March 11, 2024

Cash Registers vs POS Systems: Which is Best for Retailers

The modern retail industry processes thousands of transactions every day. While such a high volume is great for business, you also need the right hardware and software to match. 

Previously, cash registers were the go-to option for retailers to process bulk payments efficiently. But things have changed for the better. Now, point of sale systems are at the heart of all retail businesses for being far more advanced and easier to use. 

That being said, some business owners find POS systems to be quite complex as they only need to process single payments at a time. 

Considering the POS system vs. cash register debate, this article covers everything you need to know about both types of payment processing systems. 

Read on to learn the difference between POS and cash register, and which one may be the better choice for your business.

<div id="What_is_a_Cash_Register?" fs-test-element="What is a Cash Register?"></div>

What is a Cash Register?

A cash register is a piece of hardware used by retailers to process payments and keep records of money received. It usually has a money drawer and a display that shows the total amount of each sale. Originally introduced to the world in 1879 by a wine merchant, a cash register was actually intended to prevent employee theft. 

While this was a major issue back then, modern retailers also face employee theft here and there. According to the National Retail Federation, employee theft is the second biggest cause of shrinkage in retail businesses.

Apart from the security they provide, cash registers can also calculate taxes and apply them to each individual sale before generating receipts. You can also keep track of sales, but only on the most basic level.

That being said, cash registers have evolved over the years. While the earlier versions simply processed payments, now they offer more robust features like credit card readers, barcode scanners, and scales.

<div id="What_is_a_POS_System?" fs-test-element="What is a POS System?"></div>

What is a POS System?

A POS system is a combination of hardware and software that retailers use to process transactions and manage sales, returns, and exchanges. Leading point of sale systems also offer functionalities for inventory management and CRM (customer relationship management).

Just like cash registers, POS systems have also come a long way since their introduction in the 1970s. 

You can perform transactions and record sales just like a cash register, but you can also get detailed reporting functionalities and also use sales data to perform data analysis. Modern POS systems have touchscreen interfaces that retailers can use to process transactions. 

Key Features of a POS System

According to MarketWatch, the global POS terminals market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.8% to reach a value of USD 191.7 Billion by 2030. Clearly, POS systems have established a strong foothold in the retail environment over the years and will continue to do so. 

What’s great about modern POS systems is that cloud storage has completely replaced chunky electronic cash registers. As a result, retailers get top-notch security and can process transactions from smartphones, tablets, or any other device that has internet connectivity.

This means your retail business can be made available wherever your customers are, hence improving brand visibility and providing ease of access. In some cases, POS systems can even process offline payments to add to the convenience.

POS systems are generally designed with user-friendly interfaces that retailers can customize according to their requirements. Some of these systems also come with training tools for employees to extract the maximum benefits.

<div id="Cash_register_vs._POS_system:_What_are_the_differences?" fs-test-element="Cash register vs. POS system: What are the differences?"></div>

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

The most notable difference between a cash register and a POS is the range of applications and functionalities offered. Cash registers are designed solely for processing transactions and managing sales. However, POS systems surpass these basic functionalities and act as a control center for retail businesses. 

These systems not only perform analysis of past sales to empower retailers with valuable insights but also help develop future strategies. For instance, retailers can determine:

  • Which products are frequently bought by their customers
  • Who are their most loyal customers
  • Which products are running out of stock and need to be re-ordered
  • Which of their employees are performing well and achieving their targets
  • What is your brand image among your target audience
  • Which areas of business have loopholes that need to be fixed

Let’s look at some of the deciding factors for both of these payment processing systems:

Cash Register POS System
Price Full setup: $100 - $500 Full setup: $1000 - $2000
Mobile-only: $0 - $500
Better for Small retail businesses operating out of a single location Growing businesses that strive for convenience and the newest features
Availability One-time installation Monthly, Yearly, and pay-as-you-go
Live Support Not available Mostly comes with 24/7 customer support
Data Sync Not available Excellent
Ease of use Basic and easy to use User-friendly and intuitive

While it may sound to the layman that POS systems and cash registers basically fulfill the same purpose, there are various distinctions that set both of them apart. 

A cash register merely facilitates the checkout process for retailers and comes with a drawer to store cash in. Compared to cash registers, POS systems can do this both manually and digitally, as well as helping retailers grow their business with modern functionalities.

Go Digital with XStak’s Retail Operating System

Experience the POS System for Next-Gen Retailers

Book a Demo

<div id="POS_System_vs_Cash_Register_Feature_Comparison" fs-test-element="POS System vs Cash Register Feature Comparison"></div>

POS System vs Cash Register Feature Comparison    

Payment Processing 

A modern POS system makes payment processing a matter of a few seconds, regardless of the payment method your customers opt for. Let’s put it into perspective, processing credit card transactions in a cash register requires opening a merchant account using third party service providers.

On the other hand, an all-in-one POS system comes with built in accounts and integrations to process all kinds of payments without any extra effort. What’s more? You also get digital receipts along with the options to add sales tax based on a pre-defined percentage and calculate tips, seasonal discounts, and promotional prices.

Portability and Mobility

The fact that POS systems are based on cloud servers instantly makes them much more portable as compared to traditional cash registers. Cash registers are bulkier hardware devices that need to be placed permanently on retail store counters. 

In cases where customers want to make online payments, cash registers have their limitations. As a result, customers often face inconvenience. 

That being said, POS systems like XStak POS are highly flexible and can be accessed through a wide range of devices, including PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. The resulting checkout process is as convenient as it possibly can be, giving customers the freedom to choose the payment method of their liking. 

Whether you want to make your payment through credit card, with cash, or through online transfer, POS systems are equipped to accept them all.

Sales Tracking and Reports

Cash registers are very limited when it comes to sales tracking and reporting. Although they store sales information, there are no functionalities to perform data analysis and provide valuable insights.

On the contrary, modern POS systems typically come with a central dashboard that displays reports with numbers related to sales, inventory, employee productivity, and customer loyalty. 

Some of the leading systems also offer suggestions for future business strategies based on the data analysis they carry out in real time. The aim is to provide retailers with the right information that allows them to make informed decisions and take their business forward.

Even a POS system with the most basic functionalities tracks each sale from various angles and stores this information all the time. It can then tell retailers which items are low in stock, which items are performing the best, and which two items customers like to buy together. Using this information, next-gen POS systems also offer personalized recommendations that improve the chances of multiple items being added to the cart.

Furthermore, sales tracking helps retailers identify the time of the year where their business performed the best, and the categories of products that have contributed the most to overall revenue. 

How a POS System Works

Staff Management

There is no concept of employee management in a cash register, but POS systems have a lot to offer in this area. Starting from a wide array of staff management tools, POS systems offer functionalities of time tracking, scheduling, commissions, and employee rewards. They even come with the flexibility to create and set permissions for employees within the system.

You can also integrate your entire payroll management system in a modern POS solution, which allows you to track employee performance with an automated mechanism. While some POS systems come with a built-in feature to carry out these tasks, others can get them done through third-party integrations.

Business Management

Although some high end cash registers may have some basic functionalities to keep track of sales, traditional ones are nowhere close. POS systems, on the other hand, are in a different league entirely. This is because even the most basic ones have features to manage and improve business operations. 

Ranging from customer relationship management to inventory and employee management, these functionalities cut down your work in half. However, that does not mean your business operations are slowing down. In fact, most of your repetitive tasks will be carried out automatically, leaving plenty of room for innovation and growth.

With automated analytics and sales reporting, you have a guarantee of optimized investments. Moreover, analyzing customers’ shopping behaviors over a period of time improves the marketing abilities of your retail business as you know your audience better.

<div id="POS_System_vs_Cash_Register:_Price_Comparison" fs-test-element="POS System vs Cash Register: Price Comparison"></div>

POS System vs Cash Register: Price Comparison    

On the surface, the price of POS systems is clearly more than cash registers. But so are the functionalities and benefits. Getting a cash register setup is a one-time investment that allows you to process payments as long as the hardware and software keeps working. 

With POS systems, however, it all depends on the functionality and volume you require. Depending on the size of your business, POS systems can start from free-of-cost solutions and go all the way up to 2000 dollars per month.      

<div id="Why_POS_System_Wins" fs-test-element="Why POS System Wins"></div>

Why POS System Wins

There are a number of reasons that make POS systems the superior alternative when it comes to modern business applications.


Considering that you want to grow your business out of a single physical store, a POS system will not become a hurdle in your way. E-commerce businesses that have multiple physical and online channels need a POS system for the same reason, as they constantly work with third party integrations to process different kinds of payments. 

benefits of cloud based POS solutions

The best part is that you can use your iPad as a POS terminal by simply downloading the software. With a plug-in credit card reader, you are all geared up to accept all kinds of payments. 


Unlike cash registers which mainly accept cash and credit card payments, POS systems come with built-in integrations that allow you to leverage accounting, payroll, and email marketing programs. Most modern POS solutions have integrations with QuickBooks, MailChimp, and Xero.

Live Support

Another great thing about POS systems is that they are updated automatically just like any software. This not only helps your business stay ahead of the competition with the latest features but also prevents technical issues. Even when you do run into such a problem, POS service providers usually offer 24/7 customer support.

Leverage XStak POS to Accelerate Growth

Step Ahead Into the Digital Era with XStak

Book a Demo

<div id="How_to_Choose_Between_a_Cash_Register_and_a_POS_System" fs-test-element="How to Choose Between a Cash Register and a POS System"></div>

How to Choose Between a Cash Register and a POS System

At the end of the day, all businesses have to adopt an omnichannel model where they operate using multiple online and offline channels. Clearly, cash registers cannot accommodate you when you need to connect an online store with your physical store. Considering the benefits and scale of applications discussed in this blog, it’s clear that POS systems are the way forward for modern retailers.

XStak POS System For Retailers  

XStak POS is an omnichannel cloud-based POS system that enables retailers to provide their services to online and offline customers simultaneously. The system comes built-in with all the right tools and technologies, meaning you do not need any external hardware. Not only that, but you also get real-time reporting and top-level security thanks to cloud storage.   

<div id="Wrapping_up" fs-test-element="Wrapping up"></div>

Wrapping up

POS systems and cash registers are both payment processing systems that are widely used by retailers across the globe. If you are running a growing retail business and looking for a convenient means to manage sales, inventory, and also want to use a CRM, you’d be better off with a POS system. Regardless of the number of transactions you need to perform every day, these modern solutions make it an effortless operation.

Grow Your Retail Business to New Heights

Deploy XStak POS Today!

Book a Demo

Become An Omnichannel Retailer

Take a personalized tour of XStak's retail operating modules with our Sales experts and learn how XStak can enable you to grow.