Cash Registers vs. POS Systems: How to Tell Which Is Perfect for Your Retail Biz

Most booming retail businesses process many transactions on a daily basis, sometimes thousands. To deal with that type of volume, brick-and-mortar businesses will need to equip themselves with the resources — both hardware and software — to keep operations running smoothly.

The core of a retail organization? The point-of-purchase, cash register or point-of-sale (POS) system. Although many may use those terms interchangeably, they are not one and the same. In actuality, there are lots of important differences that would influence which course you go to your retail business. Let us dive into what the conventional cash register is, what a POS system, and how they are different — and how you can select which option most suits your organization.

What’s a cash register?

The official definition of the expression”cash register” is”a business machine that usually has a cash drawer, indicates the amount of every sale, and documents the quantity of money received.”

A cash register logs transactions which happen in your shop, making a record of the cash coming in and going out. It can also compute and include taxes, create receipts, and supply basic sales tracking. Many significant grocery stores and department stores use cash registers.

The cash register was initially invented back in 1879 by whiskey, wine and cigar merchant James Ritty as a preventative step towards employee theft. And while we’re prepared to bet employee theft was much more rampant back then, it is still a concern for retailers. In actuality, employee theft is the second-most top cause of shrinkage for retailers, according to data by the National Retail Federation.

Cash registers have come a long way since their early iterations. Now, we’ve got electronic cash registers that you commonly find in restaurants. Even though a simple cash register is set up to handle money transactions, newer ones have more robust choices.

Broadly , cash registers are just a couple of hundred dollars in cost, but if you would like additional functions like credit card readers, barcode scanners or scales, then you will want to invest in extra hardware.

What’s a POS system?

Point-of-sale is defined as”of or concerning the place (for instance, a check-out counter) in which a product is bought.” Point-of-sale (also point-of-purchase or POS) systems will be the mechanisms with which merchants and clients can execute purchases.

Essentially, a POS is just like a cash register on steroids: You can use it to administer money transactions and do everything that a regular register would do, and you can gain more comprehensive POS reporting on these transactions. A POS generally has a touchscreen interface that workers use to manage purchases.

A POS could be comprised of a few elements:

  • Touchscreen apparatus
  • Card scanner
  • Processor reader
  • Barcode scanner
  • Computer
  • Server (the Cloud)
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POS systems were introduced in the 1970s, when cash registers evolved to automatic POS terminals that could perform additional functions, like credit card processing and fundamental inventory management. They gained popularity and became commonplace in retail environments in the ’80s and ’90s. Based on Transparency Market Research, the worldwide point-of-sale industry climbed generated $36.86 billion in earnings in 2013, 34 percent of that claimed by retailers.

Through time, the POS system has become more advanced. Nowadays, many POS terminals integrate with other retail business tools, such as inventory management, accounting or warehouse management applications. Some are strong enough to act as a retail management control center that manages everything earnings, inventory and customer management.

POS systems are crucial for multi-channel sellers, because they may monitor and sync data across multiple store locations, warehouses and/or fulfillment centers. They supply a centralized location for information which enables retailers to remain on top of different channels and stores from one platform. Boston Retail Partner’s 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey supports this outlook. According to the study, there’ll be a 663% increase in retailers with a single commerce platform in 2019.

POS systems also have features for a number of additional elements to your retail industry, such as:

  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Gift cards
  • Marketing
  • Personalization
  • Data for informed business decisions
  • Automation
  • Available from the Cloud for cellular business owners

What’s a mobile POS?

Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) are an even more recent growth of the modern cash register. Predictably, the major difference here is that a POS isn’t portable, whereas an mPOS is. This helps for sellers who have several locations or sell at markets or events, but it’s also helpful for single-location brick-and-mortars.

MPOS systems make partners mobile, just like your clients. So, as opposed to forcing a client to make their way into the point-of-purchase, the point-of-purchase can come to them. Anytime it is possible to reduce friction along the road to buy, you are helping your chances at closing the purchase. In actuality, over half of UK retailers ranked mPOS since the most crucial in-store technology for customers in 2014. They are also typically smaller in size than a typical POS, which supports freedom.

It is fairly common for an mPOS to have a monthly subscription fee.

Cash register vs. POS system: What are the gaps?

On the surface, it seems like traditional cash registers and contemporary POS systems have the exact same purpose, which is to ring up sales. And while it is true that the two solutions can do so, their distinctions run much deeper.

A cash register is a system that stores your money in a drawer and permits you to facilitate the checkout procedure. Meanwhile, a POS system can do this AND help you run your retail business.

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The largest difference between cash registers and POS systems is that the latter is much more powerful, robust, and feature-rich.

Consider the following:


Features and performance

Cash registers: Lets you ring up sales and is equipped with a safe drawer for deposits and invoices. Some cash registers could be customized according to your tax conditions, and others may also offer basic sales reports.

POS systems: Enables You to do All the above, plus:

  • Manage your stock
  • collect and store customer information
  • conduct a loyalty program
  • conduct reporting and analytics on your sales, inventory, clients, etc..
  • Produce and implement promotions
  • …and much more.

Portability and flexibility

Modern POS systems are more mobile and flexible than traditional cash registers. The latter pretty much comes in only 1 form: a cash register system. However, POS systems such as ConnectPOS can operate on various devices, such as Mac, iPad, and PC so that your checkout process can be as mobile or as fleshed out as you desire.

Whether you are ringing up sales behind a massive cash wrap or wish to do it on-board, a POS system will work for you.


Point of sale systems have yet another advantage . Most cash registers can only connect with your payment processor. However, when you’re using a POS system, you can further expand its capabilities by incorporating solutions like yourown:

  • Accounting software
  • ecommerce platform
  • loyalty and marketing automation applications
  • payment processor
  • ERP
  • scheduling apps


If you are on a very tight budget, then a conventional cash register might be more appealing, since these machines typically cost $100-$500 dollars. POS systems, on the other hand, typically cost $1,000 in annual fees, in addition to the cost of hardware — i.e., your pc or iPad.

That having been said, a point of sale system ought to be regarded as an investment. While it may cost more, the additional features and functionality it offers can save you a tremendous amount of time while still assisting you to grow your company. When you’re in a position to get the most from your POS, the solution more than pays for itself.

Here’s a table summarizing some of our key points:

Cash register vs. POS system: What are the differences?
Cash registerPOS
PriceLess expensive; $100–$800Around $1,000/year in fees + hardware cost. But you typically get more bang for your buck.
Ease of useEasy to learn and train employees to use; has basic functions.Modern POS systems are as user-friendly and intuitive as most mobile apps. But for users who need support, some vendors provide email, phone, and online customer service and training.
ReportingBasic sales reporting.Multiple reporting options; improved accuracy. Some POS systems also come with sophisticated retail analytics that track sales, inventory, customers, and more.
Biggest advantagesLong-lasting; reliable.Robust, grows with your business, offers much more features and functionality.
Biggest drawbacksLimited in functionality; archaic.Typically comes with subscription fees and may require regular software updates.
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How to decide between a cash register or POS system

Choosing between a cash register, POS and mPOS for your retail business is like any other major business decision: The right answer completely depends on your unique needs. So, while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, there are a few considerations and questions that can guide you through the process:

  • What are my biggest pain points NOW? What’s the cause of those pain points?
  • Which types of payment methods does my business need to be able to accept?
  • Do we need to collect tax(es) for sales? Are they all the same tax, or are there different taxes for different customers, sales, stores or products?
  • How busy is my store on average?
  • How many departments, categories and product SKUs do I need to track?
  • How many products do we carry now? How many will we carry in the future?
  • How many registers do we have or need?
  • What is my current customer loyalty program?
  • What does my staff like or dislike about our setup?
  • How do we administer receipts to our customers?

Here’s a Fast summary of the steps we Have outlined in our POS Buyer’s Guide:

1 match the demands of your company. Return back to this list of questions to know what your heart desires are.

2. Pay attention to the mandatory hardware. Including barcode scanners, scales, receipt printers, etc..

3. Decide on a budget. If you are picking mPOS, you will probably have to account for a monthly subscription fee, whereas cash registers and classic POS might be upfront costs with occasional upkeep costs.

4. Audit and compare POS systems. Request other retailers from your community or another small business tools you use (accounting, stock management, etc.) for referrals. Check websites such as Capterra, Merchandise Hunt or Merchant Maverick to see what other people like/dislike about your choices.

5. Watch the POS in actions. View the demo videos on the POS sites and request a live presentation with your best choices so that you may ask more questions into a true human.

6. Get the installation right. The very best POS business can assist you through this procedure. To reap the maximum benefits from the POS, you are going to want to commit time at the start to establishing templates, automations, workflows and other configurations.

7. Make the most of your POS system. You have spent time upfront to put yourself up for success, so now it is time to utilize it.

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