A point-of-sale (POS) system is a hardware and software bundle that serves as the nerve center of brick and mortar businesses by centralizing payment processing, automating stock tracking and sales reports, and streamlining customer relationship management. Some POS software is available for free, while other systems cost up to $200 per month for one station.
The best POS systems are:
- Square: Best free, mobile, and all-purpose POS system
- Shopify: Best for multichannel retailers
- Lightspeed Retail: Best for large retailers or retailers with complex inventories
- Vend: Best for growing brick and mortar retailers
- Toast: Best POS for most restaurants
- Upserve by Lightspeed: Best iPad restaurant POS
- Revel Systems: Best POS for high-volume restaurants and grocery stores
- IT Retail: Best for small markets and grocers that need a POS with scale integration
- POS Nation: Best for convenience stores and liquor stores
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How We Evaluated POS Systems
I’ve spent the past two and a half years evaluating POS systems for Fit Small Business. Before that, I spent years working in and with small businesses using POS software every day. Based on my personal experience and time evaluating dozens of POS systems, Square is the best all-purpose POS system for most individuals and small businesses.
Click through the tabs below to see my full evaluation criteria:
30% of Overall Score
We prioritized POS systems that include a free plan or free trial, affordable subscriptions, and additional plans so you won’t grow out of the system. We also awarded points to systems with affordable integrated payment processing, flexible hardware options, and no restrictions on the number of users, inventory, or transactions. Finally, we penalized systems that require long-term contracts and hefty installation fees.
15% of Overall Score
Businesses need speedy and customizable checkout tools, easy customer management, mobility to sell anywhere, a process to track orders, and a way to process online orders. Because the way businesses operate has changed so much in the last year, we also emphasize contactless payments, integrated online ordering, and online store features.
15% of Overall Score
The most important feature we considered was inventory tracking. We also considered how sophisticated and user-friendly the reporting dashboard of each system is and what marketing and employee management tools are available.
20% of Overall Score
We prioritized POS systems with 24/7 phone support. We also considered help tickets and email or chat support, installation processes, and whether or not the system has an offline mode or hybrid installation so you can continue operations when you lose internet. Finally, we also considered if the system has an online knowledge base, training videos, or a training mode to help bring new employees up to speed.
20% of Overall Score
We considered the overall quality of each system’s features, along with system stability, security, and ease of use. We evaluated whether or not it offers a good value for its price point, any stand-out features. Finally, we accounted for our personal experience using each system and interacting with customer service representatives, its reviews, and the personal experience of other small business owners.
Square: Best Overall & Free POS System for Small Businesses
Square is the best POS system for most small businesses because of its affordable price point and easy-to-use software with options designed for general purpose, retail, restaurants, and appointment-based businesses. Each option has a free plan that includes unlimited sales and products, an online store, and a $50 to $60 monthly plan with additional features. This makes Square our top-scoring all-around POS system and our top choice for free POS and mobile POS solutions. Square for Retail is also our top choice for all-purpose retail POS, and Square Appointments is the highest-scoring POS system for salons and spas.
Modular add-ons including payroll processing and marketing, and flexible hardware options are also available. Scroll through the images below to see Square’s interface and hardware options.
Square POS Features
- Built-in payment processing: Accept credit and debit card payments in-person, online, invoice, recurring or subscription billing, contactless payments, or over the phone with next-day deposits.
- Square Appointments: Manage multiple appointment calendars, set up online booking, allow customers to book and manage appointments with an online portal, send automatic SMS and email reminders, and require credit cards upon booking for no-show and cancellation fees.
- Square for Retail: Barcode-based interface with omnichannel sale tools and inventory management features like barcode creation, vendor management, purchase orders, and detailed sales reports.
- Square for Restaurants: Integrated online ordering, order management system, kitchen display system, conversational ordering, table, and seat management, firing and coursing options, and menu reporting and management.
- Square Dashboard: Process transactions, track product sales, view reports, manage teams, taxes, payroll, and more in one centralized cloud-based dashboard.
- Customer relationship management: Create customer profiles and collect and respond to customer feedback. Square Marketing Assistant can identify marketing campaign opportunities, suggest email campaigns based on your customer list and activities, analyze performance, and identify best practices.
- Online store: Build a free website and online store to sell online for pickup, shipping, or delivery. Create simple online ordering pages or add shoppable posts to your existing website or social media accounts.
Shopify: Best Multichannel POS
Shopify is an ecommerce platform that comes with a free POS software for selling products at events or on-the-go, plus features to sell on social media and third-party marketplaces. For brick and mortar retailers, Shopify has a POS Pro plan with omnichannel selling tools, sophisticated inventory management, and more detailed analytics. With all Shopify plans, sales, inventory, and customer data are stored in one place, making Shopify the best POS for multichannel sellers.
Shopify POS Features
- Omnichannel selling: Offer frictionless shopping experiences with buy online, pick up or return in-store; buy in-store, ship to the customer; and browse in-store, buy online with email carts and QR product codes.
- Products: Add unlimited products, categories, and collections including multiple variants.
- Inventory management: POS Pro includes Stocky, a smart inventory app for performing inventory counts, receiving products with a barcode scanner, generating low-stock alerts and detailed inventory reports, forecasting demand, performing inventory analysis, and viewing sale item suggestions.
- Customer management: All Shopify plans include tools to generate customer profiles with contact information and shopping habits, add customer tags (such as VIP designations), track special requests, generate targeted promotions, create marketing content, and optimize social media campaigns.
- Online sales: Shopify is the leading small business ecommerce platform, but it also offers features to sell on social media and third-party marketplaces and to add “Buy” buttons to blogs.
Lightspeed Retail: Best POS for Inventory Management
Lightspeed Retail is the best POS system for product management, especially for businesses with large or complex inventories and specialty shops needing to manage custom orders. The software lets retailers create product bundles, categorize with multiple variants, and manage purchase orders with a built-in catalog. Lightspeed also offers one of the most sophisticated analytics platforms for small businesses.
Lightspeed Retail Features
- Inventory management: Bulk upload up to 10,000 SKUs at once, manage variants, create bundles, and track unit costs, layaways, and special orders. Streamline purchase orders with built-in product catalog and low-stock alerts.
- Supplier Network: Retailers can discover products, submit purchase orders, and track stock shipments from within Lightspeed POS.
- Reporting and analytics: Lightspeed offers the most powerful analytics platform available at a small-business-friendly price. Includes over 40 built-in reports, allows retailers to build custom reports and view data in visual forms like graphs and charts, and offers tips on how to interpret the data.
- Marketing: Lightspeed has a built-in loyalty program. Create a tiered rewards system for both in-store and online purchases, send one-time deals for birthdays or to VIP customers, and design emails with templates or a drag-and-drop builder.
- Ecommerce: Lightspeed Ecommerce syncs with POS data, offers over 50 professional themes, and includes full shipping and order management tools, marketing, CRM, and SEO features.
Vend: Best POS for Growing Brick and Mortar Stores
Vend is an iPad and web-based POS designed strictly for brick and mortar retailers. It is one of the few POS systems that come with built-in loyalty programs, store credit, layaway tools, offline processing, and easy product catalog management. Vend integrates with many different payment processors so businesses can shop around for the lowest rates, and offer multiple payment options like PayPal.
- Register: User-friendly cloud system with offline processing, staff logins, flexible configurations including layaway and on-account sales, store credit, gift cards, and partial payment.
- Detailed inventory tools: Track variants and bundles, create, import, and print barcodes, build a centralized product catalog, set custom low-stock alerts, and manage tax rates.
- Mobile barcode scanning app: Vend has a free iOS app for scanning barcodes to perform quick inventory counts, receive shipments, or lookup product details from the sales floor. Any changes made in the app can sync to Vend’s reporting data.
- Add-ons and growth tools: Vend comes with a native loyalty program and integrates with third-party tools for ecommerce, accounting, employee scheduling, and multichannel inventory management.
Toast: Best Restaurant POS System
Toast is a restaurant POS software specifically designed for the foodservice industry. It combines front-of-house features like table mapping, menu management, and real-time feedback collection with back-of-house features like kitchen displays and ingredient-level inventory tracking. Toast also offers online ordering and delivery features, along with payroll tools and a wide array of industry-specific hardware, making it the best POS system for most restaurants.
Toast POS Features
- Payment processing: Toast offers tons of contactless solutions including online menus, mobile ordering and payments, self-order kiosks, tap and mobile wallet payments, and QR codes. Mobile pocket-size terminals also available for tableside ordering and payments.
- Front-of-house features: Table mapping and management, real-time customer feedback collection, tickets automatically sent to kitchen display, order notifications.
- Reporting and back-office: Detailed menu management with ingredient-level tracking, recipe costing, waste and COGS reports, payroll administration, sales, and performance data, all with real-time data.
- Online ordering and delivery: Integrated online ordering (no third-party commissions) with customizable mobile-responsive site, real-time ingredient and menu updates, and configurable hours and delivery settings.
- Workforce management: Automated payroll, easy new-hire onboarding including HR paperwork, employee scheduling, in-depth labor reports, and a benefits platform for offering healthcare.
Upserve by Lightspeed: Best iPad Restaurant POS
Upserve is a POS system and restaurant management software designed to function as an all-in-one platform for point-of-sale, payments, inventory customer management, marketing, online ordering, workforce management, and reporting. Upserve’s tablet-based POS is incredibly easy to use, and the browser-based back office offers some of the most robust inventory, customer management, and employee management tools available in a small business restaurant POS.
This makes it our top choice for iPad restaurant POS systems, particularly for full-service restaurants, fine dining restaurants, and craft cocktail bars.
Upserve by Lightspeed Features
- Marketing and CRM: Build customer profiles including visit and order history, create filtered guest lists for targeted promotions, easily pair servers with guests who have tipped them well in the past, track and respond to online reviews, create a loyalty program that recognizes customer payment cards, and view reports by customer segments.
- Ingredient management: Automated inventory management with real-time tracking and deductions as dishes are sold, one-click purchase ordering, automatic purchase order receiving, scanner app for performing in-app inventory counts and scanning deliveries, menu and recipe reports to see how each menu item impacts your bottom line.
- Reporting: Basic sales, labor, product mix, profit and loss, marketing reports, daily logs, reputation management, and live mobile reporting app are included at all subscription tiers. Pro plans include custom reporting, server insights, menu insights, and recipe costing.
- Workforce management: Customizable tip pooling, real-time labor cost alerts, and clock-in controls available on all plans. Build and manage employee schedules in-app, then distribute them via text or email.
Revel Systems: Best for High-volume Restaurants and Grocers
Revel Systems is a cloud-based foodservice POS that has configurable features for self-order kiosks, customer-facing displays, mobile and tableside ordering, and online ordering. This makes Revel a good fit for large, high-volume, or chain restaurants such as pizza shops.
Lots of scanner and scale integrations, self-checkout features, perishable inventory tracking, and SNAP EBT payment processing also make Revel the best grocery POS for larger markets.
Revel Systems Features
- Restaurant features: Detailed table mapping and management, menu-building tools, integrated kitchen display communication, and integrated online ordering.
- Reporting: Revel Insights reporting offers real-time ingredient-level inventory tracking, FIFO inventory management, performance metrics, and sales reports.
- Back office: Centralized multi-location management and an open API allow businesses to build a setup that meets their needs.
- Customer-facing features: Revel has features for customer display systems, self-order kiosks, and mobile ordering for speedy and contactless service, plus loyalty, gift card, and discount tools for customer retention.
IT Retail: Best POS for Small Markets
IT Retail’s Market POS is a specific system that includes hard-to-find features like scale integration for selling goods by weight, bottle deposit management, automated shopper rewards program, and self-checkout options. The POS comes packaged in rugged hardware necessary in a grocery environment and allows markets to sell online and connect with a network of delivery drivers.
IT Retail POS Features
- Checkout: Flexible checkout options for produce and bulk goods, scale integration for selling goods by weight, customer-display, and self-checkout setups. Accept all major credit and debit cards, EBT food and cash payments, gift cards, eWIC, and contactless payments such as Apple Pay.
- Inventory management: Create, print, and scan barcode labels, generate purchase orders, receive and count stock using a mobile app, generate purchase orders, and generate shelf tags. Mobile reporting available on any device.
- CRM tools: Issue scannable loyalty cards, create a custom loyalty program, POS automatically tracks available rewards at checkout.
- Online grocery: Enable online ordering and delivery, including specialty and fresh items, with Mercato integration.
POS Nation: Best POS for Convenience and Liquor Stores
POS Nation is a retail POS designed for liquor, grocery, convenience, and hardware stores. Hard-to-find features including age verification tools, scale integrations, lotto ticket sales, case-break inventory tracking, carton-pack inventory tracking, and rental management make POS Nation a top choice for convenience, liquor, and other corner or mom and pop stores.
POS Nation Features
- Register tools: POS Nation has multiple interface layouts that are all customizable with hot-keys and graphical buttons to optimize the checkout screen for your needs.
- Specialty product handling: Built-in age verification, mobile checkout, scale integrations, integrated lotto ticket sales, and cigar label printing.
- Inventory management: Mix and match pricing, case-break and carton-pack tracking, auto-generate purchase orders, mobile in-app stock counts, layaway, barcoding, rental management, and matrix inventory.
- Shrinkage protection: Exception reporting to track excessive voids and unusual register activity, forced register counts, and blind register counts.
- Reporting: Over 55 pre-built reports including sales, customers, employees, accounts receivable, and special reports to comply with product and state-specific requirements including 1014 reporting for Pennsylvania beer distributors.
The best POS systems provide business owners more than a simple way to accept payments. POS trends such as mobile-first technology mean businesses can sell products and services anywhere, anytime. Artificial intelligence (AI) developments in POS software mean that instead of telling businesses how much product they have on-hand, POS systems can tell businesses exactly what they need to order and in what quantities. The best POS software combines analytics and ease of use at a price point that is accessible for small businesses.
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.