Best POS Systems 2020

Top10.com 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. 

What’s more, a point of sale system is no longer an archaic piece of machinery. Today’s POS options include sleek tablet versions, user-friendly software, and impressive dashboards that let you manage, update, review, and analyze every aspect of your business from end-to-end.

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.

Bars, quick or full-service restaurants
Designed for all food industry businesses
Restaurant/food industry services
Food industry services of every size
Medium to large stores specifically in retail
Retail and restaurants, all-inclusive
Small to medium-sized retail, food businesses
SMBs that experience low-volume sales monthly
From $69-$199per month
Bundles from $105per month
From $59-$359
Starting at $79
Starting from $99per month
$99-$289per month
Varies based on the hardware of choice
Starting at 2.5%per transaction plus $.10
#1 rated iPad POS on App Store
iPhone, iPad, web-based
Mobile app, tablet and tableside (Android OS)
Android-based mobile compatibility
iPad and iOS device compatible
iPad, mobile extensions
Proprietary Clover hardware
Fully compatible with iPad and mobile devices
Cloud-based
Both
Both
Both
Both
Cloud-based and mobile
Cloud-based with offline mode
Both
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Clover Mini, Heartland, Vantiv, and more
Yes
Yes via Clover
Yes

A Closer Look at the Top 10 POS Systems

  • 1

    ShopKeep

    Robust, high quality POS systems for all busi...
    ShopKeep
    • Bullet 1Get a personalized quote online
    • Bullet 2Customize your POS based on your needs
    • Bullet 3Accept all payments at very low rates

    Trusted by over 25,000+ businesses

    Pros
    • Intuitive register layout makes work efficient
    • Simple to automate daily tasks
    • Cloud-based data for tracking on-the-go
    Cons
    • Limited to use of an iPad
    • Deep inventory management is not optimal
    Read ShopKeep Review
  • 2

    TouchBistro

    Smart POS system designed for restaurants
    TouchBistro
    • Bullet 1Get a quote in minutes
    • Bullet 224/7/365 customer support
    • Bullet 3Perfect for big or small restaurants

    Special offer: Get a free demo

    Pros
    • Works with other integrated apps
    • Very easy and intuitive to use
    • No long-term contract
    Cons
    • Requires both cloud support and local server
    • Only compatible with Apple devices
    Read TouchBistro Review
  • 3

    Upserve

    Easy-to-implement all-in-one POS system
    Upserve
    • Bullet 1Boost margins and save time
    • Bullet 2Several monthly payment plan options
    • Bullet 3Option to rent cash registers and other hardware

    Trusted by over 1,000 restaurants

    Pros
    • No setup or installation fees
    • Highly detailed reports and analytics available
    • Simple and adapts to any type of hospitality business
    Cons
    • No Ecommerce capabilities
    • Compatible with Apple products only
    Read Upserve Review
  • 4
    State-of-the-art POS designed for restaurants
    Toast
    • Bullet 1Competitive flat rates
    • Bullet 2No extra or hidden costs
    • Bullet 3Table-side ordering & payments

    Special offer: Get a free demo

    Pros
    • Simplified menu management
    • Full on-site implementation
    • Training programs available
    Cons
    • High setup/monthly costs
    • Proprietary hardware required
    Read Toast Review
  • 5

    Heartland Retail

    Well-rounded POS system geared towards retail...
    Heartland Retail
    • Bullet 1Several monthly plan options
    • Bullet 2User-friendly software
    • Bullet 3Up-to-date data options to track performance

    Special offer: 7-day free trial

    Pros
    • End-to-end POS system
    • Cross-platform functionality and flexibility
    • Analytics and reporting for data-driven changes
    Cons
    • Credit card reader doesn't recognize gift cards
    • Expensive option for a single store
    Read Heartland Retail Review
  • 6

    Lightspeed

    Great for small/medium-sized businesses
    Lightspeed
    • Bullet 1Compatible with mobile devices
    • Bullet 2Personalized features and payment plan
    • Bullet 3Track revenues and sales from your phone

    Get a free custom quote

    Pros
    • No setup fees
    • Free trial available
    • Native analytics for all management
    Cons
    • High monthly costs
    • Customer complaints of software glitches
    Read Lightspeed Review
  • 7

    Best POS System

    Powerful POS system for different payments an...
    Best POS System
    • Bullet 1Comprehensive reporting
    • Bullet 2Accepts multiple different payments
    • Bullet 3Wide range of devices to fit unique needs

    Free Clover Mini POS

    Pros
    • Great fit for any counter pay environment
    • Variety of peripherals supported
    • More than 200 available apps
    Cons
    • Can be costly to get setup if multiple terminals are needed
    • Limited to First Data (a separate merchant services company)
    Read Best POS System Review
  • 8

    Square Online Store

    Simple user interface POS for small and mediu...
    Square Online Store
    • Bullet 1Fast and easy setup
    • Bullet 2Real-time insights for faster tracking
    • Bullet 3Free chargeback and fraud protection

    Start yourself with a free account

    Pros
    • No monthly fee, users pay a flat rate on swiped transactions
    • Can be plugged into a device and taken anywhere
    • Receiving bank transfers is quick and easy
    Cons
    • Customer support is lacking
    • Not an ideal system for enterprise level businesses
    Read Square Online Store Review
Frequently Asked Questions
Which free POS software is best?
-
+
ShopKeep 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?
Top10.com Staff
Top10.com's editorial staff is a professional team of editors, writers and experts with dozens of years of experience covering consumer, financial and business products and services.