You have to spend money to make money. But you can spend a little less by using these free point of sale tools.
One of the most important functions of your retail business is a solid point of sale (POS) system to accept and process payments, record sales, manage inventory, and more.
Assuming that you have to pay for your POS system, you literally have to spend money to make money.
Or do you?
But free POS software is a little trickier. Why? For one, unlike other software that just runs off your mobile device or computer, POS software typically requires its own associated hardware, such as cash drawers, scanners, and touchscreen tablets. And not even the most generous software provider is handing that stuff out for free.
Secondly, electronic transactions cost money, and no software provider is going to cover your processing fees for thousands of transactions.
With that being said, there are some POS systems, which we’ll look at in this article, that you can have for free. This means that you can use the software for free without any upfront payment or subscription fees. Some of them even work with your existing mobile devices so that you might not have to pay for additional hardware. Keep in mind though, that even with this “free” POS software, you’ll still have to pay a per-transaction processing fee, and there are other caveats, which we will also take a look at.
Free point of sale software
Below, you’ll find five free POS software options and two open source systems for good measure. We’ll explain each product and, where applicable, its cost to upgrade. Each of these tools (arranged alphabetically) has a minimum user rating of 4.5 out of 5 and at least 20 user reviews on Capterra over the past two years (see full selection methodology here).
- Free plan: Apple Pay is free to use on Apple devices. Apple Pay even offers free decals and a signage kit that you can put up in your store to let your customers know that you accept Apple Pay.
- Paid plans: Apple Pay does not offer any paid plans.
If you’re already running your business with several Apple devices, it makes sense to consider incorporating Apple Pay as well. Apple Pay uses near-field communication (NFC) to securely transfer funds from customers’ mobile devices to your Apple devices. Of course, this presents a major limitation to using Apple Pay as your primary POS: You can only accept payments from customers with iOS devices as well as those that have set up an Apple Pay account. For this reason, you’ll likely need an additional POS and terminals to use alongside Apple Pay.
Also, unlike some other point of sale providers, Apple Pay is not a merchant account provider, so you’ll need to set one of those up separately and pay the associated transaction fees (though it’s important to note that Apple Pay does not charge additional transaction fees).
Completing a payment in Apple Pay (Source)
- Free plan: Google Pay is free to use
- Paid plans: Google Pay does not have paid plans or features
Similar to Apple Pay but for Google accounts, Google Pay allows businesses to accept payment from customers without any fees. Like Apple Pay, Google Pay is also not a merchant account provider, so you will need to set one up separately (and pay the associated fees) if you don’t already have one. The good news is that everyone who has a Gmail address has a Google account, and anyone with a Google account can pay with Google Pay. If you want to accept cash, checks, or credit card payments outside of Google Pay, you’ll need an additional POS.
Shop overview in Google Pay (Source)
- Free plan: PayPal Here’s free plan does not have setup or subscription fees, and there are no monthly minimums for processed transactions. You can even get a free chip and swipe card reader when you sign up for a new account.
- Paid plans: PayPal Here does not have paid upgrades, but they do sell hardware with card readers between $25 and $100.
PayPal Here is PayPal’s solution for retail POS with some attractive features for small businesses, including transaction fees starting at 2.7% plus 30 cents per transaction and affordable hardware. PayPal Here also includes a built-in merchant account provider, which is why they charge transaction fees, and it works with both Apple and Android devices.
Creating a product list in PayPal Here (Source)
- Free plan: The free version of Square for Retail offers limited POS, a customer relationship management (CRM) module, inventory management, and reporting features for one user.
- Paid plans: Users can upgrade to Square for Retail Plus, which adds multiple users and many additional features for $60/month.
If you’re looking for a free POS with built-in merchant account provider, look no further. As a result, Square for Retail Free does charge a fee of 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction.
Remember, you’ll be paying similar fees even if you use one of the “free” options above. With those options, you’ll just be paying it to a separate service provider. If you decide to upgrade to Square for Retail Plus, the fee drops to 2.5% plus 10 cents per transaction. Square for Retail Free works on iOS devices and Square Register hardware, which starts at $799 or $39/month.
If you’d rather use Android devices, the Square Point of Sale app is also free. Here’s a comparison chart for Square Point of Sale, Square for Retail Free, and Square for Retail Plus.
Inventory management in Square for Retail (Source)
- Free plan: Stripe Terminal does not charge setup or subscription fees.
- Paid plans: Stripe Terminal sells pre-certified card readers with cloud-based fleet management. The BBPOS Chipper 2X BT costs $59 and the Verifone P400 costs $299.
Stripe launched in Ireland as a payment processing company in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2019 that the company made its POS system, Terminal, available to U.S. users. Similar to Square for Retail, Stripe Terminal is a POS system with built-in merchant account provider that does not charge setup or subscription fees. The Stripe Terminal processing fee is 2.7% plus 5 cents per transaction.
The Payments dashboard in Stripe (Source)
Open source point of sale software
These two open source tools were chosen based on Google search results relevance and are also listed in alphabetical order (see full methodology below). Keep in mind that while these options are totally free to download, you are responsible for implementing and maintaining the software.
The name says it all. OSPOS is an open source point of sale system. The web-based tool boasts a healthy list of features, from barcode generation and scanning, to loyalty programs and gift card management. OSPOS is supported through the GitHub community. Like some of the options above, users are responsible for setting up their own merchant account provider, and OSPOS accepts donations from users who want to support the project.
The sales module in OSPOS (Source)
uniCenta boasts a feature set that could rival any paid small business POS, including inventory management, reporting, a CRM feature, and even employee management features. uniCenta is also capable of running on any type of hardware—PC, Linux-powered machine, Mac, or mobile.
uniCenta’s setup is incredibly flexible, allowing you to host it locally or drop it in the cloud to manage multiple locations off the same system. The software is 100% free, but you can upgrade to a subscription service, starting at $83/year, if you fall in love with it. Subscribers get earlier access to new features, extended support, and some exclusive add-ons.
The main interface in UniCenta POS (Source)
Read our POS software buyers guide to understand the benefits and common features of these tools.
How to choose the right free or open source POS tool for your business
Keeping the following considerations in mind when choosing software will make your POS software decision a little easier:
- Do you have more than one retail location? A free solution may work for a small, single-location business, but if you have multiple locations, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a paid option or pay someone to develop your open source system.
- Are you comfortable getting hands-on? An open source solution requires a certain level of know-how when it comes to maintaining your system. If you’re not comfortable around computers, or you don’t have the time to configure and maintain your POS software, you’re better off choosing a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) option.
- Do you already have a merchant account provider? Some of the options above, such as Square and Stripe, come packaged with a merchant account provider. Others, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and the open source options, do not. In those cases, you’ll need to set up your own merchant account. Anyone running a business needs a merchant account to accept debit and credit card payments from customers, so if you don’t already have one set up, choosing a POS solution that has one built-in can save you some time (though you’ll have to use their merchant account provider).
- Do you also want to sell online? Many POS systems have eCommerce integrations to help you streamline your physical and online store operations. If you’re selling online, even as just a small percentage of your total sales, it can still be very helpful to have an integrated system to keep all of your financial records together.
Common questions to ask while selecting a free or open source POS tool
You’ll probably have many questions when selecting free or open source POS software, and it’s important to get answers from software providers and/or their sales representatives. Here are a few key questions to consider asking:
- Does this POS system have the functionality you need? It may seem like an obvious question, but the last thing you want is to spend a lot of time selecting a new free or open source POS system only to find that it doesn’t include a feature you need, whether that’s employee management, inventory tracking, or even just compatibility with your hardware.
- What hardware will you need? Unlike a CRM or accounting software, for example, which can run off almost any web-connected device, many POS systems require additional hardware, such as chip readers, barcode scanners, and cash drawers. Some systems might work with your existing mobile devices, but it’s important to be clear up front on what you need.
- What are the additional fees? From required hardware to payment processing to technical support, POS systems can have many additional fees, even for a free system. Make sure you ask your vendor up front what goes into the total cost so that there are no surprises down the road.
- Has this vendor worked with other clients in your industry? There are specialized POS systems for restaurants, consignment shops, and even jewelry stores. Ask your vendor up front if they have worked with businesses in your industry before. If not, you might be better off going with a vendor that specializes in your industry.
How we rate
This article was updated in March of 2021. Products considered for this article had to:
- Offer a free, stand-alone version of the software (not a trial version of the software where you must purchase a product after a limited amount of time).
- Meet our POS market definition: Point of Sale software helps businesses manage both sales transactions and operational processes, including payment processes, inventory management, customer management, sales reporting, and employee management.
Software that met the market definition also needed a minimum of 20 user-submitted reviews published between March 1, 2019 – March 1, 2021, and have an above-average overall user rating compared to other products in the category.
The open source options were selected by searching “open source point of sale” via an Incognito Google search in March of 2021. Products that appeared on the first SERP page and met our market definition for POS software were included in alphabetical order.