This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
A point-of-sale (POS) system is a combination of software and hardware that centralizes sales, payment processing, and customer relationship management (CRM). The best POS systems also include robust tools for inventory tracking, vendor management, employee management, and customer loyalty. Many POS software are free, though others cost as much as $200 per month for a single terminal.
According to our evaluation of over 25 POS software across 32 data points, the best point-of-sale systems for small businesses are:
- Square: Best overall, and best free POS for small businesses
- Shopify: Best for multichannel retailers
- Lightspeed: Best for retailers with complex inventory
- Toast: Best for restaurants
- Vend by Lightspeed: Best for multilocation brick-and-mortar retailers
- TouchBistro: Best for small food and beverage businesses
- KORONA: Best c-store and liquor store POS
- IT Retail: Best for grocers and markets
- Lavu: Best restaurant POS for cash discounting
- Revel Systems: Best scalable POS for high-volume restaurant and retail businesses
Point-of-Sale (POS) Systems Compared
Supported Business Types
Monthly Fee From
Payment Processing Options
All-purpose, retail, restaurants, service, appointment
Retail, restaurant, hospitality, golf
$39 for restaurants, $69 for retail
Built-in or third-party
Restaurants, quick-service, bars, delivery
Built-in or third-party
Built-in or third-party
Retail, niche industries
Built-in or third-party
Restaurants, quick-service, retail, delivery
Built-in or third-party
We prioritized cloud-based systems for their lower entry-level cost and ease of set up. We also looked for strong offline functionality and systems that support multiple business types.
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Square: Best Overall 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. This self-installable system has POS options designed specifically for general purpose, retail, restaurants, and appointment-based businesses. Each option has a free plan that includes unlimited sales and products and an integrated online store, alongside an affordable $60/month advanced plan.
This makes Square our top-scoring all-around POS system.
Square earned a 4.48 out of 5 on our scoring criteria for POS systems. This user-friendly platform earned the highest marks on this list for the price and from our retail and restaurant experts. The free baseline POS without long-term contracts set Square above the competition, and it only stumbled a bit because of limitations to its inventory tools and the availability of live customer support.
Chip and Contactless Reader
($27/month with financing)
($14/month with financing)
($39/month with financing)
Wireless card reader that accepts in-person payments
All-in-one POS and terminal for payment processing, taking orders, printing receipts, and viewing reports
iPad swivel stand with built-in chip and contactless card reader
All-in-one terminal with integrated card reader and customer-facing display
Since Our Last Update:
Square launched a new version of Square Stand in April 2022. We got a behind-the-scenes look at the new version, which features a built-in contactless and chip card reader (previously, you had to connect one), a new checkout flow that’s more transparent for customers, and a smoother swivel design. And, the new stand is $20 less expensive than the previous model.
Square’s standout features include:
- Speedy payments: Once your bank account is verified, you can start accepting payments the same day you open your Square account. Processing fees are a low flat rate, and many businesses qualify for next-day deposits (though two-day deposits are more standard). And, as of May 2022, Square POS users can accept buy now, pay later payments at the point of sale through Afterpay.
- 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: If your business needs retail-supporting tools like inventory tracking and the ability to process refunds and exchanges, you’ll prefer Square for Retail. Like basic Square, Square for Retail offers a free baseline subscription with no long-term contracts. You’ll also get barcode printing tools, detailed sales reports, and easy purchase order and stock management.
- Square for Restaurants: Food and beverage businesses from food trucks to full-service restaurants will find restaurant specific tools in the Square for Restaurants POS. This system includes table and check management, check splitting, online ordering and delivery integrations, and tip tracking.
- Free Square Online store: Every Square POS account comes with a free, integrated online store.
If complex inventory is a must for your retail business, you’ll prefer Lightspeed. If one-on-one support is what you need, check out Lightspeed and Revel Systems. And if you want to shop for the best rates from multiple processors, consider KORONA, Vend, Lightspeed, Revel, TouchBistro, IT Retail, and Lavu.
Square for Restaurants inventory tools are not ingredient-level, but you can expand them with a Marketman integration. And bar owners should note that the Square for Restaurants POS cannot pre-authorize bar tabs. If you need pre-auths try Toast, Lightspeed, or Revel.
Read more with our Square POS review.
Shopify: Best POS for Multichannel Retailers
Shopify POS is built on the incredibly powerful Shopify ecommerce platform, making this POS a powerhouse tool for brick-and-mortar retailers with active online shops. With all Shopify plans, sales, inventory, and customer data stored in one place, it is the best POS for multichannel sellers.
Shopify earned a 4.47 out of 5 on our ranking of the best POS systems, just behind Square and tied with Lightspeed Retail. This POS outscored the others on this list for its register features, where it earned a perfect 5 out 5—only Revel scored as high.
The biggest drawback to Shopify POS is that an ecommerce subscription is required, so your costs can add up. Also, many of the best POS features (smart inventory management and advanced reporting) require you to upgrade to POS Pro for an additional $89 per month.
Shopify also has hardware rental programs, which are ideal for online stores selling at pop-up shops, businesses with seasonal operations, or those wanting to test-drive Shopify POS. And, peripherals like cash drawers, receipt and label printers, and barcode scanners are also available.
Shopify’s proprietary card reader as well as its popular Retail Kit are backordered and unavailable to purchase due to supply chain disruptions and shipping delays. Shopify estimates these products will be available again in Q3 2022. The hardware products shown in the table above are in stock at the time of publication.
Shopify’s standout features include:
- Omnichannel sales: The seamless integration between the Shopify ecommerce site and POS enables retailers to offer a frictionless shopping experience. Your customers can buy online and request shipping or pick up and return in-store. They can also shop in-store and request shipping or even browse in-person and purchase their favorite products online using email carts and QR product codes.
- Online integrations: Shopify’s online store chat functions let your customers start a conversation with you from any page on your website. Shopify also integrates with Apple Business Chat, so iPhone users can send messages to you directly from their smartphones. A Facebook integration lets customers shop directly from Facebook and Instagram posts. You can also easily place “Buy” buttons on blog posts and other web content.
- 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.
Shopify has a lot to offer brick-and-mortar businesses needing a robust online presence. But if you’re not looking to sell online, a different retail POS that does not require an ecommerce subscription, like Square for Retail or Vend, might be a better option.
Shopify also advertises solutions for cafes and coffee shops, as it’s built with retailers in mind. However, these businesses might be better served by Square and Toast.
Lightspeed: Best POS for Retailers With Complex Inventory
Lightspeed is a cloud-based POS that operates on iPads with excellent inventory management tools. Its retail software includes the ability to manage vendors and orders from the POS dashboard, store supplier catalogs, and manage matrix product assortments and variants.
These tools and more really set Lightspeed apart, making it the best POS for retailers with large or complex inventory assortments.
Lightspeed earned an overall score of 4.47 out of 5 on our ranking criteria, tying with Shopify POS. This cloud-based system earned high marks for its offline functionality and excellent retail management tools, though its higher prices cost it some points. Like Square, Lightspeed has purpose-built POS options for retailers and restaurants. Both systems are strong, with excellent inventory management tools.
In a world where systems like Square and Toast offer free baseline subscriptions, it can be hard to compete on cost alone. However, Lightspeed offers a 14-day free trial, so you can try before you buy.
Learn to make the most of Lightspeed Retail’s excellent inventory tools in our guide to Lightspeed inventory management.
Like many of the systems on this list, Lightspeed’s POS system is built on iPads. You can also run Lightspeed from a desktop computer. Bring your own hardware if it is compatible, or purchase through Lightspeed. Kits, tablet stands, cash drawers, barcode scanners, receipt and kitchen printers, and card readers are all also available from Lightspeed at custom-quoted prices.
iPad Hardware Kit
Desktop Hardware Kit
Compatible with Lightspeed Retail and Restaurant
Compatible with Lightspeed Retail
Includes iPad stand, receipt printer, cash drawer, Bluetooth scanner, and receipt paper
Includes cash drawer, receipt printer, and USB scanner
iPad not included
Computer not included
Lightspeed’s standout features include:
- Inventory management: Retailers can bulk upload up to 10,000 SKUs at once, manage variants, create bundles, and track unit costs, layaways, and special orders. Built-in product catalogs streamline orders, and low-stock alerts let you know when to place them. Lightspeed has the most sophisticated integrated product ordering on this list, largely because of the built-in supplier network.
- Supplier network: Retailers can discover products, submit purchase orders, and track stock shipments from within Lightspeed POS. The only other system on this list that comes close to matching this tool is KORONA.
- Reporting and analytics: Lightspeed includes over 40 built-in reports and allows retailers to build custom reports that show data in easy-to-scan charts and graphs. Restaurant users can access basic reporting with the Essentials POS package and gain advanced reporting capabilities at the higher level subscription tiers. While this may cramp some operations, it also ensures that small operations don’t pay for features they don’t use.
- Ecommerce: Lightspeed ecommerce syncs with POS data, offers over 50 professional themes, and includes full shipping and order management tools and marketing, CRM, and SEO features. Restaurant ecommerce functions are equally robust, including options for online ordering and reservation functions.
- Marketing: Lightspeed has a built-in loyalty program included in higher-level subscription tiers. You can 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. If you need marketing tools in your baseline POS, consider Revel.
The Lightspeed Restaurant POS also supports detailed ingredient level inventory, but it stops short of the full vendor management supported by the retail POS. If you need these restaurant tools, check out Toast and Revel.
However, in 2021, Lightspeed purchased competing restaurant POS Upserve—which has the most automated restaurant inventory tools on the market—so we expect Lightspeed’s restaurant inventory tools to match its retail tools soon.
For Lightspeed Retail, your monthly software subscription fees vary based on when you pay (monthly or annually) and if you are enrolled in Lightspeed Payments for payment processing. Learn more in our Lightspeed Retail POS review
The costs for Lightspeed Restaurant users are more straightforward. You choose between three subscription tiers; Essentials, Plus, and Pro. These prices include enrollment in Lightspeed Payments; your rates may be higher if you choose a different processor. Learn more in our Lightspeed Restaurant review.
Toast: Best POS for Restaurants
Toast is a powerhouse, cloud-based POS built specifically for the restaurant industry. With a free starter POS and pay-as-you-go options for hardware, small restaurants can start with Toast for no upfront cost and increase their POS footprint as their businesses grow.
Meanwhile, enterprise-level restaurants will also feel supported by Toast’s integrated online ordering, delivery management, inventory, marketing, and employee management tools. This is why we love Toast for growing restaurants.
It’s no surprise that this massively functional POS is the top-ranking restaurant-only POS on this list; it also consistently ranks at the top of our guide to the best restaurant POS systems.
In our evaluation, Toast earned a 4.46 out of 5—pretty good for a system that only supports restaurants. Toast scored points for its price and the sheer scope of available POS tools, from employee scheduling to purchase order management.
It took hits because many of those tools are only available with higher-priced subscriptions or higher processing fees. The required hardware purchases and standard two-year contract also add to the costs.
Since Our Last Update:
Toast continues to innovate on its POS solutions. Over the past few months, Toast:
- Revamped its mobile order and pay solution so that both customers and servers can open mobile order tickets
- Launched a new POS specifically for hotel restaurants, aptly named Toast for Hotel Restaurants
- Updated its quick service restaurant (QSR) POS to include more mobile ordering and payment functionality, expanded kiosk functionality, and a new Toast Flex for Guest touch-screen terminal with a customer-facing display
Toast operates only on Toast-designed POS terminals. This can increase costs, but these terminals also have added benefits. They are designed to withstand high-volume use and function in restaurant environments that have to contend with heat, steam, spills, and drops. Toast hardware can operate at higher and lower temperatures than iPads, and Toast frequently tops our ranking of the best kitchen display systems.
Toast Flex + Tap Terminal
Toast Go 2 Terminal
Toast Kitchen Display Screen
$599 + $45 per month
$389 + $50 per month
$499 + $25 per month
14” POS screen on flip stand with Bluetooth-enabled tap, dip, and swipe card reader
Handheld order and payment terminal
14” HD LCD touch-screen kitchen display terminal
Pay-as-you-go options: New Toast Starter subscribers can get started with no upfront costs. With the pay-as-you-go option, all Starter subscribers pay are processing fees (similar to Square’s Free POS). Toast’s processing fees are higher for pay-as-you-go users, but they include software and hardware for up to two terminals. You can add online ordering, loyalty, email marketing, and gift cards for an additional 0.4% in processing fees.
Toast has every tool a restaurant owner could dream of. You get essential restaurant functions like QR code ordering and payments, online ordering and delivery management, ingredient-level inventory, and employee scheduling. However, Toast also supports niche tools like pocket-sized, handheld order and payment terminals, tip pool management, and in-POS messaging to alert managers when there is an issue or alert customers when their orders are ready.
Toast’s standout features include:
- Front-of-house features: Toast includes table, course, and seat management; easy check splitting; and credit card pre-authorizations for bar tabs. You’ll also get table management, order management, and even direct messaging from the POS screen, so your team can hail a manager directly from the POS when needed.
- Reporting and back office: Toast includes comprehensive, customizable reports for everything from staff management to menu assessments. You can track inventory in real time at the ingredient level, receive low stock alerts, and generate purchase orders from the back office.
- Workforce management: Like Square, Toast includes optional workforce management tools to draft and communicate employee schedules and streamline timekeeping and payroll. Toast goes a big step further, including tip-pool management and access to restaurant-tailored HR documents like handbook templates and alerts for new, local regulations.
- Online ordering and delivery: With Toast, you can create an integrated online ordering site to receive online orders or integrate with third-party platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash. Toast also includes full, maps-based driver dispatch if you want to support a team of in-house delivery drivers. Or you can use Toast Delivery Services to hail on-demand third-party drivers to deliver orders for a flat, per-order fee with no commissions.
The biggest downside to Toast is the required contract length. If you need something more short-term, consider Square, TouchBistro, or Lavu instead.
And, while we consider Toast’s industry-grade hardware to be a plus, it can add to your total costs. Consider Square if you’re looking for less expensive hardware or simply prefer an iPad system.
Find more features to love by reading our full Toast review.
Vend by Lightspeed: Best for Multilocation Stores
Vend by Lightspeed is a POS designed strictly for brick-and-mortar retailers. Vend by Lightspeed includes several subscription levels that scale as your business grows, so it is an ideal system for retailers that start small and plan to grow big.
Built-in features include multilocation inventory management, including the ability to configure warehouse and storage locations, along with easy product cataloging and management.
Vend by Lightspeed earned a 4.43 out of a possible 5 on our best POS system ranking. This accessible POS earned points for its 24/7 customer support, ease of use, and payment flexibility.
It comes with built-in store credit, layaway tools, and offline processing. Vend integrates with many different payment processors, so businesses can shop around for the lowest rates. However, you’ll get the lowest software fees if you enroll in Lightspeed Payments.
Lightspeed purchased Vend in 2021. Vend is now referred to as Vend by Lightspeed, or Lightspeed Retail X-Series. Additionally, Vend now follows a pricing structure similar to sister POS Lightspeed Retail, offering lower prices to users that enroll in Lightspeed Payments and pay their fees annually.
Lightspeed also has a native ecommerce solution, so we expect Vend’s ecommerce functionality to expand in the future.
Vend is browser-based, so it runs on any internet-enabled iOS, Android, and Windows-based computer or tablet. Vend is also compatible with a slew of popular receipt printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners. So, as with Square, Vend lets you use hardware you already own.
Vend’s retail management tools are designed to be scalable, with options for small operations like gift shops up to multilocation boutiques. It is a user-friendly cloud system with offline processing, staff logins, flexible configurations including layaway and on-account sales, store credit, gift cards, and partial payment. You can scan new shipments to add them to your inventory and print custom barcode labels to quickly get the new products onto the sales floor.
Vend by Lightspeed’s standout features include:
- Detailed inventory tools: Vend allows retailers to easily track variants and bundles, and create, import, and print barcodes from the POS dashboard. You can also build a centralized product catalog, set custom low-stock alerts, and manage multiple tax rates.
- Mobile barcode scanning app: Vend has a free iOS app for scanning barcodes to perform quick inventory counts, receive shipments, or look up product details from the sales floor. Any changes made in the app can sync to Vend’s reporting data, so you can update your inventory without spending hours in the back office.
- Add-ons and growth tools: As your business grows, Vend has the tools to expand your operation. The platform comes with a native loyalty program and integrates with third-party tools for ecommerce, accounting, employee scheduling, and multichannel inventory management.
- High-risk tools: Vend has built-in age verification tools that prompt your cashiers to scan and verify customer age. This is a great fit for shops that sell tobacco or alcohol products.
Vend’s biggest drawback is that it lacks native ecommerce functions. You can manage an online store via an Ecwid, Shopify, or BigCommerce integration. But if you’re using Shopify for ecommerce, it makes sense to use the connected Shopify POS instead.
With Vend’s flexible payment processing, you can get an account with a high-risk processor to support riskier businesses like vape shops. Though keep in mind, you’ll pay higher monthly fees for the privilege. If you need high-risk tools without extra fees, KORONA may be a better choice.
TouchBistro: Best for Small Food & Beverage Businesses
TouchBistro is an iPad POS that, like the competing system Toast, is designed specifically for food and beverage businesses. It’s incredibly easy to use. However, unlike Toast and Square, TouchBistro is compatible with multiple payment processors, so businesses can shop around for the lowest processing fees or keep their current processor when switching to TouchBistro.
This distinction, along with its mobile reporting (something else Toast lacks) makes TouchBistro a great choice for small food and beverage businesses like food trucks, coffee shops, and restaurants.
In our evaluation, TouchBistro scored a 4.16 out of 5. This POS earned points for its ease of use, affordability, and responsive customer service. It operates on iPads and is easy to self-install. Its user interface more closely resembles the standard iOS than any other option on this list. So if you (or your staff) have ever used an iPhone, you’ll pick up TouchBistro immediately.
TouchBistro is compatible with iPads that run iOS 13 or later. Depending on your payment processor, you’ll need to be careful that your iPads have headphone jacks, as some card readers require them. You’ll also need to pay attention to whether your preferred receipt printers use USB-C or lightning port connections and ensure that your chosen iPads have the connections you need. You can bring your own compatible hardware or purchase directly from TouchBistro at custom-quoted prices.
Small Venue POS Setup
Large Venue POS Setup
iPad stand with connected cash drawer and Bluetooth-enabled card reader and receipt printer
iPad POS terminal, card reader, iPad tableside terminal, back-office computer, and Amplifi router
The biggest ace up TouchBistro’s sleeve is how easy the system is to install and use. Like Square and Lightspeed, users can quickly self-install it following its detailed instructions. Though, like Toast, TouchBistro also offers one-on-one installation assistance for a fee if users want it.
TouchBistro’s standout features include:
- Flexible hardware: Like several systems on this list, TouchBistro operates on iPads. With TouchBistro, these iPads can be configured as POS terminals, KDS screens, or self-service kiosks. There are some additional fees for KDS screen and kiosk software; you’ll need to contact TouchBistro for a custom quote.
- Support and training: TouchBistro maintains a detailed knowledge base with training videos. You can also request one-on-one or in-person training with a TouchBistro representative for custom-quoted fees.
- Straightforward pricing: Where other systems have multiple subscription tiers, TouchBistro has a single per-terminal price. You pay additional monthly software fees to add features like integrated online ordering ($50/month), gift cards ($25/month), loyalty ($99/month), or reservations ($229/month). While this can make your costs add up, small cafes, coffee shops, and breweries won’t pay for tools they don’t use.
- Flexible payment processing: TouchBistro offers the best of both worlds when it comes to payment processing. Like competitors Lightspeed, Revel Systems, and Lavu, TouchBistro offers users the choice between a built-in processor or a third-party payment processor. Unlike those other systems, however, TouchBistro users do not pay higher software fees for using a compatible third-party processor.
TouchBistro’s main drawback is that loyalty and online ordering require extra fees, which is why we don’t recommend it for restaurants that want online ordering. For a restaurant POS with free integrated online ordering, your best bet is Square.
While TouchBistro includes ingredient-level inventory in its baseline POS, the inventory does not automatically update as you receive new orders (like Toast and Revel). This means you’ll need to manually update stock levels, which can eat up administrative time.
Learn more about this system by reading our full TouchBistro review.
KORONA: Best C-store & Liquor Store POS
KORONA is a cloud-based POS that excels at supporting specialty retail businesses like liquor stores, convenience stores, and vape shops. Its high-risk business tools—like ID scanning and integration with high-risk payment processors—also make KORONA a fit for cannabis dispensaries. This affordable and flexible POS comes with excellent customer support, operates on a variety of desktop and mobile devices, so you likely can use some hardware you already own.
All this, combined with detailed loss-prevention tools make KORONA a great POS for high-volume or high-risk retailers like c-stores and liquor stores.
KORONA earned a 4.13 out of 5 on our POS scoring criteria. It earned high marks for the sheer number of business types it supports, from small retail shops to high-risk businesses and ticketed venues. Its ability to integrate with virtually any payment processor also earned it points.
It could have rated higher if it included a built-in ecommerce solution; using the integrated online store requires a WooCommerce account in addition to your KORONA subscription. Marketing tools also require integrations.
Uniquely, KORONA has an unlimited free trial option. You can set up a demo account and test the software for as long as you need. While this isn’t designed to function as a free POS (you can’t integrate a payment processor and there are low daily transaction limits), you can take your time with customizations and save all of your data for later. All other POS systems that offer free trials typically limit your access to 14-30 days.
Did you know?
KORONA also has built-in ticketing functionality, including time-sensitive, membership, group rates, and even turnstile integration. This also makes KORONA a great option for museums, amusement parks, stadiums, and events as it can handle your ticketing, retail, and basic concession sales all in one POS.
KORONA operates on a variety of desktop and mobile devices that can be configured as POS terminals, mobile tablet POS, customer-facing displays, or inventory scanners. Common manufacturers include HP, Aures, Partner Tech, Hisense. You can use any compatible hardware that you already own or purchase hardware through KORONA at custom-quoted prices.
Mobile POS Tablet
Countertop POS with PIN-reader
Countertop POS with handheld scanner
Handheld, Wi-Fi enabled mobile POS tablet
Countertop POS with touch-screen terminal, cash drawer, receipt printer, and PIN-enabled card reader
Countertop POS with touch-screen terminal, handheld barcode scanner, and receipt printer
The KORONA POS is a Swiss army knife for small businesses of all types. This system specializes in providing detailed tools for niche businesses, from event venues that need ticketing functions to liquor stores and vape shops that require additional product controls and high-risk processors.
KORONA’s standout features include:
- Payments agnostic: KORONA integrates with any major payment processor, making KORONA the most flexible POS on this list. You can bring virtually any processor you like, including high-risk processors or processors that include cash discounting tools. This one simple setting can save small businesses money in the long run, as you can shop around for the lowest available rates, and switch processors at any time.
- Flexible integrations: KORONA focuses on building integrations with niche applications that support specific business types. So while it lacks popular integrations with well-known tools like QuickBooks, it contains specific integrations for liquor stores (ecommerce tools Bottlecapps and City Hive), dispensaries (traceability apps Metrc, BioTrack, and Leak Data; ecommerce tools Dutchie, Leafly, Olla) wineries (bLoyal for wine club management), and more.
- Installation and training: Many systems on this list have $0 installation fees because you can self-install them. KORONA includes guided installation and training with every POS account. This is great if you don’t have the time or bandwidth to wade through tutorial videos and installation manuals.
- Inventory tools: KORONA’s inventory management tools allow you to break cases and set different prices for items—like beers sold by the bottle, six-pack, or case—that have the same UPC codes. You can scan new items with a barcode scanner to update inventory levels and print price labels from stock receipts, so your prices are always in line with your actual costs. You’ll also get low-stock alerts and shipment alerts, so you know exactly when to expect new items. KORONA is one of two systems on this list with shipment tracking; Lightspeed Retail is the other.
If you prefer built-in marketing and ecommerce, you’ll prefer Square, Lightspeed, and Vend by Lightspeed.
If a modern UX and app interface is important to you, consider Square or Shopify.
Explore more niche features in our full KORONA review.
IT Retail: Best for Grocers & Markets
IT Retail is a robust POS designed by grocers to support independent markets. The POS comes packaged with the rugged hardware necessary in a grocery environment and includes ecommerce integrations to cater to online orders and connect with a network of delivery drivers.
It also supports the widest variety of self-checkout hardware on this list, including a contactless mobile self-checkout system through FutureProof.
In our evaluation, IT Retail scored 3.95 out of 5. It earned points for supporting multiple payment processors and for its robust inventory tools but lost some ground when it came to price. IT Retail includes hard-to-find features like scale integration for selling goods by weight, bottle deposit management, automated rewards, and self-checkout options.
IT Retail’s hardware is built to survive in a busy market environment. It offers tools for inventory scanning and self-checkout alongside the traditional touchscreen terminals. This industry-grade hardware is great for high-volume markets, but it requires a custom quote.
CypherLab Inventory Scanner
IT Retail Countertop Terminal
IT Retail Self-Checkout Lane
Handheld barcode scanner for inventory receiving and counting
Countertop POS Terminal with integrated customer-facing display
Self-checkout stand with combination scale/scanner, touch-screen terminal, card reader, and bagging area
IT Retail has all the tools an independent grocery or specialty market needs—from checkout lanes enabled with scanners and scales to smart inventory management and ecommerce tools. This incredibly flexible system can support markets with only a few checkout lanes, but it really excels with markets that have several lanes, including self-checkout stands.
IT Retail’s standout features include:
- Flexible checkout: Integrated scales make it easy to sell produce and bulk goods and goods by weight. You can accept all major credit and debit cards, EBT food and cash payments, gift cards, eWIC, and contactless payments such as Apple Pay. IT Retail also offers a slew of self-checkout options—including digitized, mobile in-person check out via FutureProof, allowing customers to checkout via their smartphones.
- Inventory management: You can generate purchase orders from your IT Retail back office and track products by case, six-pack, or bottle. When supplies arrive, you can receive and count stock using a mobile app and generate new shelf tags as needed. These seemingly small functions can save you labor hours when it comes to receiving and restocking. As with other systems on this list, your IT Retail POS will alert you to low stock, so you never forget to reorder.
- CRM tools: You can create a custom loyalty program and issue scannable loyalty cards—giving your small market the same feel as a larger brand. Your IT Retail POS automatically tracks available rewards at checkout and prompts your cashiers to ask customers if they would like to redeem accrued rewards.
- Ecommerce integration: Market owners can enable online ordering and delivery, including specialty and fresh items, with several ecommerce integrations—such as Local Express, Mercato, Freshop, My Cloud Grocer, and Instacart. So, you can find the best solution for your market.
- Age verification: Like Vend by Lightspeed, IT Retail includes built-in tools for scanning IDs for age-restricted purchases. This is a great fit for markets that sell alcohol and tobacco products.
IT Retail estimates that hardware for a single lane can run from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on your selections. If your independent grocery needs more accessibly priced iPad-based hardware, consider Revel Systems instead.
Explore more of the platform’s grocery-supporting features by reading our full IT Retail review.
Lavu: Best Restaurant POS for Cash Discounting
Lavu is a cloud-based iPad POS designed for food and beverage businesses. It is the only system in this guide that offers a cash discount setting, which allows you to offer a discount for cash payments that will offset your credit card processing fees. This feature helps small restaurants that are switching from a cash-only operation to accept digital payments without incurring additional costs.
You’ll still pay out of pocket for processing fees on credit card tips. However, the overall savings can help small businesses afford to upgrade from a cash register to full POS system.
Lavu earned a 3.91 out of 5 in our evaluation. It scored well for its register features and ease of use; like TouchBistro and Square, Lavu is easy to self-install. It lost points for not having a free trial or free baseline subscription option, and its customer reviews are the lowest of any system on this list.
However, its native cash-discounting feature is notable, as the practice of passing along processing fees to customers is increasing in popularity among small businesses.
Lavu uses iPads as the base for its POS system. You can purchase a wide variety of POS hardware—including iPads—directly from the Lavu website. For the most part, its hardware options are incredibly affordable compared to competitors’ prices, and it offers discounts on hardware to users that sign up for a three-year service agreement.
Lavu is a highly customizable iPad POS, with several cost-saving features. Like Lightspeed, TouchBistro, and Revel, Lavu supports both built-in payment processing and integrated third-party processors, so users can shop for the lowest processing rates. Though with Lavu, you will need to pay an additional $25 per month per terminal to use a third-party processor.
Lavu’s standout features include:
- Cash discount: Cash discounting allows you to charge one price for card payments and a different, lower price for cash payments. So, you build the price of processing into the price you charge for your products, then apply a discount—say 4%—to checks that are paid in cash. This way, Lavu’s cash discounting tool helps small food businesses avoid the cost of credit card processing fees. This is especially attractive if the cost of processing has kept you from growing your business beyond cash-only sales.
- Transparent pricing: Like most of the systems on this list, Lavu has several software subscription tiers. Like TouchBistro, Lavu clearly lists the monthly fees for additional features from loyalty ($50/month) to KDS software ($30/month). Small restaurants can choose which tools are important to them and only pay for what they need.
- API access: Lavu supports an open application programming interface (API) that allows you to build custom software integrations with your POS. This feature costs an additional $30 per month, but if you want to connect your accounting program, delivery software, or other tools, it will be well worth it for the administrative time you can save.
- A/P automation: Lavu also owns accounts payable automation software Sourcery. It allows you to generate a central database of your vendors to create, place, receive, and pay for orders through the app. These are similar to the tools supported by Lightspeed Retail’s top-rated inventory functions. Sourcery costs an additional $99 per month, putting it more in the budget range of high-volume or multilocation restaurants. But Lavu frequently offers deals with up to three months free if you want to try it.
For a POS with a free baseline subscription, consider Toast or Square for Restaurants.
Lavu’s customer reviews are lower than the other systems on this list. If you want a system with higher customer ratings, try Toast, Lightspeed, or TouchBistro.
Learn more about Lavu’s features and pricing in our full Lavu POS review.
Revel Systems: Best POS for High-volume Businesses
Revel Systems is a multichannel iPad POS system that supports both retail and restaurant businesses. It may seem counterintuitive that one POS system can support businesses as varied as a small grocery store and a high-volume restaurant, but Revel’s extreme customizability makes it possible. Alongside basic POS terminals, users can integrate scales, barcode scanners, and handheld inventory.
In our evaluation, Revel scored a 3.74 out of 5. It earned a perfect 5 for register features (as did Shopify), and outscored the competition in the management tools category.
Using iPads as the foundation for POS terminals and handheld devices makes Revel hardware more affordable than a system like IT Retail. Its massively functional inventory and built-in delivery management tools also make Revel Systems a terrific fit for high-volume restaurants (and grocers) that want to offer local delivery with an in-house driver team.
However, Revel’s three-year service agreement, expensive base plan, minimum terminal purchase requirements, and mandatory installation fees prevented it from earning a higher score.
Like Lightspeed and TouchBistro, Revel Systems uses iPads in innovative ways to create a variety of POS configurations—as touch-screen POS terminals, handheld order and payment devices (in card reader enabled cases), customer-facing displays, and self-order kiosks.
Revel also supports high-functioning peripherals like scales and scanners and digital menu displays that you can manage from your back-office dashboard. However, it does not list any pricing publicly, so you’ll need to contact sales for a price quote.
C-stand iPad stand
L-stand iPad stand
Low-profile countertop stand for basic iPad POS terminal
iPad stand with customer-facing display
Card reader-enabled iPad terminal with integrated, countersunk scale, barcode scanner, and receipt printer
When you look beyond the price, you’ll see that Revel includes a wealth of insightful POS features that many cloud-based systems lack. The reports are endlessly customizable, as are menu and order screens, and you can track every bit of sales and performance data imaginable.
Revel also includes a slew of free smartphone apps for reporting, inventory counting, and delivery drivers—extending the POS system’s functions. You can also commission a custom commerce app from Revel that allows your customers to shop your store directly from their iOS and Android devices.
Revel Systems’ standout features include:
- Grocery features: Revel’s POS screens are highly customizable, and the system integrates with scales and barcode scanners to support all types of markets. You’ll also find integrated customer relationship management, loyalty, gift card, and discount tools to encourage customer retention.
- Restaurant features: Detailed table mapping and management, menu-building tools, integrated kitchen display communication, and integrated online ordering form the foundation of Revel’s restaurant tools. Tip-tracking, pre-authorized bar tabs, and employee scheduling are also included.
- Inventory and vendor management: Revel’s inventory module is strong enough to compete with the best retail inventory tools and offers the strongest restaurant inventory tools on this list. In addition to real-time inventory updates with low-stock alerts, users get vendor and purchase order management. You can also update your inventory and perform physical counts using Revel’s free inventory app for smartphones.
- Delivery management: If your restaurant or market wants to offer local delivery, Revel has you covered there, too. You can manage a team of in-house drivers with maps-based driver dispatch. Your dispatch dashboard tracks driver locations in real time and includes a free driver app, so you can send drivers turn by turn directions and delivery information. If you prefer to use third-party drivers, you can hail them on-demand using Revel’s integration with DoorDash Drive.
- Flexible hardware: Revel’s iPad-based POS terminals tend to be less expensive than the custom-built hardware required by IT Retail. The setup is also more straightforward than KORONA, where the sheer number of hardware options might be daunting. Revel includes the barcode scanners and integrated scales that grocers need, alongside customer display systems, self-order kiosks, and mobile ordering for speedy and contactless service.
With a baseline POS fee of $99 per terminal, per month, plus a mandatory installation fee of $674 and a required three-year contract, Revel simply cannot compete on price with systems like Square and Toast, which offer a free baseline POS. It also doesn’t offer a free trial of any length, unlike Lightspeed, Shopify, and Vend. That can be a big hurdle when you’re asking customers to sign up for a three-year term.
Grocers and market owners should also know that Revel does not accept integrated EBT payments. You’ll need a satellite EBT reader from your payment processor to accept these payments, and your staff will need to know what products are approved for EBT purchases. If you need integrated EBT tools, try IT Retail or KORONA.
Methodology: How We Evaluated POS Systems
We looked for systems that are affordable for independent business owners and included basic POS functions like check and order management, the ability to process multiple forms of payment, and inventory tracking. To find the best, we also looked for systems that support multiple business types or that dominate in the industry they serve.
Based on the above criteria and on our staff experts’ evaluations of dozens of POS systems, Square emerged as the best all-purpose POS system for most individuals and small businesses.
Click through the tabs below to see the full evaluation criteria.
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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.
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POS System Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What POS system is the best?
The best POS system for you depends on the type of business you have and what functions you need the machine to perform. However, the best POS systems for small businesses offer decent functionality at a low price and can grow with your business.
According to our evaluations, the best POS systems are:
- Square: Best overall
- Shopify: Best for ecommerce and multichannel retail
- Lightspeed: Best for complex inventories
- Toast: Best for restaurants
What is the cheapest POS system?
The cheapest POS systems tend to be those that offer their POS software for only the cost of payment processing. Popular systems that follow this model include Square and Toast—though you can also find systems that offer free POS software without any integrated payment processing, like Loyverse.
However, software and processing fees won’t be your only POS costs. You’ll also need to consider hardware like touch screens and card readers. If you’re on a budget, iPad-based POS systems like Lightspeed and TouchBistro are good options.
What is the difference between a POS and terminal?
Many people use the terms “POS” and “terminal” interchangeably. A POS (or “point-of-sale”) system is a combination of hardware and software that allow businesses to track inventory, enter sales, process payments, and log business performance data. A terminal is one part of a POS system; it is the hardware component where you enter sales and process payments.
What POS system do retailers use?
Retailers use a variety of POS systems depending on their business type. Multilocation national chain stores tend to design their own POS systems so they can quickly respond to POS technology trends. Independent retailers tend to rely on commercially available cloud-based systems like Square (which has more than 2 million active sellers), Shopify, Vend, and NCR.
Related: Best Retail POS Systems
What is the difference between built-in and third-party payment processing?
Built-in payment processing means the POS system is also the payment processor. For example, Square POS comes with built-in payment processing through Square Payments. This is ideal if you want the simplicity of only working with one company and the peace of mind that the connection between your POS and payment processor will not fail.
However, built-in payment processors also typically have limitations, such as being incompatible with high-risk businesses. And, they don’t always offer the lowest rates. If you’re a high-risk business, an existing business that wants the lowest possible processing fees, or wants to continue using your current processor when you move over to a new POS system, look for a POS that is processor agnostic or has integrations with third-party processors.
Square offers the most tools for the lowest price of any small business POS. Whether your business is mobile or brick and mortar—or retail, restaurant, or service-based—it has POS options for you. Beyond the affordable POS tools, the platform includes a wealth of small business tools to help you manage your staff and grow your business online and offline. With easy set up and quick account approval, small business owners can get started with Square in a single day—all you need to do is contact Square.