If you’re just starting out in business or thinking of upgrading your old cash register, there are a variety of different types of cash registers, as well as different makes and models to consider.

Whether you’re looking for a basic cash register without the bells and whistles or want something more robust that will help simplify your day-to-day operations, this expert guide will help you determine the best cash register for your business.

Cash Register Types

Although there are different types of cash register models, which we will get into a little later, 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 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.

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Electronic Cash Register Models

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 are just starting out. Most battery registers are sold for less than $200 while some of the cheaper models can be purchased for as low as $30. Often the more inexpensive models don’t always come with the helpful features many businesses have come to depend on, such as tax calculation functionality or pre-set buttons that enhance efficiency.

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.

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 tend to be more reliable because they don’t depend on batteries to operate.

One of the downsides to this type of model is that you are dependent upon having access to an electrical outlet. This can prove inconvenient, particularly if you want to create a setup where your cash register isn’t stuck in the back of your display and against a wall.

Because mobility and features are limited with both 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, which usually run on a PC-based computer leverage POS software applications that enable merchants to record sales, customer information, inventory levels, and other data that enhances business tracking and improves decision making.

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 business owners who are strapped for cash but still want access to a point of sale system with the speed and rich functionality of a computer-based point of sale system, there’s a happy medium — mobile point of sale (MPOS).


Thanks to advances in technology like the introduction of cloud computing and the iPad, small business owners now have access to modern, mobile point of sale technology that provides them with the robust features found in a computerized pos system at a fraction of the cost.

Access to feature-rich iPad cash register software can be as little as $2.50/day. Also, while computer-based systems restrain store staff to fixed checkout areas, and takes up considerable counter space, 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 the comprehensive data they need to run a growing business.

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.

Some of the key factors to consider include 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 — keeping in mind feature-rich does not necessarily equal a more expensive one.

Be sure you understand what features you need for your 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 and barcode functionality, which can be quite costly. On the other hand, you will want to think about your business’ growth potential and try to choose a model that’s versatile, adaptable, and that you’re not going to outgrow in 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 types of cash registers mentioned, such as computerized and mobile pos systems, can function as the heart of your operation, so it makes sense to invest in this area of your business. Plus, your purchase is a business expense, so you can declare it 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, the #1-rated iPad Point of Sale System, Yamarie provides merchants with practical advice on all things related to business or point of sale.