Whether you’re just starting out, or thinking of upgrading your old cash register, check out this guide on the best cash registers for small business.

Looking for a basic cash register without the bells and whistles? Or maybe you want something more robust to simplify day-to-day operations. Either way, identifying the best cash register for your business is an essential part of being a business owner.

Cash Register Types

Although there are different types of cash register models, most cash register systems fall into three categories: electronic cash registers (ECR), Computerized Systems, and MPOS.


Electronic Cash Registers (ECR)
For years, electronic cash registers (ECR) were the only option available for business owners who wanted to process credit card and cash sales transactions. This is no longer the case. Electronic cash registers are still appealing to small merchants looking for basic functions because of the low setup costs and ease-of-use. However, advances in payments technology are pretty much making these systems obsolete.

Electronic Cash Register Models
There are two main variations of electronic cash registers, and while they do overlap, it’s important to understand the differences of each.

Battery-Powered Cash Register
A battery-powered cash register is on the basic side of the cash register spectrum, but it’s a smart option for businesses that anticipate low sales volume. Most battery-powered registers are sold for less than $200 while some of the cheaper models can be purchased for as low as $30. The inexpensive cash register models don’t always come with helpful operational features such as tax calculation functionality or pre-set buttons. These functions streamline the sales process, making it easier for employees to ring up and track transactions.


If you are considering a battery-powered register for your business, you should look for one with a memory protection storage system. If your business resides strictly in its brick-and-mortar establishment, you might opt for a more robust point of sale system.

cash registers for small business ShopKeep POS

Portable Cash Registers — Hard-Wired
Portable cash registers offer much of the same functionality as their battery-powered counterparts but require power outlets. Although hard-wired models don’t offer the same versatility as battery-powered cash registers, they are more reliable because they don’t depend on batteries to operate.

One of the downsides of this model is that it’s dependent on an electrical outlet. This can be inconvenient, particularly if you want your retail store to feature a floorplan that is limited in space.

Because mobility and features are both limited with these cash register types, it’s our opinion that electronic register models are only sufficient as a short-term solution. For access to payments technology that provides accurate record keeping, in addition to the ability to run transactions, there are other register options to consider.

SEE ALSO: Cash Registers: The Ultimate Crutch for Small Businesses

Computerized Point of Sale Systems

A computerized point of sale system (POS), more commonly referred to as a POS terminal, is a more sophisticated version of the traditional electronic cash register. These systems usually run POS software applications on a PC-based computer. This software empowers merchants to record sales, create customer profiles, perform inventory management tasks, and track key business insights that improve decision-making and enhance business performance.


The downside of these systems is that the software usually comes preconfigured, making them susceptible to constant crashes, repairs, and maintenance fees. When you consider all of the costs involved: purchase fees, setup fees, and maintenance fees, a computerized point of sale system can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000.

For cash-strapped business owners who still want access to a feature-rich point of sale system, mobile point of sale (mPOS), offer many of the same features available on computer-based point of sale systems at a fraction of the cost.

Mobile Point of Sale Systems

Thanks to the introduction of technology like cloud computing, the iPad, and mobile Android devices, small business owners now have access to mobile POS cash register technology. Mobile POS technology provides merchants with the same robust business management features found in a computerized pos system at a fraction of the cost.

Access to feature-rich iPad cash register software is often available for a meager monthly price. Also, while computer-based systems restrain staff to fixed checkout areas mobile POS systems enable greater flexibility and mobility within your store layout.

Not only are these tablet-based systems relatively simple to use, but they also provide businesses with a variety of additional functionality that can improve performance and efficiency. Let’s take a look.

Inventory Management
Tracking inventory is one of the most challenging aspects of running a small business. Fortunately, mPOS systems include inventory tracking tools that simplify the process so you can stay organized and efficient. Tracking inventory without a POS system requires you to manage product data by hand or with a spreadsheet. With a POS, every time you sell something, your inventory will update automatically. Plus, you can set up low-stock alerts to ensure you always have your popular items ready to sell.

Analytics and Reporting
Quick, easy access to powerful reporting and analytics tools are another massive reason to choose an mPOS system. Sales reporting, employee performance reporting, inventory value reports, and more, give you deep insight into all areas of your business. Not only can you track inventory, but you can also understand the most profitable products, as well as how much capital is tied up in inventory.

While business owners serious about growing their business will want to invest in a dedicated marketing platform, in the long run, an mPOS does provide basic marketing tools. For example, integrated customer marketing tools help you track customer purchase history and enable the collection of email addresses when processing transactions.


Payment Processing Hardware
In addition to an actual cash register or POS system, you’ll also need to select the specific POS hardware you use to accept payments from customers.

  • Credit Card Terminal – In general, you’ll want to select a terminal that allows you to accept as many payment methods as possible. That means credit card payments (including EMV), debit card, mobile payments, gift cards, and potentially more depending on your location and industry.
  • Receipt Printer – Some card readers include a built-in receipt printer, while others will require that you buy one separately. In most cases, this will be a thermal printer, meaning that heat is used to print the receipt.
  • Cash Drawer – This is built into some registers, but it’s usually a separate (but small) purchase with a POS. It’s exactly what it sounds like it is, a drawer for holding cash and other essential documents a cashier might need to access during the day.
  • Barcode Scanners – For retailers this tool is an essential component for speeding up the checkout process. Instead of manually searching for an item with a POS system, or manually keying in the price with register, you just scan the barcode and continue on to the next item (or finish the checkout).


What Kind of Register Is Right for Your Business?

Selecting a cash register for your business can be slightly overwhelming. There are, after all, many makes and models within the categories presented here. Moreover, the technological advances in the payment industry show no signs of slowing down, adding confusion to an already difficult decision.

Key factors to consider are your budget, as well as the size and needs of your business. Will one cash register suffice or do you require a veritable fleet of them? If your operation is large and performs lots of transactions, a feature-rich point of sale system is a smart choice. Keep in mind that ‘feature-rich’ does not necessarily equal a more expensive one.

Be sure you understand what features you need for your retail stores or restaurant business, so you don’t invest in a system that’s essentially overkill. For instance, if you have a limited inventory, you may not need to invest in a scanner with barcode functionality, which can be an unnecessary cost. On the other hand, you will want to think about your business’ growth potential and try to choose a model that’s versatile and adaptable. This ensures that you don’t outgrow your investment within the next few years.

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons the iPad is the Perfect Tool for Small Business

Lastly, it’s essential that you read reviews of the various types of cash register models that exist — certainly the ones you’re considering for purchase. A system that suffers repeated breakdowns is not going to serve your business well. It’s always best to invest in the most reliable model you can find.

If you have concerns about cost, remember that some of the cash registers mentioned, such as computerized and mobile POS systems, function as the heart of your operation. Considering that it is a core operational component, it makes sense to invest in this area of your business. Plus, it’s a business expense that you can declare at tax time.

Yamarie Grullon

Yamarie Grullon has years of experience creating helpful & engaging content for small business owners. As Director of Content Strategy at ShopKeep, a leading iPad Point of Sale System, Yamarie provides merchants with practical advice on all things related to business or point of sale.