The Best Credit Card Reader For Your Small Business

So you want to use your cell phone or tablet to start accepting payments for your business. Whether this is your first time around or you’re just wondering if it’s time to update that old credit card reader you’ve had for four years, there’s certainly a lot to consider. What kind of technology is out there? How much does a cell phone credit card reader cost? Should I get a credit card machine and POS instead? Which are the best credit card readers?

I’ve seen a lot of mobile card readers in my time. And the first thing to understand is that the card reader is tied to the mobile processing app (mobile point of sale, or mPOS for short). Sadly, we can’t just mix and match one card reader with another app. So before anything, you need to look at the software and make sure it’s a good fit for your needs. You should also check the processing rates and the cost of the hardware.

Apart from aesthetics, the reality is there aren’t a lot of differences between one card reader and the next. They all have the same core features, and they all use the same sort of security. Reliability is as much a product of the app design as it is the hardware design, sometimes moreso. So while you do want a good, affordably priced credit card reader, you should first narrow down the list of potentials using the software as your main criteria. Once that’s done, you can take a closer look at all the hardware.

If you are curious about what your hardware options are, read on! I’ve compiled a list of the most popular credit card readers and their specs. Make sure you read our reviews for each mobile app so that you understand the drawbacks and shortcomings of each as well as all the advantages.

But first, let’s set the record straight.

Credit Card Reader vs. Credit Card Machine: Know Your Terms

So what’s the difference between a credit card reader and a credit card machine? While it’s certainly possible that you might encounter some people who use the terms interchangeably, “credit card reader” is generally the term for small mobile devices that connect to smartphones and tablets and process transactions through a mobile app. This connection can be physical or wireless. However, the smartphone or tablet typically has to also have either cellular signal or a Wi-Fi connection.

A credit card machine (also called a credit card terminal) is larger, not mobile, and generally connects to a full-fledged POS. They may or may not have an integrated receipt printer or a PIN pad device for customers. Credit card machines require a connection to either a phone line or the Internet to function. Some machines are capable of wireless Internet connections, but they do add to the cost.

The biggest difference between a credit card reader and a credit card machine is price, though. A mobile card reader can cost anything from $10 to about $80, whereas the typical entry-level price for a machine is about $120. However, depending on what features are included, a credit card terminal can cost $600 or more.

Types of Credit Card Readers for Phone & Tablet

When categorizing credit card readers, you need to consider two criteria: how the device connects to your phone or tablet, and which payment methods the device accepts (we’re not talking about manual entry options just yet).

Phone Connection Options:

  • 3.5mm/Headphone Jack: Most of your entry-level credit card readers will connect to a phone or tablet via the 3.5mm headphone jack. However, it’s worth noting that this design is slowly fading out. Part of the driving force is Apple’s removal of the headphone jack from its iPhones, but I think it’s also a result of our overall shift toward wireless. It’s worth pointing out that both Square and PayPal have Lighting to 3.5mm headphone jack adapters that will allow you to continue to use their magstripe readers.
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth readers are becoming increasingly common. They’re compatible with both iOS systems, they’re secure, and they allow for some sophisticated card reader designs. The one downside to Bluetooth readers is that they can run low on power quickly if they’re always connected without a “sleep” mode.

Generally speaking, credit card readers for smartphones and tablets support one of these connection methods, but not both. There’s always an exception to the rule, however. With Apple moving toward Lightning ports for everything, it’s worth getting a Bluetooth device, which will ensure that no matter what smartphone or tablet you get in the future, the card reader will be able to connect.

Supported Payment Methods

  • Magstripe: Until 2015, magstripe transactions were the only form of credit card payment commonly accepted in the US. Magstripe transactions (also referred to as swipe transactions because they are made by swiping the card through a terminal or card reader) are still supported, but becoming superfluous as other, more secure payment methods become available.
  • EMV: In October 2015, a major liability shift occurred, shifting responsibility for fraudulent swipe transactions onto merchants, if that card had an EMV chip and the merchant did not have an EMV-enabled credit card reader. As a result, you probably saw a surge of chip cards appear, and payment processors rushed to introduced new hardware capable of processing chip card transactions. Chip cards are more secure and can help reduce in-person fraudulent transactions.
  • NFC/Contactless: Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and all of the other “Pay” apps you’ve seen rely on NFC (near-field communication) technology. Transactions are often called contactless or “tap” transactions.

All mobile card readers on the market accept some combination of these three payment methods. As a merchant, it’s important that you are able to process EMV transactions to protect yourself against liability for fraudulent transactions.

Card Readers for iOS vs. Card Readers for Android: Is There a Difference?

Generally speaking, mPOS apps tend to offer more features to tablet users, especially iPads. But apart from enhanced features for tablets, there usually isn’t much difference between apps for iOS vs. apps for Android.

The same goes for mobile card readers. Unless the app itself is built to function only on one operating system, a card reader for iPhone or iPad works with an Android phone or tablet. So if your business has a mix of Android and iOS devices, you can use your hardware on both. You’ll just have to worry about pairing and re-pairing any Bluetooth devices as needed.

Now that we’ve identified the defining traits of credit card readers, let’s look at the mobile card readers from the most popular mPOS systems: Square and PayPal.

Square Credit Card Readers

Square (read our review) is definitely a leader in the mPOS industry, both for its software and hardware. It was one of the first mobile systems to embrace chip cards and it seems to put a high priority on keeping its hardware affordable.

The one piece of Square hardware that we haven’t included here is the Square Register, which is more of a full-fledged POS than a mobile system. Check out our full review of Square Register for a closer look at the system.

Square Magstripe Reader

If I wanted to be extremely hyperbolic, I would say that Square’s magstripe reader is synonymous with mobile processing. Instead, I’ll just say that the white and boxy device certainly is iconic. The overall design hasn’t changed in years. Available for free if you order directly from Square or $9.99 at retail stores such as Staples (Square will reimburse you later), this entry-level device connects via the headphone jack, and as the name says, handles magstripe transactions only.

  • Cost: Free ($9.99 reimbursed if bought at a retail location)
  • Connection: 3.5mm
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe

Square Chip Card Reader

If you just glance at the Square Chip Card Reader (read our unboxing review), you might not notice any immediate differences between the magstripe reader and the chip card reader. That’s because Square didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel. The Chip Card Reader is slightly thicker than the original, with an extra slot for inserting the chip end of a credit or debit card. Unlike the magstripe reader, you need to periodically charge this model. Square sells the Chip Card reader for $29, which is, all considered, a pretty good price for a device that can handle magstripe and EMV transactions.

  • Cost: $29
  • Connection: 3.5mm
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV

Square Contactless & Chip Card Reader

The Contactless and Chip Card Reader from Square doesn’t exactly break the mold as far as design: White, boxy, with Square’s logo set into it. What’s that expression? If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it?

Unlike the previous two card readers, the contactless and chip card reader relies on a Bluetooth connection to process transactions. And it doesn’t support magstripe cards at all. To get around this, Square includes a magstripe reader in the package as well.

The contactless and chip reader sells for a very reasonable $49, but if the upfront investment makes you cringe a bit, Square also offers an installment plan that will allow you to pay off a portion of the cost each week. Expect to pay a little bit more in the long term as a trade-off for the convenience of the installment plan, but it’s nowhere near as bad a hardware lease program from a traditional merchant account.

The contactless and chip reader is a slim, slick little device and you can certainly use it in a handheld mobile situation. But Square also sells a clever little dock to charge the device and still allow you to use it. The dock goes for $29 on its own, but it is optional.

  • Cost: $49 (dock available for additional $29)
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: EMV, NFC/Contactless (separate magstripe reader included)

Square Stand

The Square Stand isn’t really a card reader — it’s an iPad stand with an integrated magstripe reader. But it was one of the devices that helped make Square so popular with merchants. These days Square sells the stand with a contactless and chip card reader plus the dock. But it merits a mention here because it shows that mobile card readers can also be used in countertop/retail setups. Square even sells bundles and kits with everything you need to get set up.

The Square Stand plus the card readers will run you $169, which is less than you’d pay for all the individual components — the stand ($99 originally). The contactless and chip card reader ($49), and the dock ($29). Bundles that include a cash drawer and receipt printer start upwards of $500, not including the iPad.

  • Cost: $169
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: EMV, NFC, Magstripe (integrated into tablet stand)

PayPal Credit Card Readers

The other major name in the mPOS space (and commerce in general) is PayPal. The company’s mobile processing app, PayPal Here (read our review), isn’t quite as full-featured as Square, but you’ll find a lot of similarities between the two, especially as far as business model.

PayPal Mobile Card Reader

PayPal’s mobile card reader is a standard magstripe reader with a headphone jack connector. While the color has changed from PayPal blues to black, the overall shape hasn’t: it’s still a simple and quite stable triangle that connects via a headphone jack. There’s no frills or fuss here.

PayPal used to offer the mobile card reader for free through its website, but that’s no longer the case. It’ll cost you $14.99 to get started, though it’s worth the extra money to upgrade to at least an EMV reader.

  • Cost: $14.99
  • Connection: 3.5mm
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe

PayPal Chip & Swipe Reader

PayPal’s Chip and Swipe reader is a step up from its Mobile Card Reader, with a sleek rectangular design. It’s about the size of a credit card and slim at just half an inch thick. Plus, $24.99 for a Bluetooth device that accepts both EMV and magstripe, makes it one of the more affordable options for card readers, especially if all you need is mobile support.

  • Cost: $24.99
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV

PayPal Chip & Tap Reader

If you want more than just magstripe and EMV support, PayPal also sells a Chip and Tap reader that allows you to accept Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other contactless methods. The Chip and Tap reader looks quite a bit different from the Chip and Swipe reader. Though it’s still black, it’s boxy and measures 0.75 inches in depth.

I actually hate to say this, but the PayPal reader reminds me a bit of Clover Go’s all-in-one reader, just more refined. And unlike the Chip and Swipe reader, this design is meant for both mobile and countertop use — and PayPal offers a charging dock for those who are interested in a countertop setup.

Alone, the reader sells for $59.99, but a bundled kit with the reader and dock sells for $80 (PayPal indicates that’s a markdown from $89.99 on its website). I don’t see the dock listed for sale separately, but I would assume it would sell for $30 on its own.

  • Cost: $59.99 (bundle available for $79.99)
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

PayPal Chip Card Reader

PayPal’s Chip Card Reader was actually the first EMV-enabled reader the company offered, and it wasn’t PayPal’s own design. The reader is actually a branded Miura M010, which has also previously been offered by Square, and is still available from Shopify as well.

The Chip Card Reader is a handy little mobile reader, but you can get a dock for it and mount it in a countertop setup (at least, until PayPal possibly phases this device out of its lineup). Despite its rather bland name, this reader accepts magstripe, EMV, and NFC/contactless payments. However, it comes at a steep price $79, which is still less than the original $150 it sold for. It’s worth noting that despite the PIN pad, it doesn’t support PIN entry because PayPal Here doesn’t support debit transactions.

  • Cost: $79
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

Alternatives to Square & PayPal Readers

While Square and PayPal are certainly two of the biggest names, they’re not the only options if you need a mobile credit card reader. Let’s take a look at some of the other processors and what hardware they offer.

Shopify

Shopify is mostly associated with eCommerce, but it’s moved toward an all-in-one approach that includes a POS (read our review). The full-fledged POS package is designed for a countertop setup and syncs with your Shopify store. However, for a very reasonable $9/month, you can get the Shopify Lite plan, which supports sales through social media and a buy button on your own website, as well as access to the mobile POS. Keep in mind that this is designed almost exclusively for retail environments. For mobile users, though, Shopify offers two readers.

Shopify Tap, Chip & Swipe Reader 

I mentioned before that PayPal’s Chip Card Reader is actually made by another company and is called the Miura M010. Shopify licenses the same device and calls it the Tap, Chip and Swipe reader.

Again, you have a Bluetooth connection with support for magstripe, EMV, and contactless transactions. Shopify sells the reader for $89, which is on the higher end of things. The dock sells for $39. However, the reader is well designed and very functional, and if you want to accept Apple Pay and other “Pay” apps with Shopify, it’s the only option.

  • Cost: $89 (dock available for $39)
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

Shopify Chip and Swipe Reader 

Shopify’s Chip and Swipe Reader is a sleek white device. As the name implies, the reader can handle both magstripe and EMV transactions, but not contactless/NFC. I like that it comes with a dock charging dock by default, instead of as a pricey add-on.

The retail price for the reader is listed as $29, but as I am writing this, Shopify is offering it for free. The Chip and Swipe Reader is easily one of the more beautiful card readers I’ve seen, as well as innovative and well priced.

  • Cost: $29
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV

Payline Mobile

Payline Data is a traditional merchant account processor, but its Payline Mobile app (read our review) is actually a viable standalone processing option even for low-volume and seasonal merchants. The company offers a standard magstripe reader (the Ingenico G5X) that isn’t particularly interesting. Its other mobile reader, though, is the Ingenico RP457c, and it is definitely one of the more innovative card reader designs I’ve ever seen.

For starters, the RP457c can connect to cell phones and tablets through the headphone jack or Bluetooth, which is very uncommon. It also supports magstripe, EMV, and NFC transactions all in one. The device is designed to clamp onto phones or rest in a dock for use as a wireless reader.

Payline doesn’t disclose its current pricing for the RP457c, in part because some merchants may be eligible for a free device. However, I was able to confirm that the reader retails for $150, which is quite expensive.

  • Cost: $150
  • Connection: 3.5mm, Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

SumUp

SumUp (read our review) is a European company that opened up processing for US merchants in 2017. While it’s not as comprehensive as other mPOS options, it does everything most merchants will need to do. It’s also worth pointing out that the SumUp mobile card reader, called the SumUp Air, actually won an award for its innovative design.

The SumUp Air shows its European sophistication with its sleek white minimalist design. It relies on a Bluetooth connection to process magstripe, EMV, and contactless transactions. If you want more information, check out our unboxing review of the SumUp card reader.

  • Cost: $69
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

Clover Go

Clover Go (read our review) is the mobile extension to the Clover family of POS products developed by First Data. It functions best as an extension of Clover, but it can be a standalone POS option. However, pricing for the hardware as well as payment processing can vary significantly depending on which reseller you go through, and you should be wary of sales gimmicks and possible contracts with early termination fees.  However, don’t forget that anyone selling Clover products is just reselling First Data’s processing services.

Clover Go Reader 

Clover’s basic “entry level” reader is a headphone jack reader that supports magstripe and EMV transactions. The design is overall larger than most comparable devices, but Clover does include a clamp to help stabilize the card reader while attached to a phone or tablet.

Pricing for the Clover Go reader will depend on resellers. Some may even offer it for free. Unlike its all-in-one sibling, you can’t get this reader through the Apple Store and if you sign up with First Data directly you’ll probably be offered the All-In-One Reader first and foremost.

  • Cost: Varies according to reseller
  • Connection: 3.5mm
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV

Clover All-In-One Reader

I said earlier that the PayPal Chip and Tap Reader reminded me of Clover Go. That’s because Clover Go is also a square, boxy device with very similar dimensions. However, whereas PayPal’s is black, Clover Go’s is white.

You’ll also find the All-In-One Reader comes with a dock. It’s not the most elegant design, but it will allow you to charge the device or keep it on a countertop while still processing card transactions.

Unfortunately, pricing for this card reader varies depending on which company a merchant chooses to sign up with. You can get it direct from First Data (or the Apple Store) for $39.95, not counting the dock, which sells for $34.  

  • Cost: $39.95 (through First Data or Apple Store; other prices vary according to reseller)
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

Intuit/QuickBooks GoPayment

Intuit’s mobile payment solution, QuickBooks GoPayment (read our review) appeals mostly to a small but viable niche — QuickBooks Online customers who need an easy way to take payments in person. While the app isn’t loaded with advanced features, it will work pretty well for merchants with simple needs. Intuit offers two readers to address merchant needs.

Chip and Magstripe Reader

Intuit’s Chip and Magstripe reader is a small, gray, unassuming device. It doesn’t have quite the sophistication of some other readers (I might even call it bland), but the design is overall good. The curves have a sort of friendliness about them rather and prevent it from looking boxy like other devices. As the name implies, this card reader supports magstripe and EMV transactions. It connects to a phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

The Chip and Magstripe Reader goes for $19 normally, but Intuit is offering the reader free for new merchants. That puts it at the lower price end, especially for a Bluetooth enabled device with EMV. You can also connect the device to computers running QuickBooks Desktop Pro 2018 and future versions of the software.

  • Cost: $19 (free with signup for new merchants)
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV

All-In-One Card Reader

Intuit’s newer card reader is an all-in-one device that connects via Bluetooth. But unlike its sibling, this device supports magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions. By default, it’s meant to nest in a charging dock.

Intuit sells the all-in-one reader for $49, which is not a bad price at all considering that the dock/cradle is included at no extra charge. It has the same sort of nondescript gray finish, but Intuit has embraced a curvy aesthetic that is easy on the eyes.

  • Cost: $49 (including dock)
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

PayAnywhere

Last on the list is PayAnywhere (read our review). While the name isn’t as recognizable as some of the alternatives, PayAnywhere’s mPOS does have some good features and interesting hardware. Its biggest shortcoming is simply the quality of customer service and some practices involving its Storefront plan.

PayAnywhere offers merchants a choice of two readers for merchants, though they still leave me a bit perplexed in terms of design.

PayAnywhere 2-In-1 Reader

PayAnywhere’s entry-level reader is a 2-in-1 device with magstripe and EMV support and Bluetooth connectivity. It looks pretty simple, and it actually reminds me of PayPal’s Chip and Tap reader with its shape and coloring.

There’s not much more to say about this little device except that PayAnywhere offers it free for new merchants. Additional 2-in-1 readers run for $30.

  • Cost: $29.95 (free for new merchants)
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV

PayAnywhere 3-In-1 Reader

I think the most interesting thing about PayAnywhere’s 3-In-1 Reader is that it’s the only mobile card reader I’ve seen that supports NFC and connects via a headphone jack. (The Ingenico RP457c can connect via headphone jack OR Bluetooth, so I don’t count it in the same category.) It looks shiny and futuristic with its black finish and lights, which is ironic for a device that uses a dying connection method.

PayAnywhere offers its 3-in-1 device for $40, but on the website you’ll also see an offer for free processing on your first $5,000 in Apple Pay transactions (valued at $135). However, an offer like that should not be the deciding factor in choosing a processor.

  • Cost: $39.95
  • Connection: 3.5mm
  • Payment Types Supported: Magstripe, EMV, NFC/Contactless

Is a Mobile Credit Card Reader Absolutely Necessary?

You don’t actually have to have a mobile credit card reader to process payments with a mobile POS system.

Flint Mobile, a mobile processor that works through Stripe, has no credit card readers at all. Instead, the app relies on a device’s camera to scan cards. The camera doesn’t actually snap a photo of the card, which would be a huge security issue. But the app is able to open the camera and scan a card the same way QR code readers are able to access the camera to open QR code links. Flint has a couple of filters it applies to the camera for added security.

That said, Flint isn’t the only mobile option with this ability. PayPal Here and Intuit GoPayment also include the camera scanning feature.

Not only that, but most mPOS apps also include a feature that allows you to manually key in transactions. These process at a higher rate that swiped/dipped/tapped transactions because they’re processed as card-not-present, like ecommerce transactions. But it’s a useful alternative when the card reader is being glitchy or the card is very worn. The notable exception to all this is SumUp, a company that started in Europe and doesn’t support manual entry for cards except through its virtual terminal.

Of course, if you don’t want to pay extra for manually entering transactions, it might be best to spend a little extra money and buy a backup card reader or two in case one starts to misbehave.

Are Free Credit Card Readers Worth It?

Several mobile POS options (including Square) provide an incentive for potential customers in the form of a free credit card reader. This can certainly make it more tempting to try out a payment processing service, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

For one, free card readers tend to be pretty basic. Some have EMV support, but none of the free card readers on this list support contactless payments. Contactless support may not be mandatory for everyone, but EMV support should be a mandatory feature for every merchant. A reader with a Bluetooth connection will also ensure it’s future-proof no matter what phone or tablet you upgrade to later on.

Two, a free mobile card reader will absolutely not offset a processor’s shortcomings, such as poor customer service or missing features. It’s smarter for merchants to make a decision based on the quality of the mobile app, its features, and the processor’s customer support.

So while the ability to try some mPOS options without any upfront investment is nice, please don’t let a free credit card reader be the reason you pick one processor over another. Make sure you explore all of your options.

Don’t let a free reader be the determining factor in choosing an mPOS.

Final Thoughts

I’m not going to try and convince you that mobile credit card readers are the world’s most fascinating subject (even if I could probably talk your ear off for a couple of hours about all the different designs and features and how they embody the philosophies of the companies that sell them).

But if nothing else, you should take away a few key ideas that will prepare you to choose a mobile point of sale app and a credit card reader:

  • Software is more important than the hardware. Make sure the app has what features you need before you set your heart on a device.
  • Make sure the card reader you choose has EMV support. In 2018, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be taking such a basic step to protect yourself and your business.
  • Prices for credit card readers range from totally free to upwards of $75. How much you want to spend is entirely up to you, but you will generally pay more for Bluetooth connectivity and for NFC support. Don’t be suckered in by the offer of a free reader, because there are lots of other criteria you should consider first.
  • You don’t technically need a mobile reader to take payments on a phone or tablet. However, you will pay more to process manually entered transactions in your mPOS app, so it’s a good idea to get one anyway.

Thanks for reading! If you’re ready to choose an mPOS app, a great place to start is our mobile processing comparison chart! Otherwise, if you have questions, feel free to leave us a comment!

The post The Best Credit Card Reader For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best iPad POS Systems

iPads: “They’re not just a way for tourists to awkwardly take photos anymore!”

(That is just one of the hundreds of rejected slogans I’ve pitched to Apple over the years, but I’m still optimistic. One of these days, I’ll hit the sweet spot and retire on the marketing royalties.)

In all seriousness, the iPad has been an enormous technological breakthrough across multiple platforms and, when it comes to the world of point of sale software, the iPad completely changed the game. Now entire businesses can be run on a simple, portable, and surprisingly cost-effective tablet. It’s really no surprise that so many POS companies have developed apps either specifically designed to run on the iPad or that are at least compatible with iOS. While Apple will always have its critics, the iPad’s appeal to business owners and customers alike is undeniable. But in a landscape where new iPad POS software dominates the market, it’s tough to figure out the best option to meet your needs. Fortunately, evaluating SMB software is what we do best here at Merchant Maverick. Read on for a look at a few of our favorite Apple iPad point of sale systems.

ShopKeep

Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail businesses and smaller restaurant establishments.

Pricing

$69 per month per first three registers.

Feature Overview

ShopKeep (read our review) remains one of Merchant Maverick’s most recommended iPad POS systems because it features nearly every element you would want in a good point of sale software, and does so in a highly palatable and efficient manner. ShopKeep is also competitively priced and routinely updates its software to improve on an already stellar product. And with its recent advances in features for the restaurant/foodservice industry, ShopKeep continues to live up to our 5-star rating.

ShopKeep is successful largely because it stays in its lane. It is designed for small to mid-sized businesses and caters to them in most aspects. After a comprehensive walk-through during set-up that can help you with as much or as little as your previous experience with POS systems dictates, ShopKeep is exceptionally easy to use in all facets. The inventory management feature is truly impressive, offering an unlimited number of products and a matrix inventory, which is an advanced feature for a small to mid-sized business.

The company’s multi-store function has also come a long way and you can view details across all of your locations on one device. ShopKeep’s customer service is excellent and, although the company suggests using its own payment processing plan, it is integrated with numerous other processors so you’re not locked in.

Takeaway

Like most of the best POS systems, ShopKeep continues to improve. In particular, ShopKeep is becoming a better and better option for restaurants. Already boasting an excellent interface and strong reporting and employee management, the modifier and check functions of this POS make it worth a look for any new business owner. ShopKeep is at the top of its field for user-friendliness, working well with most versions of the iPad, including the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad Mini.

Read our complete review or check out ShopKeep’s website for yourself.

Vend

Best For…

Any sized retail establishment

Pricing

Four options, starting with a limited free version. Other packages are $69, $99 and $249 a month with discounts for being billed annually.

Feature Overview

Vend (read our review) is a terrific option for anyone looking for a tablet POS system. The company offers a Mac bundle, PC bundle, and an iPad bundle, all of which feature Vend’s easy-to-use software and fairly robust feature set. If you’re a retailer looking to keep costs down while not feeling like you’re missing out on any top-tier functions, Vend is worth a long look.

Like ShopKeep, Vend does a nice job catering to its specialty: small to mid-sized retailers. There is some basic foodservice functionality that makes Vend perfectly acceptable for small vendors like cafes or food carts but, to retail shops will get the most bang for their buck (or lack of buck if you take advantage of Vend’s limited but still generous free version). Although the software is geared to smaller, more independent retailers, Vend is more than capable of handling a multi-store operation. Its eCommerce platform (available in the Advanced and Multi-Store versions) is easy to set up and navigate.

Vend thrives in the area of customer management. It offers a built-in and comprehensive loyalty function and makes it easy to take and store customer information for future promotions. The inventory management tool offers everything a small business would need, with the ability to import via a CSV file and an option for creating purchase orders. Vend integrates with loads of other software apps and has strong customer service, although it charges extra for its premium support.

Takeaway

Vend is one of the most versatile and effective iPad POS systems for retail businesses. If you’re a small company just starting out, you can take advantage of its free package. And if you have a large-scale multi-store enterprise, Vend is robust enough to have your back as well. With an advanced eCommerce platform and great customer management, Vend is worth a long look.

Read our complete review or visit Vend’s website on your own.

Revel

revel systems

Best For…

Mid-sized to larger foodservice businesses, though it can be adapted to smaller restaurants as well.

Pricing

Revel has a flexible pricing structure depending on what features you need. The cost of the software is built into the monthly subscription.

Feature Overview

Revel (read our review) packs a ton into its relatively unassuming software. The company, which functions best as an Apple-based restaurant POS, has also expanded to suit certain retail establishments as well. Revel currently is only offered on Apple iOS devices, but it is a fully functional POS and is robust enough to suit large, multi-store restaurant chains. However, as long as you’re not overwhelmed by its wealth of back-end features and an interface that is slightly less intuitive than average, Revel is flexible enough to work with smaller retailers as well. It features a flexible pricing structure to suit multiple needs.

As you would expect, Revel offers real-time inventory management with a convenient matrix for importing mass items and tracking them across multiple locations. Revel also has a fantastic Kiosk option for iPads which allows customers to order and pay on their own with a number of different methods. The Kitchen Display System for cooks is a strong feature, helping to cut down on ticket times and increase communication between the front- and backend of a restaurant.

Where Revel really separates itself is reporting. Its comprehensive suite features a convenient layout and runs nearly any report you could think of. Combine that with a great QuickBooks integration, and Revel makes some of the minutiae and tedium of backend features simple.

Takeaway

Revel is a powerhouse of a POS that can handle large-scale restaurant establishments. The system boasts excellent real-time reporting and an extensive employee management system. Though it comes with a slightly higher learning curve than some systems, Revel’s wealth of integrations gives it a big edge in a very competitive market, and it’s one of our favorite POS solutions here at Merchant Maverick.

You can find our full review here or check out Revel’s website.

talech

talech POS logo

Best For…

Almost any type of food service establishment.

Pricing

$69 or $99 a month with an enterprise option as well.

Feature Overview

There are many nice things about talech (read our review), but what I really appreciate is that, depending on your size of business, you can really get what you pay for. The Standard package gives you everything you would need for a small retail store or quick serve restaurant, while the Premium package expands its features to serve larger retailers and full-service restaurants, meaning you’re generally not going to be paying for features you’re not using.

talech does plenty of things well, starting with a strong and functional inventory management system. You can generate your own barcodes and print them from any device, track product history and performance across multiple stores, and create complex inventory bundles. Employee management is another strength; talech makes it easy to track an individual’s sales and actions. There is also a function which makes it so that managers, via swipe cards, are the only ones allowed to make voids.

talech review

talech is constantly updating and adapting to stay on top of current trends. One of its most recent changes is its online ordering system, which is an add-on that can dramatically increase a business’s sales output. talech integrates with a handful of major companies, including QuickBooks, Xero, Shopify, and Magento. It also offers highly regarded customer service.

Takeaway

talech is exceptionally affordable and has options for small to large restaurants. Even with lower tier packages, you get terrific inventory and employee management. With its commitment to updating its software and the ability to set up online ordering, talech continues to impress.

Read our complete review of talech or check out their website.

ERPLY

erply-logo

Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail businesses.

Pricing

$200 or $350 a month with enterprise options available.

Feature Overview

For ease of use, ERPLY, (read our review) continues to be at the top of the iPad point of sale class. Designed specifically for small to mid-sized retail businesses, ERPLY is another company that specifically seeks to alleviate recurring issues that smaller, independent business owners may be having with their software. ERPLY is remarkably user-friendly and comes with the ability to customize and print purchase orders — and it also connects with major shipping companies.

Inventory management is simple and customizable. You can set limits for stock to be automatically reordered. Tracking inventory across multiple stores is intuitive, and ERPLY’s inventory module makes it possible to determine pricing by location (or even by a specific promotion or sale that you may be running). Speaking of which, ERPLY offers a built-in function for promotions and it can store all kinds of information on customers, from their social media IDs to their loyalty points.

ERPLY comes with well over 100 reports, so if you’re into analytics, they’ve more than got you covered. You would think with that much to offer, the software would be a bit unwieldy, but ERPLY prides itself on its simple to use platform. Everything can be customized to suit your personal style.

Takeaway

ERPLY isn’t a bargain by any means, but if you’re looking for an iPad POS that’s pretty much hassle free and loaded with features, it might be worth the expense. ERPLY is easy to navigate right out of the box and does just about everything well. It is particularly useful if your business has multiple locations. You’ll have to shell out a bit more per month than you would for some other systems, but many merchants will find the convenience worth the cost.

You can find our full review here or visit ERPLY’s website on your own.

SalesVu

Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail and restaurant establishments.

Pricing

Flexible, but generally ranging from $25 to $150 a month.

Feature Overview

Another one of our 5-star systems, SalesVu (read our review) can handle both small to mid-sized retail and restaurant establishments. The software isn’t flashy, but all of the functionality you would expect from an Apple-based POS is there. Food industry businesses can set up their menus to switch to Happy Hour prices at specific times, and a convenient kiosk function allows customers to order directly at the table. SalesVu’s simple eCommerce platform is ideal for online ordering, and creating your own website with back-end integrations built-in can be done in a matter of minutes.

SalesVu’s inventory management is excellent, allowing for mass imports via CSV files. You can also use your iPad or your iPhone as a scanner. When an item is getting low, SalesVu alerts you and gives you the option of pulling the item completely or allowing for sales to go through even when supplies are limited.

SalesVu is also a great option for spas, salons, or any service-based businesses, featuring a built-in function that connects employees to a scheduling calendar.

Salesvu review

There are also plenty of reports available, as well as a built-in loyalty integration that can store customer information for sales and promotions. Currently, SalesVu is limited in its integrations but it does pair with QuickBooks and a handful of different credit card processors. You also get highly rated customer service. SalesVu is a fairly affordable iPad point of sale system, but its pricing structure can be a bit convoluted, so you’ll want to speak with a representative to sort out the details.

Takeaway

SalesVu’s flexibility is refreshing and, even if you’re going with one of its smaller packages, you get a lot for your money. The inventory management is excellent and, for small food service businesses, its kiosk function is terrific. Built-in loyalty and integrations with multiple processors are also big pluses.

Read our complete overview of SalesVu or visit the company’s website.

Lavu

Best For…

Quick service or full-service restaurants.

Pricing

$79/month with enterprise option available.

Feature Overview

Designed specifically for iPads, Lavu (read our review) is an impressive POS that can fill the needs of most mid-sized food industry businesses (either quick service or full service) and some light retail establishments. The interface is sleek and modern and designed with servers in mind. Order taking is simple and table and menu layouts are all intuitive and customizable. Lavu has a very convenient system for creating and executing modifiers as well.

Keeping with its employee-friendly theme, employee management is one of Lavu’s strong suits. Servers can log in with a key code and their hours and overtime are easily tracked; permissions can be assigned with a simple click. The company has also recently bolstered its inventory management feature, allowing for bulk importing and automatic alerts when products run low. If you are operating multiple stores, inventory can quickly be transferred from one location to another.

Lavu’s gift card and loyalty plans are both available as add-ons, which isn’t ideal. However, once you’ve purchased these add-ons, they integrated seamlessly with the software. Lavu has some other nice integrations, including an impressive customizable kitchen display system and customer-friendly features for online ordering and pick-up. Lavu integrates with a wide range of processing companies as well, giving you flexibility.

Takeaway

Your employees should love Lavu — its interface is easy to learn and simple to navigate. And, as a manager, you’ll appreciate the customizable options and employee management functions. Lavu has recently beefed up its inventory management, which had been one of its few flaws in the past, and it is now an extremely well-rounded option.

Check out our complete review of Lavu or visit Lavu’s website.

iConnect

Best For…

Most retail establishments with a bent toward spas and salons.

Pricing

$75/month with a multi-store option available,

Feature Overview

With a name like iConnect, (read our review) you know you have a POS made specifically for iOS (although it recently updated to function on Windows as well). iConnect is a versatile system that is perfect for small or large retail establishments, depending on the plan you purchase. iConnect has some unique features that make it a particularly strong option for businesses that book appointments, like salons. With the ability to set up recurring billing, it’s also a useful system for gyms and other businesses that operate on monthly subscription plans.

Customer management is a big draw for iConnect. Each customer is assigned a code, storing their information and making it simple to create specific promotions with its built-in loyalty program. As with most Apple POS systems, the interface is intuitive and comes with a helpful set-up process. Some of the more advanced features come with a higher learning curve, but the front-end, in particular, is easy to navigate.

iConnect comes with 55 reports and you can customize how they appear, easily adding your most run reports to the top of the screen. It’s not the most robust reporting system around, but most businesses shouldn’t find it lacking. There is also eCommerce functionality that can help you create your own website at no extra cost. The system comes with a large number of impressive integrations and the option to purchase add-ons that could be helpful, depending on your specific business.

Takeaway

iConnect is another versatile option that can be customized to fit your business’s needs. This iPad POS features some unique features for gyms, spas, and salons. iConnect has strong customer management features, especially in terms of setting up promotions, and its interface is intuitive and easy to operate.

You can find our full review here or visit iConnect’s website on your own.

Final Thoughts

iPad users are notoriously loyal to their devices and, if you fall into this category and are hunting for a POS system, you’re in luck. Many of the best point of sale systems were specifically designed to run on iOS — there’s almost certainly an option that will meet your needs. And this is not an exhaustive list, by any means. For the full scoop on all the top-rated POS systems for iPad, be sure to check out our iPad POS software reviews. 

The post The Best iPad POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top 5 POS Tablet Systems For Restaurants

The restaurant industry is a hectic environment with a ton of moving parts. From taking orders to printing tickets to splitting checks, every function needs to work seamlessly if you’re to maximize your potential — and stay alive. Studies show that nearly 60% of restaurants close after three years, so choosing the right point of sale system can be a crucial component to the ultimate survival of your business.

Happily, if you’re opening up a restaurant right now, you’re in luck. POS systems have never been more helpful or powerful. Chances are, if you’ve done you’re research, you’re looking into at least a few systems that are iPad or tablet-based. A point of sale tablet can be a server or manager’s best friend. The mobility of these devices boosts the efficiency of your waitstaff and can improve interactions with customers; managers, in turn, can keep tabs on reports and sales on the go, from any device with a wireless connection.

Read on for an in-depth look at some of our favorite tablet POS systems.

ShopKeep

Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail businesses and smaller restaurant establishments.

Pricing

$69 per month per first three registers.

Feature Overview

There is little fault to find with ShopKeep’s (read our review) sleek and modern POS for tablet. This company has been on the cutting edge of POS technology for a few years now and continues to improve and expand its services. Though it was previously best suited for retail establishments and smaller food service establishments, ShopKeep now offers open check features and server-less syncing.

It also recently added the ability to create your own modifiers and is working on an update for table layouts.

ShopKeep has always prided itself on being user-friendly, and its restaurant software is exceptionally simple to master, particularly with features like the ability to keep multiple tabs open and split bills in a quick and intuitive manner. Tickets can also be sent immediately from the table to the kitchen, saving precious time in a fast-paced environment.

If ShopKeep is lacking at all on the front end, it more than makes up for it with in-depth reporting, analyzing your restaurant’s busiest times to help you coordinated staffing. Employees can be assigned specific permissions and all reports and sales data can be viewed in real time on any device with the app installed.

Takeaway

Like most of the best POS systems, ShopKeep continues to improve. In particular, ShopKeep is becoming a better and better option for restaurants. Already boasting an excellent interface and strong reporting and employee management, the modifier and check functions of this POS make it worth a look for any new business owner.

Read our complete review or check out ShopKeep’s website for yourself.

Lightspeed Restaurant

Best For…

Almost any size foodservice establishment. There is an enterprise package for larger industries, but Lightspeed is probably better suited for mid-sized restaurants.

Pricing

Lightspeed offers three plans at $69 a month, $129 a month and $198 a month.

Feature Overview

Lightspeed Restaurant (read our review) offers some unique features that are difficult to find anywhere else. Coupled with a superior design, Lightspeed has very few weaknesses to speak of and may be worth the slightly higher price compared to other similar systems.

Lightspeed thrives in both employee and inventory management. There is a feature which allows managers to change the visibility of employees on the app — quite useful for a business with multiple part-time employees. Permissions are assigned and broken down easily. The Timed Events features, which lets you set up unique promotions and contests for employees, is something I haven’t seen in many other products. You can also select your language of choice to print tickets.

One nice visual element is the ability to upload appetizing pictures of your menu items that can be displayed to customers. Most features, such as table layout and modifiers, are also highly customizable.

On the back end, Lightspeed Restaurant has a wealth of reports to help you analyze your business quickly and intuitively. The raw ingredient tracking mechanism also updates in real time, allowing servers to see when a product is running low. Things like discounts and tax codes can all be added or updated in a matter of seconds and, as an added bonus, Lightspeed’s customer service comes without additional cost and has many positive reviews. Lightspeed Restaurant is still lacking slightly in integrations but, at this point, we’re really picking nits.

Takeaway

Lightspeed Restaurant is designed specifically for the foodservice industry, and it shows. The company does nearly everything right and is particularly strong in both customer and inventory management, all at a reasonably competitive pricing structure that can fit whatever sized business you’re running.

Read our full review here or check out Lightspeed Restaurant’s website.

Toast

Best For…

Anything from small food-service establishments (like cafes) to mid-sized, full-service restaurants.

Pricing

Toast starts at $79 a month and is $50 a month for each additional register.

Feature Overview

Here at Merchant Maverick we’re suckers for products that give you as few headaches as possible. Under that umbrella, Toast (read our review) continues to be one of our favorite point of sale systems. Toast has a simple and affordable pricing structure, a feature-rich and simple-to-use platform, and fantastic customer service that is included in the original price. Even one of the few issues we have with Toast — its inability to work with other credit card processing companies — at least leaves you with one less decision to make when you’re starting your business or shopping for a new POS.

Toast is simple to use. You can be walked through its initial set-up so you’re an expert in a short amount of time. Normal restaurant functions like check splitting, voiding, and the ability to transfer tickets to different tables are intuitive and can be done with just a few taps. Toast has a solid menu creation feature and it’s simple to make quick pricing changes either manually or automatically for things like Happy Hour.

Toast’s reporting functioToast hardwarens are robust and, as you would expect, can be accessed from anywhere with a wireless connection on a tablet or mobile device. You can see things like ticket times and tip reports all in an easily digestible format. Many current systems are delving deep into customer management and Toast is no different. The POS can take and store customer information and track an individual’s order history while tabulating their loyalty rewards, helping you set up ways to entice them to come back. The inventory and employee management functions are also strong, helping a business owner cut down on inefficiency. For an additional cost, you can add on Toast’s loyalty program and its online ordering service, two impressive features.

Takeaway

Everything about Toast is easy, from its pricing to its layout to its quick set-up. If you’re looking for a POS tablet system that won’t give you headaches, it’s tough to see you going wrong here. A strong menu-creation function and simple table management, coupled with some of the best customer service in the industry, make Toast a top contender.

Check out our complete review of Toast or visit their website.

Revel

Best For…

Mid-sized to larger foodservice businesses, though it can be adapted to smaller restaurants as well.

Pricing

Revel has a flexible pricing structure depending on what features you need. The cost of the software is built in to the monthly subscription.

Feature Overview

Revel (read our review) is another impressive system that packs a lot of features into intuitive yet unassuming software. Revel has the ability to handle larger scale restaurants better than some of the other systems mentioned in this post. It can take on multiple locations with ease and has an extremely robust offering of reports that can be managed remotely, along with a varied list of integrations and customizable software.

Revel has a simple interface, without a lot of distractions. It is created with the server in mind, making things like voids, order editing, and check splitting simple. For smaller establishments, Revel has a very nice kiosk function with a customer-facing display. The ability to take reservations and inform customers via a text message or email is also a nice feature.

Going along with current POS trends, Revel allows you to take orders tableside and, with its Kitchen Display System, servers can view the status of an order as it’s being made.

Revel, a Lightspeed POS alternativeThe backend takes a little more time to get the hang of. However, that’s mainly because there’s a lot to offer. Revel has a huge slate of reports that can be viewed and digested quickly. Its employee management feature is also superb, assigning individuals their own PIN number for log-in. Managers can then track performance by sales, productivity, or number of voids, and permissions can be assigned easily. There is a built-in loyalty system within Revel that stores basic customer information. One of the biggest draws for Revel is the sheer number of companies that it integrates with. If the POS doesn’t have a specific function you’re looking for, chances are you can download a program that can help. Revel’s open API also makes it possible to create your own customizable functions.

Takeaway

Revel is a powerhouse of a POS that can handle large-scale restaurant establishments. The system is loaded with reports and an extensive employee management system. Though it comes with a slightly higher learning curve than some systems, Revel’s wealth of integrations gives it a big edge in a very competitive market.

You can find our full review here or check out Revel’s website.

Clover

Best For…

Quick-service food establishments and small to mid-sized restaurants.

Pricing

Clover’s pricing can range from $350 to $800 depending on the retailer and on whether you’re purchasing it alongside other Clover products.

Feature Overview

Clover (read our review) has emerged as a giant in the POS game and for good reason. Although certainly not without its flaws (mostly on the payment processing end of things), Clover is exceptionally easy to use, comes with access to the Clover app market, and can be up and running within minutes out of the box, making it a popular product for small and mid-sized restaurants.

Clover arrives virtually ready to go from the second you turn it on with a preloaded menu. It’s also extremely customizable and will intuitively download a few starter apps for you based on your preferences. Clover has been a popular choice for business owners new to the restaurant game both because of its simplicity and how easy it is to tailor the POS to your specific needs. The product is EMV compliant and accepts virtually any payment type.

On the backend, Clover isn’t quite as robust as some other systems, but small to mid-sized restaurant owners are likely to find just about anything they might need.

The customer management feature stores information, making it easy to peruse an individual’s purchase history. One of Clover’s huge pluses is how easy it is to manage your business, even across multiple locations, from just one device. The POS stores all of its reports and you can see profits and employee activity in real time. Clover’s biggest draw, however, is its impressive app store. If you do find that you’re missing some functionality on the back end, it’s likely that you can find a program in the always-expanding App Market to help you out.

Takeaway

Clover is a tough system to beat in when it comes to sheer convenience. With a very simple and intuitive interface that you can have up and running in minutes, it’s a strong option for new business owners. Simple and extensive customer management and access to Clover’s App Market are also extremely convenient features. Unfortunately, though the software itself is exceptional, you will have to put up with First Data’s less than stellar support on the payment processing end of things, and depending on what kind of reseller you use to buy your Clover device, customer service is hard to navigate. Approach Clover with caution.

You can read more about Clover in our full review or visit their site.

Final Thoughts

These are just a handful of the available point of sale systems for tablets, and each one has its unique strengths. While you certainly aren’t limited to a tablet-based POS, it’s easy to see why they have become so popular. Locally-installed systems have advantages when it comes to security, but it’s tough to compete with the convenience, ease of use and set-up, and sheer affordability a tablet provides. And that’s not even mentioning the powerful reporting and various back-end management tools that can all be accessed in a device smaller than most books on your shelf.

As always, do your research and make sure you don’t settle for a system that doesn’t completely suit your needs. For more information in general, check out our selection of full restaurant point of sale reviews, read about iPad POS vendors, or view our comparison chart of restaurant POS software.

The post Top 5 POS Tablet Systems For Restaurants appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The 5 Best Fora Financial Alternatives For Business Funding

fora financial logo

Fora Financial (read our review) is one of the more reliable online lenders in the business. While they don’t necessarily excel in any one area, they do provide short-term loans and merchant cash advances at fairly reasonable (for the industry) rates and are willing to work with new businesses. If Fora doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, what other options are available?

Here are some business funding alternatives to Fora Financial.

Square Capital

Best for…

Square customers looking for small loans with low rates

Requirements

Time in business: N/A
Credit score: N/A
Revenue: $10K/yr

Square (read our review) isn’t primarily known for loans, but they do offer some of their point of sale hardware customers loans ranging in size from $500 to $100,000.

These loans come at lower rates (1.1 – 1.16) than you’ll probably get from Fora, and Square’s payment processing infrastructure makes it easy to set up the automated repayment process. If you’re looking for convenience and don’t mind your payment services company also being your lender, it’s a pretty good deal.

How To Apply For A Square Capital Loan

Unfortunately, the process for determining who is eligible for a Square Capital loan is a bit opaque. Rather than apply at your leisure, Square will, at their leisure, send email notifications to qualifying customers. That means that you may not qualify for funding through Square Capital when you need it.

If you do receive an offer, the process is extremely easy. You decide how much you want from the options offered, then Square will use the information they already have on file to process your application. In some cases they may ask for additional documents.

Takeaway

It’s best to consider Square Capital as a perk that comes with being a Square customer.

Credibly

 

Best for…

New businesses looking for a transparent lender

Requirements

Time in business: 6 months
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $15K/yr + avg. daily balance over $1K for expansion loans

It can be hard for new businesses to get funding right out of the gate. One of the nice things about Fora is that they’re willing to work with businesses that have been around for only three months.

Credibly (read our review) isn’t quite so lenient, but they are willing to work with businesses that have only been in business for six months. Like Fora, Credibly offers some variety in their financial products, although they’re more focused on installment loans than merchant cash advances. Expect slightly more stringent lending guidelines than you will find with Fora.

One nice aspect of Credibly is that they’re more transparent than most of their competitors, making it a little easier to know what you’re getting into. Credibly’s rates are comparable to Fora’s, falling between 1.09 and 1.36.

How To Apply For A Credibly Loan

You can begin your Credibly application online on their website. This is essentially a screening process. If you make the cut, you’ll be contacted by a representative who will prompt you to provide the following information:

  • Business lease or mortgage agreement
  • Picture ID of all owners
  • Business tax returns
  • Bank statements for the last three months
  • Basic personal information including Social Security number

Takeaway

Credibly’s easy qualifications and above-average transparency make it a decent choice for new businesses without a lot of options.

Breakout Capital

 

breakout capital

Best for…

Businesses looking for a flexible funder

Requirements

Time in business: 1 yr / NA(invoice factoring)
Credit score: 600/ NA (invoice factoring)
Revenue: $10K/month / NA (invoice factoring)

Breakout Capital (read our review) offers a number of short-term funding solutions for new businesses. In fact, flexibility is one of their biggest draws.

Breakout’s loans operate on a principle similar to a line of credit, making it easy to tap additional funding in the future without racking up punishing fees or double-dipping. While Breakout’s rates are still on the high side — as are those of most online lenders — the company takes pains not to pull too many unexpected fees or terms of service changes.

They also offer a niche form of financing that can be useful to businesses that want to borrow against their unpaid invoices. Invoice factoring allows businesses to sell unpaid invoices to a lender at a discount. Rather than owing interest, you’ll sign over your invoices to Breakout, who will then advance you a percentage of the invoice’s worth. The advantage here is that you can bypass credit checks and similar prerequisites. You just need to have invoices to sell. Note that Breakout doesn’t provide invoice factoring in-house, but rather partners with invoice factoring companies to offer the service.

How To Apply For A Breakout Capital Loan

You can fill out a truncated application at Breakout Capital’s website, or bypass that part and contact them by phone. Expect to have to provide documents that establish your identity, your business’s details, and your revenue. Breakout will then determine which of their products you qualify for.

Takeaway

Breakout is a great option for businesses that need flexible lending. Both their lines of credit and invoice factoring give you control over when and if you want to tap your credit resources. This freedom comes at a premium, however.

Street Shares

 

Best for…

Profitable businesses with decent credit, businesses looking for a line of credit

Requirements

Time in business: 1 year, some exemptions for 6 months
Credit score: 620
Revenue: $100K (for 6 month consideration)

Street Shares (read our review) may sound like an arcade game, but they’re actually among the more conservative online lenders, offering installment loans and lines of credit.

The credit requirements here are a bit higher than many of their competitors, but businesses with good credit can take advantage of Street Shares’ lower rates and weekly (rather than daily) repayment process.

Profitable companies should take special notice as Street Shares will work with companies that are less than a year old, provided they’ve earned $100,000 in revenue at the time of application.

Street Shares charges interest just like a bank loan. You’re looking at APRs between 7 – 39.99%.

How To Apply For A Street Shares Loan

Like most online lenders, Street Shares lets you begin your application on their website. There you can submit some basic information about yourself, your business, and the financial products you’re interested in.

If you’re approved, you’ll be contacted by a representative and asked to provide additional information. The documents will vary depending on the product (if you’re provided with multiple loan offers, you can decide between them).

Takeaway

Street Shares is a little harder to qualify for than some of the other options here, but their competitive rates and the flexibility of their products make them a good choice for businesses that can make the cut.

BlueVine

 

bluevine logo

Best for…

New companies needing a flexible lending plan

Requirements

Time in business: 3 – 6 months
Credit score: 530 – 600
Revenue: N/A

BlueVine (read our review) operates in a similar niche to Breakout capitals, offering both lines of credit and invoice factoring. Note above that the lower “time in business” and “credit score” requirement ranges are for invoice factoring, while the higher ones are for lines of credit. The line of credit product isn’t available to businesses based in Kentucky, Tennessee, Nevada, Vermont, New Hampshire, or either of the Dakotas.

BlueVine only assesses a fee (1.5%) on their lines of credit when you draw upon them, but you’ll want to make sure you pay them off quickly. Interest accumulates weekly at a rate of 0.3% to 1.5% (this is not an APR).

BlueVine does their invoice factoring in-house. If you choose to use this service, they’ll set up an account that will receive your invoice payments from B2B transactions. When you receive an invoice, you can then decide whether or not you want an advance on it. If you choose to, Bluevine will advance you between 85% – 90% of its value. When the invoice is paid, you’ll get a rebate on the remaining amount, minus any accumulated fees.

How To Apply For A BlueVine Loan

You can begin the application on BlueVine’s website by creating an account and answering some questions about your business. You’ll then have to provide read-only access to your bank account or three months worth of bank statements. You can create invoices in BlueVine’s interface or connect your QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks account.

In addition to the usual information like income and creditworthiness, BlueVine also considers your transaction volume and advertising strategy.

Takeaway

New businesses that haven’t had much time to establish themselves, but have good fundamentals, can find a lot of flexibility with BlueVine.

Final Thoughts

Alternative lending is a highly competitive market with a huge number of options for businesses looking for non-traditional sources of funding. Finding a lender that will meet your needs at a reasonable rate can take some work, but it’s worth the effort.

Need more information? Check out our small business loan comparison.

The post The 5 Best Fora Financial Alternatives For Business Funding appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The 5 Best Android POS Systems

Full disclosure: I have no dog in the Android vs. Apple turf wars that threaten to tear us apart. I have an Android phone and a Chromebook, but my wife owns an iPhone and a MacBook. Somehow, despite being unequally yoked, we have made things work. I respect her desire for functionality and user-friendliness. She respects that I despise spending money on anything. And there are many individuals who share my values.

If you are in the market for a point of sale system for Android because you are fiercely loyal to your device, you may feel lonely in this industry, one that often feels dominated by the iPad. But there’s hope! Read on for a convenient list of some of our favorite POS systems for Android.

Epos Now

eposnow

Epos Now (read our full review) runs on any device that is compatible with Chrome or Safari. In fact, it’s one of the more affordable systems on the market.

While it doesn’t have the most robust offerings in some areas,  Epos Now gives you plenty of bang for your buck and is easy to set up and install. With a 30-day trial and an excellent set-up tutorial, Epos Now can save you a lot of initial time. While its interface isn’t flashy, it’s intuitive and there aren’t any distractions that get in the way of navigation. Running on any device with a compatible browser, it’s easy to keep tabs on real-time reporting and inventory levels.

The back end has some nice features that you can’t find in all point of sale systems. Purchase orders can be automatically created, along with barcodes (which can be customized). Permissions are also easy to set for different employees, giving them access to specific features.

Epos Now can be used for most retail operations as well as cafes, nightclubs, and other smaller food industry establishments. This POS features table management and check-splitting functions, plus a basic loyalty system. There are also a huge number of integrations that pair with the software, some available for free and some that will cost you an additional fee.

Epos Now’s customer service is a strike against it — it costs extra and has some less than glowing reviews online. However, for ease and affordability, this is a system to check out.

Read our full review or head on over to Epos Now’s website for more information.

ERPLY

erply-logo

If you have a bigger budget for your point of sale system and are looking for an Android-compatible device with very few holes, ERPLY (read our review) might be a smart bet. No, it’s not cheap, with the Standard package starting at $200 a month, but its features are extensive, and some of its functions, like customer management and loyalty, are top-of-the-industry in quality.

ERPLY isn’t the most user-friendly software on the market, but the learning curve is manageable and once you’ve gotten the hang of the system (something that takes a little time primarily because of how much the software has to offer), you should find it fairly intuitive.

The back end is where ERPLY really shines. There are customizable and printable purchase orders. The automatic reordering function is nice as well, and the supplier database — where you can store and track information from vendors — is truly unique. As I mentioned earlier, this system’s customer management feature is excellent, providing users with the ability to store tons of data on each individual customer (from bank information to credit limits). ERPLY also makes it easy to set up targeted promotions.

What’s more, there are more than 100 available reports, so the highly organized business owner is likely to find everything they’re looking for. Add that to the ability to pair with most major credit card processors, a wide range of integrations, and strong customer service, and ERPLY is a very strong retail system.

Read our full review for more information on ERPLY, or visit the ERPLY website to sign up.

Toast

Toast (read our review) is one of Merchant Maverick’s top-rated point of sale systems. Because it is Android-based, it is affordable (packages start at $79 a month) while offering a sleek, modern interface and an incredible number of features. Designed as an “all-in-one” POS for restaurants or any food-service business, Toast is extremely easy to use and operate, taking just minutes to set up and navigate.

Toast’s front end is intuitive even to novice employees, with all of the features you would expect, including easy check splitting, voiding, and table management. Toast offers a nice menu creation option and an excellent in-house reporting system.

Like ERPLY, Toast also thrives in the area of customer management. It’s simple to look up individual customers and see their spending habits and track their loyalty and reward points. For employees, Toast makes it easy to assess efficiency and to add and assign permissions.

Its loyalty program is an additional $25 a month; this is one of the few knocks on the system as a whole, but not entirely unreasonable. The gift card and online ordering functions are also available as add-ons, but they’re extremely useful and can be purchased without completely breaking the bank. Toast really thrives in the area of customer service, offering round-the-clock support and quick responses with no additional cost.

Read our comprehensive review of Toast, or head on over to the Toast website to sign up for a trial.

Vend

Vend (see our review) is another impressive POS system with many strengths and few weaknesses. With its ability to function on nearly any device that has an internet browser, it accessible for both iOS and Android apps.

Vend’s plans start at $99/month, and it also offers one of the better free plans around if you have a smaller business. It can handle nearly any sized retail establishment, as well as some light food-industry businesses, and it offers convenient hardware packages.

web-based-pos

With a 30-day free trial available and a convenient walk-through feature, Vend is certainly one of the easiest to use systems around. The company has recently improved its eCommerce platform, making an already strong product even better without upping its price.

Vend thrives in most back-end functions as you might expect. You can track customer purchases and store information while using a solid, built-in loyalty program that can target those customers and offer discounts and promotions. Inventory management is another plus as bulk items can be imported with ease. Reports make it simple to assess which items are selling well and which ones might need to be shelved.

Vend’s premium customer service costs extra but has relatively few complaints online.

Want to learn more about Vend? Read through our full review of Vend, or check out Vend’s website for details on sign-up.

NCR Silver

NCR Silver POS review

As you might expect from a company as large as NCR, NCR Silver POS (read our review) does an excellent job staying on top of current trends in the market and making sure that its customers have what they need.

As such, they offer a strong point of sale system that can be accessed on iOS or Android. NCR Silver is reasonably priced, with plans starting at $99 a month with just $39 a month extra per any added device.

NCR Silver Review

The software is targeted toward small to mid-sized businesses and plays well to that market, providing functions for nearly any retail establishment and most restaurants.

Functionality is the name of the game for NCR Silver. Its interface is simple to process and things that can be complicated in other systems, like mass imports, are easy to learn in this system. NCR Silver has excellent inventory management, and its Snapshot feature makes it possible to get an overview of your store and cash on hand with the push of a button. Employees are equally easy to manage and can be given individual pin numbers and assigned permissions.

A recently added mobile ordering function is another unique feature, and the ability to integrate with most major credit card processors is a big plus. If you’re looking for specific reports, NCR Silver might be slightly lacking but, on the whole, it’s difficult to imagine that the software would leave you wanting for much.

Read our full review of NCR Silver for more details about this Android-compatible POS system, or simply head over to NCR Silver’s website.

Final Thoughts

With so much emphasis on iPad-based solutions, it’s often easy to forget about the loyal Android users. For the budget-conscious business owner, finding a system that can be used on Android devices might be a quick way to save a few pennies from the get-go. Fortunately, some of the top systems around offer this option, and a few others have made promises to come out with an Android app within the year. When that happens we’ll continue to update this post.

The post The 5 Best Android POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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5 Great LoanBuilder Alternatives For Small Businesses

PayPal’s LoanBuilder offers an unusually high level of transparency to prospective borrowers, allowing them to see — and even tinker with — the terms of their loans well in advance of signing on the dotted line.

This is a welcome trait in an industry where speed and low barriers to entry take precedence over openness and affordability.

As we often warn in our reviews, however, it’s a good idea to compare as many different products as you can to get the best deal you can.

So what are some alternatives to LoanBuilder for small business?

Square Capital

Best for: Square customers looking for small loans with low rates

Square, a company known more for point of sale hardware and software, also offers an alternative lending service to its clients. That last bit will probably be a major deciding factor for most of the people reading this: to get a loan from Square Capital you have to already be an existing Square customer.

Requirements:

Time in business: N/A
Credit score: N/A
Revenue: $10K/yr

If you’re a Square customer, you may periodically get funding offers from the company by email. This passive approach to lending won’t suit everyone, but Square does offer some of the lowest short-term loan rates in the business (between 1.1 and 1.16). If you accept the offer, you’ll have up to 18 months to repay the loan. Micropayments are deducted from your daily credit card sales until you’re paid up. You can borrow between $500 and $100,000.

This arrangement may not be for everyone, of course. A lot of the advantages come from being heavily integrated into the Square environment — their credit card processing service makes it easy for them to collect on their debt. You may not be comfortable owing debt to the company that also handles your point of sale.

Credibly

Best for: Businesses looking for a transparent alternative lender, businesses looking for medium-term loans

If you’re attracted to LoanBuilder’s transparency but want an alternative, you may want to give Credibly a look. Credibly offers a bit more diversity in their loans than most alternative lenders, providing not just short-term, but more traditional medium-term loans. You can find most of the information you need to make an informed comparison on their website.

Requirements:

Time in business: 6 months
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $15K/yr + avg. daily balance over $1K for expansion loans

Compared to LoanBuilder, you’re probably looking at higher rates (between 1.09 and 1.36), especially if you don’t have great credit, but you’ll have a little more leeway with term lengths. Consider whether the tradeoff is worth it before you commit to anything.

OnDeck

Best for: Businesses looking for low rates

This addition to the list probably won’t be a big surprise to anyone familiar with the alternative lending industry. If you’ve been looking for loans online, there’s a good chance you’ve come across OnDeck.

Requirements:

Time in business: 12 months
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $100K/yr

As one of the early arrivals to the alternative lending scene, OnDeck’s had a lot of time to hone their products and offer competitive rates. These extremely low rates (1.003 – 1.04) come at the cost of some additional charges, namely a fairly high origination fee, but you’re still likely to land a better deal here than with many other alternative lenders. Additionally, OnDeck offers lines of credit for companies that want the flexibility.

You won’t find quite the same level of transparency here as you will with LoanBuilder, though the company’s website should give you a decent sense of what types of fees to expect.

SnapCap

Best for: Businesses looking for equipment financing and transparency

SnapCap flies under the radar compared to some of the other funders on this list, but they still deserve an honorable mention. Like Credibly, their rates are a little higher, particularly for borrowers with bad credit.

Requirements:

 

Time in business: 1 year
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $100K/yr

On the other hand, you’ll be able to find a lot of the information you’re looking for upfront, with only a little digging around SnapCap’s website. While they wouldn’t be my first choice for unsecured loans, SnapCap also offers secured financing in the form of equipment loans. This is where they’re most likely to stand out to prospective borrowers.

Kabbage

Best for: Companies that want to avoid hidden fees

As we often caution, the alternative lending industry isn’t known for its transparency. Kabbage is an interesting case study. The fee structure is a bit more complex than that of many of its competitors, which can make it challenging to compare to other products.

Requirements:

Time in business: 1 year
Credit score: N/A
Revenue: $50K/yr

Kabbage, however, takes pains to give you the tools necessary to figure out exactly what you’ll owe. Their website comes equipped with handy tools and explanations of their formulas. The big selling point here is that you won’t have to worry about Kabbage springing any surprise administrative fees; everything’s factored into the rates you see.

Final Thoughts

Alternative lending is a highly competitive market, so you should never feel like you’re locked into one particular funder. Find a lender you’re comfortable working with that offers you fair terms.

Not sure where to start looking? Check out our small business loan comparison.

The post 5 Great LoanBuilder Alternatives For Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Should You Pay For Business Expenses With A Line Of Credit Or A Credit Card?

Two worried friends having problems buying on line with credit card and a laptop sitting on a couch in the living room at home
Credit cards and lines of credit share many characteristics. You may even be wondering how they differ at all, and whether it’s better to make your business purchases with one or the other.

In fact, there are a few key differences that can help you determine when to use one or the other.

Similarities Between Lines Of Credit & Credit Cards

Credit cards are technically revolving lines of credit, though they aren’t often called that. As you pay off your balance, that credit becomes available to use again.

Beyond that, both credit cards and lines of credit accrue interest on any outstanding debt.

Differences Between Lines Of Credit & Credit Cards

The most obvious difference is that not all lines of credit are “revolving.” When a bank extends you a line of credit, it may be a one time offer. Usually, when a financial institution extends a non-revolving line of credit it’s to cover a specific expense the borrower is seeking to fund. Unlike a loan, a line of credit gives the borrower some extra flexibility to negotiate with vendors.

The differences between revolving lines of credit and credit cards are a bit more subtle. For starters, a line of credit often comes with more fees than does a credit card. You may, for example, have to pay a monthly or annual fee to keep your line of credit open. While some credit cards (particularly business credit cards) do come with annual fees, it’s not hard to find ones that don’t. Some lines of credit will also charge a fee every time you make a withdrawal.

Though it will vary from case to case, you can also generally get a higher credit limit through a line of credit than with a credit card. Both credit cards and lines of credit come in secured and unsecured forms, though with credit cards you’ll only want to go the secured route if poor credit keeps you from qualifying for a traditional card.

Since lines of credit can be secured by assets, it’s not unusual to see better interest rates there than with credit cards.

Note that it’s a lot easier to get a credit card than a line of credit, although getting an elite credit card can be challenging in its own right.

When To Use A Credit Card

The biggest difference between a line of credit and a credit card is convenience. Credit cards are designed to make retail purchases easy. Most businesses these days are equipped to swipe your card (or read your chip) at the point of sale. With some rare exceptions, it’s not easy to apply for a loan at the time of purchase.

Credit cards are also more ubiquitous in this card-driven online market. Chances are you’ve regularly used your credit card on Amazon, to pay your cell phone bill, or make a security deposit. It’s just as easy to use your credit card for common expenses. In fact, credit card companies try to encourage you to do so through reward programs. The terms of these programs vary, but essentially they all return a small percentage of the money you spend in the form of statement credit, cash, gift certificates, or other products.

Another perk you’ll see with credit cards that you won’t often get with lines of credit are introductory offers like 0% APRs. If your card is still within that introductory window and you expect you’ll be paying your bill off over the course of several months, the credit card is a clear winner.

When To Use A Line Of Credit

At this point, it may look like credit cards have a clear advantage over lines of credit. Not so fast.

One thing credit cards are really inefficient at is cash transactions. Most credit cards will only let you cash advance a fraction of your total limits. Even then you’ll usually incur very high-interest fees on that cash.

Lines of credit, on the other hand, are convenient whenever you need to produce a good chunk of cash on short notice. You won’t incur premium fees for withdrawing that money and you won’t be limited to only a fraction of your credit limit.

A line of credit’s lower interest rates may also make it preferable when we’re talking about big ticket items you can’t pay off quickly. If you’re using your credit card optimally, you shouldn’t be paying any interest on it at all; you’ll be paying it off in full each month. If you can’t do that, a line of credit may often be cheaper over the long run and have a more structured repayment scheme than a credit card.

Final Thoughts

Credit cards and lines of credit can both provide additional financial heft for your business. Knowing when to use each one could make the difference between convenience and unnecessary debt for your business.

Check out our comparison features if you need help finding a credit card or a line of credit.

The post Should You Pay For Business Expenses With A Line Of Credit Or A Credit Card? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopventory VS Square For Retail


Let’s get right into things. Today we’re looking at Shopventory vs. Square for Retail. Why? Because if you need more inventory support than the basic Square Point of Sale app offers, they are your two best bets. Square (see our review) has been a pivotal force in the mPOS space since its beginning, but lately it has also been edging into the tablet POS market with an ever-growing number of features. Shopventory is newer, but it’s carved a niche out for itself as a supplement to not just Square, but also PayPal Here, Clover, and now even Shopify.

While Square dominates the mobile space as far as features, it lags behind tablet-based systems, particularly in terms of inventory. But now there’s Square for Retail. If you need more comprehensive inventory features, you’ll get them with an upgrade to Retail.

Shopventory is a monthly service that integrates with your Square account. While Square for Retail is a full-fledged POS, Shopventory is strictly an inventory-focused add-on for Square for Point of Sale. It replaces most of the in-app inventory management with its own web browser but it does keep the inventory lists automatically synced and generates reports.

A really quick disclaimer before we get onto the comparison: We’re not looking at the full Square for Retail app here (which I’ll also refer to as just “Retail” or “the Retail app”). We’re just focusing on how its inventory management tools stack up against Shopventory’s. It’s important to consider whether the cost of either service justifies its use. Retail offers many of the same features as Shopventory, but also includes employee management. However, it could be a more costly service given that the subscription is monthly per register. Shopventory offers monthly inventory management for three locations for less than the cost of one Square for Retail register subscription.

You don’t get everything that the standard Point of Sale app offers either, such as offline mode. In fact, the Retail app is more of a pared-down version of the POS app, but with more beefed up inventory and reporting. That’s not to say Shopventory offers all the inventory tools you could ever need, either. But it certainly seems to have the upper hand in terms of capabilities and pricing.

I think for the most part that either of this will do well. Although they might not be perfect, they’re both capable. But in the end, Shopventory has more features and more competitive pricing. I would test it out before upgrading to Square for Retail.

For more information, I encourage you to check out our full Shopventory and Square for Retail reviews. Otherwise, read on for our Shopventory vs. Square for Retail comparison and see how they stack up in the great battle for inventory management!

Features & Services

Winner: Shopventory

Both of these services offer enough that they merit full reviews in their own right. Our comprehensive reviews of Square and Shopventory explore the advantages and limitations of each. For simplicity’s sake, I am going to focus on three core aspects of inventory management and see how they stack up: inventory tracking, reporting, and purchase order/vendor management.

Inventory Tracking

With both Shopventory and Square for Retail, merchants get the ability to count inventory and have each sale deducted from total stock numbers. Both offer location management as well. You’ll be working with Square’s standard item listings, which means you can include all of the following: product name, photo, SKU/barcode, item description, and item variants with the option to set different price points.

Shopventory Inventory Tools

Screenshot of Shopventory home page

Shopventory works by syncing with Square. It pushes its inventory data (item prices, bundles, etc.) into the POS app and pulls sales data from Square into its own dashboard reports and updates the inventory counts in real time. Once you get inventory set up, you manage everything inventory-related through Shopventory, NOT Square. It might take some merchants a while to get used to that, especially if they’re used to relying on the Dashboard.

Shopventory’s pricing plan, which I’ll cover in the next section, focuses on the number of locations you use, not the number of registers or products. And setting up multiple locations is actually very easy. When you log into Shopventory, the dashboard asks you to create a location and then add an integration (that is, link to your POS). It works a little bit differently for each software, but here’s what you need to know for Square.

If you have separate Square logins for each location, that’s fine and you can connect each Square account to each location. However, if you take advantage of Square’s free location management instead, Shopventory will ask you to select a location from your list of Square locations after you connect the POS. (That means you should set up your locations in Square before you setup Shopventory.) If you’re using employee management and device codes to run multiple registers, it doesn’t matter. Shopventory tracks everything at the location level.

After you’ve created your locations and linked your POS systems, Shopventory will ask you to enable two major settings: “sync items and variants” and “sync item quantities.” This will establish the connection and effectively make Shopventory your primary inventory service.

Once you’ve set up Shopventory, you’ll continue to use Square POS as usual. Just make sure that you log into Shopventory to pull inventory and sales reports. This is especially important if you’re using the Shopventory-specific inventory features like bundles. Everything is synced in real time so you can log in and check whenever.

Here’s a quick run-down of Shopventory’s features:

  • Bundles: Square doesn’t support bundling, but this feature allows you to track raw ingredients, deduct gift basket items from main inventory stock and even keep track of goods sold at wholesale versus retail. It also allows for tracking of items by partial quantities (yards of fabric or goods sold by the pound, etc.) The bundling feature even includes bundle variants. None of this is currently supported by Square for Retail.
  • Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item, so you know when it’s time to reorder something.
  • Automatic Restocks On Refunds: You’ll have to enable this feature, as it isn’t turned on by default. It also doesn’t work on partial refunds in Square.
  • Multi-User Access: Shopventory also allows you to create multiple accounts with different permissions. Enable your managers and staff to better manage store inventory while ensuring accountability.
  • Inventory Transfers Between Locations: Is one location out of a product while another has too much of it? Use the Shopventory dashboard to keep track of internal transfers of merchandise.
  • Inventory History: Shopventory keeps a log of your inventory history, including when counts go up or down. When you manually adjust stock counts you can add a note to indicate why (theft, damaged goods, etc.). We’ll get a little bit more into some related features when we talk about reporting.
  • Inventory Reconciliation Tools: If you’re a bit old-fashioned, Shopventory does offer an easy downloadable reconciliation sheet for inventory. Just the basic details that you need, not a lot of extra information, which you can download via printable PDF or spreadsheet. However, Shopventory has also introduced a barcode scanner mobile app for inventory reconciliations. Each Shopventory user can download the app and scan and update inventory counts through the app, and Shopventory will keep a record of when and who was responsible. This is actually a pretty awesome tool.
  • Barcode And Label Printing: Shopventory lets you chose from a Dymo or Brother label printer, as well as computer printing on Avery label sheets.

Square For Retail Inventory Tools

Screenshot of Square for Retail home page

Square for Retail works pretty similarly to Square Point of Sale. Everything is controlled from the Square Dashboard or the app, though the dashboard gives you the most functionality. Even though the app (or at least parts of it) will look very different from the free version, your dashboard should look pretty much the same and the data entry process will be the same.

If you have a lot of inventory (and if you’re looking at this article, you probably are), the odds are good you don’t want to create each inventory item one by one. That’s where Square’s Bulk Upload feature comes in. You can download the spreadsheet template, populate it with your inventory, and upload your item library all at once. Likewise, you can also export your library to a spreadsheet if you need that data elsewhere.

Your item descriptions are nearly identical to the standard Square offering. Even though Square for Retail doesn’t display photos in the app, you can upload them for viewing the back end. Check out Square’s how-to video for creating items manually.

Technically, Square for Retail gives you access to the Inventory Plus features, but these are really (mostly) reporting tools or PO/Vendor management. So some of these features are actually just Square’s inventory features.

  • Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item so you know when it’s time to re-order something. (This is a standard Square feature.)
  • Employee Management: Square includes employee management at no additional charge with a Square for Retail subscription. So if you have a lot of employees this could end up being a good deal for you. You can set different user permissions, track time, and more.
  • Inventory Transfers Between Locations: Square initially required you to manually add or subtract inventory at different locations to record transfers, but that’s no longer the case with the Retail app. Now you can record merchandise transfers in the app.
  • Inventory History: Another feature that wasn’t present at Square for Retail’s launch, inventory history will show you all your sales, transfers, received shipments, etc. to show why your inventory count is what it is.
  • Barcode And Label Printing: Like Shopventory, you can choose to use one of two select label printers (A Dymo or a Zebra) or print from a computer onto standard Avery labels.
  • Vendor Library: All items associated with a particular vendor (as well as their prices) are stored in each vendor’s data file.

Note the lack of bundling features here and all that this entails: no bundles, no raw ingredient tracking, no partial ingredient tracking. This is one of the biggest limitations to Square’s inventory.

However, Square also doesn’t offer any sort of inventory reconciliation. You could download your inventory for export and modify the spreadsheet, but it’ll take a bit of work on your end to make that happen.

But that’s just for inventory management. We’ve still got to talk about reporting and purchase orders/vendor management.

Reporting Tools

First of all, Square’s reporting tools, overall, are pretty robust. (Check out the list of reports.) Shopventory’s reports exist mostly as an extension of Square’s, not a replacement for them. This makes sense given that Shopventory is an extension of Square, not a standalone app. In addition to some identical reports, Shopventory offers several reports that Square doesn’t — and a couple that Square for Retail doesn’t, either.

Square’s inventory reports are somewhat lacking. Specifically, something that merchants have been clamoring for is cost of goods sold (COGS) reporting. Square for Retail finally offers this feature, but thus far it hasn’t impressed. Editing the item costs isn’t easy to begin with, and the information isn’t available at key points in the Retail app experience. And all of that’s left merchants understandably upset. However, you can also keep a record of additional costs associated with a purchase (such as shipping or handling fees) that are added to your COGS tracking. That’s helpful.

In addition to COGS reporting, Square for Retail introduces a profitability report and an inventory by category report that lists the value of the items, projected profit, and profit margins in each category. This last report is more a combination of several other reports, but it’s nice to see.

On the other hand, Shopventory’s COGS reporting is a bit more advanced. Accessing pricing information seems a bit easier than with Square for Retail. Shopventory also tracks lot costs in addition to default costs. For advanced users, Shopventory has a cost averaging feature.  You can even back-fill lot costs using the default cost feature.

But apart from cost and profitability reporting, there’s another feature I like that Shopventory offers: a dead inventory report. You can print off a list of every item that hasn’t sold recently, and specify just how “recently” you want — whether it’s a week, a month, six months, etc. This is pretty handy because “slow” for one business isn’t slow for another.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Shopventory outclasses Square for Retail in terms of reporting — it offers everything that Retail does, plus more. I’ve found that Shopventory and Square dashboards are both fairly intuitive and easy to use, so they’re evenly matched in that regard.

Purchase Order & Vendor Management

Since the upgrades to inventory and reporting tools are relatively small in Square for Retail, it’s nice to see that the additions in this category are actually pretty big game-changers. With the Retail app, it’s now possible to create purchase orders from within the Square dashboard and send them via email. You can also receive inventory from within the Square for Retail app.

If I’m being honest, Square for Retail and Shopventory are well matched in this category. There are a few differences — for one, with Shopventory you can only receive inventory through the web dashboard, not the app. But I think that, overall, their feature sets are pretty similar.

Square PO & Vendor Management

While you’ll need to use the Square dashboard to create purchase orders, you can receive stock from a PO directly in the Square for Retail app, which is nice. With Shopventory, everything has to be done from the dashboard, which is a major trade-off. However, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

A few other features from Square that I like: You can create a new vendor listing from within a purchase order, whereas with Shopventory you must have all of your vendors already entered. You can also edit and cancel purchase orders as needed, and Square keeps an archived file.

I mentioned previously that Square does have an item library associated with a vendor, but I don’t think it’s the most effective display. When you add an item to the PO it is added to the vendor’s item library, but you can’t browse the item library while creating a PO. Instead, you need to search for the items you want in a drop-down menu. I know that some merchants have been frustrated that Square can’t auto-populate a PO using low inventory items. Others are also frustrated that they can’t see how many of an item are in stock. Instead, these merchants wind up flipping between tabs or screens to formulate a list of what is needed.

Shopventory PO & Vendor Management

Shopventory has a handle of the same shortcomings that Square for Retail does in this regard. Namely, you can’t auto-populate a PO based on low inventory, and you can’t view stock levels in the PO.  However, you can clearly browse every item associated with a vendor and select which ones you want to add to it. This kind of display seems kind of obvious, and it should be, but it’s not.

This might be the one area where I think Square has a modest upper hand. For one, Shopventory lacks the ability to edit POs or archive them to clear them out of your way while preserving the information. (The company says it’s working on this last bit.) But you can save as a draft, just like you can in Square. So if you’re not sure or you’re not ready, you don’t have to send the purchase order out into the world. With Shopventory, you also need to create your entries for vendors before you start the PO.

Pricing

Winner: Shopventory

Square for Retail’s pricing is very simple: $60/month per register. No tiered packages, no add-ons, no extra fees for priority phone support.

Square for Retail Pricing

That’s fairly competitive for an iPad-based POS system. But as we noted in our full review, Square for Retail actually removes several of the features available in the standard (and free) Point of Sale app. It’ll be up to you to decide whether the new interface and new inventory tools justify the cost.

Thinking more broadly, you’ll also need as many iPads as you have registers ($350+) and likely a Square Stand with a reader ($169) as well as any cash drawers, printers, and bar scanners you want for each device.

However, there is one caveat: Square for Retail provides employee management for an unlimited number of employees. With the standard Square plan, that cost is $5 per employee per month. So if you have 12 employees and one register, you actually break even on costs.

Shopventory’s pricing plan is focused not on the number of devices or the number of users, or even the number of transactions. Pricing is based just on the number of locations. There’s a limited free plan that provides analytics, but the paid plans start at a very reasonable $30/month.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Starter ($29/month): 1 location, 1 year order history, 1 year reporting
  • Standard ($59/month): 3 locations, 2 years order history, 2 years reporting
  • Professional ($199/month): 10 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting
  • Elite ($499/month): 25 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting

If you want access to purchase orders, vendor management, and the bundling features, you’ll need to get the standard plan. The starter doesn’t support these capabilities at all. In addition, the higher-tier plans throw in a few other perks (free QuickBooks syncing, otherwise $30/month; access to beta features, phone support).

Keep in mind that you still need hardware and devices to run the Square app — and an iPad is the most full-featured option. But you could use Android tablets or smartphones too. You have a lot more options and no charge for using multiple devices at the same location. So at three locations, ignoring costs of hardware, you’re already saving $120 with Shopventory. (That’s the cost of 24 employee management subscriptions, by the way.)

You can also save a bit of money if you opt to pay for Shopventory on an annual plan instead of a monthly one, which is nice. I think designing an inventory system whose pricing focuses on locations is the smart option.

While I think Shopventory’s pricing is definitely better, I can’t say definitely that it’s the better value overall. For one, Square for Retail is optimized for businesses with very large inventories. And if you’re dealing with hundreds and hundreds of items you might prefer the search-and-scan based user interface that the app offers. But if you have a small inventory, or you’re not a retail business, and still want all the management tools? If you don’t care about the UI but want some of the Square POS features like offline mode or open tickets? It’s pretty obvious that Shopventory is the better solution. What’s right for you will depend on your priorities and your budget, so check out our complete reviews of both services before you commit to anything.

Web Hosted Or Locally Installed

Winner: Tie

Both of these solutions are web-hosted, which is awesome. Yay for the cloud! Don’t forget that you’ll also get some in-app reporting capabilities if you don’t want to log into a web browser, but they aren’t inventory driven, and they’re far more limited than using the web dashboard.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

Apart from a small team on the Square Seller Community (a forum for online merchants), Square for Retail doesn’t have any exclusive support channels that are separate from regular Square support. So you should expect business as usual in this regard.

Square’s been plagued by complaints of shoddy customer service pretty much since the beginning. But honestly, I think most of those complaints are rooted in Square’s tendency to freeze or terminate accounts. For most technical (not account-related) issues, Square does seem to offer more reliable support. There’s email and live phone support, as well as a very comprehensive self-service knowledgebase. And the Seller Community is honestly a great resource as well.

But I find that the amount of information and how-to’s concerning Retail specifically to be troubling. There’s not a lot. Square has tons of videos but they seem to gloss over showing how to use the Retail app. If you want to know about specific features before you sign up, you should get on the Seller forum and ask. Otherwise, the only way to find out is to test-drive Square yourself.

Not only that, but it certainly seems like the process of obtaining a code to access phone support requires more effort than some merchants are willing to put forth. I get it. I loathe automated menus that make you jump through hoops to get to a real person as much as anyone else. And I’ve heard a smattering of complaints about email support. I think Square’s support is mostly good, but occasionally something does go wrong.

If you one of the merchants who’s felt frustrated at Square’s support, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the quality if Shopventory’s. Phone support is only available for higher-tiered plans, but the chat option is great and the knowledgebase is extremely helpful as well. (I know. I’ve tested both.) The chat option isn’t quite live chat because it might take a few to get someone to answer your question, but once you get one of the reps to respond, it is a live conversation. I shouldn’t have to say this about any customer support, but sadly I do: I like that you get to talk to a helpful person who isn’t going to shoehorn you into a script.

Shopventory isn’t quite large enough to have the kind of active forum that Square has for support, but the knowledgebase is easily as detailed as Square’s. I find the video tour is super useful as an orientation to Shopventory, despite how much I absolutely hate watching video tutorials longer than about one minute.

It’s worth noting that you’ll still have to deal with Square for payment- and account-related issues if you use Shopventory. But for inventory-related issues, you can deal with Shopventory instead.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Shopventory

At this point, merchants’ biggest point of contention with Retail is that in some ways is a step back from the standard Point of Sale app. A few features are lacking in the Retail app. Plus, I’ve seen complaints that features Square promised at launch (or at least showed in screenshots) haven’t actually appeared yet.

Some of the complaints about Square for Retail we’ve seen include:

  • Problems With Cost Of Goods Recording And Reporting: This is a big one and it manifests in a lot of ways. Currently, the only way to update costs is to upload a spreadsheet. The app itself doesn’t allow you to manually edit individual item costs, and Square’s current reports don’t list item costs on everything. Merchants who were expecting to finally get COGS reporting haven’t been thrilled, though Square does say it’s on their list of improvement to make, so we may see some enhancements.
  • Lack Of Features: Specifically, with Retail, you lose access to Square’s offline mode and the open tickets capability. You can upload images as part of the item listing, but they don’t display in the app. Merchants have complained about their removal. I haven’t been super thrilled about how Retail feels like a step back from the Point of Sale application in terms of interface and features, either. And one big missing feature that I’ve seen a lot of chatter about is the ability to auto-populate purchase orders based on low inventory (or even the ability to see the inventory count in the same window as the PO).

There’s a lot less user chatter about Shopventory overall (which makes sense with a smaller customer base). I think users who integrate with PayPal or Clover will probably be more dissatisfied than Square users, honestly. I think some merchants will dislike the same sort of shortcomings you find in Square for Retail: missing features like the ability to view inventory levels while creating a purchase order, or the ability to edit purchase orders. Overall, the comments I see from merchants are positive.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Square gets a lot of love overall for its payment processing. Signup is quick and easy, rates are fair and affordable, and the hardware is good and fairly priced. But the Retail app seems to be less popular overall. In theory, it fills a niche that businesses with a high quantity of inventory have been needing. I know a lot of merchants were excited at the prospect when it launched, but I haven’t seen as much talk about it since then.

I don’t see a whole lot of chatter around the web about Shopventory. The website has a couple testimonials and I’ve seen the Square Seller Community talk about it, too. The discussions I’ve seen a focus on the good customer service and its fair pricing.

I’m calling it a draw here. Both options are good ones and serve their purpose, but there isn’t enough of a discussion to say which one has more positive coverage.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopventory

I can’t say definitely that Shopventory trounces Square for Retail in every regard. One is an inventory management add-on, the other is a full-fledged POS with inventory management. So I can draw apples-to-apples comparisons about some things and say that yes, Shopventory has more and better quality inventory features. Its pricing is way more competitive if your only concern is inventory tracking. It will work great as an add-on to Square Point of Sale.

But Square for Retail has a search-optimized UI and free employee management tools that might be deciding factors for some merchants. So you could potentially get a better value with Square for Retail if you have a lot of employees and want easy time tracking along with the ability to manage large inventories.

The good news is we’re looking at two companies that are both committed to adding new features all the time. So in six months or a year, we could be looking at two majorly improved products. We’ll have to see how they stack up then.

Check out our complete reviews for Shopventory and Square for Retail to get a closer look at each. Also, both Square for Retail and Shopventory offer free 30-day trials, so you can test drive both of them (preferably not at the same time) and see which one works better. Thanks for reading and good luck with your search!

The post Shopventory VS Square For Retail appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses

small-business-credit-card-processing-app

Say you have a small retail business. You don’t have a lot of money to invest in a super-complicated POS, and you don’t want to deal with a multi-year processing contract. Frankly, the idea of trying to narrow down the options in both categories at the same time is a little bit daunting. But enter another option: an app for a tablet (or even a smartphone) that bundles payment processing and POS software all in one go, with no contract or commitment. A single app with all (or at least most) of the features a brick-and-mortar storefront could want. But what are the best credit card processing apps for small retail businesses?

Cost is definitely part of the consideration, but more than that you need to make sure any software you use actually delivers the features you need to run your business. Most processing apps tend not to be as full-featured as a full POS, but they are capable of delivering on core needs. After we go over which features should be a priority, we’ll get into the most promising apps that let you process credit cards and run your business together.

Credit Card Processing Apps For Small Retailers

In addition to choosing apps based on the most useful features, we had two other criteria in choosing the apps: first, they had to be mobile apps for tablets (and preferably smartphones). Second, they must offer a bundled payment solutions. A couple of the options on the list allow you to bring your own processor if you want, but they do offer their own payment option as a default.

In no particular ranking, here are my favorite picks for retail-focused credit card processing apps:

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare does have a specialty POS app for retailers, called Square for Retail. That one doesn’t actually make the cut because it’s designed for larger businesses and it actually lacks many features found in the basic free app, Square Point of Sale.

Point of Sale has definitely come a long way from just a basic mobile POS app, and it’s absolutely a solution that will grow with your business. Its clear, transparent pricing strategy (2.75% for swiped/dipped/tapped transactions) and robust app make it an attractive option for retailers. But then there’s the assortment of add-on services (email marketing, appointment scheduling, loyalty, payroll and more) that all integrate seamlessly. Combined with the huge assortment of supported phones and tablets, and the wide mix of supported hardware, and it’s hard not to see the appeal.

While Square does offer payroll and employee management, these features will cost you more — $5 per employee per month for each.

Something I do want to point out: Square does have many iPad-only features, but much of its hardware is equally compatible with Android devices as it is iPads, which is a major departure from most apps that favor the Apple ecosystem.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal is an obvious choice for a lot of retailers, especially those who sell online as well as in person. If you’re not interested in eCommerce, PayPal is still a good option because it does integrate with some very well known POS systems. PayPal also has its own credit card processing app, PayPal Here.

While PayPal Here is not quite as robust as the other options on this list (especially regarding inventory), it’s a very stable app with great pricing (2.7% per swipe/dip/tap) and a wide array of supported devices and compatible hardware. It’s the only app on this list to support Windows devices at all, and the phones on your tablet or phone doubles as a barcode scanner for both Android and iOS. Plus, you get up to 1,000 free employee accounts.

Plus, near-instant access to funds through your PayPal account is a pretty awesome deal, especially if you get the PayPal Debit card. Add in free sub-user accounts with restricted permissions (something Square will charge you monthly for), and you can see why PayPal makes the cut.

Shopify

Shopify started as an eCommerce offering but these days it’s added a powerful POS app that also works on smartphones as well as tablets. Everything syncs up nicely for a seamless experience whether you’re selling online, in a store, or even on the go, and while the smartphone version of the app is more limited, it’s still quite functional. Shopify’s features definitely line up more with a full-fledged POS than just a mobile POS.

Unsurprisingly, that means it’s a bit more expensive than the two previous options on this list. Shopify’s plans start at a very reasonable $29/month for its online store. If you want the countertop retail solution, that’s a $49 add-on per month, but you don’t need to purchase additional licenses to add more devices, which definitely ups the value.

You can also create staff PINs without creating staff accounts — which means if only a few of you need admin privileges but you do have a large staff and want to track who is running the register, you can get PINs without paying for additional accounts.

However, I do want to call attention to an underplayed solution Shopify offers: its Lite plan. For $9/month, you can sell on Facebook and other social media platforms, add a buy button to your blog, and use the POS app. The caveat is that you can’t add the retail package to it — which means while you have the app, you don’t have support for the receipt printer or cash drawer.

ShopKeep

Like Shopify, ShopKeep is more of a full-fledged POS than a mobile unit. But unlike Shopify, it’s not an eCommerce solution. It’s an iPad POS targeting all kinds of small businesses: retailers, yes, but also restaurants and quick-service environments. ShopKeep specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses, whereas many of these solutions are happy to tout that they work for businesses of all sizes.

ShopKeep’s user interface is highly intuitive, but also feature-rich, which is a major contributor to its popularity. In addition to its advanced inventory tracking tools, you get employee time-keeping, customizable reporting, and more. It also has a record for excellent (unlimited) customer support via email or live chat.

Sadly, there’s no smartphone app support for processing, but ShopKeep does offer integrated payments. Merchants get an interchange-plus plan based on their volume, which is pretty awesome considering there’s no contract involved, either. Everything is on a month-to-month basis. There’s also an additional $69 monthly charge per register.

Honorable Mention: SumUp

While SumUp has a few limitations — it lacks, for example, the ability to process simultaneously on multiple devices — it is overall a solid credit card processing app. The app supports a solid item library and variants, plus convenient tax settings. While there’s no offline mode and no invoicing, SumUp does have an interesting feature in its SMS payments. The app allows you to send a text message to a phone, with a link embedded. Customers can open the link, enter their payment information and complete the transaction.

Pricing is identical to Square for retail transactions: 2.75%. There is no keyed entry option within the app, but the low-priced virtual terminal (at 2.9% + $0.15, even below Square’s rate) is a workaround, though not one you should use for the bulk of your processing.

While new to the US market, SumUp has been operating in Europe for a few years, so it definitely has experience in the processing industry, and so I expect it to see fewer growing pains than other new solutions.

Must-Have App Features for Retailers

It’s safe to say what app features a business needs tends to vary from one business to the next. But there are definitely commonalities — solid inventory management or the ability to print receipts, for example. Check out our comprehensive comparison chart below to see how these systems compare to one another. 

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Shopkeep SumUp
BASICS
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes (other options available) Yes
Processing Rates (for Most Swiped/Dipped Transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $69 per register $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month) 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple Apple, Android
Smartphone support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android N/A Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Email Only Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN Bluetooth, Ethernet Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
Barcode Scanner Yes (Bluetooth for iPad only; USB for Android) Yes (USB for windows, device camera for iOS/Android) Yes (Bluetooth) Yes (Bluetooth) No
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes (Check store credit) Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
INVENTORY
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Counts Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Create Item From App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

It’s worth mentioning that many of these systems have FAR more features that we don’t cover in this chart (think: virtual terminals, eCommerce support, supported integrations, etc.). If you really want to learn what a system is fully capable of, I recommend checking out our complete review of each credit card processing app.

Processing with Square or PayPal Here? Up Your Inventory Game with Shopventory

With retail environments, inventory is usually a major concern. Shopventory is a monthly add-on that works with Square, PayPal Here, and the Clover system (except Clover Go). It allows for inventory tracking and reporting, bundling, variants, and more. The biggest difference will be that you’ll no longer be using your credit card processing app for inventory reports or management. Everything will be done through Shopventory’s dashboard. Check out our Shopventory review for more information.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to software and processing, there isn’t a good one-size-fits-all solution for merchants. Every business’s needs are unique, so what works best for one business may not be good for another. Many of the credit card apps we’ve listed here have no monthly fees, and others offer free trials or a free pricing quote. They are all top-rated offerings, as well. The biggest difference you’ll find is the feature sets and little differences in the user interfaces.

If you’re on the fence about which to choose, I recommend checking out our full reviews of each product. Got questions? We’re always here to help, so please leave us a comment!

As always, thanks for reading!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Quick-Serve Restaurants

It’s time to upgrade the POS for your coffee shop, but you haven’t got a clue what to look for. Maybe you’re not sure you need a full-fledged POS, or you’re worried about the cost — or you don’t want to be locked into a multi-year credit card processing contract. Where do you even start looking for the right solution?

As far as technology needs go, quick-serve businesses like bakeries, cafes, and ice cream parlors straddle the line between retail shop and restaurant. What POS features work for a retail business won’t quite cut it, but there’s no need for many of the features found in a full-service restaurant POS. Credit card processing apps combine the convenience of a POS and a merchant account into one single solution, with the convenience of a flexible (even mobile) setup.

We looked over the options for quick-serve businesses and put together a list of the best options. But first, a few criteria!

Choosing the Best Apps for Quick-Serve Businesses

A lot goes into choosing a credit card processing app — the cost, of course, as well as features. Our primary criteria, the non-negotiable elements, were that the app was a true app, something available on a tablet (and ideally a smartphone), and that it had a built-in payment processing option offered by default. A couple apps on this list do allow you the choice of integrating your own processor, though you should make sure the rates are competitive if the app charges any additional fees.

Additionally, we narrowed down the options based on whether the apps offered features essential for quick-serve businesses like cafes and ice cream parlors to function. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are some core themes to look out for. Check out feature comparison chart below for more information, or read on for our top picks for credit card processing apps!

Toast POS

toast pos reviewToast is an award-winning POS targeting all sorts of restaurants, including quick-serve businesses. It runs exclusively on Android tablets, with an intuitive user interface. It’s definitely feature-rich, with several add-on programs you can opt for (inventory, loyalty, online ordering), making Toast even more functional.

Toast only allows you to use its processing services, and your rates will vary. Plans start at $79/month and allow you up to 2 registers; with higher-tier plans (starting at $99/month), you get unlimited registers. It’s also worth noting that Toast, like Square and PayPal, requires you to use its processing services, and your rates will vary.

Breadcrumb POS

Whereas Toast is entirely Android-based, Breadcrumb POS is an iPad-exclusive system that works as part of Upserve’s larger restaurant management ecosystem. Feature-rich and designed to accommodate many types of businesses, Breadcrumb even integrates with GrubHub for online ordering and delivery.

Breadcrumb’s payment processing arm offers interchange-plus plans for merchants: you’ll pay interchange rates plus a $0.15 fee per each transaction. For very small-value tickets, this could wind up being more expensive than a percentage-based transaction, which is worth taking note of. However, an interchange-plus plan on a month-to-month contract is a good deal.

Breadcrumb’s monthly service fee might make to think twice compared to some of the other options on this list, but the value of the features you get is absolutely worth considering. The Core plan will start you at $99/month, with the mid-tier plan starting at $249.

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare‘s free mPOS app, Point of Sale, remains hugely popular with all kinds of businesses. But with its inventory management and reporting, as well as custom tipping features, it has the core features most bakeries, cafes, and other quick-serve businesses need to thrive — plus multiple add-ons (such as loyalty and payroll) to make management even easier. The eCommerce integration even allows people to place orders online and pick them up in person, and there’s a delivery system through Caviar.

Without a doubt, one of Square’s biggest draws is its clear, transparent pricing. A solid 2.75% per swipe is very reasonable and the lack of a per-transaction fee keeps the costs down for businesses with low ticket values. There are no mandatory monthly fees, either — you pay only for the transactions you process, and any add-on services you opt into.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal’s mPOS solution, PayPal Here, isn’t quite as robust as the full-fledged POS systems that PayPal also integrates with. But it’s a highly mobile app available on multiple platforms, including Windows devices. The app doesn’t have a glut of features the way Square does, but it has all the essentials, from tipping to discounts.

Like Square, one of the big draws — especially if you have a small average ticket size — is its pricing: 2.7% per swipe, with no monthly fees. PayPal’s easy integration with all sorts of eCommerce services and instant access to funds also tend to be big draws for merchants.

ShopKeep

Rather than build a solution that appeals to businesses of all sizes, ShopKeep opted to tailor its POS software to small and medium-sized businesses, a decision that continues to define its capabilities. However, the company does cater to small and medium businesses in a variety of industries, including quick-serve businesses.

Feature rich and highly intuitive, ShopKeep even offers advanced inventory and timekeeping at no extra charge, which definitely adds to the value.

ShopKeep’s payment processing arm offers interchange-plus plans based on your monthly volume, which means possible per-transaction fees. ShopKeep charges $69/month per register, but has no contracts or other monthly fees, all of which are a great deal for merchants.

Must-Have Features for Quick-Serve Businesses

Apart from being a tablet app with integrated processing, I looked at some other features in creating my list. Menu creation is important — and while variants are great, the presence of categories and add-ons was more important. Tipping, kitchen receipt printing, and location management also merited consideration. Check out the table below for detailed information.

Toast Breadcrumb reviewBreadcrumb Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopkeep
BASIC TECH
Integrated Processing Yes Yes (other options available) Yes Yes Yes (other options available)
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) varies interchange + $0.15 2.75% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume
Monthly Fee $79 and up $99 and up $0 $0 $69 per register
Number of Devices 1-2 for base plan, unlimited for higher plans 1 ($50/additional) Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month)
Tablet Support Android Apple Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple
Smartphone support N/A N/A Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows N/A
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email Only Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only
Receipt Printer Connectivity LAN Wi-Fi, Ethernet Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, Ethernet
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity)
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Offline Processing Mode Yes Yes Yes No No
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (free) Yes (free) Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (free)
Tips by $ or % No (By % only) No (By % only) Yes Yes Yes
Add Tip after Signing Yes Yes Yes (iPad only) No Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Kitchen Ticket Printing Yes Yes Yes (iPad only) No Yes
Multi-location management Yes Yes Yes No Yes
MENU
Bulk Item/Menu Upload No Yes Yes No Yes
Item Counts With Inventory add-on Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-Ons/Modifiers Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo No No Yes Yes No
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Grouping/Sub-categories Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

You can also browse our restaurant POS software and mobile payments categories for more solutions!

Final Thoughts

There’s never one right answer to the question “which software is right for me?” The best we can do is say “This is a good choice for lots of businesses” and explain the caveats. As far as credit card processing apps for quick-serve businesses, you need to have a firm number in mind for how much you’re willing to pay, and know which features or abilities the app must have, and go from. Our top picks — Toast, Breadcrumb, Square, PayPal Here, and ShopKeep are all targeted at the industry and so they do have some similarities and core capabilities. But you’ll also find major differences in costs and some features (inventory being a noteworthy one). So know what you need and make sure the system you choose fulfills those basic requirements.

As always, thanks for reading! If you’ve got questions, we’d love to help you out. Check our comment guidelines and leave us a comment!

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