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December 7, 2021

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Best Point of Sale (POS) Systems for Small Business 2021

Popular POS Systems

According to Capterra’s research, retailers across the U.S. are saying goodbye to traditional POS systems with bulky counter registers and opting for cloud-based POS software that runs on tablets, with iPads being the most favored hardware option. In fact, small to midsized businesses doing less than $10 million in sales make up 79% of cloud-based POS system users.

The mass adoption by small businesses of cloud-based POS systems, also known as mobile points-of-sale or mPOS, makes sense. Small businesses have different needs than larger enterprises, and cloud-based business software meets a lot of those needs. Mobile POS systems are ideal for small businesses because they tend to be more affordable and provide busy business owners with the flexibility needed to grow their companies. Cloud-based POS systems can cut costs with month-to-month subscriptions and minimal upfront expenses, since they are often designed to run on mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Cloud-based POS systems also allow owners to keep track of business on the go, through mobile apps on their cellphones.

The modern approach of mPOS systems is a great fit for any small business, whether it’s an e-commerce site, local coffee shop, or boutique clothing store. To help you identify the right POS provider for your small business or startup, we compiled a list of the Best POS Systems for Small Business, based on our overall rating of the Best Point-of-Sale Systems of 2021.

Woman using a credit card on a pos system

(rez-art)

Shopify »

3.9 out of 5

Monthly Cost Starting at $9
Subscription Plan Monthly, Annual, or Multiyear
See Review »

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The POS providers listed below are our top picks for the Best Point-of-Sale Systems for Small Business of 2021. Each POS provider offers a unique POS system with features, pricing, and hardware that meets the needs of small businesses and startups. If you think one of these systems is the right solution for your business, click the link in its summary to read our full POS review.

Square – Best POS System of 2021

Square  »

Square

Best POS System of 2021

Monthly Cost
Starting at $0
Subscription Plans
No Contract
Requires Third-Party Processor

A great option for small businesses, Square offers a free cloud-based POS system designed for retail and restaurants. Simply download the Square POS app onto your cellphone or tablet, and you can begin using the Square POS system on your device. Square’s POS system has no contracts or cancellation fees, and your business will receive Square’s popular magstripe card reader for free at sign-up.

Restaurants and retail stores seeking advanced features can upgrade to Square’s Plus plan for $60 per month. Before choosing this option, businesses should take advantage of its 30-day free trial to see if the extra features are necessary.

Square POS system users will be required to use Square Payments, its integrated, in-house payment processor. While some companies will prefer to shop around for a credit card processor, others will appreciate Square’s all-in-one approach to POS systems and payment processing. Square Payments also makes our Best Credit Card Processing Companies of 2021 rating.

Square’s no monthly fee, free hardware, and top-rated in-house payment processor make it a good POS provider for small businesses and startups that lack the cash for an upfront POS system investment.

Vend by Lightspeed – Good for Retail

Vend by Lightspeed  »

Vend by Lightspeed

Good for Retail

Monthly Cost
Starting at $99
Subscription Plans
Monthly or Annual
Requires Third-Party Processor

Vend by Lightspeed is our No. 2 choice for the Best POS System for Small Business. It also takes the second spot in our Best POS Systems of 2021 and Best POS Systems for Retail ratings.

Vend is a good POS option for small retail businesses with intricate inventory needs. Professional reviews praise Vend’s POS system for its flexibility, and startups will find it to be a great on-the-go POS system. Whether you’re at a farmers market, trade show, or pop-up store, Vend’s inventory management tools can sync your stock across multiple locations in real time.

However, you should test Vend by Lightspeed before signing up because its monthly fees are a little pricey for most small businesses. It offers a 14-day free trial period. After your trial ends, if you choose to continue, you’ll need to select a plan. Vend Lite starts at $99 per month if paid annually and is best for a single retail location doing up to $20,000 in monthly transactions. The Vend Pro plan starts at $129 per month when paid annually and is designed for multiple store locations.

Unlike Square, you’ll need to choose a compatible third-party credit card processor for Vend by Lightspeed’s POS system. Vend doesn’t provide in-house payment processing.

Shopify – Good for e-commerce

Shopify  »

Shopify

Good for e-commerce

Monthly Cost
Starting at $9
Subscription Plans
Monthly, Annual, or Multiyear
Requires Third-Party Processor

Shopify is No. 3 in our Best POS Systems for Small Business and Best POS Systems for Retail ratings. It also ties for No. 4 in our overall rating of the Best Point-of-Sale Systems of 2021.

Shopify is a great POS system for small e-commerce businesses. Its POS system is built into its larger e-commerce platform that professional reviews praise as an e-commerce powerhouse. Companies will first subscribe to a Shopify plan, with most small businesses choosing Basic Shopify for $29 per month. A Shopify plan includes an online store, staff accounts, 24/7 customer support, and free access to its POS system, Shopify POS Lite. The Shopify POS Lite software lets you accept payments in-person and online, with a helpful “buy now” button that you can add to your online store.

Some businesses need advanced POS features and will want to upgrade to Shopify POS Pro for $89 per location per month. While this is a high monthly fee for a small business, Shopify is one of the only POS providers in our rating to charge per location instead of per register. This can save your small business a lot of money, especially if you grow to have more than one in-person location with numerous registers.

Small businesses will most likely want to work with Shopify Payments as their credit card processor to avoid additional per-transaction fees that Shopify charges for choosing to use a third-party payment processor.

Lightspeed – Good for Golf Courses

Lightspeed  »

Lightspeed

Good for Golf Courses

Monthly Cost
Starting at $79
Subscription Plans
Monthly or Annual
Requires Third-Party Processor

Lightspeed rounds out our Best POS System for Small Business rating at No. 4. It also takes No. 7 in our overall Best Point-of-Sale System rating and the No. 5 spots on our Best POS System for Restaurants and Best POS System for Retail lists.

Lightspeed is a good choice for restaurants and retail stores looking to customize their POS system. The starting price for Lightspeed varies by industry. Restaurant POS systems start at $59 per month, and retail POS systems begin at $69 per month if paid annually. Your business will also pay $29 or $34 per additional register, depending on your plan. Lightspeed then offers add-on tools for accounting, analytics, e-commerce, and loyalty programs to build out a POS system to meet your company’s specific needs. It also offers a POS system designed specifically for golf-related businesses. For pricing information, contact a Lightspeed representative for a quote.

Small businesses should consider using Lightspeed Payments, its in-house credit card processor, to receive the best rates on their POS plan’s monthly fee.

You can try Lightspeed with a 14-day free trial. Its POS system is compatible with iPads and computers, so you may be able to save on hardware expenses. All plans also include 24/7 customer support, one-on-one onboarding assistance, and a personal account manager.

A POS system is a combination of software and hardware that in its most basic form allows you to ring up sales. At its most advanced, a POS system runs numerous aspects of your business like sales analytics, payroll, and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. A small business POS system is one that provides quality budget-friendly POS options for growing businesses and startups.

A POS system and payment processing are different. Payment processing, also known as credit card processing, is done by a processor that acts as an intermediary by transferring funds between a merchant account and a business’s bank account. The credit card processor does this by integrating with a POS system. The POS system is the software and hardware used to accept the payment. It collects the payment information through a swipe, dip, or tap of the customer’s credit card, and encrypts and passes along the data to the payment processor.

To use a POS system, you will need a phone, a tablet, or a laptop. You will also need a merchant account, payment processor, internet connection, and subscription to a POS account. The hardware is needed to set up your various accounts, build an online store, and sell goods. A merchant account allows you to accept payment from debit and credit cards, while a payment processor is used to process a payment-card-based transaction. An internet connection connects your business to the payment processor, and a subscription to a POS provider brings the whole thing together.

If your business has a physical location, you may need additional hardware, such as a cash register and cash drawer, a receipt printer, and a computer or tablet to connect everything and use as an interface.

Point-of-Sale Features

Square »
Cloud-Based POS
On-Premise POS
24/7 Tech Support
Mobile App
Trial Period 30 Days
Vend by Lightspeed »
Cloud-Based POS
On-Premise POS
24/7 Tech Support
Mobile App
Trial Period 14 Days
Shopify »
Cloud-Based POS
On-Premise POS
24/7 Tech Support
Mobile App
Trial Period 90 Days
Lightspeed »
Cloud-Based POS
On-Premise POS
24/7 Tech Support
Mobile App
Trial Period 14 Days

The best small business POS systems are cloud-based. Therefore, you should begin your search by identifying mobile POS providers. From there, you should narrow down your POS options with the following factors in mind.

  1. Industry: Point-of-sale systems tend to come in two varieties: retail and restaurant. Choose a POS system that is designed for your industry. This can be more challenging for cafes and other businesses that straddle the line between retail and restaurant. Think about where the majority of your sales come from and choose a POS system that will have features that best support these transactions.
  2. Price: Mobile POS systems are generally less expensive than traditional on-premise systems. Therefore, cloud-based POS systems are a better fit for small businesses and startups with tight budgets. The main expenses of a mobile POS are monthly fees, the number of locations and registers, hardware, add-on features, and credit card processing fees. Be sure to take advantage of free trials to ensure that the POS system you’re interested in will work for your small business.
  3. Hardware: Cloud-based systems are designed to run on tablets, most commonly iPads. However, some businesses need additional equipment, such as card readers, cash registers, cash drawers, receipt printers, barcode scanners, kitchen display systems (KDS), and customer-facing displays. Be sure to pick a POS system with the hardware your small business needs.
  4. Features: Retail and restaurant POS systems provide different features to help you run your particular business efficiently. Retail stores will find inventory management tools that can sync across multiple locations to be helpful, while restaurants may focus on loyalty programs, online reservations, and mobile or web order-ahead technology. According to Capterra’s research, restaurant patrons find these features to be the most important to their overall experience. Capterra also found that 52% of restauranters cite high operating and food costs as their top challenge. Restaurant POS systems offer menu management features that track the price of ingredients and other food costs that can help restaurant owners optimize their menu.
  5. Customer support: When it comes to POS providers, choose one that offers 24/7 customer support. The ability to call a live representative instead of using email or online chat with a bot makes a big difference when your business is experiencing a POS system error that’s keeping you from making sales.
  6. Payment processor: Payment processing is one of the most important factors in choosing a POS system. Some POS providers offer an integrated in-house payment processor, while others allow you to shop around for a third-party credit card processor. Both have advantages and disadvantages. In-house payment processing means that everything is handled under one provider and can be easier to manage for a small business owner. However, shopping around for a payment processor may reduce your processing fees. Read our rating of the Best Credit Card Processing Companies of 2021 to make sure your credit card processor is right for you.
  7. Security: A POS system should have security features, beyond Payment Card Industry compliance, that protect your business and its customers. The National Retail Security Survey reports that 72.5% of businesses use POS data mining as a part of their loss prevention system.

POS Systems Price Comparison Chart

Square »
Monthly Cost Starting at $0
Installation Fee No Fee
Hardware Fee Starting at $0
Processing Fee Starting at 2.5% +10¢
Vend by Lightspeed »
Monthly Cost Starting at $99
Installation Fee N/A
Hardware Fee Starting at $0
Processing Fee Varies
Shopify »
Monthly Cost Starting at $9
Installation Fee No Fee
Hardware Fee No Fee
Processing Fee Starting at 2.4% + 0¢
Lightspeed »
Monthly Cost Starting at $79
Installation Fee Starting at $99/mo
Hardware Fee Starting at $34/mo
Processing Fee Starting at 2.6% + 10¢

Company

Monthly Cost

Installation Fee

Hardware Fee

Processing Fee

Square » Starting at $0 No Fee Starting at $0 Starting at 2.5% +10¢
Vend by Lightspeed » Starting at $99 N/A Starting at $0 Varies
Shopify » Starting at $9 No Fee No Fee Starting at 2.4% + 0¢
Lightspeed » Starting at $79 Starting at $99/mo Starting at $34/mo Starting at 2.6% + 10¢

Cloud-based POS systems tend to be cheaper than traditional on-premise options. In fact, Capterra’s research suggests that most mobile POS providers actually design and price POS software for small businesses. Abandoning long-term contracts and hefty upfront costs, many cloud-based POS systems use month-to-month subscriptions or don’t charge a monthly fee at all. However, mobile POS systems don’t just cut costs on software; upfront hardware expenses also are less for cloud-based POS systems. Instead of outfitting your entire restaurant or retail store with expensive equipment, cloud-based POS providers typically design POS software for tablets. Downloading a mobile app onto your smartphone or tablet gives you access to a fully functional POS system that can be used in your store or on the go at farmers markets and trade shows. This makes cloud-based POS systems a great option for startups that can’t afford an upfront POS hardware investment or may not even have a space for a standard register.

While mobile POS systems are less expensive, small businesses still pay credit card processing fees, monthly software fees, and hardware expenses, depending on the POS provider. For instance, Square’s POS system is free to use without signing any contracts. It also provides users with one free magstripe reader to begin taking payments. However, you must use Square Payments, its integrated in-house payment processor, as your credit card processing solution. This means that while you don’t pay a monthly fee for its POS software, you will pay it a per-transaction fee for its payment processing.

Other POS providers, like Vend by Lightspeed, don’t have in-house payment processors. Vend charges a monthly fee for its POS software that starts at $99 per month if paid annually, and allows you to shop around for the best payment processing rates from more than 20 compatible third-party credit card processing companies. Lightspeed offers different monthly fees depending on your industry and Shopify has a tiered-plan structure designed to provide you with different price options based on the features your business needs.

Consider both how much you’re paying and what you’re paying for to find the right POS system for your small business. Not all POS systems provide free equipment, but free card readers may not meet your needs. A POS provider’s monthly fees may be higher than another, but it may include features that other providers only offer as add-ons for additional costs. It is best to call a company representative and get a quote for your exact business needs.

Choosing the best POS system for your small business can be daunting. Not all businesses are the same and small businesses and startups have unique needs. Our Best POS Systems for Small Business of 2021 rating aims to help small business owners find the right POS system for their business, however, it may not have the perfect solution for your company. If you’re still looking for the right POS provider for your business, check out our Best Point-of-Sale System of 2021 rating. It gives you a full list of the top nine POS systems on the market right now. You may also want to take a look at our Best POS System for Retail or Best POS System for Restaurants ratings to learn more about the POS systems designed for your industry.

Learn More

Read our ratings and reviews for more information on point-of-sale systems.

POS Systems

Other Ratings from 360 Reviews

Check out our other ratings to learn more about products and services that can help you grow your business.

Why You Can Trust Us: 17 Point-of-Sale Systems Researched

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Hospitals, Best Colleges, and Best Cars to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. Our 360 Reviews team draws on this same unbiased approach to rate the products that you use every day. To build our ratings, we researched more than 17 and analyzed 11 reviews. Our 360 Reviews team does not take samples, gifts, or loans of products or services we review. All sample products provided for review are donated after review. In addition, we maintain a separate business team that has no influence over our methodology or recommendations.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.