age barros zZK00jOlD7Q unsplash

What Are the Types of Cash Registers?

Austin Chegini
10 Mar. 2021

The cash register is over 140 years old, but businesses across the world still rely on this invention. Although the original models are long gone, new models still operate by the same basic functions.

However, in addition to adding up items and printing receipts, modern cash registers do everything from managing inventory to integrating with websites and applications. 

Mechanical cash register

The cash register was invented in 1879 in Dayton, Ohio. Before this time, business owners would keep money in a drawer, which is not a secure place to store cash. 

Relying solely on gears and other mechanics, the traditional cash register was essentially a large calculator. A user would add numbers, and the register would display the total price and open the cash drawer. The inventors also added a bell that would ring each time the drawer opened to prevent theft. 

By the early 1900s, innovators added receipt paper and electric motors.  

Electronic cash register

Operating very similarly to the old-time mechanical models, electronic cash registers (ECR) are simple computation machines and receipt printers. These devices became popular in the 1960s and 1970s because they could quickly ring up large purchases. 

Likewise, the advent of credit and debit cards increased demand for payment processing machines. ECRs were a must-have for any business that wanted to take plastic payments. 

While many stores have pivoted away from these devices, you will still see ECRs in some retailers. They perform essential functions and are quite easy to operate, making them perfect for small businesses. Users can quickly find product pricing, add up totals, determine change due, and print receipts with these devices.

Most modern ECRs consist of a keypad, display, cash drawer, and barcode reader. Most businesses will also connect their register with a card payment keypad. ECRs are often plugged into a wall outlet, but some portable models run on battery power. 

The Modern Point of Sale

The demand for more functions and flexibility spurred the creation of the point of sale (POS) system. These devices can be considered modern-day cash registers, but they offer many more features besides payment processing.

A modern POS is often the hub for all business operations. The device will handle nearly all facets of your store or restaurant, automating tasks and freeing up hours of time. These abilities are what separate POS systems from basic cash registers. 

With the latest POS software, these systems can:

  • Manage inventory: All stock is tracked through the POS, and inventory is automatically updated after each transaction.
  • Analyze data: See sales figures, returns, shopping trends, and more from your back office. 
  • Monitor employee performance: Track sales goals, average tip amount, and more to evaluate workers.
  • Calculate wages: Employees clock in and out via the POS, giving you precise payroll data.
  • Auto-order supplies: Set recurring orders so you never run low on supplies.
  • Operate a website: Integrate your POS with your e-commerce or hospitality restaurant to simplify operations.

Additionally, most POS systems connect to the internet and store data on the cloud. With cloud-based devices, you can keep track of multiple stores and access individual cash registers from any device, anywhere. 

Countertop POS

Desktop POS systems resemble ECRs in appearance, but they pack a much larger toolkit. A standard countertop system will include a digital display, cash drawer, barcode scanner, and receipt printer. Often, the display will be a touchscreen or computer monitor with a mouse. 

A countertop system is a suitable choice for large retail stores, busy restaurants, bars, and other businesses that see high transaction volume. Since these registers are often large and connect with peripheral devices, they are not that portable. 

Tablet POS

If you want the functionality of a countertop POS but with added mobility, consider a tablet register. These tills are smaller but still connect with any peripheral devices like printers and credit card terminals. 

Tablet POS systems have a small profile, perfect for businesses that want to maintain a minimalist aesthetic. They are also quite portable, and you can easily use them in a food truck or pop-up shop.

Mobile POS

Handheld devices are quite unique in that there is no standard suite of capabilities. Simple systems are perfect for collecting payments on the go. All you need is a phone and a card reader to get started. However, these devices do not integrate with your existing POS system, meaning you will need to manually import records during bookkeeping. 

If you want advanced features, many mobile POS systems come as part of a larger network of devices. For example, the Epos Now Pro+  connects with our tablet and countertop POS systems. It gives many of the features from our standalone systems and automatically syncs data with other devices.

These mobile POS systems are perfect for taking inventory, processing orders on the go, and searching for stock. However, they obviously cannot be used to take cash and coin payments like standard registers. 

Which type of cash register should you choose?

While all businesses have unique challenges, very few will likely want an electronic cash register. These devices are outdated and simply lack the features needed to be competitive in the modern marketplace. 

If you have a hospitality or retail business with a dedicated checkout area, a countertop POS will likely be the best choice. These solutions give you all the functionality you need and are robust enough to last for years. Epos Now systems even feature a water-resistant screen that is perfect for bars and nightclubs that see a few spills every now and then. 

These systems often come at the highest price because of all the equipment. Unless you have an existing point of sale system that can run new software, you will need to buy the proper hardware. 

If you run a mobile business or occasionally re-arrange your floorplan, consider choosing a tablet POS system. Since they have the same functionality as desktop versions, you won’t lose all that much. However, you will need to ensure you have a stable Wi-Fi connection to get the best experience. 

Most modern tablets can run the POS program, reducing your total cost. You will only need to pay for the software and accessories to get started.

Lastly, if you simply need to collect payments and don’t need any fancy features, a handheld POS might work. Let’s say you sell coffee at farmers’ markets every weekend. You only need a card reader and app to track sales, process payments, and send e-receipts. 

However, you can also benefit from an advanced mobile POS if you run a restaurant or store. Servers can take orders tableside and send them directly to the kitchen. Likewise, associates can help customers find products and answer questions with a handheld device. 

Get the right point of sale with Epos Now

No matter how large or small of a business you run, Epos Now has a solution for you. If you need a cash register, speak with our consultants to learn what POS is the best fit for you.

Schedule your consultation today!