POS System vs. Traditional Cash Register: What’s the Difference?

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If you own a cash register, you may have heard about a point of sale system. Every business needs a cash management system, whether it’s a traditional cash register or a point of sale (POS) system. If you aren’t sure of the difference between the two, here is a breakdown to help you understand both types of cash management systems.

When it comes to traditional cash registers, you have one option: cash. The average person carries three bank-issued credit cards, four retail credit cards, and one debit card. Cards account for over half of consumer purchases, so not having an adequate card reader system can decrease sales for your business

With POS systems, you can process any type of payment including EBT, debit/credit cards, and even EMV chip technology. Accepting every payment method increases the amount of possible sales each day. Additionally, POS systems keep track of how often people pay by cards, cash, or other forms of payment.


Traditional cash registers are heavy and clunky. These machines take up a lot of space on the counter space. Because of this, cash registers often have to be placed in specific locations around the store to be operational. However, they’re also extremely sturdy.

If you’re a fan of the heavier systems, some POS systems can be weighty, but most are lightweight. Many cloud-based systems now allow shop owners to move their POS system wherever they need. There is no need to place these systems in specific spots. However, a point of sale system almost always requires an internet connection. Many now allow you to use Wi-Fi, which means you’ll have to subscribe to additional services to access your POS. If your internet goes down, you may lose access to your management system.

Traditional cash registers require you to keep track of your sales and sometimes write out tickets. This method can slow down how quickly you make sales, causing customers to wait in line for longer periods of time. However, if you don’t get numerous customers at one time, it may not make sense for you to upgrade your machine, especially if you’re a startup business. Ultimately, you’ll also spend much more time accounting when most POS systems do this for you.

A point of sale system computes much faster than a traditional cash register. In most circumstances, you simply need to use the barcode on the product, and your register does everything else for you. Because of this, you’re able to process customers at a much faster rate.

When it comes time to buy a cash register, you’ll find that you can purchase a register for around $200. Once you get the machine, you may not have to make any changes for years. Cash registers don’t need updates and they rarely need maintenance.

POS systems are computers that regularly need updates, depending on the manufacturing company. Point of sale systems also require maintenance due to the additional processes the machines complete. With all the extra capabilities, these systems can cost thousands of dollars. If you’re a small business, card readers that plug into a smartphone are possible, but an all-in-one POS system that’s similar to a cash register will cost around $500-$2,000.

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