A woman in a store holds a credit card above a small white point-of-sale device, preparing to insert the card for payment. Another woman stands behind her, waiting in line.
Point-of-sale systems aren't a one-time cost. After you purchase the hardware and software, you'll likely have to pay monthly fees and processing fees for credit card transactions. — Getty Images/MoMo Productions

A point-of-sale (POS) system that’s right for your business can act like a central nervous system, handling not only payments but employee scheduling, inventory, payroll, and providing sales reports. Today’s POS systems are designed to make life easier for small business owners, who often juggle many roles at once. Here are some things to look for as you consider the different POS options to simplify running your business.

Define your business requirements

Before you dive into what each POS provider has to offer, get a baseline understanding of what your business needs to operate. If you’re just starting out, for instance, you likely need hardware, software, and something that’s simple and easy-to-use out of the box. If you’re at a more advanced growth stage, you may need software that includes different user roles and can sync across locations.

“For many small companies, an iPad or tablet-based POS system is sufficient. It operates in the cloud, so it has more security features than you might assume, and it’s portable and easy to use,” wrote BusinessTown.

Consider where you will be accepting payments, how many employees will be using the system, and the customer experience. Defining your system requirements will help guide your search and help you more effectively vet your options.

Pinpoint where you could use help

Today’s POS systems can automate and streamline many of your most time and resource-intensive tasks, like inventory management and scheduling. This frees your time for high-level, high-value activities.

“Choosing the right point-of-sale system for your business is like hiring a new employee. Each POS system comes with its own resumé of advantages, tools, and features to help you run your business smoothly,” wrote Clover.

Many POS systems come with apps and features that can be added to address specific pain points. Know what those pain points are so you can find a solution that alleviates any work blockages preventing you from working well.

Know your budget

There are a few different costs associated with a POS system, including the hardware, the software, credit card processing fees, and more. These costs will vary depending on the type of hardware you choose, your sales volume, and your industry.

The right POS software will forever allow customers to pay in a manner that’s most convenient to them.

Clover Editorial Team

It’s also possible to piece together components from different companies, each of which comes with its own costs and associated fees. For instance, the POS software provider will charge a monthly fee based on your sales volume; the hardware could come from a separate vendor with a rental contract. Your merchant services provider would charge monthly fees and a PCI compliance fee in addition to credit card transaction rates.

Bankrate reports that most business owners can anticipate these costs:

  • One-register POS system: Between $30 to $230 per month.
  • POS for one year, including software and hardware setup: From $1,200 to $6,500, depending on the size of the business.
  • After setup: $600 to $1,200 per year.

There are affordable options out there: Square, for instance, has a free plan with no setup fees or monthly fees — merchants only pay when you take a payment.

[Read more: A Guide to Understanding Credit Card Processing]

Ask the right questions

Now that you know your business needs, it’s time to dive into what each provider can offer. As you speak to different sales representatives and do your own research, here are some questions to ask to find the right fit:

  • Does the system automate certain processes and reduce manual inputs?
  • Does the point-of-sale system integrate with tools, apps, and software that you’re already using?
  • Is the system PCI-compliant?
  • Is it simple and easy to use?
  • Does it allow your business to accept all types of payments (e.g., credit and debit cards, mobile wallets, checks, and cash)?
  • Can it run offline if you don’t have a WiFi connection or data?
  • What customer support is available, and is it 24/7?
  • What features are included in the plan that fits your budget?

This last question is where you’ll start to understand the differences between POS system providers. Some providers, like Clover, include options to customize the POS to your needs through their App Market. Others come fully equipped with modules built for restaurants, like Toast POS.

[Read more: Choosing the Best POS System for Your Company]

Can the POS grow with your business?

A POS can be a big investment, and you want to make it one that will go the distance with your company.

“The right POS software will forever allow customers to pay in a manner that’s most convenient to them. Find a POS you can trust to keep up with your customers and will give you support no matter where your business takes you,” wrote Clover.

Explore what POS vendors are popular for other businesses in your market. Do research on the company to see if it has a positive track record and good reviews. A reputable company initially may be more expensive than a startup, but working with an inexperienced vendor can end up costing far more if something goes wrong.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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