What Is a POS Terminal? – NerdWallet


POS stands for “point-of-sale,” which is only a succinct method of referring to the place the place a retail transaction is processed and accomplished. That’s, it is the place the shopper selects an merchandise or service, the service provider calculates the quantity owed and gives the shopper strategies of fee, the shopper pays and the service provider accepts and processes that fee.

A POS terminal is the bodily tools that permits retailers to course of funds to be able to full a buyer buy. Traditionally, cash registers have been the one POS terminal out there. However now, POS terminals are rather more refined and streamlined, and when coupled with customizable software program, trendy POS terminals allow retailers many extra capabilities than merely processing funds.

Nerdy tip: Remember that POS techniques and POS terminals are sometimes used interchangeably. However the place a POS system encompasses these a number of capabilities like stock administration, worker administration and customer-behavior knowledge — strictly talking, a POS terminal refers back to the machine correct which accepts bank card funds, whether or not that’s in particular person, on-line, by way of your smartphone or pill or over the cellphone.

What does a POS terminal do?

At its coronary heart, a POS terminal is what you are promoting’s fee processing {hardware}, embedded with software program that accepts debit and bank cards.

As you recognize, although, there’s a couple of option to settle for a buyer’s credit score or debit card, all of which essentially the most refined POS terminals are able to processing. Ideally, then, whichever POS system (and its accompanying POS terminal) you select for what you are promoting can settle for all the following bank card sorts:


As a result of their elevated safety measures, chip playing cards embedded with EMV expertise are rising in recognition within the U.S. And actually, beneath EMV compliance legislation, all enterprise house owners will need to have POS terminals (or improve their current POS techniques) to simply accept these “dip” playing cards.


Despite the fact that bank card corporations are phasing out bank cards geared up solely with magnetic strips, magstripe playing cards are nonetheless broadly used. Fortunately, it’s straightforward to seek out chip and swipe card readers in the marketplace.

Contactless fee

Increasingly more shoppers are utilizing bank cards with contactless fee expertise (also called NFC or close to subject communication), reminiscent of Apple Pay and Google Pay. Not solely are these playing cards the quickest option to pay, however income garnered from contactless funds is projected to succeed in $358 billion by 2025 — so that you’d do nicely to get a POS terminal that accepts “faucet” playing cards now.

On-line funds

If in case you have an internet retailer or a wholly on-line enterprise, it’s essential that you just select a POS terminal that accepts on-line funds.

Technically, nonetheless, accepting on-line funds doesn’t necessitate a countertop POS terminal; quite, you’ll want a service provider account and a safe fee gateway. You will get your fee gateway and your service provider account by means of separate suppliers. However to make issues simpler on your self, you can too go for a POS system that gives each a service provider account and a fee gateway in a single, like Stripe or Sq..

Different POS terminal capabilities

On the entire, POS terminals simplify, streamline and velocity up your complete transaction course of from begin to end. However that doesn’t solely imply processing bank cards effectively.

For example, after accepting fee, POS terminals can supply clients the choice of selecting whether or not to obtain a digital receipt (both by way of textual content or electronic mail), a printed receipt or no receipt. The terminal may current pre-calculated tipping choices that clients can merely select and faucet on that very same user-friendly display screen. Most POS terminals may present refunds, taxes and reductions and permit you to arrange recurring funds or create invoices.

Plus, some POS techniques include software program that turns your units (telephones, tablets, laptops) into registers, which is particularly helpful should you promote your services or products exterior of a standard brick-and-mortar store.

Bear in mind, although, {that a} POS terminal refers strictly to the bodily tools that processes funds on the point-of-sale. However a POS terminal is only one a part of a POS system, which additionally contains software program that may do rather more than merely accepting and processing funds — it may possibly act as a holistic service resolution that helps you higher handle your every day operations.

What these companies are, precisely, relies on the POS terminal you select. However listed below are a number of of the instruments you possibly can count on to see from the greatest POS techniques in the marketplace immediately:

  • Insights on buyer behaviors.

  • Customizable studies about your workers, stock and gross sales.

You might also be capable of combine different apps you employ for what you are promoting along with your POS system. For instance, Clover integrates with apps like MailChimp, QuickBooks, Xero, Yelp and others, rendering your POS system a hub for all what you are promoting administration wants — not merely a digital money register.

4 of the perfect POS terminals for small-business house owners

Finest total POS terminal: Sq.

Square was one of many first all-in-one POS techniques out there, and it stays a frontrunner within the subject.

With Sq., you possibly can select amongst a number of card readers, together with units that settle for simply magstripes, chip playing cards or contactless funds and chip playing cards after they’re plugged into your good system; the Stand, which accepts all of these fee strategies or the Sq. Register, its most complete POS terminal.

Then, you’ll select between two software program choices. First up, you possibly can go for the Sq. Level-of-Sale app. This app is suitable with all of Sq.’s {hardware} and gives enterprise house owners important fee processing capabilities. Aside from Sq.’s customary fee processing charges (which range relying on transaction sort), the Sq. POS app is free.

For even higher capabilities out of your Sq. POS machine, you possibly can go for the Sq. for Retail software program. This software program can observe and handle stock throughout numerous areas, mechanically create customer-data studies, scan barcodes for quicker checkout and extra. Sq. for Retail prices $0, $60 or $299+ monthly relying in your plan, plus $2.5 + $0.10 per transaction.

Finest POS terminal for on-line retailers: Shopify

Shopify POS works greatest for retail store house owners, whether or not they’re operating brick-and-mortar or e-commerce operations.

With the Shopify POS terminal and app, retailer house owners can settle for quite a lot of funds, together with credit score and debit playing cards, reward playing cards, retailer credit, break up fee and partial fee. Additionally in the course of the checkout course of, you possibly can apply reductions and mechanically calculate taxes and tip.

Plus, Shopify’s strong stock administration options enable enterprise house owners to meticulously observe their merchandise, whereas Shopify’s analytics observe your gross sales, orders, visitors and worker efficiency throughout numerous areas. Worth-wise, you possibly can select amongst Shopify’s 5 plans that vary from $9 to $299 monthly.

Finest POS terminal for straightforward bookkeeping: Intuit QuickBooks POS system

You possibly can in all probability think about that the POS terminal that greatest integrates along with your accounting software program comes from the main title in enterprise accounting: QuickBooks.

QuickBooks Desktop Point-of-Sale gives three plans, which improve in worth and capabilities. These costs aren’t precisely low-cost, although. Costs vary from a beginning worth of $1,200 for the Fundamental package deal, as much as a minimal of $1,900 for the Multi-Retailer choice.

No matter which plan you select, on the very least your QuickBooks POS terminal will be capable of ring up gross sales, course of funds, present stock perception, observe buyer accounts and supply rewards and extra. In fact, this POS machine may even sync along with your current QuickBooks accounting software program for straightforward, mistake-free knowledge integration, which higher prepares you for tax season.

Finest fully-equipped cell POS terminal: Clover

In case your point-of-sale isn’t tied right down to a single, bodily location, you need to prioritize a POS system with strong cell options. Clover POS is one such fee processing system.

Whereas Clover gives customers two software program and 4 {hardware} choices (together with two totally cell POS machines), we significantly like Clover Flex for enterprise house owners who promote their items or companies on the go. This all-in-one cell POS machine can settle for all forms of bank cards (together with magstripe, chip and contactless funds), in addition to shortly deposit funds into your checking account, scan barcodes, seize signatures and observe your gross sales — all from a handheld system that shops your knowledge within the cloud.

This cell resolution comes at a worth, nonetheless: the Clover Flex prices $449.

Choosing the proper POS terminal for what you are promoting

In the beginning in your search, take inventory of what you really need your POS machine to do. Begin with the place your point-of-sale is: For those who run a brick-and-mortar retailer, then you definitely’ll prioritize a countertop POS over a cell POS system, or vice-versa should you’re not wedded to a bodily location. Select a POS system with each countertop and cell {hardware} should you want each.

Then, check out the extra capabilities your POS system can supply. Do you want — or need — to have the ability to handle your stock out of your POS terminal, as an illustration? Would you like an answer that integrates into your bookkeeping software program?

Additionally, take into consideration how your clients want to pay. It’s possible that they’re predominantly utilizing magstripe and chip playing cards, but it surely’s additionally attainable that they’re utilizing NFC playing cards, too (and in the event that they’re not, they may within the very close to future). In fact, when you have an e-commerce retailer then you definitely’ll want to have the ability to settle for on-line funds, too, which requires a service provider account and a fee gateway; or an all-in-one resolution, like these from Sq. and Stripe.

Lastly, contemplate the worth you’re prepared to pay in your POS terminal. Remember the fact that along with the {hardware} itself, you may additionally must pay for any software program you select, in addition to fee processing charges.

When you’ve taken all of those factors into consideration, you’ll be higher geared up to seek out the POS terminal that works for what you are promoting.

A model of this text was first printed on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.


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