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Best POS systems in 2020: Get the right one for your business

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.

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn an affiliate commission from some of the products featured on this page. ZDNet and the author were not compensated for this independent review. 

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.

View Now at Square

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 $1,150 for the most comprehensive set of products. Clover Mini, its other all-in-one POS system, sells for $599, and its Clover Flex card reader retails for $449. The most basic hardware offering is the Clover Go dongle that sells for $69. In terms of customer service, Clover offers free phone, email and web-based customer support to its existing merchants.

View Now at Clover

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. In general, its Retail POS service costs $99 per month based on an annual contract or $119 per month without a contract. Lightspeed E-Commerce runs about $59 per month, and Lightspeed Restaurant POS runs around $69 per month. In terms of support, the company has a 24/7 support team and is reachable via phone, email and online chat. 

View Now at Lightspeed POS

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 $119 per month, a Pro plan for $159 per month, and an Enterprise plan that requires a customer quote. 

View Now at Vend POS

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 starts at $29 per month, the more robust mid-level plan costs $79 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. 

View Now at Shopify

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's POS software costs $75 per terminal per month, plus additional fees for desired software 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.

View Now at Toast

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. 

View Now at Revel Systems

ShopKeep

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ShopKeep is an iPad-based point-of-sale system for retailers and restaurants that also manages customer information, marketing, inventory, staff, and payments. Additional features include customized reports, the ability to view sales by the hour and to track top customers. For employee management, ShopKeep offers labor tracking, shift summaries, and performance reports. 

ShopKeep charges businesses $69 a month, per register. Its software is made to run on an iPad, which the company sells along with other hardware used by its merchant base, including cash drawers, receipt printers, iPad enclosures, and credit card readers. ShopKeep is set up to act as the payment processor for its merchants and uses the Interchange Plus method of pricing. It also works with most of the major payment processors. Customer support is available 24/7 via online chat and phone.

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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 $108 per month with a two-year contract. NCR's monthly subscription price includes hardware, and additional bundles are available depending on the needs of your business. 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.

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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 $1,200 and that does not include hardware. Additional plans with more functionality include the Pro plan, which costs $1,700 plus hardware, and the Multi-Store plan, which starts at $1,900. In terms of customer support, QuickBooks provides a variety of online resources but its phone support is limited to business hours Monday through Saturday. 

View Now at Intuit QuickBooks