Square POS offers the best free POS system overall, with extensive functionality, high scalability, a variety of payment options, and 24/7 customer support. The software is user-friendly and highly customizable. However, advanced features come at an additional cost.
Below, I’ll go into the subject of ‘free’ POS in much more detail. However, it’s important to note that the term “free” can be misleading when it comes to POS systems. While the basic software may be free, you may still need to purchase additional features, hardware, or services. Free in the context of POS systems typically means that there is no monthly fee. Of course, they have to make their money somewhere and this is usually in a fee per transaction: for Square this is 1.75%.
Read on to learn more about the top free POS systems as I assess their capabilities, limitations, and overall value proposition. I will also clarify the nuances of how ‘free’ they actually are, including pointing out any hidden costs so you can make an informed decision.
The Best Free POS Systems of 2023
Square POS – Offers extensive functionality like sales tracking and inventory management with no monthly fees.
Zettle Go – Provides an easy-to-use mobile POS system with a popular card reader and no monthly fees.
SumUp App – Features a simple, user-friendly interface focused on mobile card payments without monthly fees.
Shopify POS – Requires a Shopify subscription but seamlessly integrates online and offline sales channels.
How we chose the best POS systems for small businesses
Our research methodology is based on a comprehensive framework that evaluates the effectiveness of each POS system via the key metrics that matter most to you.
Over the last six months, the Business Expert team have meticulously reviewed each POS system against a battery of performance indicators, including user-friendliness, reliability, and scalability.
We have also enriched our study by incorporating real-world feedback from actual SME’s. This qualitative data adds nuance to our quantitative metrics, ensuring a balanced view.
Free POS Systems With No Monthly Fees
Square POS: No Ongoing Monthly Fee
The Square Readers is the closest you’ll come to a ‘free’ POS with an initial spend requirement of just £19 for the reader, and you’re up and running to take payments.
There is no ongoing monthly fee, but you’ll pay between 1.75%-2.5% per transaction depending on whether your customer is using contactless, entering their PIN, or using a non-UK card.
You can accept payments through various methods—credit and debit cards, mobile payments, and even cash—without incurring a fee for the software itself.
The inventory management feature in Square’s system allows you to track stock levels and set up low-stock alerts. You can manage single or multiple locations and even integrate this data into your accounting software if required.
I’m also a fan of the well-designed Square Dashboard, which gives you immediate access to sales data, allowing you to track performance metrics such as sales trends, customer behaviour, and more.
Square is a great entry point to the world of POS, ideal for someone taking less than £5k per month and wanting something without hassle, long-term contract or monthly fee. Their customer support is highly rated, and their app has a lot of advanced features, such as stock management, that you might find useful.
- Basic Transaction Processing: Accepts contactless, mobile, and chip and PIN payments.
- POS Hardware Compatibility: Seamless integration with a range of hardware options.
- Online Payment Solutions: Free online store setup, social media sales, and API/SDK for developers.
- Remote Payments: Digital invoices and checkout links for text or email payments.
- Manual Entry: Key-in card information for phone payments.
- Clear Pricing: Transparent processing rates with no hidden fees.
- Fast Payment Transfer: Money transfer to a bank account as early as the next working day.
- Customer Support: Available support for technical issues and queries.
- Security Features: PCI compliance, fraud protection, and enhanced account protection.
|Reader||The Square reader is £19 for UK customers|
|Transaction fees||The transaction fee is 1.75% for contactless, chip and PIN or swiped card-present transactions. For manually keyed-in payments, recurring payments facilitated via Online Checkout links, Square Invoices and Virtual Terminal, the fee is 2.5%. For online payment products, including Square eCommerce API, Square Online, Online Checkout, Subscription Payments and purchases of Digital Gift Cards, the fee is 1.4% + 25p for UK cards and 2.5% + 25p for non-UK cards.|
|Additional features||Square offers a number of additional features, such as inventory management, employee management, and advanced analytics. These features are charged on a monthly or annual basis.|
Does Square have any hidden fees?
Square does not have any hidden fees. The company’s pricing structure is simple and transparent, with no monthly or annual fees. Instead, Square makes money through a percentage of every credit card transaction it processes.
Zettle Go: Easy EPOS with No Monthly Ongoing Fees
Zettle Go, formerly known as iZettle, has carved a niche for itself in the market by offering an easy-to-use Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system coupled with a highly popular card reader. The system is specifically designed to cater to micro-merchants who need something simple.
Like Square, it has no monthly ongoing fees. Simply download the free EPOS software, which can be downloaded onto your mobile device or tablet. The software allows for basic transaction processing, sales tracking, and rudimentary inventory management.
Zettle also provides real-time reporting and analytics through its dashboard. This interface provides an overview of transactions, product sales statistics, and other crucial business metrics.
Zettle Go also charges a 1.75% per-transaction fee, which is currently identical to Square.
Additionally, Zettle offers a range of premium features, such as advanced inventory management and detailed reporting, which are available at an extra cost. Businesses that require these advanced functionalities will need to opt for one of Zettle’s paid plans.
- Portability: Suitable for in-store or on-the-go payments, easily paired with the Zettle app.
- Battery Life: Offers up to 8 hours of battery life, with constant charge available via Zettle Dock 2.
- Fast Transactions:
- Time to power up is around 2 seconds.
- Contactless payments can be processed in approximately 5 seconds.
- Card payments take around 10 seconds.
- App Integration: Pairs with the Zettle app for a more comprehensive payment solution that allows for card and contactless payments, product library building, and inventory tracking.
- Dock Option: Zettle Dock 2 is available for locking the Reader 2 into place and charging it throughout the day.
- Customer Support: Free telephone support available for users.
- 30-Day Return Policy: Full refund available if returned within the first 30 days.
|Zettle Reader 2||£59 excl. VAT|
|Zettle Dock 2 (Optional)||£39|
|PayPal QR Codes||1.75%|
Does Zettle have any hidden fees?
No, Zettle does not have any hidden fees. The company’s pricing structure is simple and transparent, with no monthly or annual fees. Instead, Zettle makes money through a percentage of every transaction it processes.
SumUp App: Easy to Use POS System with Many Payment Options
SumUp is the third major player in the entry-level card reader and POS marketplace, offering a decent reader at £39 and fees of 1.69%, or even 1.49%, if you use their business account.
The app distinguishes itself by offering a user-friendly interface and the ability to be paid by payment links, online store, email invoices, keyed transactions or QR codes. There’s no contract, and you won’t be charged for termination, nor any for PCI compliance.
It has basic inventory management through its mobile app, and you can track sales history, track revenue, and monitor transaction statuses in real-time through the dashboard.
SumUp also offers premium functionalities, such as enhanced analytics and more advanced inventory management, accessible through their paid plans.
One thing to note is that SumUp won’t accept customers in high-risk categories. Their customer service was responsive during my testing but it’s not available 24/7.
Finally, SumUp pays out to your business bank account within three to five working days which is slow compared to competitors like Square. If you choose to become a Sumup One member (£29 per month) this changes to daily 7am payments for any business up to midnight the day before.
Shopify POS: Free POS with Ecommerce Subscription
Shopify is a well-known player in the ecommerce space, offering a POS system designed to seamlessly integrate with its online store platform. This creates a unified shopping experience for customers, whether they’re purchasing in-store or online.
The Shopify POS software is available for free, but there’s a catch: it’s only free for businesses that are already subscribed to Shopify’s e-commerce platform. This essentially means that the ‘free’ POS is part of a bundled service, and you’ll need to be a paying Shopify customer to take advantage of it.
The free version of Shopify POS offers basic functionalities such as transaction processing, sales tracking, and limited inventory management. However, advanced features like in-depth analytics, multi-location support, and advanced inventory management are reserved for Shopify’s higher-tier plans, which incur additional fees.
Hardware requirements, such as card readers and receipt printers, are also an extra expense, as they are not included in the free version.
Is Free POS Software Worth It?
The allure of a free POS system is undeniable, especially for small businesses operating on limited budgets. However, the term “free” often comes with caveats, including transaction fees, limitations on features, and the requirement to purchase additional hardware.
It’s essential to conduct a thorough analysis of your specific business needs when evaluating free POS options. What appears to be cost-saving initially may entail hidden costs that could affect your bottom line over time.
For instance, if your business requires advanced inventory management or analytics features, a free POS system may only offer these functionalities at an additional cost. Similarly, transaction fees, although seemingly nominal, can accumulate and have a significant impact on profitability.
It’s also worth considering the long-term scalability of a free POS system. As your business grows, you may find that the limitations of a free system become increasingly cumbersome, necessitating an eventual switch to a more robust, paid solution.
What to Look for in Free POS Software
Choosing a POS system is a crucial business decision, even when opting for a free solution. Here are several key factors to consider:
Features: Free POS systems vary in terms of features, so it’s important to determine the essential functions you need and ensure the chosen system offers them in its free package. Common features include inventory management, customer tracking, and sales analytics.
Transaction fees: Many free POS systems charge per transaction, so scrutinize the fee structure to understand its long-term impact on your revenue. Consider systems that offer a tiered pricing model, so you can upgrade to a more comprehensive plan with additional features as your business grows.
Hardware compatibility: Many free POS systems require specific hardware components, such as card readers or barcode scanners. Ensure that your chosen system is compatible with the hardware you either already own or intend to purchase.
User experience: An intuitive, user-friendly interface can significantly reduce the time needed for staff training. Opt for systems that are easy to navigate to ensure efficient operations and a positive customer experience.
Vendor support: Evaluate the level of customer support offered by the POS provider. Prompt and effective support can be invaluable, especially during critical business hours. Even free systems should offer some level of support to address any technical issues or queries you may have.
Top 5 Free POS Systems Compared
Choosing a POS system involves weighing multiple variables, from features and scalability to transaction fees and customer support. To aid you in this complex decision-making process, we’ve compiled a comparative overview of the top five free POS systems we’ve discussed:
|Scalability||Highly Scalable||Moderate||Limited||Extremely Scalable|
|Payment Options||Broad Range||Variety||Card-focused||Broad Range|
|Usability||User-friendly||Easy to Use||Simple||User-friendly|
|Customisation||High||Limited to Moderate||Limited||High|
|Data Security||PCI DSS Compliant||PCI DSS Compliant||PCI DSS Compliant||PCI DSS Compliant|
|Cost||Free Basic Tier||Free App||Free App||Subscription-based|
|Vendor Reputation||Highly Reputable||Reputable||Reputable||Extremely Reputable|
|Support and Maintenance||24/7 Support||Limited Hours Support||Limited Support||24/7 Support|
|Software Updates||Regular, Usually Free||Periodic, Generally Free||Periodic, Typically Free||Regular, Included|
|Overall Star Rating||★★★★★||★★★★||★★★||★★★★★|
- Square Point of Sale offers the broadest range of features, but advanced analytics and other premium functionalities come at an additional cost.
- Zettle Go is an excellent option for those seeking an easy-to-use EPOS system with a popular card reader, though like Square, advanced features require a paid plan.
- SumUp App stands out for its user-friendliness and offers a unified transaction fee, making it easier to predict costs.
- Shopify POS is most beneficial for those already subscribed to Shopify’s ecommerce platform, offering seamless integration between online and physical stores.