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Free All in One POS Systems Aren't All They're Cracked Up to Be

Chris Allen

When free all in one POS systems started gaining momentum in the marketplace a few years ago, they seemed like the long awaited liberators of small businesses who felt they were being held hostage by expensive POS systems and high rate payment processing providers. Free is a powerful word. But like most things, “free” is rarely actually free.

If you’re considering trying out a free all in one POS system, here are a few things to look into before taking the plunge.

Payment Processing

When a high demand product or service is offered free, you can be sure the company will get their money from you somehow. The “somehow” in free POS systems often comes from the payment processing component. You may get a POS system upfront, but you’ll likely pay for it over time in high-rate, high-fee payment processing. Sometimes high rates and fees are disguised as flat rates and fees. At a glance, paying the same rate and fee for every transaction can seem attractive, but depending on your business type it can actually result in paying more over time. Pricing structures can be complex because they have so many variables. For example, a quick serve restaurant that has a high volume of low price tickets will likely benefit from a different rate structure than a high end retail business. Getting the right rate for your business is generally a better approach than going after a flat rate deal. If you aren’t able to choose your own payment processor to work with your free POS system, you can be relatively sure that the company is getting their money via the fees associated with credit card processing.

Support fees and hidden costs

A common pitfall of free POS gimmicks is the large amount of add on fees that pop up in the contract. Often, merchants are made to pay a flat fee for any type of customer or technical support, in addition to high fees if the provider has to visit the business in person for support. The contract may also add on fees for things that should be included like fees for using certain features or undisclosed hardware add-ons like barcode scanners and printers.

Lease vs. purchase

Another trap to watch out for is a lease agreement disguised as a free POS system. Leasing POS hardware can be a great option for certain merchants. But you should know exactly what you’re getting into. If you’re paying a monthly fee to lease hardware that will exceed the purchase price of a complete system over time, it may not be the best deal for you. Many reputable POS providers offer lease to own options and other funding resources that can be beneficial to cash strapped merchants in need of POS solutions.

The bottom line is that you must compare every aspect of a POS system’s features, fees, service contracts and compatibility with other services like payment processing in order to determine the true value of “free” all in one POS systems.

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