How to get a POS system for your business?
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How to get a POS for your business?

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Robert Luong | June 11, 2024

“Learn about traditional, cloud-based, computer, and online POS systems, their costs, and how to choose the right one.”
11 min read
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    What are the different types of POS systems?

    POS system, or point-of-sale system, is the tool to process payment where it occurs, whether it’s in-person, online, over the phone, via email, or SMS.

    There are four types of POS systems that you can choose from depending on your business needs and industry:

    Traditional POS: A traditional POS system is a hardware-heavy setup customized for your business’ specific operation. It requires a server to store inventory, customer, and transaction information. You usually find these systems in fast food chains like McDonald's and KFC.

    traditional POS system

    Cloud-based POS: Cloud-based POS systems store all sales and data online, so you can use it from any internet-connected device. To set it up, you simply download the software and connect the hardware, like receipt printers, cash drawers, and card readers to process the transaction. This POS is perfect for businesses looking for a flexible and simple solution with lower upfront costs.

    Computer POS: This solution lets you transform your laptop, desktop, or mobile into a POS station. Simply download the POS app and connect a card reader to your device, and you can start accepting payments immediately.

    Online POS: Online POS systems, also known as web-based POS or virtual terminals, allow you to process payments without hardware. It's an online interface or app that allows you to enter card or bank information to charge your customers instantly.

    How do I choose the right POS system?

    To choose the most suitable POS system, consider answering these questions first to better understand your needs:

    • What type of business do I have? (e.g., retail, restaurant, service-based, online, etc.)
    • Do I need to manage inventory?
    • Do I need integration with other software, such as accounting or CRM tools?
    • What is my budget for setting up and maintaining a POS system?
    • Do I need the flexibility to use your POS at multiple locations, like pop-up shops or events?
    • Does my business have a reliable internet connection?

    Traditional POS

    Traditional POS is perfect for businesses that need a customizable solution. For example:

    • Large Retail Stores: If you’re running a large retail store or supermarket, a traditional POS system is the best fit. The traditional systems can handle extensive inventories and high transaction volumes with ease.
    • Restaurants and Food Chains: Traditional POS systems have features that can be customized to manage menus, orders, floor plans, reservations, kitchen operations, etc. This makes it a perfect fit for restaurants and fast-food chains.


    • Highly customizable to tailor the system to your specific business needs.
    • Operates independently of the internet, allowing uninterrupted sales processing.


    • Expensive to install and maintain, including high hardware and server costs.
    • Additional expenses for server fees, licenses, maintenance, and upgrades.

    Cloud-based POS

    cloud-based POS system

    Cloud-based POS is ideal for businesses with simple operations that don't require highly customized systems. For example:

    • Plumbers, electricians, and contractors are often on the go and need a portable POS system to accept payments anywhere. Their operations typically involve delivering services and collecting payments, so there is no need for a customized POS system.
    • Small boutiques, clinics, salons, or food trucks lack counter space, so they need a minimal POS system to collect payments.
    • Pop-up shops that change locations frequently need the flexibility of a cloud-based POS to easily move and operate at different locations.

    The advantages of cloud-based POS are flexibility, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness.

    Flexibility: To run a cloud-based POS, all you need is an internet-connected device with a POS software/app and the necessary hardware. Because the system operates online, it easily integrates with other online software, such as accounting or CRM tools. For businesses with multiple locations, the data is synced in real-time across all channels, so you can have consistent and up-to-date data to run your business.

    Simplicity: The interface of a cloud-based POS is user-friendly, making it easier to learn and navigate. Because it operates online, your sales, inventory, and customer data are accessible anytime. The system automatically cleans and organizes data, so you can generate reports and view your shop's performance quickly.

    Cost-effectiveness: There is a monthly cost ranging from $0 to $100 or more for the POS software. Some providers like Helcim offer a free POS solution, so you only need to pay for the hardware to start processing payments. Updates are free, and you can download it at your convenience. Also, the provider stores your data securely, so you don’t have to pay for the server too.

    The disadvantage of the cloud-based POS is that it requires a stable internet connection to function effectively. Any disruption in connectivity can disrupt your operation and access to data.

    Computer POS

    Computer POS is a cloud-based POS, but instead of having all the hardware, you only need a card reader to accept payments. You can download the POS app on your computer, laptop, phone, or tablet and connect the card reader via Bluetooth or USB cable to start collecting payments immediately.

    Here are some types of businesses that can benefit from a computer POS system:

    Home-based businesses such as bakers, artisans, and online sellers, can use a computer POS to take orders. When the customers come to pick up, they can process payment with a card reader.

    Mobile service providers such as plumbers, electricians, and contractors, can benefit from the portability of a computer POS. They can bring a tablet or phone to clients' homes and process payments with a card reader after each job. If you use the Helcim Smart Terminal with a built-in POS app, you only need to bring this single device to collect payments.

    Businesses that lack counter space such as small boutiques, clinics, salons, or food trucks can use a computer POS to keep their setup minimal.

    Pop-up shops that change locations frequently can bring their devices and card readers to different locations and events to accept payments.

    Online POS

    Online POS is also a cloud-based POS. It’s known as web-based POS or virtual terminals. Online POS is perfect for businesses that process payments remotely or over the phone. With online POS, you enter the card or bank information into a web interface or app to charge the customer from your end.

    You can also use the saved payment information to process transactions for repeat customers more quickly. If you’re Helcim’s user, you also have invoicing as the additional option to request payment via email and SMS.

    For example, service providers such as freelancers, lawyers, accountants, or online coaches can use online POS to charge clients. For future transactions, they can retrieve the saved payment information to process payments again with the client’s consent.

    How much does a POS cost?

    The cost of a POS system typically consists of the POS app cost and POS hardware cost. The total cost of a POS system depends on your business and hardware needs. For example, a retail business needs a lot of hardware like barcode scanners, monitors, cash drawers, card readers, receipt printers, etc. In contrast, a plumber only needs a card reader to accept the payment.

    How much does POS hardware cost?

    POS hardware is the device that allows your business to accept payment and process transactions. The POS hardware cost ranges from $30 for a basic receipt printer to over $1,200 for a cash register. Here's a breakdown:

    • Cash registers range from $100 to over $1,200, depending on features and functionality.
    • POS screens cost from $200 to $400.
    • Tablet stands cost from $50 to $400, depending on the design.
    • Receipt printers cost from $30 to over $600.
    • Credit card readers cost from around $100 to $500. The Helcim Smart Terminal costs $329 and includes a built-in receipt printer, saving you the cost of a separate printer.
    • Cash drawers cost from $65 to $650 for larger capacity and better security features.
    • Barcode scanners cost from $50 to over $200 for wireless models and advanced scanning functionalities.

    How much does POS software cost?

    The cost of POS software can range from $0 to $200 per month. POS software is an application or app that allows you to process transactions, manage inventory, save customer data, and generate reports.

    • Subscription fees: Different providers will have different pricing structures. Some charge a monthly fee for their software, ranging from $20 to $200 or more. If you are Helcim’s user, you can get the POS software for free.
    • Payment tools: POS software also provides tools for collecting online payment, such as invoicing, online POS, or online checkout page/link. Some providers charge $15 to $25 per month for these tools. Helcim provides all payment tools for free, giving you more options to collect payments without additional costs.

    How much does a POS transaction cost?

    Each POS transaction can cost from 1.7% to 3%. For example, on a $100 transaction, the fee would range from $1.70 to $3. Some POS systems, like Helcim, have built-in payment processing, while others integrate with various payment processors, each offering different rates.

    The transaction fee is made up of interchange costs and the POS provider’s margin.

    • Interchange cost is a fee paid to your customer’s bank for processing a transaction. It is a percentage of the transaction, such as 1.7%. These fees fluctuate depending on the card type (debit, credit), the card brand (Visa, MasterCard), the transaction type (in-person, online), and your industry.
    • Processor margin is the markup that payment processors add on top of the interchange cost. For example, 0.4% + $0.08 per transaction.
    • Transaction fees = interchange cost + processor margin.

    Because the transaction fees vary per transaction, many payment processors charge a flat (fixed) rate of around 2.75% to 3% for simplicity. This flat rate allows them to add a significant markup on top of the interchange costs.

    In contrast, Helcim uses an Interchange Plus pricing model, which passes the interchange costs directly to you, with a small, transparent margin added on top. This model offers much lower transaction fees compared to the flat rate.

    interchange plus vs flat rate for POS transactions

    If you're interested in discovering how much you can save on processing fees with Helcim, simply submit your statement here, and we'll help you estimate your savings.

    POS system fee statement analysis

    How much does it cost to install a POS system?

    For traditional POS, the installation fees can cost from hundreds to several thousand dollars, depending on the setup complexity. This cost covers installing hardware, configuring software, and ensuring that all devices are properly connected and functioning.

    For cloud-based POS, you can install the system easily by yourself. Simply download the POS app to your internet-connected device and connect the necessary hardware via USB or Bluetooth. With cloud-based POS, you can save significantly on installation costs.

    How much does a POS server cost?

    If you are using traditional POS systems, you need to rent a server to store your data. Purchasing a server can cost between $2,000 and $5,000 while renting a server typically costs between $70 and $300 or more per month.

    Purchasing a server gives you full control over the equipment, including networking and testing activities. However, it requires expertise to set up and manage. On the other hand, renting a server provides peace of mind, as the provider handles all hardware maintenance and security.

    If you are using the cloud-based POS, the provider will handle all the server setup, maintenance, and upgrades. This helps you save costs and allows you to focus on running your business.

    How much does POS maintenance or upgrade cost?

    Maintaining and upgrading the traditional POS system can cost from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the project.

    For the cloud-based POS, all server maintenance and software updates are handled by the provider. Updating the software is simple. You simply download the update file and install it with a few clicks. For mobile POS apps, you can update them through the App Store or Google Play like other mobile apps.

    How to get a POS for your business?

    You can get your POS system and all the payment tools in just five simple steps, with no monthly fees, hidden charges, or contracts.

    Step 1: Sign up for a free Helcim account

    There's no need for complicated paperwork or signatures. The signup form takes as little as 5 minutes, asking for basic information about your business, address, and contact information.

    Step 2: Review your application

    After signing up for a Helcim account, we will review your application and create a POS dashboard for you.

    Step 3: Set up your account

    Once your Helcim dashboard is ready, we will notify you via email. You can then download our POS app, link your bank account, and order a Helcim Smart Terminal or card reader (optional). You can use our free built-in inventory management and CRM tool to add inventory or customer information.

    If you need help, Helcim’s support team is available to guide you through the process and answer any questions.

    Step 4: Start processing payments

    If you have a Helcim Smart Terminal or card reader, connect it to your device using a USB cable or Bluetooth. Once connected, you can start processing payments immediately.

    Helcim Smart Terminal has a built-in POS app and receipt printer, so you can use it as the POS station to process payments too.

    If you don't need any hardware, you can use our free tools such as the online POS (virtual terminal), invoicing, and online checkout links to accept payments online.

    Step 5: Save even more transaction fees

    You can pass the processing fees to your customers using our Fee Saver. The transaction fees will appear as the surcharges and convenience fees in your customer receipt.

    Also, Helcim automatically reduces the fees as your business processes more volumes, helping you save more money without the hassle of negotiating better rates.

    If you are interested in learning more about Helcim, book a call with us now!

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