What is a POS System and What is it Used for?

Cam Summerson
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A point of sale system — often called a POS, POS system, or POS terminal — is designed for customers to pay for goods or services. A POS system can be tied to a single physical location, a portable system called an mPOS, or even a virtual POS system used for online checkout.

POS Monitoring & Management

What are the key features of a POS system?

A POS system processes customer transactions. POS systems are designed to accept cash payments, credit cards, and even checks or money orders. Many businesses are card-first these days, so they may have a single POS system with a cash drawer and several mPOS systems for non-paper transactions.

While older POS systems rely mostly on locally stored or even manually entered transactions (read: non-connected), modern POS systems are fully digital and often cloud-based. The system may even be an all-in-one turnkey POS solution with full business software suites like those offered by Square or Clover. The benefit of modern, connected systems is that they are largely automated — with proper configuration, everything from the cost of the item to applicable taxes is automatically calculated and transactions are sent to the cloud.

Modern POS systems also process the credit card transaction, contacting the customer’s bank and verifying the charge before approving the payment. Once the payment is approved, a receipt is generated — either physical, digital, or both — and the transaction is complete.

Many POS systems also manage customer databases, including loyalty programs and memberships. They can also automatically apply any program-based discounts to applicable customers, again automating processes for simplicity and ease of use.

What does a POS system include?

Regardless of the type of POS, there are some common features they share. There will always be some sort of display — it could be a large touch screen, a display on a handheld device (like a tablet or smartphone), or even an old CRT-style computer monitor. Most POS systems need some kind of credit card terminal, which might be a simple stripe reader or a more advanced unit that includes a touchpad and NFC tap to pay. Lastly, most POS systems will have a receipt printer, which can be separate or fully integrated.

Some POS systems may have other accessories like barcode scanners — again, either as a standalone peripheral or integrated into a handheld — keyboards or other input devices, secondary displays, and cash drawers. The hard requirement will vary by industry, of course — while a handheld scanner will likely not be required for a point of sale system for a restaurant, a retail shop probably can’t go without a scanning system, for example.


When choosing a new POS system, you have to ask yourself: Do I go all in one or custom? With our breakdown, we’ll help you determine the pros and cons for your scenario.

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Some common POS examples

As you’ve probably gathered, POS systems come in many different shapes and sizes. Common examples include a self-checkout system in a retail store, a mobile POS system at a food truck, a standalone all-in-one unit (a la Clover) in a resale shop, or an old school CRT connected to a cash register at a little mom and pop general store.

The beautiful thing about modern POS systems is that they can be customized to fit nearly any need. From small and portable to robust and powerful, there’s a POS system out there for everyone.

What is a touch screen cash register? Is it the same as a POS system?

A touch screen cash register is another name for a modern POS (point of sale) system. Many POS systems offer touch screens for simple interaction. A touch screen cash register system often consists of a standalone tablet connected (either wirelessly or wired) to a barcode scanner, cash drawer, a credit card reader, and some sort of cash register software. Standalone units, like those offered by Square and Clover, are also very popular touch screen cash register systems.

When you’re ready for a better POS management system, give us a call

If you have more than one modern POS system and need a way to manage them, we’re here to help. Even if you have a mixed POS fleet with stationary POS systems and mPOS mixed in, we can handle it. Get in touch with us to find out how we can make POS management a breeze. You can even sign up today and try us for 30 days — no credit card required.

POS Monitoring & Management


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Cam Summerson
Cam Summerson

Cam is Esper's Director of Content and brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.

Cam Summerson
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