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Cash Register versus POS System

kokou adzo



Cash Register versus POS System

If you run a retail shop, one of the most important factors to pay attention to is how to manage payment.  The concern should not be just on the ease of collecting payment from your customers, but also on how to have effective payment records and prevent employee theft. Among the payment solutions that have been developed over the years are the cash register and the POS system.

While POS was developed in the 1970s the cash register had been around about 100 years earlier. Yet both are still very much in use and even competing with each other. So if you are planning to run a retail business how do you choose the better payment option out of the two popular methods?

In this article, we will discuss the features of a cash register and a POS, compare the two solutions, and analyze the factors to consider before choosing the right option for your business.

What is a Cash Register?

The cash register was invented in 1879 with the major purpose of keeping a record of the cash collected in a retail store. The aim of this then was to prevent employee theft. But the cash register did more than preventing employee theft, it was also used for keeping cash, printing and keeping the receipt, calculating tax, and balancing the book.

Today, the cash register has advanced more than what was developed then. The modern-day cash register can also work with a barcode scanner to scan the product price, link with a screen for customers to view payment details, and have a card reader for credit card payment.

How Does A Cash Register Work?

There are different types of cash registers today, but they all function in a similar way. A typical cash register is a computer with in-built software and a cash drawer and receipt printer attached to it. As a computer unit, it has a keyboard as an input device and a screen to monitor the transaction. Some may also utilize a normal computer or tablet on which the cash register software had been installed and link the computer with a cash drawer and receipt printer. A cash register may also be connected with a barcode scanner and card reader to accept electronic payment. However, those are not part o a cash register and will be paid or separately.

At the point of purchase, the cashier will enter the amount of each product and the cash register will calculate the total. If the cash register is connected with a barcode scanner, it might not be necessary to input the price of the product manually, the scanner will do that.

After scanning all the products, the cashier will choose the mode of payment. The most common modes are cash and electronic payment. If the customer is paying cash, the cash drawer will automatically pop out and the cashier can put in the cash and take the change if applicable. Many cash registers will calculate change but some will require the cashier to do that manually.

After putting the money in the drawer, the cashier is to push the drawer back to close. Then the receipt printer will print a receipt. If the electronic payment option is chosen, then the card reader will be used while the drawer remains closed. The other option is a cheque, but not many retail stores accept this option. If the cheque is accepted, it is treated by the machine like cash.

At the end of each business day, the manager can print the day’s sales record and remove the cash in the cash drawer. Now Let’s Discuss the POS system.

How is a POS System Different from a Cash Register?

Just like a cash register a Point of Sale (POS) system is a payment solution that is used for collecting cash or electronic payment, keep the cash, issue receipt, and keep sales records. But unlike the cash register, the POS also helps in managing the retail business.

Such systems can keep records of inventory, let you know the quantity of each product left in the store, manage loyalty rewards, keep customers’ data, manage employee’s performance, and analyze sales. POS will do everything a cash register can do and do even more.

While components like the card reader and barcode scanners are not regarded as part of a cash register, they are parts of the POS component. Hence, a POS system consists of a computer system in which the software is installed, a backup server, a pin pad, and magnetic stripe reader,  a cash drawer, a receipt printer, a screen, and a keyboard. The system functions in a similar way as a cash register with regards to payment, but it also performs more function in retail business management.

A POS can also be linked with other software to manage loyalty reward programs and other special programs of the retail store. This enables POS to capture and store customers’ data that can be used for marketing and research.

Comparison Between Cash Register and POS

Now let’s look at the major differences between a cash register and a POS system

Cash Register Vs POS – Functional Differences

The major difference that exists between a cash register and a POS system is the function they provide. While a cash register is limited to being a payment solution POS systems do way more.

In fact, according to POSQuote,  a POS system will perform all the functions of a cash register including many other business management functions. The following are the important differences in the functional performances of a cash register and the POS system:

  • Inventory Management: While the cash register will only record the product sold, the POS will also give the number left by adjusting the record each time a product is sold.
  • Sales Analytics: POS will not only keep records of sales but will also analyze the data. This function is not performed by the cash register.
  • Customers’ data recording: POS system can be used to obtain and store customer’s information like e-mail address during the point of sale.
  • Loyalty reward and other promotional programs: POS can easily be configured with other software you use for promotions in your store.
  • Employee management: POS can be used to create a customized user account for each employee which will place them in different access levels. It can also be used to monitor employees’ performance. An employee can also clock in through their POS accounts.

Cash Register Vs POS: Cost and Installation

A cash register is simple, it may come as a single piece of equipment but POS is more complex and standard ones may require an expert to install them. Also, the cash register is way cheaper than the POS system and does not require regular updates like the POS system.

Cash Register Vs POS: Accessibility

While cash register data can only be accessible in the store, some POS systems allow the owner of a retail business to access his business POS account on any computer at any location as long as the computer is connected to the internet. Although there are also POS systems that can only be accessed in one location.

Cash Register Vs POS: Durability

Although the durability of each product depends on the material and the manufacturer, because of the complexity of the POS system, it is more likely that one of its components will require replacement faster than a cash register which usually comes as a single piece. Therefore, despite being cheaper than the POS, the cash register is usually more durable

How to Choose Between a Cash Register and a POS System

There is no doubt the POS system performs more functions than the cash register, but it is also more expensive and requires more updates. Therefore, there might not be a fixed rule for choosing which one is the better option for your business. The major factors that will determine the one to go for are the scale of your business, the functions that you desire, and your budget.

If you run a small retail store with one or no employee, it may not worth spending a lot of money on a POS system. But if your retail store is medium to large and you have a significant number of staff, investing in the POS system will certainly yield a reward.

The Take-Away

While both POS systems and cash registers are used for managing payments at the point of purchase, the POS system can also be used for managing other business activities, and for retail sales analytics.

However, POS is more expensive than the cash register, more complex to install, and require regular updates at an extra cost. Therefore, if the benefits of POS doesn’t worth the difference in the cost for a small business, the business owner can save by choosing a cash register over a POS system. However, if the business scale is large enough to demand a modern payment solution, investing in the POS may be the better option.


Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at



  1. auxiliary

    03/10/2021 at 5:46 PM


  2. client-server

    04/02/2021 at 1:20 AM


  3. solution

    04/02/2021 at 10:45 AM


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