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POS vs Cash Register

POS vs Cash Register

Alternatives To Cash Registers For Small Businesses: POS As Point Of Sale Systems

With more customers relying on digital payments and fewer companies manufacturing cash registers, it can be challenging to find a cash register for your small business. If you are willing to expand your search to include POS-driven registers, you’ll have more options. For its affordable price, ease of use, and popularity with small businesses of all types, we named Square the best overall cash register for small businesses.

While this POS-driven register requires users to purchase a cash drawer separately, it also gives small business owners access to Square’s full suite of business tools. If you’re unsure about diving into a POS-driven cash register, you can try Square for free on hardware you already own.

Since its inception, cash registers for small companies have grown to incorporate more features than just a cash box. These days, they often come with robust software that allows you to handle inventory, and taxes, and interact with credit card terminals and receipt printers, among other things. This form of checkout is suitable for all types of establishments, ranging from stores to eateries.

Cash registers in the traditional sense are still accessible, but if you go that path, you will lose out on reporting capabilities, loyalty program extensions, and the option to take cashless transactions, such as those made with Apple Pay and Google Pay, known as “contactless”. These days’ modern point of sale (POS) systems operate in combination with cash boxes, and they are reasonably priced solutions that provide you with much more than a means of accepting cash payments. Here are our top selections for the most cutting-edge, integrated cash registers available on the market at the moment:

We examined also many point-of-sale systems that are compatible with cash registers and narrowed the field down to four of the most promising options for small companies. The most important factors to consider when selecting a cash register are the cost, your company management requirements, and adaptability. See below for additional information on how we selected the best cash registers for small companies, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

You have started a small company and are in the midst of completing a deal. So, what do you do now? Implementing the most effective strategies to increase sales and boost growth has become imperative.

Most businesses are unable to compete, much alone function if they do not have a cash register on hand. Some businesses may not need a very advanced and complex POS system. It is an important expense.

You will, however, need equipment that is capable of accepting all kinds of payment. Perhaps even keep track of crucial information. It is for this reason that you need a cash register.

Square not only offers a brilliant cash register with an intuitive touchscreen interface and a customer-facing display and card reader, but you’ll also get the benefit of an exceptional point of sale system to manage all aspects of your business.

Small company owners have two main choices when it comes to purchasing a cash register. You have the option of using a simple cash register or a more complex device that works in conjunction with POS system software. 

Cash registers are ideal for small companies that require a straightforward machine to compute purchases, process client transactions, generate receipts, and keep cash in a secure location. POS systems do all of these functions, as well as provide a comprehensive set of company management and reporting features in a relatively inexpensive way.

Price fromThe typical lowest starting price. The lowest price available for your business will depend on your needs.Key benefitsDrawbacks
Square RegisterVend Pro Hardware KitEpos Now Hospitality POS SystemClover Station ProCasio SR-C4500Sam4s ER-940Casio PCR-T280Sharp XE-A207Casio SE-C3500
Almost all businesses, the Square Register is stylish and easy to use.All retail businessesRetail and hospitality businessesBusinesses after stylish and capable hardwareSmall retail businessesSmall restaurants and hospitality businessesBusinesses looking for a cheap cash registerBars, pubs, and cafesFast-service restaurants
$799 or $39/mo*$1,066$999$1,649$499$659$99$350$350
Stylish designAn easy to use touchscreenGreat all-round business featuresGreat range of peripheralsIncludes a free iPadMore modular than Square’s RegisterWaterproofSolid-state drive for speedy loadingComes with a receipt printer and cash drawerEpos Now offers full installation and trainingIncludes a customer-facing display, cash drawer, and receipt printerStylish designRange of custom programmable keysAllows you to add up to 50 clerksIntegrated barcode scannerSpill-proof keyboardStores up to 20,000 product lookup codesVery affordableIncludes a rear-facing customer displayAllows up to 25 clerksCan store up to 2,500 product lookup codesSyncs with QuickBooks Pro for accountingRear-facing customer displaySpill-resistant keysSupports up to 3,000 product lookup codes
*Financing unavailable in AL, DE, MS, MO, NH, and TNExpensiveRetail only, not suitable for restaurants or barsExpensiveNot particularly stylishVery ExpensiveVery plain lookingLimited reporting functionsDoesn’t sync with the rest of your businessRelatively expensiveWon’t communicate with your inventoryWon’t sync with the rest of your businessBasicDated looksWon’t sync with the rest of your businessOnly has two ports for peripheralsTired looksWon’t communicate with the rest of your business

There are two big differences between a cash register and POS system: cost and features. A cash register makes it possible for you to accept cash payments, and with a connected payment terminal, you can accept credit cards. A POS system typically includes or connects to a cash drawer or register, so you can accept all forms of payments, as well. Additionally, POS software makes it possible for you to track sales, inventory, employee and customer information and taxes (most with automation).

Every store needs to be able to process sales. Thankfully, the best cash registers for small business more than hold their own in modern retail and hospitality settings.

While modern POS systems offer many advantages, there are still reasons to opt for a traditional cash register.

Cash registers are more affordable. You can pick up a basic Casio or Sam4S register for $100. Compare that with the $400 you’d spend on entry-level POS hardware, and it’s easy to see why some businesses still haven’t upgraded.

POS solutions use a Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription model, which means you pay your supplier a monthly fee to be able to actually use the system. When you add up hardware and subscription fees, you end up paying more for a POS system over ten years than you do for a cash register.

Electronic cash registers have longer lifespans than POS systems, though the gap has shrunk in recent years. The best cash registers for small business will give you at least 15 years of good service, whereas POS hardware tends to need replacing after 10 years. That said, software from top POS suppliers does outlive the hardware it’s deployed on, so you’re assured of good value for money with either option.

For starters, cash registers are far more budget-friendly. POS hardware can be quite expensive, even when you consider entry-level products. On the other hand, you only have to spend a few hundred bucks, if that, to get a decent cash register.

Many POS solutions use the subscription model. Essentially, you pay a monthly fee to use a POS system. Some small businesses can’t afford to pay those extra fees on top of the hardware. This makes cash registers far better for businesses on a budget. 

Lastly, we need to talk about longevity. Traditional cash registers can last a long while. In fact, you can expect to get at least 15 years out of a traditional cash register. For modern POS hardware, you might be looking at around ten years before you need to replace it. 

What are the advantages of a modern point-of-sale (POS) system?

Modern POS systems offer more than just a safe place to store cash. There are several reasons why a POS system might be a smarter choice.

Targeted customer marketing is a big one. POS systems and customer relationship management (CRM) go hand in hand. For one thing, POS software makes it easy to collect customer email addresses. Why not show off your business’s green credentials by offering customers e-receipts instead of paper ones at checkout? With their opt in, you can also send them targeted messages based on their recent purchases. It’s a low-effort yet sophisticated approach that’ll win you lots of repeat business. Needless to say, it’s not possible with a cash register.

Inventory management used to be the most manual (and boring) part of your job, but modern POS software can actually do most of the work for you. You can set your system up to send low-stock alerts to your phone when supplies of a particular ingredient or product line are running low.

Another useful feature of some POS systems is staff management. Using built-in time tracking software, employees can clock in and out directly through terminals, which means they spend less time on admin and more time doing what they do best. High-end systems even let you run individual performance reports so you can make informed decisions about staff training and task allocation.

The ability to share information with other systems through software integrations is what really separates computerized POS from cash registers. For example, some systems can automate the process of plugging daily sales data into accounting software. The NCR Silver shares staff hours tracking data with HR software like Paychex to streamline payroll processing. The minutes you shave off these routine tasks can save you thousands of dollars a month. The overall cost of your POS system, of course, will depend on the number of features and hardware you need.

So as a conclusion for this analysis

Anyone running an entire business may be better off choosing a POS system instead of a simple cash register. The best POS systems offer everything you get with a cash register, plus additional functionality to address all of a business manager’s daily needs.

The big difference comes down to one word: centralization. Cash registers work best on a daily basis – if you want to know how well your year-to-date sales have been, or take a glance at your year-over-year net revenue growth in the month of April, get ready for hours of combing through your files. Some cash registers can scan barcodes or use SD cards to let you transfer data to another machine, but almost no traditional cash register can easily store or share digital information.

A POS system tracks all that data, backs it up to the cloud to keep it safe, and lets you search through years of data in seconds. It’ll even auto-generate pie charts or graphs to help you understand it better. It’s this centralization that helps small businesses make smarter decisions.

Modern POS systems go beyond cash storage. For many businesses, POS systems are the best choice. For starters, they target customers to help with marketing. As a business, it is important to manage customer relationships. POS software can collect email addresses from your customers so that you can send them promotions or rewards down the line. This helps to drive more customers back to your store later down the line. You can also use this to send your customers e-receipts rather than printing paper receipts during checkout. None of this can be done with a traditional cash register. 

One tedious part of owning a business is inventory management. It needs to be done, but no one likes doing it. POS systems can do inventory management for you. All you have to do is set up your system so that it provides you with alerts when certain items are low in stock. Then all you have to do is order more!

Staff management is another useful feature that comes with POS systems. Employees can clock in and out using the POS terminals while you use built-in time tracking to see where they are out. Some top-of-the-line systems allow business owners to run individual performance reports. As a business owner, this can be helpful to allocate tasks and train staff.

Of course, the one thing that truly sets POS systems apart from cash registers is software integration. As an example, some high-end systems allow you to automate your accounting processes, effectively plugging in the necessary data to your chosen accounting software. 

Do I Need a POS System or a cash register?

Comparison Between Cash Registers For A Small Business And POS Systems
SolutionBest forPriced from
Cash RegisterSmall businesses that just need to store takings, run receipts and accept cash, check and credit card payments.$90+
POS SystemRetailers that want to manage a wide range of business functions, and manage sales and payments with one streamlined system.$99/month+

Here’s a table that compares cash registers for small businesses against POS systems, to offer a snapshot of why a POS offers a more complete solution.

Functions Matrix Of Cash Registers For Small BusinessesCash register for small businessPOS system for small business
Tracks sales
Tracks inventory
PaperworkPrintDigital
Reporting and analytics
Staff management
Marketing features
Includes accounting integrationsVaries
Data backupSometimes
Loyalty features
Gift card support

Zero-Cost Credit Card Processing

An accepted unwritten rule of doing business is that operating costs include payment processing. Retailers and restaurants typically pay around 2% plus a flat fee (10-15 cents, usually) per transaction. Some merchant services providers (MSPs) are offering a zero-fee payment processing option that adds the cost of processing to customers’ bills. These surcharge fees that are passed on to customers might have a negative effect, so it’s important to consider whether you’ll lose customers over this additional cost.

We have compared Fattmerchant vs Square, thinking that they were very similar POS and payment processors, but we found many differences and we were surprised by these findings.

Complex industries that handle their own inventory and 3PL organizations have granular requirements about batch recalls, warehouse management and inventory reconciliation. They need handheld inventory scanners that connect in real time with their point of sales systems and ERPs. We review them here and test them connecting to a Zebra printer. Beautiful!

We have reviewed several POS providers. The most interesting according to their industry vertical are: OVVI POS, NCR Counterpoint, Alexandria POS Maid, Verifone Ruby 2 POS, Mynt POS, Indica Online, Reverse, Micros, 1st Pay, Simphony, and Appetize.

There is a type of POS that the majority of readers here do not seem to like. I refer to the POS Pin Pad type. I understand the readers that reject them, but we can recommend it for some type of businesses, as you will read.

Each industry vertical requires a different type of POS, so we cannot analyze them all together in one single group. Therefore, we have researched in different verticals to define which are the POS systems that we can recommend for each industry and why: Wholesale POS, POS for kiosks, fast foods, POS for restaurants and which of them work well in iPads because some work very bad in mobile systems in my opinion, gas stations, supermarkets, dispensaries, convenience stores, dry cleaning industries, furniture, liquor stores, and bike shops.

What about cash registers? We have reviewed some and we have found good and bad products: cash registers for gas stations, small businesses in general, and restaurants. We analyze if it is better to have a POS system or a cash register, and we have different results for each tpe of business.

We reviewed some specific type of point of sale systems that determine the price according to the weight, called POS scales.

We have studied barcode and label printers, as label printing is a legal requirement in some industries

Restaurants, fast foods, delis and food trucks, require a separate kitchen printer integrated with the POS with a separate hardware unit. We have reviewed them here.

We do not usually review printers for POS, we simply dedicate ourselves to review a complete POS system with its hardware. However, we had so much criticism and discussions around printers for Square, that I have decided to investigate further here.