The best POS systems for small businesses

Last reviewed 10 July 2024 by Fiona Prior.

Man paying for meal in café using his phone to make a contactless payment

Shopping around for the best Point Of Sale (POS) system for your business can be daunting because there are so many systems, each with their own features, pricing plans and transaction fees. The good news is there are POS systems for every type of business; our guide will help you find the right one

**Note Prices/fees correct on 10/07/24 (limited time offers may be available)

It's now quicker and easier than ever to shop around for a good deal on card readers. According to the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), businesses could save up to £5,400 a year by switching.

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Taking payments securely is the name of the game when you run a business. Whether you have a shop, café, bar, hairdressers, work as a contractor or sell online, you need a system for taking payments from customers that works for you.

Also known as EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale), the term refers to the hardware and software that allows a business to take card payments and other contactless payment methods.

These essential payment systems make the buying process much easier for customers because they are quick to use and allow customers to choose their own contactless payment method - whether that be a debit or credit card or an app like Google Pay or Apple Pay.

Best for start ups

Square | No monthly fee, transaction fees from 1.4% + 25p | Popular and adaptable all-rounder

Best for ecommerce

Shopify | From £19 a month plus fees | Complete ecommerce and payments platform

Best for hospitality

Lightspeed | From £75 a month plus fees | Flexible hardware and powerful integrations

Best for mobile payments

SumUp | No monthly fee when used on a pay-per-use basis, 1.69% in-person payments (1.49% with the business account) | Portable card readers stand out for mobile payments

Best for growth

EPOS Now | flat rate of 1.7% per transaction, additional hardware fees apply | Sophisticated hardware and integrations

 

Find out more about these popular POS systems:

Square

Best for start ups

Square | No monthly fee, transaction fees from 1.4% + 25p | Popular and adaptable all-rounder/

Hardware:

  • Square offers card readers and stands for tablets as well as terminals (which take cards and print receipts in one machine) and registers.

Software:

  • Popular with small businesses, the Square app allows payments in person, online, over the phone and via Facebook and Instagram. Square offers inventory, analytics, ecommerce and CRM.

Pricing:

  • No contracts, no monthly fees.
  • Card readers are priced from just £19+VAT
  • Transactions 1.4% + 25p for online UK card transactions, 2.5% + 25p for non-UK transactions 1.75% for chip and PIN transactions.

SumUp

Best for mobile payments

SumUp | No monthly fee when used on a pay-per-use basis, transaction fee 1.69% | Portable card readers stand out for mobile payments

Hardware:

  • Card readers including SumUp Air which works with Bluetooth, SumUp Solo and SumUp Solo with printer.

Software:

  • SumUp is widely used by small retailers and hospitality businesses. For restaurants it allows customer to split bills and add tips. The Goodeats app allows customers to order from their table or from home.

Pricing:

  • One time device cost, starting from £39.
  • No contracts, no monthly fees. Transactions 1.69% in-person payments (1.49% with the business account).

Takepayments

Hardware:

  • tPOS counter is modern, tablet-sized system that allows you to take contactless payments
  • tPOS complete offers two screens, a superfast printer and portable card machine that allow you to manage stock, get real-time reporting and take payments

Software:

  • Users of Takepayments have to set up a merchant account with an acquiring partner to process payments.
  • Aimed at small retailers and hospitality businesses, Takepayments also supports ecommerce businesses with payment links, gateways, an app and virtual terminals.

Pricing:

  • tPOS counter costs £45 per month for retailers and £55 per month for hospitality businesses
  • tPOS complete costs £55 per month for retailers and £65 per month for hospitality businesses
  • transaction charges and other fees will apply, depending on the merchant account selected

Zettle

Hardware:

  • Card readers and terminals.

Software:

  • Zettle offers functionality for both retail and hospitality businesses. It also integrates with accounting apps (like Xero) and other POS systems including Shopify, Vend and Lightspeed.
  • Zettle by PayPal POS app allows you to accept contactless cards and digital wallet payments with no additional cost.

Pricing:

  • No contracts, no monthly fees.
  • Card readers are priced from just £29+VAT
  • Card transactions 1.75%; invoice or payment link transactions 2.5%.

Lightspeed

Best for hospitality

Lightspeed | From £75 a month | Flexible hardware and powerful integrations

Hardware:

  • Payment terminals, iPad stands, USB scanners, cash drawers and label printers.

Software:

  • Lightspeed offers POS functionality for retail, ecommerce and hospitality businesses.
  • Lightspeed ecommerce provides a shopfront on your existing website or allows you to build a new ecommerce site.
  • Lightspeed Retail works with your laptop or tablet. Lightspeed for restaurants offers solutions for delivery, takeaway and ordering at the table.

Pricing:

  • Pricing plans start at £75 per month plus transaction fees.

EPOS Now

Best for growth

EPOS Now | flat rate of 1.7% per transaction, additional hardware fees apply | Sophisticated hardware and integrations

Hardware:

  • Terminals, card readers, receipt printers, cash drawers

Software:

  • EPOS Now offers solutions for growing businesses including retailers who sell across a range of channels including online.
  • For restaurants owners, EPOS Now integrates with the main food delivery apps.
  • Hotel owners can also list available rooms online using the app.

Pricing:

  • transaction fees are 1.7%, additional hardware fees apply.

Fondy ePOS

Hardware:

  • All you need is any Android or iOS smartphone or tablet

Software:

  • Take payments via the Fondy or your mobile app on-the-move.
  • Secure ePOS payments with the highest level of security.
  • Benefit from Fondy's Virtual Terminal for Mail Order/Telephone Order (MO/TO) transactions.
  • Flexible in-store payments such as QR codes and payment links.

Pricing:

  • Start up package £29.99 per month which includes up to £15,000 in payout and £15,000 in payment acceptance.
  • Business package £29.99 per month plus a £99.99 set up fee. Additional fees also apply.  

AirPOS

Hardware:

  • AirPOS supports industry standard hardware from many providers.

Software:

  • AirPOS is aimed primarily at retailers, including those that sell in-store and online. It brings accounts, payments and stock control into one place, tracking inventory and producing sales reports.
  • AirPOS is cloud-based and it integrates with SumUp, Shopify, Worldpay, Zettle and Xero among others.

Pricing:

  • AirPOS New Business costs 1.4% + 14p per transaction.
  • AirPOS Existing Business from 0.8% per transaction.

Shopify

Best for ecommerce

Shopify | From £19 a month plus fees on credit card transactions | Complete ecommerce and payments platform

Hardware:

  • Card readers, barcode scanners, printers, cash drawers and iPad stands.

Software:

  • Shopify is a complete solution for retailers that sell in- store and online.
  • The Shopify Retail POS app works on any Android or iOS smartphone or tablet.
  • Systems can be personalised to your business.

Pricing:

  • Plans start at £19 a month for individuals and £49 per month for small businesses.
  • In-person transaction rates of 1.7%; online credit card transaction rates are 2% +£0.25.

Providers may introduce new features or change their prices at any time, so it’s worth checking the latest information before making a decision. The pricing details in this guide do not include VAT or any introductory discounts or free trials.

What is a POS system?

A POS system comprises both hardware and software. The hardware includes items such as card readers, terminals, registers, receipt printers and barcode scanners. POS software, often in the form of an app, enables you to process payments by linking these items together; most POS systems also work with your own tablet or smartphone. The app can also be linked to other software, such as your online accounting app.

This information doesn't just make day-to-day accounting tasks easier, it can also allow you to analyse your sales, giving you an insight into your best-selling products and helping you to manage your stock.

Choosing a POS system

The most important factor to consider when choosing a POS system is your own business type and its specific needs. Most retailers, for example, choose POS systems that allows them to create a product catalogue for accounting and stock management purposes. Retailers typically need to be able to take payments in person, online and over the phone.

Bars, cafes and restaurants need a POS system that works with their menus and floor plans for taking orders from customers. They may also need a system that supports table ordering, takeaways and deliveries.

If you are a contractor and need to take payments when you are out and about, you'll need a wi-fi-enabled card reader that links to your smartphone. If you sell online, you’ll need a POS system designed to meet the needs of an ecommerce business.

The other key factor is cost - some POS software is free but all POS solutions have equipment set-up costs as well as transaction fees.

Tips for choosing a POS system

It’s crucial to ensure you choose the right POS software for your business. Here are some important tips to help you select the best point of sale system for your business.

  1. Define your needs - What type of business are you running? Are you purchasing your first POS system or are you upgrading an existing system? What problems do you want to solve? This will help you determine what features, services, and functions you need from your new POS system.

  2. Check security and compliance measures - Is the system secure and compliant with laws and regulations? Check that it has end-to-end encryption to protect customer data stored and accessed online. Check what data is collected and how it will be used. Make sure the system is compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standards so that payments are processed safely and securely.
  3. Will it provide the insights you need? - You should look for a system that will provides you detailed reports on inventory, sales, and cash data in an easy-to-use dashboard. This will help you identify sales peaks and troughs, repeat customers, available inventory, and production status at any point in time. This helps you make informed business decisions that drive sustainable growth.

  4. Competitive pricing - Will you be charged a fixed percentage per sale or will you have to pay a monthly subscription fee? Choose a system with a transparent pricing plan.

  5. Customer support - Will the the provider provide training on how the systems works and guide you through the implementation process? What is their record on uptime and technical support? Check their support agreement and online reviews carefully. 

Choosing the best point of sale system for your business shouldn't be difficult. All you need is to understand your business needs to help you understand which features you require from a POS system to run your business efficiently and sustainably.

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