Bundling POS systems with credit card processing is an affordable, smart solution for many small businesses. A good point-of-sale system coupled with credit card processing and an accounting solution may be all many small businesses require to manage their store. A few years ago retail and restaurant owners would have to spend thousands on one new POS system or rely on a clunky cash register; now you can easily migrate to an affordable iPad POS system or a low monthly cost solution. Nowadays POS hardware and software is nearly cost free in exchange for a POS payment processing agreement, and processors offer competitive pricing to earn your business.
Although these point-of-sale systems are low cost, they are not low quality. Most include advanced inventory tools, run management reports, manage customer information and support employee user profiles. With many POS systems, you can add hardware such as kitchen printers, scales, menu displays, barcode readers and more to customize the solution to your type of business. Most also integrate with other business solutions such as QuickBooks, Xero, MailChimp and Salesforce to help you streamline your processes. Solutions are also available for temporary or mobile businesses such as event sales, farmers markets and art fair booths, mobile food trucks and ticket sales.
To help keep monthly costs under control, consider Square. This POS service does not charge a monthly fee – you only have to pay swipe fees. If you are looking to integrate an online retail store with your brick-and-mortar store, Shopify can help you manage inventory between the two. For low-cost credit card processing you may want to consider iPayment POS. To learn more about point-of-sale and the types of solutions available, visit the articles on POS Systems.
For small or new businesses, controlling upfront and ongoing costs are critical to solvency. To help small business owners find the best rates, we compared swipe fees, recurring fees, terms and monthly rates. We also compared POS features such as payment processing, management tools and customer care to help discover the best system for small businesses.
We considered the following criteria when rating POS systems:
We estimated possible costs and compared them to the POS features and services offered to create a value score. Monthly fees, swipe rates, hardware costs and ongoing quarterly or yearly fees all factor in. Some recurring costs include support subscriptions, hardware support fees and PCI compliance fees. Other fees to consider include chargeback fees and early termination fees. We highly recommend that you carefully examine your contract before signing up with a new payment processing service, and that you discuss with your representative all fees and terms.
Most payment processing services can process popular payment types such as credit and debit cards, gift cards, checks and cash. Some are also capable of processing EBT, PayPal and Bitcoin transactions as an additional service. Nowadays most also have the hardware and technology available to process mobile phone payments using NFC technology and a mobile app. If you have issues with your internet or Wi-Fi, most services will allow you to process payments offline to be synced when internet is restored. Most of the services in this review do not allow you to select your own payment processor; however, we make note of the ones that do.
These are the features beyond processing sales transactions that help you run your business. You will want to look for a point-of-sale system that can perform the functions you require. If you run a retail business, you should look for good inventory tools. If you have employees, you may want to be able to manage employee profiles. Businesses that have repeat customers, or want to foster loyal customers, will benefit from customer management tools. If your retail store could benefit from also selling your product online, you'll want to consider a POS solution with integrated online sales options. Nearly any business owner can benefit from online back-office access and advanced reporting options.
Since payment processors essentially handle your money, excellent customer service is mandatory. We found out which POS companies could provide 24-hour service, year-round. Many retail and restaurant businesses are open on weekends and evenings, so they require round-the-clock customer service. Twenty-four-hour email support is also desirable. Additional helpful services include overnight shipping of replacement parts such as broken card readers. Other support services, which may require an additional fee, include migration services to move your business data from another system or services that will add your menu items or inventory to the system for you.
We advise business owners to find at least three POS payment processors that look like they might suit their business needs and then contact them for a quote and additional information. Keep in mind that if you already have a payment processor, many services are willing to match rates to win your business. It is also helpful if you put together a list of questions to discuss with your prospective point-of-sale company before you speak with them so you can make sure your specific needs are discussed.