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Best POS system 2021: Which is right for you?

Here's a look at 10 point-of-sale systems to consider for your business.

The point-of sale-system (POS) -- the combination of hardware and software required to accept mobile and card-based payments -- is a ubiquitous piece of business technology. But for many small business owners, the process of choosing a POS provider can be a daunting task, as the market is awash with hardware and software options for various operational needs.

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A standard POS system lets business owners accept credit and debit card payments in-store and on mobile devices. A good POS system will process every sale securely and has optional software to help manage administrative tasks and boost efficiency. The ideal POS system is not only affordable and easy to use, but will also serve as the software and data collection hub for your business, with tools for invoicing, tracking inventory, sales, cash flow, marketing campaigns, and customer habits. 

The POS can also help sync sales with back-end accounting platforms, credit card payment processors, and route funds to your business's bank account after each sale. Both the hardware and software components of the POS will carry varying fees, such as payment processing costs, equipment costs or rental fees, and software fees. 

It really boils down to the needs of your business and the complexity of your inventory when deciding what POS system to go with. In this guide, we look at 10 POS systems to consider for your business.

Square

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Square's POS system is known for a straightforward pricing, minimalist hardware, and a user-friendly interface. Beyond standard payment acceptance, Square's POS product offers a range of additional features including software for customer relationship management, invoicing, customer loyalty, inventory management, and reporting and analytics. Both Square's POS app and its Sales Dashboard offer a variety of analytical reports, with statistics such as sales summaries, growth comparisons, busiest hours, and employee sales. The company also offers free phone support Monday through Friday, and additional support via email, social media, and live chat.

In terms of pricing, merchants can get a Square chip card reader for free, or pay $49 for a reader that also takes contactless payments. Square also sells the iPad-compatible Square Stand for $199, and the Square Register (which includes a display, a stand, and a customer-facing display for card and contactless payments) for $799 plus transaction and processing fees. Square charges a 2.6% transaction fee for in-person payments. Manually entered card payments cost a bit more (3.5% plus 15 cents), as online and over the phone transactions demand a higher fee due to greater fraud risks.

Clover

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Clover's POS system is known for being highly flexible and deeply integrated with its hardware. Clover has several built-in features for sales and business management, and also offers a range of free apps that extend the capabilities of the software. Of note, Clover's software doesn't run on third-party hardware, so merchants are forced to use Clover's branded devices. However, the system is sold as a standalone POS system, which gives merchants the freedom to choose a payment processor.

Clover's all-in-one POS system, Clover Station, is its most expensive bundle, costing around $1,399 for the most comprehensive set of products. Clover Stations are also available with customized features for full-service and counter service restaurants, with additional costs. Clover Mini, its other all-in-one POS system, sells for $749, and its Clover Flex card reader retails for $499. In terms of customer service, Clover offers free phone, email and web-based customer support to its existing merchants.

Lightspeed POS

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Lightspeed offers specialized point-of-sale systems for restaurants, retail, and e-commerce operations. Its cloud-based software lets businesses manage inventory and marketing, monitor sales, manage employees, and process payments. The software also works with third-party platforms for additional marketing, customer loyalty, and employee management capabilities. 

Lightspeed's hardware is all iPad based, save for cash drawers, receipt printers and barcode scanners which are available bundled or a la carte through various hardware providers. Pricing depends on the package or bundle you choose, and for the most part, the company requires a customer quote for exact pricing. For software, its basic retail POS service starts at $69 per month and its standard plan starts at $119 per month. A Lightspeed Pro plan starts at $229 per month. In terms of support, the company has a 24/7 support team and is reachable via phone, email and online chat. 

In November 2020, Lightspeed acquired rival POS provider ShopKeep, which offered an iPad-based point-of-sale system for retailers and restaurants. An earlier version of this list highlighted ShopKeep as one of the best POS providers for businesses. According to Lightspeed's website, the company is still supporting existing ShopKeep merchants and updating ShopKeep's software and hardware offerings. 

Vend POS

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Vend is a cloud-based point-of-sale system for retailers known for its ease of configuration and customization. Vend offers a range of reporting and analytics tools to help manage sales, customer data, inventory, and customer experience. Vend offers free customer support via email and live chat, while phone support costs $19 per month.

Vend's POS software is designed to work on various devices including Macs, PCs, and iPads, and is compatible with a range of third-party hardware, including receipt printers, barcode scanners, and cash drawers. Vend does not run its own payment processing network and instead integrates with third-party systems including PayPal, Square, and Vantiv. In terms of cost, Vend offers a Lite plan for $99 per month, a Pro plan for $129 per month, and an Enterprise plan that requires a customer quote. 

Shopify

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Shopify is known as an e-commerce platform provider, but the company also offers point-of-sale software for its small business merchants with both online and brick-and-mortar operations. The POS product is tightly integrated with Shopify's website platform and offers a range of reporting and analytics features including an actionable dashboard of sales, orders, and traffic, along with retail sales and finance reports.

Shopify's POS software can run either on Android or iOS devices, but the company also sells its own branded hardware for merchants, including a tap and chip card reader. A standard retail hardware bundle sells for $229. On the software side, Shopify POS Lite comes included with all Shopify plans, while the more robust mid-level plan costs $89 per month and the advanced plan starts at $299 per month. Shopify also offers 24/7 phone and email support for its merchant POS customers. 

Toast

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Toast makes of a point-of-sale and management system exclusively for the restaurant industry. Toast's technology platform combines restaurant POS, front-of-house, back-of-house and guest-facing technology with a bevy of third-party applications. The POS software also offers detailed analytics into things like net sales and labor costs, as well as support for loyalty programs, online ordering, and digital gift cards.

Toast's proprietary, ruggedized Android-based hardware suite includes a 14-inch terminal, a three-in-one payment processing device, and a terminal hub and printer. In terms of pricing, Toast offers new customers a zero-cost entry bundle that includes a Toast Flex POS terminal, a Toast Tap payment device and router and POS software. The Essentials plan starts at $165 per month and the Growth plan starts at $272 per month. Fees for each plan are charged per terminal and can include additional costs for desired software and hardware add-ons. 

Toast manages the payment processing for its customers and promises a flat, transparent rate that varies by customer and card mix. Toast is also regarded for its approach to customer support, which is available 24/7 via multiple channels. In addition, the company offers an implementation team that will configure and install Toast for customers.

Revel

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Revel offers an iPad-based point-of-sale system for retailers and restaurants that boasts a user-friendly interface and extensive functionality. This POS system offers integrated inventory and customer management functionalities, along with an analytics application that tracks hourly sales, order history, payment and sales summaries, and product mix. Other features include low stock alerts, integrated scheduling, and payroll logs. Revel also offers 24/7 phone support for existing customers. 

Pricing for Revel's POS software starts at $99 per terminal per month. Customers can purchase additional hardware such as card readers and receipt printers from providers such as Ingenico. Revel also offers a hardware and service leasing program through Apple Financial Services to reduce upfront costs. Payment processing is available either via Revel's in-house service called Revel Advantage or through third-party processors. 

Wix

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Wix is known as a website-development platform provider, but the company now offers a wider range of commerce services, including point-of-sale hardware and software bundles for business owners who want to accept in-person payments connected to their Wix online storefront. 

The Wix Retail POS hardware kits come with an HP terminal that is pre-installed with the Wix POS software, which Wix develops in-house and provides at no additional cost. Transactions are processed through Wix Payments via the Stripe Terminal card reader, with standard, fixed processing rates for in-person payments (2.6% per transaction + 0 USD).

The POS services are integrated with Wix e-commerce accounts, providing fully synced inventory, orders, fulfillment, CRM, analytics, data and reports, with sales automatically reflected across the Wix POS device, Wix Business Manager and Wix Owner app. 

Wix sells its POS services in four different kits. The premium tier is equipped with HP hardware, including a terminal with customer display, cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer and the Stripe Terminal card reader for $750. The Essentials bundle includes a tablet with customer display, Wix POS software, compact card reader and its charging dock and costs $550. The Wix Mobile POS sells for $49.

NCR Silver POS

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NCR Silver is an iPad-based point-of-sale system that touts ease of use, setup, and customization. The system offers robust reporting functionality, along with tools for customer loyalty, email marketing, employee management, and inventory management. Additional services such as accounting and bookkeeping are available via partners such as Intuit.

A basic POS subscription and hardware bundle from NCR costs $79 per month with a one-year contract. NCR's monthly subscription price includes hardware, and additional bundles are available depending on the needs of your business. NCR Silver with EMV starts at $89 per month and the NCR Silver Pro Restaurant Edition starts at $149 per month.

The company does not provide credit processing and therefore works with a range of third-party companies, which will add additional fees. In terms of support, NCR offers 24/7 customer support via phone, email, chat, or text.

Intuit QuickBooks POS

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QuickBooks' point-of-sale system integrates tightly with the company's small business accounting platform, making it an attractive option for existing QuickBooks customers. In addition to ringing sales and accepting payments, the QuickBooks POS also offers robust support for managing customers and inventory. With real-time inventory management, users can see what products are selling best, profits made from each sale, and when it's time to reorder merchandise. 

QuickBooks sells its POS software for a one-time, upfront cost. The Basic plan -- which lets users sync with QuickBooks accounting software, accept payments, track inventory, create reports, and ring sales -- starts at $720 and that does not include hardware. Additional plans with more functionality include the Pro plan, which costs $1,020 plus hardware, and the Multi-Store plan, which starts at $1,140. In terms of customer support, QuickBooks provides a variety of online resources but its phone support is limited to business hours Monday through Saturday. 

Our process

The POS vendors included in this list were chosen based on an analysis of popular reviews combined with years of experience reporting on and writing about the payments space and its key players. 

How to choose 

There are a number of important factors to consider when comparing point-of-sale providers. For most business owners, it's helpful to narrow things down to the essentials: Cost, hardware and software options, payment method coverage, payment processing options, hardware and software interoperability, and customer support.