle also offers four hardware POS kits with a combination of touch screen, receipt printer, barcode scanner, or handheld devices. Prices for terminals run from $249 to $499, which makes them among the cheapest on our list.
Notable PayPal Zettle Features
- Scalable: Zettle rivals Square primarily for versatility. This flexible system is good for solopreneurs while large international corporations use PayPal in general and can be an addition or your main payment system. While it does not have as many software integrations as Square does, it does work with third-party apps and has greater reach as a payment processor.
- Bulk inventory functions: Zettle lets you load inventory in bulk, make bulk assignments of categories, delete items in bulk, or make edits to multiple items or variants at once. We only found this many bulk features with Square, which is not as easy.
- Multichannel sales: Like Square, Zettle is well suited for multichannel sales, with its own online store or the capability to integrate with popular ecommerce solutions like Shopify and WooCommerce. In addition, PayPal is one of the most commonly accepted payment systems in the world; you can add a PayPal button or link to anything from a newsletter to a website.
- Mobile: PayPal’s Zettle mobile app for Android has more than 38,000 reviews and a score of 4.1 out of 5. For iOS, there are only about 400 reviews and a score of 3.2 out of 5. Your phone or tablet needs iOS 10 or Android 5.0, or higher.
Zettle requires a connection to the internet. If you need offline international payment processing, look at Square or Helcim.
Zettle’s inventory management function does not include kitting and vendor management tools. Consider Square or Loyverse for alternatives that offer these features.
When to Upgrade Zettle
Zettle has no upgrades or add-ons, except for third-party applications. You can integrate Zettle with ecommerce software like BigCommerce, accounting software like QuickBooks, appointment software like Timely, or even other POS software like Lightspeed and Loyverse. So, if you like PayPal for payment processing, but Zettle does not quite fit the bill, there are third-party options. Most, however, come with a fee. Cost to upgrade: Various third-party integrations.
Helcim: Cheap POS Payments Processing for Growing Businesses
Helcim is a popular name in payment processing, particularly for its automatic volume discounts (card-present processing fees average 1.92% plus 8 cents). However, while its free POS software has been around for some time, the software received significant updates in July of last year. It now includes advanced inventory tracking, customizable interface, and a user-friendly checkout page. Coupled with its built-in ecommerce tools and customer management features, Helcim is now one of the best free POS systems for growing businesses. It also tops our list of best credit card processing for retailers.
Helcim earned an overall score of 3.77 out of 5 for this update. While its features are not as sophisticated as those of Square, Helcim does provide a complete suite of retailer tools, including a native website builder and free inventory management. However, Helcim lost points for lacking free hardware options, requiring an expensive card reader ($109) as an upfront cost, and limited integrations with other software.
- Card-present fee: 0.10% plus 5 cents to 0.30% plus 8 cents
- Card-not-present fee: 0.20% plus 10 cents to 0.50% plus 25 cents
- ACH payment: 0.5% plus 25 cents per approved transaction
- International payment processing: Currency conversion fee of 1% above the daily 5 p.m. Eastern time market rate
- Card reader: $109
POS: Helcim’s POS software comes free with every Helcim merchant account so, unlike Square, you won’t need to sign up for an upgraded plan or add-ons to access advanced features. Users can have their products and services stored in a catalog while also getting advanced employee management tools, invoicing, and customer management functions without having to pay extra.
Payment processing: As with Square, users are locked into Helcim’s payment processor, although that may not be so much of a disadvantage considering this is what sets Helcim apart from other merchant providers.
Helcim offers automatic volume discount pricing, which means you get lower credit card processing fees with more sales so that you don’t have to upgrade or apply for discounts. Helcim’s average processing fee comes up to 1.92% plus 8 cents for card-present transactions (vs Square’s 2.6% plus 10 cents) and 2.38% plus 25 cents for card-not-present transactions (vs Square’s 2.9% plus 30 cents for online and 3.5% plus 15 cents for keyed in).
Hardware: Helcim does not provide free hardware, but the free POS software can run on iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows so you can use existing desktops, tablets, and smartphones. However, you will need to purchase the credit card reader to start accepting payments with the POS. At $109, Helcim’s 3-in-1 card reader is very similar to PayPal Zettle’s but is not offered with a discount and is among the most expensive on the market.
Notable Helcim Features
- Completely free POS features: Helcim’s full POS software features are completely free. This includes inventory and price management features. You can even upload product images. It also includes advanced employee management and reporting tools.
- Native ecommerce tools: Like Square, Helcim is equipped with built-in ecommerce that integrates your online and in-store sales. Advanced store options are also available with tools to track your website’s performance. Helcim also comes with free online ordering tools compatible with small restaurants and cafes.
- Free customer portal: Part of Helcim’s CRM features is a free customer portal, which you won’t always find available in free plans from most popular POS providers. This is ideal for subscription-based retailers and those that offer product rentals.
- Level 2 and 3 payment processing: Helcim POS comes with a built-in payment processing solution that supports business-to-business (B2Bs) sellers. Both level 2 and 3 payment processing features tie in efficiently with Helcim’s automatic volume discount processing method that lowers interchange rates significantly.
- Mobile: There is not much feedback for Helcim’s mobile app, but those who did leave a review seem to either like the app a great deal or did not like it at all. It earned 2.6 out of 5 stars from around 20 reviews on the Apple App Store and 2.9 out of 5 stars from around 50 reviews on Google Play.
Like PayPal Zettle, Helcim does not offer vendor management tools―not even direct third-party integrations to support this requirement. Instead, check out our list of top POS inventory systems.
The system also lacks loyalty program management tools. If this is a deal breaker for you, consider Loyverse or upgrading to a paid Square plan at $60 per month.
When to Upgrade Helcim
Helcim’s POS software is completely free, so there is no available option to upgrade the system. Invoicing, however, is an optional payment method, which means you can start without paying for this feature and eventually add this payment option as your business grows. It’s also important to note that Helcim’s POS integration is very limited and users may find themselves looking for additional third-party apps to manage a growing business. Cost to upgrade: 0.5% plus 25 cents to 1% for additional ACH payment option
How We Chose the Best Free POS Software
We wanted to give our readers a list of reliable and truly free POS software, so we focused on providers that offer zero upfront cost and no monthly fees. We then compared the quality of features included in each free plan. Five out of a dozen POS systems for a variety of industries stood out as reliable, well-featured systems with strong user approval.
Of these, Square ranks No. 1. This isn’t a surprise as its POS system is always free and has upgrades to grow with you. It’s ranked on our lists of best POS software, best POS systems for restaurants, best payment gateways, best mobile card readers, and more.
Click through the tabs below for our full evaluation criteria:
30% of Overall Score
Free plans do not mean free everything. We looked at the limitations of the free plan, the cost to upgrade, any upfront costs, and hardware. Square topped the list, Loyverse came in second while Toast ranked third.
20% of Overall Score
This score addressed the tools in the free plan for sales, inventory, customer management, employee management, and loyalty. Only PayPal Zettle scored 4 stars in this category while Toast and Helcim ranked the lowest with 3.5 out of 5 stars.
15% of Overall Score
This section considered added value in the free plan, such as features specific to restaurants or retail, the ability to manage more than one store, and integrations. Square leads in this category far and away, scoring 3.81 stars.
20% of Overall Score
Free is no good unless it’s easy. Here, we considered customer support, storage, if it worked on desktop and mobile, and other features that make the system easy to implement. All the providers in our list did well here, with Helcim earning a perfect score.
15% of Overall Score
Here we considered the experience of our team, who has decades of personal use and research, and the reviews of current users of the system. Toast received a perfect score but all the products did well.
Free POS Software Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I set up a POS system for free?
Depending on your business type, there are many options that allow you to set up a POS system for free without any upfront cost. Most free POS systems can allow you to download a mobile POS software for free and start selling from your available mobile device. Other providers offer a free card reader like Square or an all-in-one zero monthly subscription like Toast.
Can I do POS with my phone?
The best POS software includes a mobile POS software which you can download and install on your mobile device for free. However, you will need to consider the hardware and software compatibility as well as the card reader options. Read our list of best mobile POS apps.
Which POS system is the cheapest?
The cheapest POS system is not necessarily the best option. You need to consider the available features that come with the software and match it with your business needs. Square is a strong competitor for the cheapest―and value for money―POS system. It comes with industry-specific features and free built-in tools like a website-builder.
If you need a basic POS system, there are free ones that do the job. Those listed above are our top picks for POS systems and are great to get you started—and they may be all you need. If not, most offer reasonable upgrades in plans or add-ons.
We recommend Square as the best free POS software for small businesses because it offers a free version with unlimited uses and an extensive register and inventory feature set for practically all business types. It even has a free online store so you are not tied to physical sales. The processing fees are reasonable, especially for the occasional user.