A point-of-sale (POS) system lets small business owners accept payments and helps manage a business with various features. The best POS systems let you track inventory and sales, manage employees, grow customer relationships, and analyze data. You can find POS systems that range in price from free to $100 or so per month.
Top 6 POS Systems for Small Business 2019
|Square POS||(Best Overall) Most businesses needing a free and immediate point-of-sale system|
|Lightspeed Retail||Small to large retailers that want excellent inventory management|
|ShopKeep||Small boutique and specialty shops wanting an iPad POS system with a built-in payment processor|
|Toast POS||Any size restaurant or bar needing POS software made specifically for the food-service industry|
|Shopify||Ecommerce businesses that need a POS system along with an online shopping cart|
|Vend||All sizes of businesses needing a point-of-sale solution with built-in loyalty features for customers|
Which POS System Is Right for You?
If you’re ready to find out which POS system is the best for your industry, size, or budget, then take our short quiz. Just answer a few questions, and you’ll be paired with the POS software that suits you best.
How We Evaluated POS Systems for Small Business
When reviewing POS systems, we considered everything from the monthly cost and transaction fees to ease of use and customer support. It’s important you also know which devices each point-of-sale system requires, so you’ll know whether you have to invest in new equipment. All the POS software on our list operate in the cloud or use a hybrid solution, so your data remain safe and encrypted, and you can access your data anywhere.
To find the best POS system for small business, we considered these standards:
- Price: We considered the monthly fee, cost of add-on features, and payment processing fees where applicable.
- Ease of Use: The best systems are intuitive and easy for anyone to pick up and use immediately.
- Payment Processing: We looked at both POS systems with built-in payment processing and those that require a third-party merchant services provider.
- Inventory Management: All the systems we considered include inventory management to some degree, but some are more advanced or work for niche industries.
- Customer Relationship Management: At the very least, a POS system should allow you to make customer profiles, and at best, loyalty programs, email marketing, and gift cards are offered as features.
- Employee Management: We considered systems that offer staff management, such as scheduling, time clocks, and user permissions.
- Online Sales: We looked at POS software that offer built-in ecommerce support or integrated solutions.
- Integrations: From bookkeeping to marketing, all POS systems should offer integrations to help complete your ability to manage all aspects of your small business.
- Customer Support: We considered the level of customer support satisfaction and availability for each system.
Taking all the above criteria into account, we recommend Square POS as the best POS system for small businesses that want a low-cost option that supports online, mobile, and brick-and-mortar stores. You can get a free account, and the built-in payment processor is a convenient solution that helps startups get up and running quickly.
Square POS: Best Overall POS System for Small Businesses
Square POS is the best point-of-sale system for most small businesses that want no startup costs, a built-in payment processor, and business management tools. It’s easy to use, from inventory control to running reports, the POS app works on iOS and Android devices, and all accounts can get a free magstripe (swipe) reader.
Square POS Pricing
The Square POS app is free to use, which means no monthly fee unless you choose add-on features to make managing your business easier. The built-in payment processor comes with slightly higher fees than you might find with Lightspeed Retail and a third-party merchant services provider. Modules are inexpensive, though, and you can add only what you need, and skip what you don’t. Another bright spot for Square POS is that it can accept offline payments, which is helpful if you’re selling while on the go and have no internet service.
Square POS Pricing
- Point-of-sale app: Free
- Processing fee (magstripe, chip, contactless)*: 2.6% + 10 cents per transaction
- Keyed-in payment fee: 3.5% + 15 cents per transaction
- Square Reader (magstripe): Free
- Square Reader (chip): $35
- Square Reader (chip and contactless): $49
- Square Terminal (all payments, receipt printer): $399
- Square Register (all payments, two screens): $999
*Processing fee is slightly lower if you opt for the Square Register (2.5% + 10 cents per transaction)
Square POS Features
Considering the free price point of Square POS and all the features you get, it’s a better value than most other POS systems. You’ll be able to manage inventory, create customer profiles, manage staff, and get reports on sales. Opt for the paid add-on features, such as loyalty programs, payroll, marketing, and gift cards, and you can craft a point-of-sale system that’s perfectly suited to you.
Square POS Inventory Management
You can add items to your Square POS inventory one at a time, or import all your products in one fell swoop with a CSV spreadsheet. The cloud-based POS software makes it possible for you to access your inventory from any iOS device wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection. Daily stock alerts are sent to your email, so you’ll know when stock is low. While Square POS inventory control is easy to use, it isn’t nearly as advanced as Lightspeed Retail.
Square POS Customer Profiles
Square POS gets that customers are the heart of your business, so it includes light customer relationship management (CRM) in its free POS system. Add customer information in bulk with CSV spreadsheet imports, or add customer profiles in one by one. Alternatively, you can let the system add personal information of your customers automatically after purchases. You can collect contact information, and there’s a section for notes. Vend offers more robust and customizable customer management than Square POS.
Square POS Staff Management
Square POS keeps it simple and basic with its free staff management features. Your employees can ring up a sale and issue a refund, but that’s about it. For more advanced employee management features, you’ll have to get the add-on feature.
Square POS Reporting
The Square POS data analytics feature lets you study a variety of reports, so you’ll know how your business is doing. You can track sales, customers, and inventory through reports. You can find out what the average sale is, how many customers are new or repeat business, and even which hour is your busiest for the day.
Square POS Paid Add-ons
You could run your business only on the free Square POS, or you can add advanced features along with some small monthly fees. Employee management costs $5 per employee per month, and it includes user permissions, a time clock, scheduling, and labor-specific reports. Square Payroll seamlessly integrates with Square POS’ employee management feature; it imports timecards automatically and your employees get paid automatically. It costs $29 per month, plus $5 per employee per month. Marketing with Square POS is an add-on that starts at $15 per month, and loyalty programs start at $25 per month.
What Square POS Is Missing
Square POS sticks to the basics, which means you aren’t going to find many advanced features or detailed reports, like you can get from Lightspeed Retail. Otherwise, you’ll have to add on the paid features Square offers, but doing so can cause your monthly fees to rise to the same price as Vend, which includes a lot of the same features as part of its core software.
Square POS Reviews
What people seem to note in Square POS reviews are that the software is easy to use, and that it’s free to get started. Also, the fees are predictable, as Square doesn’t have any hidden fees or variable rates. The missing advanced features are Square POS’ biggest issue, according to most reviewers.
How to Get Square POS
Square POS has an intuitive interface that many users love, and the low-cost POS system includes all the basics you need to run a small business. If you need something more, there are add-on features or integrations to create a more complete point-of-sale system for your business. Get a free account, and start using it today.
Lightspeed Retail: Best POS System for Inventory Management
Lightspeed Retail is a POS system meant for mid- to large-sized businesses with massive inventories that need to be categorized by multiple variants. It’s a good option for multi-location businesses, as you can manage all inventories from the one point-of-sale system. Lightspeed Retail is more expensive than most POS systems.
Lightspeed Retail Pricing
The core POS system from Lightspeed Retail starts at $99, which is a bit more expensive than most systems, though you may be able to get a discount if you’re operating multiple stores. For a custom package, you’ll have to call Lightspeed for a quote. Add-ons are limited to an ecommerce plan and a loyalty feature; each start at $59 per month. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial to see if Lightspeed Retail is right for you.
Lightspeed Retail Pricing
- Point-of-sale app (monthly): $99
- Processing fees: Pick your own payment processor
- iPad hardware kit (stand, printer, cash drawer, Bluetooth scanner, receipt paper): $699
Lightspeed Retail Features
Lightspeed Retail focuses on building out a couple of features to make them robust and well worth the monthly fee, if you need them. Inventory and reporting are the stars of this point-of-sale system. You can create purchase orders, order new stock, and manage everything from the cloud-based POS system. There are also more than 40 reports, so you can get down to granular data to find out what your best-selling item is, which employees are performing best, and more insight into your business.
Lightspeed Retail Inventory Management
Lightspeed Retail offers the most advanced inventory system among point-of-sale software. Add your items to the inventory, and then tag them with searchable terms, which makes it easy to find in your system. The descriptors help you isolate an exact item (color, material, size, etc.). Plus, Lightspeed uploads vendor catalogues to its system, making it easy for you to reorder stock whenever you run low.
Lightspeed Retail Reporting
Lightspeed Retail lets you roll out the most common reports for businesses, such as end-of-day reports, sales history, and customer history. You’ll also find employee performance reports in this POS system, like you can find in Square POS, and dozens more to allow you to dig deep into the data the system collects.
Lightspeed Retail Customer Management
If you stick to the base POS software of Lightspeed Retail, you’ll find that its CRM features are similar to Square POS, that is, simple customer profiles. However, there’s a loyalty add-on feature that expands what you can do with (and for) your customers. The loyalty add-on gets you a rewards program, automated email marketing campaigns, one-time deals (such as for VIP customers), and coupons.
Lightspeed Retail Payment Processing
You won’t find a built-in payment processor with Lightspeed Retail, like with Square POS, but this allows you to shop around for the lowest transaction fees for your business. You can integrate TSYS (formerly known as Cayan) with Lightspeed Retail to accept payments. The merchant service provider has an interchange-plus model for its fees, which you can learn more about here.
What Lightspeed Retail Is Missing
When you consider the cost of Lightspeed Retail, it’s a bit surprising that you have to tack on add-on features and their fees to get a more complete point-of-sale system than ShopKeep, for example. If you were to add those features, like Loyalty and ecommerce, you’re looking at paying more than $200 per month. Also, unlike most other POS systems, Lightspeed Retail requires you to sign a contract, which means you’re stuck with it if you don’t like it until your contract ends.
Lightspeed Retail Reviews
Overall, most users agree in Lightspeed Retail reviews that the POS system is easy to use, offers several helpful tools for inventory and reporting, and that it offers excellent customer support. However, there was a bit of frustration regarding extra costs for advanced reporting and add-on features, like loyalty and ecommerce.
How to Get Lightspeed Retail
Lightspeed Retail is POS software that goes beyond the basics with core features that seem like they’re advanced. Mid- to large-sized companies with vast inventories will appreciate the detail with which they can tag and categorize items, and reports help highlight areas where your business is succeeding or where it could use improvements. The cloud-based POS system works on an iPad, and you can try it free for 14 days.
ShopKeep: Best POS System for Specialty Shops
ShopKeep is a cloud-based POS system that works on iPads, and it offers personal attention to its customers, which are typically small- to mid-sized specialty shops. Part of the reason ShopKeep seems tailor-made for a specialty or boutique shop is because of the customization allowed in its inventory, dashboard, and other features.
Unlike Square POS, ShopKeep doesn’t publish its pricing anywhere—rather, you have to speak with a representative to get a custom quote. Based on a few third-party reports, you’re looking at paying $69 to $78 per month for the paid point-of-sale system, which is about average for the industry. ShopKeep offers a free version of its POS software, but its limitations on the number of employees, items in inventory, registers, locations, and even the amount you do in sales are strict.
- Point-of-sale app: ~$69
- ShopKeep Payments: Interchange-plus + transaction fee
- Pick-your-own payment processor: Interchange-plus + gateway fee
- Bluetooth reader (magstripe, chip, contactless): $329
- Mobile register kit (iPad mini enclosure, magstripe): $198
- Basic Hardware Kit (cash drawer, printer, iPad enclosure, card reader): $809
ShopKeep offers helpful features in its POS system, from back-office tools to features for sales staff. The register features would work well for small bars, restaurants, or retail shops. Staff management, inventory control, customer management, and reporting are all included in this POS software with no added costs, unless you want to integrate third-party apps.
ShopKeep Inventory Management
Perhaps the only other system on this list to rival ShopKeep’s inventory control is Lightspeed Retail. Although ShopKeep is meant for small businesses, it offers surprisingly powerful inventory tools. You can add items the same as you can in any POS software, but with ShopKeep, you can create a parent item and then apply variants to it, such as size, color, material, etc. ShopKeep also lets you add inventory as raw goods and then you can create bundles, which is helpful for food-based businesses and for the weighted average cost feature, which helps with sales projections and reporting.
ShopKeep Staff Management
The paid version of ShopKeep allows you an unlimited number of employees with unique login code, and the clock-in and clock-out buttons are right there on the keypad on your iPad register. A manager or owner can then run a time clock report to track hours worked.
Reporting in ShopKeep gives you access to numerous reports on what goes on through the POS software. Sales, inventory, staff, and customer reports are there, and you can go deep into the data to see what your best-selling products are, who’s selling the most among employees, what your inventory value is, who your top customers are, percentage of clicks in marketing emails, and much more.
ShopKeep Integrations & Payments
ShopKeep would prefer you use its integrated payment solution, which means you’d pay interchange-plus rates, which unlike Square POS’ fixed rate fees, may vary. The company offers a best-match guarantee, so it’s possible you’ll get low rates with ShopKeep Payments. You can choose to add your own payment processor, but you’ll have to pay a gateway fee to ShopKeep.
Although ShopKeep doesn’t offer many integrations, it pairs well with two of the biggest ones for small business. Like most other POS software, including Toast POS and Vend, ShopKeep integrates with QuickBooks, which helps simplify your bookkeeping and accounting. Another integration you might want is Mailchimp for email marketing.
What ShopKeep Is Missing
On one hand, ShopKeep includes powerful tools in its POS system, which makes it a valuable choice for the small businesses it attracts. However, it missed an opportunity to target sit-down restaurants with its lack of table mapping. The price you’re quoted is per register, which may be the average for the industry, but it gets expensive when you add more registers. Also, its free version is far more limiting than Square POS.
When it comes to functionality, those who are leaving ShopKeep reviews seem split on the topic. It’s an easy-to-use system, and the customization makes it possible to set up your register with the most-used buttons front and center. However, there are glitches and bugs reported too, such as double charges and conflicting numbers in sales reports. Customer support gets positive reviews for helpful and friendly reps and walk-throughs with issues. With that said, there are also negative reports about long waits for customer service and pat answers, rather than fixes to problems.
How to Get ShopKeep
ShopKeep is known for giving small businesses the tools they need to manage their business, from inventory to staff to customers, at a reasonable price. The actual cost varies per business, and micro-businesses might be able to get by using the free version of ShopKeep. To get started, head over to ShopKeep’s website, and fill out a short form.
Toast POS: Best POS System for Restaurants & Bars
Toast POS combines built-in payment processing and useful back-end and front-of-house features to become an all-in-one POS system meant for food-based businesses. In addition to inventory, reporting, and staff management, you also get restaurant-specific features, like menu and tip management. The POS software runs on Android devices, which is unique compared to most POS systems.
Toast POS Pricing
The monthly cost of Toast POS’ core software is $79 per register, which is slightly higher than the average price of point-of-sale systems, but when you factor in add-on features and installation, you’re looking at a much higher price tag. Installation starts at $499. Add-on features range from $25 to $50 per feature per month. This is far more expensive than Square POS or ShopKeep, both of which could be used for small restaurants.
Toast POS Pricing
- Point-of-sale app (monthly): $79
- Installation: $499+
- Toast POS Payments (fixed flat fees): Not disclosed
- Starter bundle (10” terminal, flip stand, magstripe card reader): $899
- Toast Go (handheld POS, card reader): $600
Toast POS Features
Like all POS systems, Toast POS includes inventory control, reporting, staff management, and customer profiles, but it also offers time tracking, menu management, and other niche features for those in the food-service industry. Add-on features, such as loyalty, gift cards, and online ordering, are available at an added cost. Another bonus with Toast POS is that it can continue to operate if it goes offline, including payments, like Square POS.
Toast POS Inventory Management
In Toast POS, you can track inventory down to the ingredient level, which is helpful for restaurants and bars that need to know where they stand in maraschino cherries and for keeping tabs on pours. The only other point-of-sale system that comes close to this sort of inventory control is ShopKeep. However, in Toast POS, you get a food cost calculator and a recipe costing tool, which are uncommon tools, even among other restaurant POS systems.
Toast POS Menu Management
A must-have feature for any restaurant is menu management, and Toast POS includes an easy-to-use one. Create the categories you need, such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then add subcategories, such as appetizers, salads, etc. Within those subcategories, you’ll be able to add the menu items, which you can price according to the recipe costing tool you use in the inventory tool. There are also easy modifiers, so a customer can customize a sandwich, pizza, or any other menu item that allows for choices.
Toast POS Reporting
Although Lightspeed Retail includes excellent reporting options, Toast POS provides restaurant-specific reporting. Sales and labor reports are standard for any POS system, but Toast POS also lets you run reports on tips, total guests, table turn time, and more. Want to know how many covers an employee served? You can get that from Toast POS.
Toast POS Add-ons
Toast POS is a mostly complete POS system for any restaurant, but if you have the monthly cash to get the add-on features, you’ll get even more out of this POS software. Online ordering allows you to accept orders from your own website (no third-party commissions to pay), and your establishment can handle pick-ups and delivery itself. The loyalty program includes a rewards system that keeps customers coming back to earn points, birthday rewards, or signup bonuses—it’s customizable, so it’s up to you how to set it up. You can also get physical or digital gift cards for your guests to purchase to use at your restaurant.
What Toast POS Is Missing
If you choose Toast POS as your go-to POS system for your bar or restaurant, you’ll be locked into its payment processing system. That means you won’t be able to integrate your current merchant services provider or shop around for better rates. Also, if you’re in the iOS-preferred camp, you’ll be out of luck with Toast POS, as it only works with Android devices.
Toast POS Reviews
The Toast POS reviews from users are mostly positive, with people pointing out the ease of use, friendly customer support, and all the restaurant-specific reports and features. The payment processing from Toast POS is mostly seen as a good thing, but there are some reviews from disgruntled users who claim their rate is higher than what they had paid with their previous merchant services provider.
How to Get Toast POS
Toast POS is a solid choice for a point-of-sale system if you’re operating a restaurant or bar, as the software was designed with your industry in mind. If you stick to the core POS software and only need one terminal, it can be an affordable option. There is no free trial or version available of Toast POS, but you can get a free demo of the POS system and a custom quote by visiting their website today.
Shopify: Best POS System for Ecommerce Businesses
Shopify is the only POS system on our list that is ecommerce-forward, but it supports multiple sales channels, so you can sell at a brick-and-mortar store, at events, or on social media. It works on iOS and Android devices, and it offers the standard features that typical POS systems have, such as inventory management and reporting.
Depending on which plan you want, Shopify is extraordinarily affordable or expensive. The POS system offers four different plans that range from $9 to $299 per month. The lower the price, the more limiting the features are. You don’t have to use the integrated payment processor, but you’ll pay an extra fee if you choose your own merchant services provider. If you choose Shopify Payments, you’ll pay lower rates with more advanced Shopify plans.
Shopify Pricing & Features
|Processing Fees |
|Third-party Processor Fee|
|Abandoned Cart Recovery|
Shopify Inventory Management
All of Shopify’s POS system plans come with inventory management, so you can add products, include variants (such as size, color, and material), and add SKUs, prices, and more information. It isn’t quite as advanced an inventory tool as Lightspeed Retail’s, but it comes close for product management, at least.
To get access to reports, you’ll have to subscribe to one of the two highest plans, either Shopify or Advanced Shopify. The basic reports in this POS system give you sales reports, so you can track trends, sales totals, and sales based on day or time of year, which help you plan ahead. There are also customer reports, so you can see the percentage of new customers versus repeat customers. If you want more advanced and custom reports, like you’d find in ShopKeep, you’ll have to choose Advanced Shopify.
Shopify Sales Channels
One of the best features of Shopify is that it doesn’t treat ecommerce as an add-on feature, so you can sell using the Shopify POS system and card reader to sell in your online store, on social media, or in person at a small retail shop or at events. Plus, all your data is updated in real-time, in the cloud, and across all your sales channels, so when you sell out of an item, it’s no longer available from your POS system or online store until you replenish.
There are literally more than 1,500 app integrations for the Shopify POS system, which means two things: You can create a customized business solution, and you could really ramp up your monthly fees. Shopify doesn’t need all those integrations to work well for small businesses, but you might want to consider QuickBooks, Mailchimp, and eBay.
What Shopify Is Missing
It isn’t that Shopify relies on apps to complete its functionality, but depending on your industry, it could be frustrating to not have certain features, such as costing tools and advanced CRM. It’s also more expensive than most other POS systems, especially for the highest-tiered plan.
For the most part, those who left Shopify reviews are fans of the POS system. The online store and themes get high marks from users, plus it’s often noted that the platform is easy to use. While customer support is available 24/7, an uncommon feature among POS systems, the feedback from customers is mixed. Phone hold times can be long, and tech support isn’t helpful. Account freezes are also mentioned, but this can be a common problem with payment processors and shouldn’t necessarily reflect on Shopify as a POS system.
How to Get Shopify
Shopify may get most of its attention for having the lion’s share of ecommerce site customers, but it also houses a powerful POS system that’s suitable for a variety of sales channels, including online stores, social media, and offline at events and small retail shops. It can be affordable or pricey, depending on the plan you choose. You can try Shopify for free by signing up for a 14-day trial to see if it’s the best POS system for you.
Vend: Best POS System for Built-in Loyalty Program
Vend is a POS system that’s used worldwide, and it’s a great choice for those looking for a built-in loyalty program. You can customize price books and receipts, and you get inventory and reporting tools, standard for any point-of-sale system. Vend’s pricing is more expensive than the average cost of POS systems.
The cost of Vend is comparable to Lightspeed Retail if you stick to the Lite plan at $99 per month, but to get the most out of Vend’s POS system and its features, you might want to choose the Pro plan at $129 per month. Vend can be used on Mac or PC in stores, or through an iOS app for mobile POS, and it operates in the cloud, so there’s no need for special hardware.
Vend Pricing & Features
|Cost of Additional Registers*|
|Loyalty & Gift Cards|
|24/7 Phone & Chat Support|
*Prices reflect annual payment. Month-to-month rates are $119 for Lite, $159 for Pro, and $59 per additional register.
Vend Loyalty Program & CRM
Vend includes customer profiles that are comparable to the ones in Square POS, but Vend takes CRM a few steps further with no add-on apps needed. You can create customer groups, similar to the VIP customer option in Lightspeed Retail, and give groups special pricing. Your customer profiles extend across all your sales channels.
Gift cards are simply enabled in the POS system, and then you can order through Vend’s supplier, your own supplier, or you can create your own gift cards. The loyalty program is also just a toggle button in Vend, and then you set the ratio of dollars spent to points received. Balances for customers show up when they make purchases, are added to receipts, or sent by email.
Vend Inventory Management
Managing your inventory in Vend is similar to that of any POS software, but you get slightly more control and options, such as in ShopKeep. Add products by bulk if you have CSV files, or add them one by one. Apply variants to each product, split groups into singles or pours, or create bundles, if you’d like, making this an acceptable POS system for retail or even a food or bar establishment. You don’t get ingredient-level inventory tracking or recipe costing tools, though, like you would with Toast POS.
Vend is one of the few POS systems that offers two levels of reporting (Shopify is another). Custom reports are available with the basic reporting feature, so you can compare your costs versus your profits, or filter data to discover trends in sales by hour, day, or time of year. More advanced metrics come with the high-tier plan, and they’ll show you employee performance, discount reports, time it takes for an employee to sell a product, and more.
Vend Payment Processing
Unlike Square POS, Vend doesn’t offer a built-in payment processor, but it does integrate with Square, PayPal, and Worldpay, the latter of which is an international payment processor, and other processors from other countries are also available, making Vend a suitable choice for international retailers. You may even be able to use Vend as a gateway for your preferred merchant services provider—just ask. It’s also worth noting that Vend will continue to work if offline, like Square POS.
What Vend Is Missing
While Vend offers a lot of features found in the best POS systems, it doesn’t quite match the robust inventory management of Lightspeed Retail, for example. Its ecommerce offering is still new, and the integration hasn’t worked well for some users. Premium tech support comes at an extra cost, which is rare these days with POS systems.
Overall, Vend reviews are positive. Most users gush about how intuitive the POS system is, and they love the gift cards, loyalty program, and device versatility. Despite the overwhelming positive reviews, some users complain that inventory isn’t as powerful a tool as they need, and that the cost for Vend is a bit high.
How to Get Vend
Vend is a POS system that caters to retail, and it has a global reach, so it’s poised to expand and potentially take more of the market share. It’s a versatile POS system that plays well with Macs, PCs, iPads, and various payment processors. The loyalty program and gift cards available with the Pro plan make the extra cost worth it. Go to Vend’s website now to sign up for a 30-day free trial.
The best POS systems provide business owners more than simply a way to accept payments. They help you collect valuable customer information, analyze sales and customer data, provide easy-to-use inventory control, and includes features like loyalty programs and omnichannel sales support.
Square POS is free to use, and its core features are powerful enough on their own that you may not even need the optional add-ons to build out the POS system. If you do opt to include the loyalty program, staff management features, or payroll, you’ll still likely pay less than some other POS systems. Get a free account today: