The 5 Best POS Systems for Small Business Owners

Last Updated on January 28, 2020

Maddie Shepherd

Contributing Writer at Fundera
Maddie Shepherd is a former Fundera senior staff writer and current freelance writer. Maddie has an extensive knowledge of business credit cards, accounting tools, and merchant services, but specializes in small business financing advice. Maddie has a bachelor's degree in Spanish and Latin American cultures from Barnard College.
Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

Let’s cut to the chase: As a small business owner, you need a POS system.

For business owners just starting out, this can be an overlooked expense. You spend all your time, effort, and attention on the process that leads up to the point when a customer makes a purchase. But you forget about the moment when the customer actually completes the transaction—the point of sale.

With all of the effort poured into getting to that point, it’s crucial that the transaction itself runs smoothly. A bad purchasing experience could jeopardize the sale. That’s where a POS system can help.

In this guide, we’ll list five POS systems that will ensure this crucial moment of transaction runs smoothly. But that’s not all. Our top POS system recommendations can also help you manage your business more efficiently and gain insight into your business’s performance.

The 5 Best POS Systems for Small Businesses

Now that we know the basics of POS systems, let’s learn about the best options for small business. All of these POS systems will help you seamlessly run transactions and operate your business more efficiently.

POS Hardware Costs Software Costs Payment Processing
Square POS
Free – $799
Free – $60 per month
Starting at 2.6% + $0.10
Clover POS

$69 – $1,349

Free – $29 per month
Starting at 2.7% + $0.10

QuickBooks POS 
Varies
$1,200 – $1,900
Depends on merchant acquirer
Lightspeed Retail
Quote-based
$99 per month
Starting at 2.6% + $0.10
Toast
Starting at $450
$79 per month
Quote-based

1. Square POS

Best overall POS system for small business owners.

The Square POS system is our overall top pick for POS systems thanks to its combination of cutting-edge tech and reasonable prices.Square offers a wide variety of iterations of their POS system, all of which will be remarkably intuitive and fairly priced. Sound like Square might offer up just what your business is looking for? Let’s take a look at the details on all of the Square point of sale systems, broken down into hardware and software.

Square POS Hardware

First, let’s take a look at the POS hardware that Square offers up. You might recognize these devices from checking out with a card at your favorite stall at the farmers market or at a high-tech restaurant. The small, (appropriately) square headphone jack plug-in card readers have almost become iconic in the point of sale systems industry, but Square also offers a variety of other powerful options. Let’s list them here:

  • Square Register: Square’s most powerful POS hardware, Square Register is an all-in-one, countertop payment processing system that includes a customer-facing display. Square Register can accept magstripe cards, chip cards, and contactless payments, and comes with the Square POS app built into hardware.
  • Square Terminal: Square Terminal is the most compact all-in-one POS terminal Square offers, most comparable to Clover Flex. It can accept all the same payment types as Square Register, and can connect via USB, Ethernet, or WiFi.
  • Square Stand for Contactless and Chip: Square Stand is a stand to which you can connect your iPad. Then, once you download the Square POS app to your iPad and connect the included hardware, you can use your iPad as your business’s POS system.
  • Square Card Readers: Square offers a collection of external hardware, all of which are built to accept different types of payments—choose among the aforementioned chip card and magstripe card reader, a magstripe card reader, and/or a chip card and contactless payment reader. Note that you get a magstripe card reader for free when you sign up for Square POS

Square POS Software

Now for the software: Square offers three different versions. There is a free version, a version for restaurants, and a version for retail businesses. Let’s look at all three.

The first thing you need to know about the Square Point of Sale app? It’s free.You’ll be able to download the Square POS software through an app store and then attach your account simply by logging in.Through this free point of sale software, you’ll be able to:

  • Accept cards, cash, checks, and gift cards
  • Provide digital and printed receipts
  • Make invoices and recurring payments
  • Manage your inventory in real time
  • Swipe cards offline
  • Receive direct customer feedback
  • Run sales reporting and analytics
  • Provide refunds, taxes, tipping, and discounts
  • 24/7 customer support

There are also add-on services for marketing, payrollcustomer loyalty, and team management.

Square for Retail

If you want to access to an even more powerful point of sale software, then look to Square for Retail. This version is an upgrade from Square Point of Sale, and its cost reflects that. That being said, for this extra price, you’ll gain access to the following extra features:

  • Search-based point of sale
  • Multi-location inventory tracking
  • Vendor management
  • Automatic customer profile creation
  • Direct, in-app inventory purchase orders
  • Employee time cards and permissions

Square for Restaurants

Lastly we have Square for Restaurants. This is another industry-specific version of the Square POS, designed with features to help restaurants run more efficiently. Specific features you’ll get with Square for Restaurants include:

  • Menu management
  • Table mapping,
  • Custom floor plans
  • Order modifications and substitutions
  • Delivery and takeout tool
  • Menu-based inventory management

Square POS Pricing

Now that we’ve covered everything included in the Square POS system, let’s break down what it’s going to cost you. Here is the pricing on all Square POS products:

  • Square Register: $799
  • Square Terminal: $299
  • Square Stand: $199
  • Square Contactless and Chip Reader: $49
  • Square Magstripe Reader: First magstripe reader free, $10 thereafter
  • Square Chip and Magstripe Reader: $35
  • Square for Restaurants: Starting at $60 per month
  • Square for Retail: Starting at $60 per month
  • Square Marketing: $15 per month
  • Square Loyalty: $45 per month
  • Square Payroll: $34 per month
  • Square Team Management: $35 per month

Additionally, you’ll need to pay Square processing fees for every transaction because Square is a payment service provider. Fees depend upon the type of hardware you choose and the type of transaction you’re processing. Prices start at 2.6% + $0.10 for in-person transactions, 2.9% + $0.10 for digital transactions, and 3.5% + $0.10 for virtual terminal transactions.

2. Clover POS

Most customizable POS system.

Next up on our list of the best POS systems for small business is Clover. With the Clover POS system, you can personalize your business’s solution with the many choices Clover offers for both point of sale hardware and software. You’ll have a host of options to sift through with Clover POS—and considered as a whole, they might be a bit overwhelming.To lay out the details of all of your Clover point of sale options, let’s break them down by hardware and software, starting with Clover point of sale devices:

Clover POS Hardware

Clover offers four top-of-the-line point of sale devices for you to choose from. From the most inconspicuous, portable point of sale device, to a substantial piece of hardware, Clover’s devices tend to a wide variety of POS preference and needs. Let’s take a look at all of them:

  • Clover Go: This device connects to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, and can process magstripe cards, chip cards, and contactless payments. Unlike other Clover POS system hardware options, Clover Go requires you to come to the table with additional technology—be it a smartphone, tablet, or iPad. Clover Go will only be able to process payments if it’s attached to another device.
  • Clover Flex: Flex is Clover’s handheld, wifi-connected payment processing option. In addition to accepting all the same payment methods that Clover Go can, Clover Flex can capture signatures, scan barcodes, and print receipts.
  • Clover Mini: Clover Mini has similar capabilities to Clover Flex, but in a (predictably small) countertop format, rather than as a handheld device. You’ll be able to process all payments, scan barcodes, and print receipts—and do so with greater speed than you would with mobile Clover point of sale hardware options.
  • Clover Station: Clover Station is Clover’s most powerful, secure, and fastest POS offering. This countertop payment processor can accept credit cards and it also comes with a cash drawer. On its large display screen, you can access all of Clover Station’s additional business-management capabilities, like inventory management, employee tracking, and sales reports.

Clover is currently running a limited-time only offer where you can get a $250 statement credit when you open a new merchant services account.

Clover POS Software

Beyond the four point of sale devices that Clover offers, their POS software options allow you to customize your Clover POS system even more.You have three Clover point of sale software options to choose from, so let’s take a look at each of them:

Payments Plus

Payments Plus is Clover’s most basic service plan. With it, you can accept all payment types, and also receive a few additional functions, like employee time tracking and customer engagement tools.

Register Lite

The cheaper version of Clover POS software is the Register Lite plan. It comes with the following capabilities:

  • Accept and process all forms of payment, including credit, debit, chip, and contactless
  • Track cash payments
  • Process payments offline
  • Ring up items, discounts, and tax
  • Email, text, and store digital receipts
  • Capture electronic signatures and tips
  • Track sales and reports
  • Item-level taxes
  • Process refunds
  • Set employee permissions and shifts
  • Monitor activity, sales, and refunds remotely
  • Liability protection up to $100,000 in event of data breach
  • Access the Clover App Market

Register

The final, most powerful POS software from Clover is the Register plan. With this POS software, you’ll be able to access a long list of capabilities beyond those that you’d be able to access with Register Lite, including:

  • Manage inventory and orders with enhanced capabilities
  • Modify, change, and exchange orders
  • Send customer orders to a display or printer in another location, in any language
  • Connect a scale to your POS system
  • Add variants and item-level costs to inventory
  • Track item-level profitability
  • Create customer loyalty program
  • Build mailing list

Clover POS Pricing

Now that we’ve touched on all the products, let’s look at what you’ll pay to build your own Clover POS system:

  • Clover Go: $69
  • Clover Flex: $499
  • Clover Mini: Prices start at $749
  • Clover Station: Prices start at $1,349
  • Payments Plus: 2.7% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, and 3.5% + $0.10 for keyed-in transactions
  • Register Lite: $14 monthly fee, plus 2.7% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, and 3.5% + $0.10 for keyed-in transactions.
  • Register: $29.95 monthly fee, plus 2.3% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, and 3.5% + $0.10 for keyed-in transactions.

3. Intuit QuickBooks POS System

Best POS system for QuickBooks users.

As a small business owner, you’re probably familiar with QuickBooks—they’re the giant of small business accounting software. And it should come as no surprise that this accounting powerhouse has ventured into the world of point of sale systems.The QuickBooks POS system for desktop is another powerful solution, and it’s perfect for those who already use other QuickBooks products. Let’s check out the details on what it has to offer—and at what price:

QuickBooks POS Hardware

QuickBooks doesn’t offer any proprietary POS hardware like Clover or Square. Instead, you can purchase your products from third-party vendors through QuickBooks. Here’s a rundown of the QuickBooks hardware products on offer:

  • Magstripe/EMV credit card terminal
  • Receipt printer
  • Barcode scanner
  • Wireless barcode scanner
  • Cash drawer
  • Pole display
  • Tag printer

QuickBooks POS Software

QuickBooks is also different from Clover and Square in that it is designed to run on desktop computers, making it a more traditional POS solution. Another difference is that there is no subscription fee—you just pay a one time cost and the QuickBooks POS software is yours to use for as long as you want. All QuickBooks POS softwares come with credit card processing, but you’ll have to bring your own merchant account to the table. Other features you can expect include sales management, inventory management, customer tracking, employee hours management, and more. Plus, each version of the QuickBooks POS system will integrate with your QuickBooks desktop accounting software to make bookkeeping easier. Let’s take a closer look at each QuickBooks POS software plan:

QuickBooks POS Basic

The Basic package provides you with the following capabilities:

  • Process payments
  • Track inventory
  • Offer discounts
  • Offer sales receipts
  • Track customer data
  • Basic reporting functions

However, you’ll miss out on shipping features, special discounts across multiple products, employee tracking, and more. The Basic is the least expensive option and is best suited for smaller, mom-and-pop businesses.

QuickBooks POS Pro

The next level up for the QuickBooks POS system is the Point of Sale Pro/ You’ll get all the features of the Basic subscription level, plus these additional capabilities:

  • Track employee hours
  • Manage payroll
  • Create loyalty programs
  • Offer gift cards
  • Advanced reporting functions

QuickBooks POS System: Multi-Store

And finally, the Multi-Store plan gives you all the features of the Pro, plus:

  • Multi-store inventory tracking
  • The ability to manage multiple stores
  • Shipping and tracking
  • Report generation

QuickBooks POS Pricing

For all of these QuickBooks POS products, here’s what you’ll have to pay:

  • QuickBooks POS Basic: $1,200
  • QuickBooks POS Pro: $1,700
  • QuickBooks POS Multi-Store: $1,900
  • Magstripe/EMV terminal: $349.95
  • Receipt printer: $219.95
  • Barcode scanner: $199.95
  • Cash drawer: $109.95
  • Display pole: $209.95
  • Tag printer: $329.95
  • Wireless barcode scanner: $409.95

4. Lightspeed Retail POS

Best POS system for retail businesses.

Next up on our list of the best POS systems for small businesses is Lightspeed Retail, a great option for (you guessed it), retail businesses. Like Square and Clover, Lightspeed Retail is a high-tech solution jam-packed with a lot of features. It is targeted at brick-and-mortar retailers who need both hardware and software to run transactions. On their website, Lightspeed says their retail POS is suitable for a variety of different business types, including apparel, electronics, home goods, jewelry, and even pet stores.

Let’s take a look at Lightspeed Retail’s hardware and software options.

Lightspeed Retail Hardware

Lightspeed sells its hardware in kits. There’s an iPad hardware kit and a desktop hardware kit. The iPad hardware kit comes with an iPad stand, cash drawer, bluetooth barcode scanner, and a receipt printer. Lightspeed recommends this kit for those who want to be able to provide a mobile checkout experience.The desktop kit comes with a receipt printer, cash drawer, and a USB barcode scanner.

In terms of variety, Lightspeed offers a few different options when it comes to receipt printers, and all hardware options can be mixed and matched to create the kit that best fits your needs.Credit card terminals are not included in Lightspeed’s hardware kits. The only compatible credit card terminal is the Verifone MX915, and it must be purchased separately. It can accept all major credit cards and payment methods. Lightspeed will not work with other terminals because, according to the Lightspeed website, they have not been “injected with the certified firmware.”

Lightspeed Retail Software

Lightspeed Retail can manage a lot of different tasks, but it’s best feature is its inventory management—which is why it’s such a good solution for retail businesses. Importing your product catalog into Lightspeed Retail is as simple as uploading a CSV or Excel file.With your catalogue uploaded, you can categorize items by style, size, and color, and create as many product variants as you desire. Each item can also receive its own unique SKU number for stock keeping purposes.

Perhaps most importantly, Lightspeed Retail allows you to upload vendor catalogs and order new stock directly from your POS.For those with multiple store locations, Lightspeed allows you to transfer stock between stores with a few taps, and new stock orders can be arranged to be delivered to multiple locations.While inventory is the core of the Lightspeed Retail software product, there are still a bunch of other functions it can handle, including:

  • Perform refunds
  • Pay with gift cards and store credit
  • Apply discounts
  • Build customer profiles
  • Employee time clock
  • User-based permissions
  • Onboarding tutorials
  • Sales, inventory, staff, and marketing reports
  • Integrate ecommerce store
  • 24/7 customer support

In addition, Lightspeed sells an add-on for a customer loyalty program. Third-party softwares can be integrated via the Lightspeed App Marketplace.

Lightspeed Retail Price

Here’s how the pricing breaks down on Lightspeed Retail:

  • Lightspeed Retail App: $99/month
  • iOS hardware kit: Quote-based
  • Desktop hardware kit: Quote-based
  • Verifone MX915: N/A
  • Lightspeed Loyalty: $59.99/month
  • Ecommerce integration: $59/month

In terms of payment processing, Lightspeed offers an in-house payment solution called Lightspeed Payments. Using Lightspeed Payments, you can process all major cards at a rate of 2.6% + $0.10 for swipe, dip, and contactless payments, and 2.6% + $0.30 for “card not present” payments (i.e. keyed-in transactions). For merchants processing over $250,000 annually, Lightspeed offers cheaper, quote-based pricing.If you don’t want to use Lightspeed as your payment processor, you can integrate with a variety of other options, including Cayan and Worldpay.

5. Toast

Best POS system for restaurants.

Lastly we have Toast, a POS system created by restauranteurs, for restauranteurs. Since launching in Boston in 2012, Toast has built up their offerings to become an extremely wide-ranging and versatile restaurant POS. Let’s take a look at their hardware and software offerings.

Toast POS Hardware

Toast sells individual hardware items as well as bundles. Among the proprietary hardware products Toast sells are touch-screen terminals, handheld POS devices (for tableside ordering), wide-screen kiosks where customers can punch in their orders, user-facing displays so customers can review their order, and kitchen display systems, as well as barcode scanners, cash drawers, receipt printers, and kitchen printers.

There are a variety of different bundles, from a handheld tablet bundle to a terminal bundle (comes with 10-inch terminal, card reader, receipt printer, cash drawer, and tablet), and all hardware comes with 0% financing for 36 months, and a two-year warranty. Kitchen printers are sold separately from bundles. It’s also worth noting that all Toast hardware is Android based, and the software runs on Android systems.

Toast POS Software

The Toast POS software was designed for restaurants of all shapes and sizes. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect when you use Toast:

  • Real-time menu updates
  • Order coursing
  • Time-based promotions (i.e. Happy Hour)
  • Split checks
  • Add notes to orders
  • Notifications when dishes are ready
  • Online ordering and order management
  • User-based permissions
  • Manage floor plan
  • Time clock
  • Tip reconciliation
  • End-of-day reports
  • Close Out Day tool
  • Employee performance tracking
  • Email/text receipts
  • Customer profiles
  • Email promotions
  • Caller ID
  • Real-time inventory updates
  • Gift cards (add-on)
  • Loyalty program (add-on)
  • Delivery system (add-on)
  • 24/7 customer support

Toast POS Pricing

As you can tell, Toast packs an impressive punch when it comes to functionality. Now let’s see what all that functionality will cost you:

  • POS Software: Starting at $79 per month ($50 per additional terminal in use)
  • Hardware kits: Starting at $450
  • Loyalty program: $25 per month
  • Gift cards: $50 per month
  • Delivery system: $50 per month

Like Square and Clover, Toast requires you to use them as your payment processor as well. However, Toast doesn’t list what their credit card processing fees are. Instead, they say they’ll “create a rate for you based on your unique card mix.”

What to Look for in a POS System

With so many POS system options to choose from, it can be hard for a small business owner to land on the right one. Although there’s admittedly a long list of moving parts to consider, all of these moving parts can really be summarized in your top two factors to consider in your search for a POS system for your small business—the point of sale system’s pricing and its capabilities.

Pricing

First and foremost, you’re going to have to pay careful attention to how your potential point of sale systems are priced. Among all of the top point of sale systems, you’ll not only see a wide range of prices, but you’ll also see a lot of variety in how exactly each of your potential POS systems are priced.This means that different point of sale systems come with different types of costs. Whether it be a payment processing fee, a one-off cost for hardware, or a monthly software cost—or any combination of the three—there are a few facets to how much your POS system will end up costing your business.

Capabilities

Even more, you need to make sure that each of your potential point of sale systems actually do what you’ll need them to.If you need help keeping up with inventory and orders, then make sure your potential POS systems will be able to update inventory as you sell and order. If your business relies heavily on customers who use contactless payment, make sure your point of sale hardware has the power to work with Apple Pay and Google Pay. And if your business offers exchanges or returns, then be sure you’re choosing only from point of sale systems that allow for that. Once you find the point of sale systems that offer all of the capabilities that your business needs, whittle them down to only ones that match your ideal price point and structure.

Need Less Than a Point of Sale Software Offers?

Perhaps all of these POS systems are offering way more capabilities than your business needs. Some businesses simply need a way to run transactions without all of the distracting bells and whistles attached. Or, you simply might not be ready to invest in a POS system at the moment. Not to worry—if you’re not ready to get your business signed up with one of these POS systems, then you might want to consider your payment processing options. Payment processing systems simply allow your business to make and accept payments. And one of the very best options for payment processing is the global payments provider Veem.

Veem will allow your business to send and receive wires without imposing costs onto your or your customers. With this payment processor, wires are no longer expensive, last-resort options for payments.

Finding the Best POS System for Your Small Business

What’s the last word on the best POS systems for small business? Well, that’s what’s left for you to decide. Now that you’re familiar with all of the ins and outs of the best point of sale systems to choose from, you’re well-equipped to forge onward in your search for the best payment solution for your business.It’s up to you—the one who’s most familiar with your business’s needs—to choose the POS system that’s best fit for you.

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Maddie Shepherd

Contributing Writer at Fundera
Maddie Shepherd is a former Fundera senior staff writer and current freelance writer. Maddie has an extensive knowledge of business credit cards, accounting tools, and merchant services, but specializes in small business financing advice. Maddie has a bachelor's degree in Spanish and Latin American cultures from Barnard College.