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The Best POS Systems of 2021 - Revolutionize Your Business Staff

A point of sale system used to be no more sophisticated than a standard cash register, but oh, have the times changed. Today, your typical POS system comes fully loaded with all kinds of features and gadgets, including inventory tracking and reordering, customer retention programs, and employee management tools. 

With COVID-19 constantly changing the rules of the game, the features offered by the latest POS systems can keep you ahead of the competition, especially around this time of the year when planning your business activity for 2021 and beyond. 

Bottom line, if you want to succeed in retail today, it’s a good idea to get yourself a reliable and feature-rich POS system. Options abound when it comes to this industry, so you’re not lacking for choices. The trouble is that not all retail POS software was created equal, and some are lagging far behind. To save you the trouble, we’ve tested loads of POS systems and ranked the top 10 for quality, efficiency, speed, price, and other important features.

Retail and restaurants, all-inclusive
Expanding businesses in any retail or service
Food industry services of every size
Restaurant/food industry services
Designed for all food industry businesses
SMBs and enterprise retail and food services
Small to medium-sized retail, food businesses
SMBs that experience low-volume sales monthly
Medium to large stores specifically in retail
$99-$289per month
Starting at $14
Starting at $79
From $59-$359
Bundles from $105
Starting from $99
Varies based on the hardware of choice
Starting at 2.5%
Starting from $99
iPad, mobile extensions
Proprietary hardware, not compatible with iOS
Android-based mobile compatibility
Mobile app, tablet and tableside (Android OS)
iPhone, iPad, web-based
iPad compatible, mobile compatible
Proprietary Clover hardware
Fully compatible with iPad and mobile devices
iPad and iOS device compatible
Cloud-based and mobile
Cloud-based with offline mode
Cloud-based with offline mode
Yes via Clover
Clover Mini, Heartland, Vantiv, and more

A Closer Look at the Top 10 POS Systems

  • 1


    • Price range$99-$289per month
    • Best forRetail and restaurants, all-inclusive
    • Mobile CompatibilityiPad, mobile extensions

    Lightspeed takes all the frills of TouchBistro and upgrades them for both retail and restaurant usage. So, you get neat features like food management systems and interactive menus for the food industry. Lightspeed's menu functionality is particularly sleek, providing HD photos, descriptions, and pricing for every menu item. You can also create loyalty programs to reward frequent customers and a full-fledged CRM, so you can really keep track of who's coming and going.

    Meanwhile, for retailers, Lightspeed offers plenty of hardware options to improve your efficiency and sales, like scanners, printers, and electronic cash drawers. The POS system also comes with sales reporting, merchant services, and an Ecommerce platform. What's more, Lightspeed's inventory management is in real-time, so you can tell customers on the spot whether or not you have a particular item left in stock.

    • Lots of extra hardware options
    • Advanced features come with basic plan
    • Easy to use and train visual interface
    • Can be confusing to figure out profit margins
    • No confirmation received when sending email orders
  • 2


    • Price rangeStarting at $14
    • Best forExpanding businesses in any retail or service
    • Mobile CompatibilityProprietary hardware, not compatible with iOS

    If you've had any experience with POS systems in the past, then Clover will be a familiar name. That's because this hardware is even used by other POS software providers, and that should tell you something about the system. Clover POS has all of the features you'd expect from a POS system, including built-in payment processing, order management, and customer management system. There are even marketing campaigns, loyalty programs, and birthday promotions to help grow your customer base. Clover offers other tools like shift management, scheduling, and register activity logs, as well.

    Clover provides both stationary and portable hardware devices, so you can select the type of hardware that works best for your business needs and layout. Clover POS is also totally customizable with scalable plans, add-ons, and accessories that help you expand your reach as your business grows. Of course, if you want to go all out, Clover has some interesting features like customer feedback, guest management, and gift card generator.

    • Tons of integrations to expand your functionality
    • Easy-to-use software and hardware
    • Many features included in the basic plan
    • Android OS isn’t as sleek as iOS
    • Can’t use your own payment processor
  • 3


    • Price rangeStarting at $79
    • Best forFood industry services of every size
    • Mobile CompatibilityAndroid-based mobile compatibility

    Toast is a cloud-based restaurant-geared POS system provider with all the bells and whistles you could ask for. From the online ordering system to a loyalty rewards program, gift card generator, and detailed inventory management system, Toast has thought of it all. Splitting checks, simple order voiding, and closeout day functionality only sweeten the pot.

    Unlike most POS systems, Toast runs on the Android operating system. What this means for a business owner is that the hardware is significantly cheaper to purchase and more versatile in terms of integration. Toast Go, the mobile hardware option, allows wait staff to manage their tables, orders, payments, and tabs tableside for faster and more efficient ordering. In general, Toast is a sleeker, smoother, easier POS system to use than most.

    • Excellent restaurant-specific features
    • Neat Go hardware for tableside management
    • Top-of-the-line customer support
    • Have to pay more to get the cool features
    • Installation fee
  • 4


    • Price rangeFrom $59-$359
    • Best forRestaurant/food industry services
    • Mobile CompatibilityMobile app, tablet and tableside (Android OS)

    While a lot of businesses claim to be all-in-one, Upserve actually lives up to that promise. Serving up a selection of useful tools and features for any restaurant owner, Upserve covers the spectrum. You can get a fully-functioning POS system along with payment processor, reservations system, inventory management, staff management, and analytics to help boost sales and streamline all of your business processes.

    Upserve is similar to TouchBistro in that it specifically caters to the food industry. As such, it has a lot of features that restaurant owners will find helpful, like a digital guest book, daily digest, and menu management. Upserve also has a useful shift prep tool and even digs deep in its analytics to give you server performance stats. Some unique features you won't find elsewhere include reputation management and marketing tools for maximizing your customer reach and retention.

    • Cool, free resources to help restaurant owners
    • Truly all-in-one solution
    • Useful, niche-specific features
    • No happy hour discounts programmable
    • Offline mode is a bit sluggish
  • 5


    • Price rangeBundles from $105
    • Best forDesigned for all food industry businesses
    • Mobile CompatibilityiPhone, iPad, web-based

    TouchBistro is another good choice for businesses of every size in the food industry. Whether you own a food truck or run a full-service restaurant, brewery, or nightclub, TouchBistro is the POS software that was specifically designed for your industry. That means it comes with features that cater to your needs, pressure points, and clientele. Food managers will appreciate details like self-ordering for faster service, a kitchen display system for faster and better communication between wait and kitchen staff, and a digital menu board for instant menu updates.

    In addition to the usual perks, like reporting, analytics, and inventory management, these POS systems come fully loaded with features like tableside ordering, restaurant table management, and menu management. Managers will also appreciate the scheduling features included with TouchBistro hardware because it makes staff management so much simpler.

    • Transparent pricing and fees
    • Specifically designed for food industry needs
    • $0 commission online ordering, loyalty, reservations, and more
    • Not as relevant for retail or clothing markets
    • Partially network-based
  • 6


    • Price rangeStarting from $99
    • Best forSMBs and enterprise retail and food services
    • Mobile CompatibilityiPad compatible, mobile compatible

    Revel incorporates all aspects of a reliable and efficient POS system into one. When it comes to retail stores or the food industry, Revel delivers a true omnichannel platform that lets you handle every aspect of your business, including Ecommerce, mobile sales, custom branded apps, and of course, in-store purchases. 

    Revel also has incredible inventory management. You can automate your orders, so the system automatically reorders items when you're running low, and Revel excels at keeping track of inventory in real-time. In fact, you can even drill-down to ingredient inventory management. 

    Something else that makes Revel stand out is its userbase. While most POS system brands cater to SMBs, Revel has both a small business option and an enterprise-level one. So, no matter what the size of your business currently or in the future, this POS system can cover all the bases.

    • In-depth inventory management
    • Neat back-office tools for better efficiency
    • SMB and enterprise-level solutions
    • Confusing pricing structure
    • API access only available for a price
  • 7
    Best POS System

    Best POS System

    • Price rangeVaries based on the hardware of choice
    • Best forSmall to medium-sized retail, food businesses
    • Mobile CompatibilityProprietary Clover hardware

    Remember how we mentioned that Clover is used by other POS providers? Well, Best POS System is one of those providers that have jumped on the Clover bandwagon. A Clover reseller, you can buy all of the Clover hardware via this service and get all the benefits of this quality brand name included. Best POS System is easy to set up, easy to use, and opens you up to an almost unlimited marketplace of apps for amazing customization.

    Best POS System uses the proprietary hardware made by Clover, a sleek, clean, and touch-based system. From the handheld Clover Flex device, which offers built-in printer, barcode scanner, and EMV, NFC, contactless payment processor, to the Clover Mini, which offers all the features in miniature form, Best POS System is a great way to go if you’re looking for reliable, industry-recognized POS hardware and software.

    • Industry-leading POS systems
    • Wide range of options
    • Tons of features, add-ons, and integrations
    • Proprietary software is limiting
    • System can get costly if you want multiple devices
  • 8
    Square Online Store

    Square Online Store

    • Price rangeStarting at 2.5%
    • Best forSMBs that experience low-volume sales monthly
    • Mobile CompatibilityFully compatible with iPad and mobile devices

    Unless you've been living under a rock somewhere, you are already more than familiar with Square. It's unquestionably the most well-recognized POS system on the market today, and that's not surprising. Offering no monthly fees and impressively low rates, Square is a favorite for low-volume businesses looking to save money. You can pay a flat rate of 2.6%+$.10 for swiped transactions and 3.5%+$.15 per keyed transactions. In case you aren't in the know, those are really good rates.

    Square isn't just a cheap meal ticket, either. The iPad POS system is fully loaded with features like an Ecommerce platform, inventory management, and virtual payment terminals. Square is also mobile-friendly, comes with an API for developers, and tons of third-party integrations. While it's not a good option for high-risk industries, Square is ideal for just about any other type of business, including at-home services, food industries, and retailers. 

    • Huge reputation for quality and affordability
    • Easy, flat-rate pricing structure
    • No monthly fees and free chip readers
    • Not great for high volume merchants
    • Doesn’t work with high-risk industries
  • 9
    Heartland Retail

    Heartland Retail

    • Price rangeStarting from $99
    • Best forMedium to large stores specifically in retail
    • Mobile CompatibilityiPad and iOS device compatible

    As the name implies, Heartland Retail is the foremost POS system that exclusively deals with retail. Since the system is designed to cater to this audience, Heartland Retail delivers retail-centric features, like sales rep tracking, multi-store inventory look-up, and real-times sales dashboard. The analytics are also very well done with this POS system, providing real-time data on sales, staff, and customers, the ability to generate custom field reports, and create user-based permissions across the system.

    Heartland Retail also goes the extra mile with its inventory management with features like custom reason codes for adjustments, bin location field for warehouse management, and partial and full inventory counts. Particularly suited for medium to large businesses, Heartland Retail even delivers some advanced features you won’t find with other POS systems. Things like item grids, barcode label makers, and Joor & NuOrder integration help keep purchasing and receiving new products a cinch.

    • Lots of flexibility and customization options
    • Several reporting features
    • Professional POS system geared toward retailers
    • Only available for retail services
    • Not a good small business option
Frequently Asked Questions
Which free POS software is best?
Toast has been rated the #1 POS for iPads on the iOS app store and earned plenty of positive reviews for its flexibility, features, and prices.
What should I look for in a POS system?
Simply put, a good POS system is one that can accommodate your business' needs. It should be scalable, able to accommodate the size and diversity of products or services your business offers, and should have strong customer service support.
What is the best POS system for retail?
LightSpeed is a favorite POS system for retail businesses. It offers a solid Ecommerce platform as well as hardware options such as scanners and electronic cash drawers that are particularly useful for retailers.

The Types of POS Software and Their Costs

There are 4 main types of POS software:

Mobile POS software 

This software is cloud-based and comes as an app on your smartphone or tablet. It’s usually compatible with a receipt printer and a credit card swiper, but not as powerful as a full terminal POS system. It’s ideal for sole traders such as plumbers or mobile food cart owners.

Tablet POS software 

The tablet version is similar to mobile POS software, but offers more features and capabilities. You could use tablet POS software to manage a large and complex retail organization, including inventory tracking, employee time tracking, payroll, and accounting. They are compatible with many POS hardware solutions to form a complete POS system for any situation.

Terminal POS software 

This is a fixed POS software with full back-office capabilities. It can be cloud-based or on-premise. Terminal POS software is best suited to large retail stores, spas, malls, and other brick and mortar businesses.

Self-service or unattended POS software 

This is designed to be used in kiosks and outdoor units where it's not practical to post an employee. It is often integrated with another POS system nearby, like to provide an extra sales point in a busy grocery store. It can be cloud-based or on-premise since it's not used with a mobile system.

You’ll also find POS software designed for the unique needs of specific industries, such as restaurant and hospitality businesses, apparel retail, financial services, academia and education, and pharmaceuticals POS software.

The costs of your POS software will vary depending on the type of software you choose. Mobile POS software, such as a smartphone app, can begin at $50 per month, while more complex software can reach several hundred dollars monthly. When you buy POS software, you’ll usually need to pay an upfront purchase price, plus an ongoing monthly or yearly payment processing fee.

Other factors that may affect the cost of your POS software include:

  • How many features you add
  • Any hardware included
  • Number of integrations
  • Your operating system

Getting the Right POS Hardware 

POS hardware is the indispensable other half of your POS system. You’ll need to get the right hardware to match the actions and transactions you want to carry out using your POS system. A basic set of POS hardware consists of:

  • Printer to offer hard copies of receipts (retail stores, restaurants, and other brick and mortar businesses are likely to need this)
  • A POS terminal, or iPad or Android tablet to run your POS software
  • Credit card reader
  • A cash drawer to keep cash transactions secure and logged into your system

Depending on your business, you might also need:

  • Extra tablets so wait staff can process orders at the table in restaurants
  • A router to strengthen your internet for cloud-based POS systems
  • A local server to host your on-premise POS software
  • Weight scales for food retailers
  • Barcode scanners
  • Networking cables to connect all of your hardware
  • An extra kitchen printer
  • Self-serve checkout kiosks

The Benefits of a POS System For Your Business 

With a POS system, your business can retain more customers through a better, targeted loyalty program and you can also track inventory so that you never run out of stock unexpectedly. A POS system can help you run complex discount offers when appropriate. 

With the right POS system, you can also analyze sales history to discover seasonal buying trends and correlations, which can come in useful when you want to increase sales. You can also remove manual error by using barcode scanners and automatic synchronization, as well as combat absenteeism with a more reliable employee tracking system.

Other major benefits include improving payment security as well as the ability to make more sales thanks to your ability to accept more types of payment.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise POS Systems

A cloud-based POS system stores data on remote servers and can be accessed online, whereas a traditional or on-premise POS system stores data on a local server and can be accessed through an internal network. Here’s a breakdown of the main differences between a cloud-based POS and an on-premise POS:

Cloud-Based POS Systems
On-Premise POS Systems
Relatively low-cost to buy and setup, but have higher ongoing costs
Expensive to setup and install, but carries very low ongoing costs
Always accessible from wherever you are, even if you’re out of the country
Comprehensive and extensive. On-premise POS systems can be used for very large and complex retail situations
Highly scalable
Not easily flexible or scalable
Easy to carry around, making it ideal for mobile businesses
Not easily portable, making it a poor choice for mobile businesses
Dependant on a good internet connection
Not reliant on the internet, so your POS system is always up and running even if the internet is down
Able to keep your data backed up on the cloud so that you won’t lose anything if the system crashes
At risk of losing all of your data if the server crashes
Easy to integrate with other business apps
Operated on a local server with all of your data and apps in your own network

If you have long-term business plans and if your requirements are likely to continue to evolve as your business grows, then a cloud-based POS system is probably the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you have fixed needs or a small budget, you might be best served by choosing a traditional POS system. 

How to Choose a POS System Provider

Asking yourself these questions will help you choose the right POS system provider:

  • What features do I need?
  • Do I want to save money upfront or keep my monthly costs down?
  • What hardware do I need? If you need a lot of items, a provider that bundles hardware together with the software is a better bet, but if you're going to be using your existing iPad, you’ll need something different.
  • Does it integrate well with my existing business apps?
  • Is the pricing transparent?
  • Is it easy to set up and use? If it’s more complex, does it offer training?
  • What analytics does it offer and what metrics can it check? Make sure that the ones that are most important to you are included in the package.
  • How good is the customer service?
  • Is it simple to scale up as your business grows? Staff's editorial staff is a professional team of editors and writers with dozens of years of experience covering consumer, financial and business products and services.