5 Best Free POS Software for Small Businesses

POS systems can bring healthy profit boosts - but only if you spend less than you earn. We’ve listed the top free POS options to accept payments for zero charge.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:

Our independent reviews and recommendations are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers.

The number one free POS system for SMEs is Square. Our research team found the platform has both no monthly fees and high-quality hardware. It also scored full marks in 5 out of our 6 main research categories.

As the cost of living crisis squeezes cash flow, free software plans are a great way to trial a platform without any financial risk.

But in a market as crowded as POS software, even the most clued-in business owners have difficulty finding the right plan for your specific strategy or industry requirements

That’s where our experts come in. We’ve carried out extensive research into the five best free, or available with a free trial, POS platforms for SMEs. Our results are based on specific metrics including pricing, features, and business development opportunities.

By the end, you will know exactly what sets them apart from competitors and be able to make a confident decision about which to introduce to your business.

0 out of 0
Provider
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
Pricing from
Key benefits

Lightspeed 

Square

Zettle

Goodtill

Vend

4.4
4.7
4.4
4.2

£39 per month (excl. VAT)

No monthly cost

£16 – Square reader

No monthly fee

£29 – card reader

£189 – store kit

£29 per month (excl. VAT)

£69 per month

  • Grows with your business
  • Customisable floor plans
  • Customer loyalty features
  • Manage all your orders on one device
  • Real time in-depth reports
  • Pay team members with team management tools
  • Free, just pay transaction fees
  • Easy-to-read sales reports
  • Zettle reader easily integrates with other POS systems
  • Works offline or via 4G
  • Colourful, accesible interface
  • Specialist click and collect service

Square – Best for short-stay hospitality firms with no established till system

Square card reader

Square
4.7
Square POS is the best value system for small businesses who want to start selling for free
  • Pricing from Free
  • Powerful customer management software
  • Real time in-depth reports
  • Pay team members with team management
Summary Square's POS system is highly regarded as one of the best and cheapest POS providers for small businesses in the UK. For starters, its software is completely free - with no setup fees or monthly payments. You only need the Square card reader to get started, which will set you back just £16. Square is also incredibly adaptable and easily scalable with software specifically designed for retail (Square POS for Retail) and hospitality (Square POS for Restaurants).
Show moreless

Our analysts give Square a huge score of 4.7 out of 5 due to its unbeatable combo of an extensive feature list, coupled with sophisticated hardware.

Startups’ testing of Square found it has the most product capabilities at 16. That includes the ability to schedule automatic restocks of items, important for maintaining profit margins.

Square is also incredibly innovative. Its app-based software is consistently updated with new customer-centric elements.

For instance, Square is currently working with Apple to allow merchants to accept payments using just their iPhone as part of a new ‘Tap to Pay’ initiative.

Does Square have any hidden fees?

Square has zero monthly fees and is completely free to sign up thanks to its pay-as-you-go payment model.

That means you’ll only pay a one-off charge of £19 + VAT for the Square card reader to start taking payments. Zettle is the only other provider on this list with a similar model.

One thing to be aware of is that you will need to pay a transaction fee of between 1.7% to 2.5% on any card payments.

Square pros and cons

Pros
  • Accept every major payment type including invoice
  • Take payments over the phone - ideal for takeaway services
  • Square card reader costs just £19 + VAT
Cons
  • No training mode available on hardware - inadequate for large teams
  • No in-app CRM system - bad for building customer loyalty

Should my business use Square POS?

We recommend Square as a free restaurant POS for firms that don’t need a fussy till area. The card reader measures just 8cm by 8cm, making it perfect for space-stretched firms like food trucks.

Plus, Square’s flexible pricing plans require no minimum commitment – excellent for SMEs with irregular trading periods.

Square logo
Try Square POS

Get started with Square POS software for zero cost

Try for free Our top-rated POS system for SMEs.

Zettle – Best for restaurants taking in-person and ecommerce payments

Zettle POS

Zettle
3.9
Zettle is best for businesses that want an easy way to accept in-person payments - and full control through the Zettle Go app.
  • Pricing from Free
  • Free POS app
  • Easy-to-read sales reports
  • Zettle reader easily integrates with other POS systems
Summary Zettle Go is fairly basic EPOS software – but that’s what makes it so great. This fancy-free software offers business owners exactly what they need to get going, from making transactions to managing stock. It’s intuitive to use, simple to set up, and best of all, it’s free. It’s also really easy to track and add stock, whether that’s notebooks or blueberry muffins. It’ll even flag up when you’re running low on something. You can also provide Zettle gift cards to help you with cash flow by keeping money in the business.
Show moreless

According to our results, Zettle matches Lightspeed for till management tools thanks to its impressive ecommerce integration.

Users can view and manage your in-store and online inventory from the same place. So, if you’re a takeaway working on a busy Saturday shift you can easily update your online product lists to reflect current stock take.

There’s not much in the way of business development features with Zettle (our analysts scored it just 3 out of 5 in this area) so we don’t recommend Zettle for businesses with big ambitions such as franchising. In comparison, our leader Square gets 5 out of 5.

Still, we think Zettle is an efficient software with user-oriented gadgets that will help to streamline operations if you’re looking to move your business online.

Does Zettle have any hidden fees?

Zettle gets full marks from us for pricing. Like Square, Zettle prides itself on having zero hidden fees. You’ll only pay a one-off tariff for the card reader (£29 + VAT) to get started.

In terms of transaction charges, there’s a fixed transaction fee of 1.75%. That’s regardless of which card you process with your Zettle Reader or terminal.

For payments from customers who are not physically present, such as online or over the phone, this rises to 2.5%.

Zettle pros and cons

Pros
  • Largest number of payment partners to give customers a wide range of options
  • Add upsell percentage to increase profits
  • Huge range of reporting tools to help you monitor operations and identify opportunities for improvement
Cons
  • Hardware only available on a quote-by-quote basis
  • Not suitable for businesses with more than 5 employees

Should my business use Zettle?

We would recommend Zettle to any hospitality business that accepts in-person and ecommerce transactions, such as takeaway firms.

This is due to Zettle’s heritage as a PayPal product – its integration between physical and virtual sales is absolutely seamless.

Goodtill – Best for chain restaurants or shops with 3+ locations

Goodtill

Goodtill
4.2
Businesses wanting additional sales features and a highly customisable POS system
  • Pricing from £29 per month
  • Inventory management
  • Shift clock in/out feature
  • Works offline
Summary The Good Till Co offers a reputable, tailor-made iPad hospitality POS software. Your POS package is completely tailor-made and highly customisable, giving you the freedom to add or remove features as you see fit. The inventory management aspect of the software is great for keeping track of light stock, as well as managing waste. It also offers clock in/out features to monitor staff schedules. Goodtill also provides an online support portal, as well as email and phone support and best of all - it operates without wi-fi for those remote businesses on the go.
Show moreless

GoodTill is an iPad-based point of sale system that is all about flexibility. More-established small businesses benefit from having 13 payment plans to choose from which means you’ll be able to find the perfect solution for your operating style.

Plus integrations are available for:

  • Accounting
  • Ecommerce
  • Delivery
  • Booking
  • Restaurant
  • Marketing
  • Loyalty
  • Staff management

The best part? Once your 30-day free trial is over (that’s twice the length of Vend or Lightspeed), GoodTill’s plans start from just £29 per month. That puts them at least £30 cheaper per month than its closest rival, Lightspeed.

And, as another incentive, you’ll pay no transaction fees for the first £1000 of transactions. As a result, it’s particularly attractive to fast food chains charging minimal prices.

One thing to be aware of is that we awarded GoodTill the worst overall score for help and support tools with 2 out of 5 due to there being no live chat available as an option. Vend gets full marks in this area, in comparison.

Does GoodTill have any hidden fees?

There are no hidden fees with GoodTill unless you’re planning on installing a CRM add-on to the point of sale software. The Goodies Basic Loyalty package costs £18 per month – other platforms, like Vend, offer this perk for free.

Once purchased, you’ll be able to create and communicate promotions, points-based loyalty programs and offers to your customers

Goodtill pros and cons

Pros
  • Wastage report available so you can optimise processes for cost-saving
  • 13 plans available if you’re looking to scale your business
  • Trend-tracking available to identify opportunities for promotions
Cons
  • No option for data backup
  • No booking feature so restaurants can’t monitor reservations
  • No role-based permissions to limit user access

Should my business use Goodtill?

Choose GoodTill if you’re a scaling business planning to open several restaurants or shops as part of a chain business model. There are 13 plans available in total with GoodTill, as well as an unlimited number of licences for additional terminals.

Save by comparing POS costs

Lightspeed – Best for retailers making commission-based sales

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed
3.9
Lightspeed is ideal for businesses that want an all-in-one sale system with excellent customer support and integrations.
  • Pricing from £39 per month
  • Over 250 integrations
  • Customer loyalty features
  • 24/7 customer support
Summary Lightspeed offers a range of monthly subscriptions for its POS, which is an all-in-one complete system. It's an EPOS system that utilises cloud technology. In addition to its software, Lightspeed can also provide hardware, which is available as a kit or individually so that it can be customised to your needs. Lightspeed’s hardware components range from printers to scanners and cash drawers. It offers 24/7 customer support and over 250 integrations with other software. This is a POS system that looks to help businesses future-proof themselves. You can visit Lightspeed to learn more about how they aim to help businesses be “future-ready”. For restaurants, orders can be taken tableside and are sent directly from the waiting staff to the kitchen. This means that staff no longer have to wait for an open terminal to complete the order, cutting down the time between customers ordering and receiving their food.
Show moreless

Lightspeed is our highest-rated POS for a free trial. Users can test out the platform for free for two weeks. Get to grips with the software and see how it complements your business operations.

Notably, we gave Lightspeed a score of 4.3 out of 5 for its till management features (in comparison, Square scores just 3 out of 5).

This is due to its unrivalled employee tracking tools which make it simple to set up staff goals. You can even monitor individual sales – handy if your salespeople work on commission. No other platform on this list, including Vend and GoodTill, has this feature.

Long-term clients making large orders are also looked after well by the Lightspeed feature-set. You can bundle individual items to sell them as a package and automate discounts for big orders – giving wholesalers the edge over competitors.

Does Lightspeed have any hidden fees?

We only allocated 2.3 out of 5 to Lightspeed for pricing as it is definitely a premium product – that’s compared to Square which got 5 out of 5.

Once your 14 day free trial has ended you’ll be charged £59 per month to access the Lightspeed POS.

Apart from this monthly payment, you also are charged 2.6% + 10p for tapped, swiped, or inserted cards. The charges for remote card entry is 2.6% + 30p.

Lightspeed pros and cons

Pros
  • Largest number of payment partners to give customers a wide range of options
  • Add upsell percentage to products to increase profits
  • Huge range of reporting tools to help you monitor operations and identify opportunities for improvement
Cons
  • Hardware only available on a quote-by-quote basis
  • No upfront cost info for businesses with more than 5 employees

Should my business use Lightspeed?

We recommend Lightspeed to retail businesses with sales executives who are working on commission.

Its performance tracking tools are second to none – but beware that if you have more than five employees you’ll need to request a custom quote for access to more than 5 employees.

Vend – Best for boutique retailers charging a premium offering

Vend POS

Vend
4.3
Sophisticated POS option for firms that want to provide their customers with the ultimate, premium payment experience.
  • Pricing from £81 per month
  • Excellent help and support tools
  • Fantastic for stock management and inventory monitoring
Summary Vend is an excellent cloud-based software for small businesses with ambitious growth plans. Its pricing plans mean it is situated at the higher end of the POS cost spectrum, however if you can afford it, Vend is definitely worth it. Its unrivalled customer support tools mean it is brilliant for silver service hospitality firms or boutique retailers that want to provide their customers with the ultimate, premium payment experience.
Show moreless

One of the main reasons we like Vend’s free plan so much is that it is the only product on this list that comes with a built-in CRM and loyalty program – beating even our top-rated platform, Square.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are hugely important for businesses offering high-quality customer service. With Vend, you can set up an integrated rewards programme to honour repeat customers, and generate automatic customer insight reports for upselling opportunities.

There is no restaurant service type in Vend’s offering so it’s unsuitable for hospitality businesses. Similarly, there’s no delivery support so we’d endorse it only for organisations with an established courier partnership.

Still, Vend’s free trial is an excellent taster for businesses wanting an integrated CRM and POS solution.

Does Vend have any hidden fees?

Vend’s transaction charges are exactly the same as Lightspeed’s: 2.6% + 10p for tapped, swiped, or inserted cards and 2.6% + 30p for remote transactions.

However, the similarities end there. Vend’s deals are much more expensive than Lightspeed’s with the former’s clocking in at a minimum monthly fee of £81.

For hardware, you’ll also fork out around £1,000 for iPad setup and up to £1,300 for Mac or PC setup – far from a bargain compared to Zettle.

Vend pros and cons

Pros
  • Ability to accept offline payments
  • Phone, email, live chat support available plus daily back-ups of your data
  • CRM available to help build loyalty and get to know your top customers
Cons
  • Expensive setup costs including charges of over £1,300 for Mac/PC
  • No ecommerce integration available for websites
  • No restaurant plan available

Should my business use Vend?

Firstly, we only recommend Vend if you have a considerable amount of money to spend once your free trial ends.

It’s a high-end offering with lots of strengths for premium retailers. But unless you’re selling expensive products – such as a gallery – you’re unlikely to see a benefit from that specialism.

Is free POS software worth it?

Our experts have been helping small businesses find the best deals and discounts in the payment solution market for over twenty years.

We can tell you that using a free POS won’t cost you any money and can be a good way to trial software.

But experience tells us that most platforms come with hidden fees, or else a costly contract at the end of your trial period that can catch you off guard.

Other cons of free POS software include:

  • No budget for third party add-ons like CRM software
  • Limited customer service
  • Some pay-as-you-go POS brands charge higher transaction fees 

To help you out, we’ve built our handy Startups’ cost comparison tool to help keep you informed of what comes after a ‘free’ purchase.

It will match you with POS quotes in just one minute, so you won’t get any nasty surprises in your bill.

Alternative POS software

Because of the extra charges that users can incur from a free POS software, paid-for products can work out cheaper in the long run.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the top solutions we identified in our latest round of testing (including more information on prices):

0 out of 0
Provider
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
Pricing from

Square

Lightspeed 

Clover

Touchbistro

Epos Now

4.7
4.4
4.3
4.1
4.2

£0 monthly cost

£16 – Square Reader

£39 per month (excl. VAT)

Plans start from £4.10 per month

$69 per month

£25 per month (excl. VAT)

If you’re interested in looking into the above paid-for software plans then our comprehensive POS for small business guide has more information on what’s available.

How to choose POS software

When choosing the right POS software, remember to think hard about the three ‘S’s: scale, sector, and sales.

Scale

If you have a large amount of employees or sell in multiple locations, you’ll need to invest in low-cost hardware, like the Square or Zettle card readers, if you’re buying multiple devices.

Sector

Major POS systems – such as Epos Now – provide tailored packages for users based on their sector expertise. For example, retail SMEs won’t need a table booking system in the same way that hospitality firms do.

Sales

We recommend you think about what functions you carry out surrounding your sales strategy. Do you want monthly, annual, or quarterly sales reports? Have these answers ready before you sign any contracts.

Verdict

The best free system for small businesses is Square, due to its flexible contract and all-in-one POS solution that doesn’t tie mobile restaurant sellers into long-term commitments.

We recommend Zettle for its clever, customer-focused features, like the low stock alert, are also fantastic for selling both on and offline.

For a premium option, we back Lightspeed. Users can start the 14 day free trial for sophisticated features – including unrivalled reporting tools – without spending a penny.

Methodology

To find our rankings for the top free POS systems, our experts worked with an independent analyst to explore six key areas of payment solutions.

Value for money is a major consideration with any software. Firms want the best deal possible, so we evaluated each system for hidden pricing. We also considered till, stock, and business management tools as functionality has a big influencer on overall value.

It’s important that your software aligns with your business objectives so you can scale operations and grow profits. We reviewed business development features, such as courier integrations, as another decision-making factor.

Finally, we scored the systems for help and support tools. Introducing any new system brings challenges in terms of tech-know-how. The more help available, the more you and your staff gain from the system.

Free POS FAQs
  • Which software is best for POS?
    Our top-rated POS system for small businesses is Square. Square’s hardware is cleverly-designed with outstanding till and business management features.
  • What is the cheapest POS system?
    The most low-cost POS system is Square. Because of its zero monthly fees, you’ll pay nothing to get set up except a one-off payment of £19 + VAT for the minimalist Square card reader.
  • Does Google have a POS system?
    Google does not have a POS system, but it does have a digital wallet which consumers use to pay with online. If you’re looking for an ecommerce POS system, we recommend Zettle.

Startups.co.uk is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps Startups.co.uk to provide free advice and reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top