Harbortouch offers two POS systems: Echo POS and Elite POS. Echo costs $29 per month and is designed for businesses with low transaction volumes. Elite is designed for medium and large-sized businesses, and comes with a robust set of features. Tread carefully though—Harbortouch’s long-term contracts and payment processing have generated numerous user complaints.
If you’re in the market for a new POS system, Harbortouch POS is a name to consider. You may already be familiar with Harbortouch POS thanks to the TV show “Bar Rescue,” where host Jon Taffer provides bar and nightclub owners with Harbortouch products in an effort to help them transform their struggling businesses.
The question is, can Harbortouch help transform your business, struggling or otherwise? That is what we will seek to answer in this review. We’ll look at all of Harbortouch’s capabilities, as well as its price, to determine the ultimate value of this POS provider. Furthermore, we’ll offer up some alternatives to Harbortouch, so you can understand your full range of options when it comes to POS systems.
Let’s get started.
Despite its name, Harbortouch is really a merchant services provider, meaning it is a purveyor of POS systems, payment processing, merchant cash advances, and other services that business owners may need. This is made possible via Harbortouch’s parent company, Shift4 Payments—a large payment processor based out of Las Vegas, Nevada.
However, unlike other POS providers that are subsidiaries of larger companies, all of Harbortouch’s POS software is made by Harbortouch and operates on Harbortouch POS terminals (although additional equipment is provided via third-party vendors). Furthermore, Harbortouch POS systems are cloud-based, meaning your information is stored on Harbortouch servers and transferred to your system via the cloud (you can also access your system via laptop or mobile device). New updates to the Harbortouch system are applied to your software for free automatically, meaning you will always be using the most up-to-date system possible.
Although it is featured prominently on “Bar Rescue,” Harbortouch actually works with a wide range of business types. On its website, Harbortouch advertises solutions for coffee shops, food trucks, mall kiosks, full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, salons, delivery businesses, convenience stores, liquor stores, pizzerias, clothing stores, and more. With so much flexibility, it’s no surprise that over 300,000 merchants in the United States currently use a Harbortouch system.
Let’s find out exactly what those merchants get with their Harbortouch system by examining its capabilities.
What you will get out of your Harbortouch system depends entirely on the Harbortouch POS system you select. There are two primary options: Harbortouch Echo POS and Harbortouch Elite POS. Echo is a product designed for low-volume retail and restaurant businesses, while Elite is suited more to medium and large-sized businesses. Each system comes with its own unique set of software and hardware. As we go through all of Harbortouch’s capabilities, we’ll note which ones come with Echo and which ones come with Elite.
In order to use Harbortouch POS products, you must also use Harbortouch as your payment processing company. Harbortouch uses interchange-plus pricing for card payments, and the rate you will pay per transaction is entirely quote-based. Generally speaking, the higher your transaction volume, the more generous your credit card processing rate.
With Harbortouch Echo, merchants can process all major credit cards as well as swipe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. Harbortouch Elite can do everything Echo does, and also provides additional functionality that allows you to accept payments online.
Harbortouch comes with its own unique hardware designed specifically for its POS software. When you sign up for Harbortouch Echo, you’ll get a 13.3-inch touch-screen terminal attached to a dual-hinged stand that allows for 180-degree rotation. The Echo also comes with a cash drawer, receipt printer, integrated customer display, five employee cards (for login access), and a keyboard.
If you opt for an Elite system, you get a 15-inch touch-screen terminal with a more powerful processor, allowing your device to work faster. Elite customers also get a cash drawer, receipt printer, barcode scanner, integrated customer display, 10 server cards, a keyboard, and a mouse. Both Echo and Elite POS hardware comes with a lifetime warranty, and Harbortouch can also provide kitchen printers, display systems, and digital scales for food-service businesses.
On top of all that, Harbortouch offers three different types of credit card terminal. Merchants can opt for a Verifone VX 520 EMV & NFC Terminal, which allows you to accept swipe, dip, and contactless forms of payment. There is also the S920 Wireless Terminal, which allows you to accept swipe, dip, and contactless forms of payment on the go. If you’d prefer to accept mobile payments from your phone, Harbortouch offers HarborPay—a mobile card reader that allows you to process payments from magstripe and chip cards on your phone using the Harbortouch mobile app.
One other unique piece of hardware that Harbortouch offers is Skytab, a mobile POS device for restaurants that allows servers to punch in orders, accept payment, and print receipts tableside. This device syncs directly with your POS terminal, and is free to Harbortouch Elite customers.
The type of software you get with your POS system is also dependent on whether you choose the Echo or Elite system. Let’s take a look at the software features that come with each POS.
The Echo POS comes with what’s called “module-based” software, allowing you to hide or show only the features you want to use. The Echo POS software can work for both retail and restaurant businesses. Here’s a rundown of all the prominent features:
Although not the most robust set of features, Echo can handle most of the needs of a low-volume business—which is what it is designed for.
The Elite POS system is a bit different in that it does not have a one-size-fits-all software solution. Instead, you can select from one of four different software packages that most fit your business’s needs. Let’s take a look at some of the features provided in each package:
Harbortouch doesn’t offer a ton of third-party integrations. Here are the most notable:
There are several in-house tools that you can add on to your service. Some come included with your software plan, like Lighthouse. Others you may have to pay extra for. Let’s look at all the tools on offer:
As previously mentioned, Lighthouse allows you to access your POS information from any internet-enabled device. Using Lighthouse, you’ll be able to access processing details such as your transactions, batches, deposits and chargebacks, run real-time sales, labor, inventory and financial reports, and make updates to menu or product offerings remotely.
Harbortouch allows you to fully customize your gift cards to match your business’s branding via an online interface. Harbortouch also offers 50 free customized, full color cards and a 60-day free trial to all merchants.
Harbortouch Check Conversion program allows you to scan customers’ checks and have them automatically deposited into your business’s bank account without having to make a trip to the bank. You’ll also have access to Check Guarantee, which alerts you of negative and nonsufficient funds check risks.
Harbortouch offers merchant cash advances of up to $1 million by leveraging a percentage of your future credit card receivables, plus an additional fee.
Harbortouch can arrange to have an ATM installed in your place of business and oversee cash replenishment and processing.
Harbortouch offers 24/7 support via phone and live chat. There is also a Support Center on its website with helpful guides and video tutorials to teach merchants everything they need to know about their POS system.
Echo customers will receive a personalized training session over the phone when they first sign up for Harbortouch. Elite customers have their POS custom-programmed by a Harbortouch representative and receive on-site installation and training on how to use their new system.
The price for Harbortouch POS is very straightforward: Echo customers will pay $29 per month for use of their POS system plus payment processing costs. Elite customers pay $49 per month plus payment processing costs. There is no additional cost for the hardware or installation of your system.
However, Harbortouch requires merchants sign a minimum 3-year contract and pay an early termination fee if they decide to opt out of their service. Elite customers will also be charged a quarterly support fee, and Echo customers will have to pay an additional annual fee. There is also a PCI compliance fee assessed annually.
Given everything we have gone over, here are what we see as the benefits of using Harbortouch as your POS system:
While Echo is more of a basic POS service, the Elite package offers four different types of software, meaning you shouldn’t have any issues finding a solution that works for your business. Considering most POS systems operate with only one specific type of software, it’s impressive that Harbortouch has been able to offer this level of flexibility.
Hardware can be a huge upfront cost for a business when investing in a POS system, so it’s nice to see Harbortouch offers theirs for “free.” Of course, it’s not actually free. Instead, your cost for using Harbortouch’s hardware is baked into your monthly fee. However, this still makes it a lot more affordable than buying a complete set of new POS hardware.
Here are areas of concern with Harbortouch POS:
It’s never ideal when a POS provider forces you to also use them as your payment processor. These concerns are magnified with Harbortouch because of complaints on user review websites of hidden processing fees and account holds and freezes. The best advice we can offer is to read your contract carefully before signing, as you may be at risk of getting locked into a deal that is not beneficial to your business.
Speaking of contracts, Harbortouch’s lasts for three years, which can be a long time in the history of a business. If you find the contract you signed isn’t in your business’s best interest (perhaps for the reasons mentioned above), it can be tough to break it—not to mention expensive. Therefore, Harbortouch’s long-term contract is a mark against it.
Here is what customers say about Harbortouch on major review websites:
The reviews on Harbortouch generally skew negative. Among the most common complaints are difficulty dealing with customer service. Merchants report waiting hours if not days to speak to a representative, and then being frustrated by the level of service they receive. Other complaints include the aforementioned surprise fees and difficulty figuring out how to use the POS.
In positive reviews, users tout Harbortouch’s range of options and low cost.
If you want some options to compare to Harbortouch, consider these POS systems:
If you want the flexibility Harbortouch offers, but more transparency when it comes to price, try Square POS on for size. Square provides free POS software and simple payment processing fees per transaction. Furthermore, you have the option of using Square’s more advanced POS softwares: Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail. These packages come at a cost depending on the plan you choose, but they also come with industry-specific features (and lower credit card processing rates). Overall, you’ll pay a bit more to work with Square, but you’ll be getting a highly reputable service.
If you were considering Harbortouch for its restaurant POS system, let us turn your attention to TouchBistro. TouchBistro boasts an enormous amount of features, including payment processing and floor plan, inventory, customer, employee, menu, and order management. You also have access to some neat hardware items, like a kitchen display system, digital menu board, self-ordering kiosk, and customer facing display. Plus, like Harbortouch, you can bundle your hardware and software together and pay for both month-to-month. Monthly fees start at $105, excluding payment processing.
Harbortouch offers a very approachable price for a POS system. The question you need to ask yourself is if you are willing to deal with the headaches that may arise with having Harbortouch as your POS provider. Taking cues from the review websites, it seems customers who understood exactly what they were signing up for were more pleased with their service. So maybe that’s the best course of action: Negotiate your contract as best you can then look over it with a fine tooth comb before signing anything. Hopefully this way, you can get the most out of Harbortouch POS.
Matthew Speiser is a former staff writer at Fundera.
He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Prior to Fundera, Matthew was an editorial lead at Google and an intern reporter at Business Insider. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world.