What is POS Hardware? Complete Retail Guide (2024)

what is pos hardware?

If you’re opening a shop, there’s a lot you need to do before you can welcome customers: choose the perfect location, source or create inventory, hire employees, set up your point-of-sale (POS) system, and more. 

We’re making that last part a little easier by rounding up all of the POS hardware you’ll need to run your brick-and-mortar business. 

What is POS hardware?

POS hardware refers to the physical devices and systems used to complete transactions at the point of sale. It’s most commonly used in the retail and hospitality industries. POS hardware can include cash registers, bar code scanners, receipt printers, credit card readers, and touchscreen devices.

What POS hardware do retail stores need?

While you may not need every piece of POS hardware on this list to start selling in person, these nine tools and accessories represent the POS hardware most brands purchase to run a brick-and-mortar store. 

1. POS Terminal

Not that long ago, POS systems ran on bulky computers. Today, you can install POS software onto tablets and smartphones for sleek, mobile POS systems. Each one has its own benefits.

💡 PRO TIP: Paying per register is usually more expensive than paying per location—even for merchants with multiple store locations. Do your due diligence when researching POS system costs to ensure you’re getting the most value for your money.


A tablet, such as an iPad, is a mobile mini-computer with a touchscreen. Unlike a laptop, it usually has a flat surface and an on-screen keyboard.

You can install POS software on tablets and use them to look up products and customer profiles, process transactions, keep track of inventory, and much more. A tablet is useful in a retail setting because it’s a sleek, flexible alternative to clunky, stationary POS hardware of the past.

You also have a larger screen, which makes looking up products, reviewing reports, and managing inventory easier. 


A smartphone, such as an iPhone, is a mobile internet-enabled device that’s used to do things like make calls and run apps. 

Smartphones have many uses in a retail setting. You can download POS software onto a smartphone and use it as a POS terminal to ring up customers and look up products. With Shopify POS, you can even use your smartphone’s camera as a bar code scanner—whether you’re scanning products at checkout or doing an inventory count

Because it’s smaller than a tablet, a smartphone is a good option for selling at events and pop-up shops, where you want the flexibility to accept debit, credit, and mobile wallet payments with minimal hardware.

2. Tablet stand

While tablets are great for their portability, sometimes you just want to keep them in one place. A tablet stand keeps tablets in place at the checkout counter for easier access and use. Some tablet stands swivel to face customers so they can review purchases and sign for transactions—in fact, some states require merchants by law to have modern POS systems with a customer-facing display (CFD)

3. Bar code scanner

A bar code scanner is a portable handheld device with a laser that scans a product’s bar codes. This device is used to ring up customers, receive purchase orders, and conduct inventory counts. A bar code scanner is a faster alternative to manually searching for products in your POS system and adding them to a customer’s cart.


4. Card reader 

Card readers are payment terminals that process card transactions. Some card readers also have near-field communication (NFC) technology, which lets you accept contactless payments from smartphone wallets. This is known as tap to pay. When shopping for a card reader, look for one that processes card and contactless payments

Paired with a cash drawer, card readers let you accept all popular payment methods and make more sales. 

Accept payments from anywhere with Shopify POS

Shopify POS gives you the flexibility to accept any payment type in your store or on the go using just your iPhone or a card reader. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or have a permanent store location, Shopify POS has what you need to take payments and make sales wherever your customers are.

5. Cash drawer

A cash drawer stores physical payments. When a cash transaction takes place, the cash drawer opens up so associates can accept cash and give back change. 

A cash drawer has bins that separate bills and coins by value, which makes depositing cash and making change fast and easy. Point-of-sale systems like Shopify POS also come with cash tracking sessions, which help you monitor your daily cash transactions and balance your cash drawer faster.

6. Receipt printer

A receipt printer is a small countertop printer that prints paper receipts for your customers. These receipts contain useful information, like items purchased, product prices, tax amounts, and when and where the transaction took place. 

For card transactions that require a physical signature, the printer prints a merchant copy and a customer copy of each receipt. Customers can hold onto receipts and use them to make returns or exchanges. 

Receipt printers are useful because they quickly and easily provide printed receipts to customers who want them.

7. Receipt paper rolls

Receipts are printed on receipt paper rolls. They’re essential for printing receipts and providing physical proof of purchase to customers.

8. Bar code label printer

A bar code label printer is a specialized printer that prints barcode labels, usually onto sticker paper. With a label printer, you can create bar code labels for your product tags in house. 

A bar code label printer is convenient because, when paired with a bar code scanner, it helps you add items to a customer’s cart and complete checkouts faster.  

9. Bar code labels

Bar code labels are either stickers or cardstock on which you print bar codes to place on product tags. Ensure the labels you purchase are compatible with your bar code label printer

How much does retail POS hardware cost?

POS hardware costs vary depending on where you buy them, the models you choose, and how many of each item you purchase. We’re sharing sample costs to help you understand what to budget for.

💡 PRO TIP: While hardware is usually a fixed one-time cost, POS software is billed either monthly or annually. Factor software costs into the equation as you think about total POS system costs.


Tablet pricing depends on whether you opt for an iOS or Android operating system, and which model you buy. 

iPads range from $429 to $1,599, while Android tablets can range from $80 to more than $2,000. iPad prices are less variable because they’re all made by Apple, while Android tablet prices vary greatly, because they’re made by a number of manufacturers.


Depending on the model and size, new iPhones range in price from $429 to $999.

Tablet stand

You’ll need a tablet stand that’s compatible with the size of your tablet. Shopify’s iPad stands, for example, range from $99 to $185. 

Card reader

Card readers are one of the most affordable pieces of POS hardware in Shopify’s hardware store, ranging from $29 to $49. 

Receipt printer

Depending on whether you want a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or wired receipt printer, this piece of hardware can cost between $299 and $369.

Bar code scanner 

Bar code scanners will cost you between $229 and $329, depending on if you choose a 1D or 2D scanner.

Cash drawer

If you purchase one from Shopify, a cash drawer will cost between $139 and $159.

Bar code printer

Bar code printers vary greatly in price. You can get one for as little as $169 and as much as $499.

How to choose the right POS hardware for your store

Here are some exercises to do and things to consider to make sure you’re selecting the right POS hardware for your needs.

List your store’s processes and workflows 

While there are several essential pieces of POS hardware all shops will need, there is no one-size-fits-all setup. The hardware you use will depend on your store setup, whether you’re selling in person for the first time at a craft fair, are opening your first store, or have several store locations and many employees. 

How will you check out customers? 

Think about what kind of checkout experience you want customers to have. If you want a traditional cash wrap counter, you’ll need a tablet, tablet stand, card reader, cash drawer, and receipt and bar code printing hardware and accessories.

If you want to keep lines as short as possible with mobile checkout, or if you’re running a pop-up shop, all you’ll need is a smartphone or a tablet, and a card reader.

If you want ultimate flexibility to check out customers at both your cash wrap counter and on the sales floor, you could benefit from having both tablets and smartphones.

Tailor your POS hardware to the checkout experience you want to have.

How large is your retail store? 

Store size will also affect the hardware on which you run your business.

With one location, you’ll be fine with a tablet, tablet stand, card reader, receipt and bar code printer and accessories, bar code scanner, and cash drawer. As your needs grow, you can expand that hardware with mobile checkout devices, like a smartphone or more tablets.

With more than one permanent location, you’ll need multiple sets of the same equipment listed above.

Are there any processes you want to make faster?

A basic POS hardware setup will help you get started, but you may want to change your setup as your needs evolve. 

For example, if you want faster checkout during holidays or on weekends, add a smartphone and mobile card reader to reduce wait times and bust lineups. You’ll be able to check out customers from anywhere in the store, rather than only at the cash wrap.

Want to make receiving and counting inventory faster? Get a bar code scanner. Scanners are faster, more ergonomic alternatives to manually searching products on your POS or using the camera on your tablet or smartphone.

Research your options online 

With so many device and accessory options out there, there’s no need to buy the first thing you see. POS hardware is a big investment, so it’s important to choose the best option. Do your research.

Retail communities online 

Whether you’re just getting started with your business or want insights from others who have operating retail stores, an online retail community is a great resource for finding vetted POS hardware. Look for groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, and communities on Reddit, such as the Ask Retail or RETAIL subreddits.

Read and watch online reviews 

When you’ve narrowed down your hardware list to a few options, look up reviews of these products. You can go on the manufacturer’s websites, review sites like G2, and YouTube for detailed reviews of tablets, smartphones, iPad stands, bar code scanners, and more.

See the hardware POS providers sell 

Most POS software providers sell hardware that their customers have tested and had good experiences with. Getting your hardware and software from one place is convenient and helps you get set up faster. 

Speak with merchants

Beyond connecting with communities online, it’s important to speak with fellow merchants in your community. Connect with the owners of neighboring businesses. Join your local business improvement district or commerce association. Ask your community what kind of hardware has worked best for them over the years.

Where to buy POS hardware

While you can buy hardware from manufacturers and third-party stores, you can also usually buy it directly from your POS system providers. For example, merchants who choose Shopify POS can buy bundled or individual hardware from the Shopify hardware store

If you want to sell at a pop-up or event, you can also rent hardware to avoid incurring any unnecessary one-time costs with Shopify's hardware rental program. Rentals give you the flexibility to pay only for what you use rather than buying hardware outright, which is a great option for temporary selling. 

Get set up for success with the right POS hardware

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to POS hardware. It’s important to take the time to consider your unique business needs and find the hardware setup that best meets those needs. When you equip your store with the right hardware, you’ll be able to run your business more efficiently.

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POS hardware FAQ

What is POS system hardware?

POS system hardware refers to the physical components of a point-of-sale (POS) system, including a computer or tablet, cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer, credit card reader, and other peripheral devices. These components work together to process transactions, manage inventory, and make sales reports. The hardware can be purchased separately or as part of a complete POS system package.

What is POS hardware examples?

POS hardware examples include:
  1. Cash register
  2. Barcode scanner
  3. Receipt printer
  4. Credit card reader
  5. Debit card reader
  6. Cash drawer
  7. POS terminal
  8. Touchscreen monitor
  9. Customer display
  10. Handheld mobile devices
  11. POS scales
  12. Chip reader
  13. Pin pad
  14. Tablet stand

What are the common types of POS hardware?

  1. Cash Register/Point of Sale Terminal
  2. Barcode Scanner
  3. Receipt Printer
  4. Touch Screen Monitor
  5. Cash Drawer
  6. Credit and Debit Card Reader
  7. Customer Display
  8. Mobile POS Devices

What are the 4 types of POS?

The four types of POS (point of sale) are:
  1. Desktop POS: Traditional point-of-sale systems used in brick-and-mortar stores that require a dedicated computer or terminal.
  2. Cloud-based POS: POS systems that operate through a cloud-based network, making them accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
  3. Mobile POS: POS systems that enable transactions to be processed via a mobile device like smartphones or tablets, allowing retailers to accept payments from anywhere.
  4. Self-service POS: POS systems designed for self-checkout, allowing customers the flexibility to scan and pay for their items themselves at the point of sale.

Can I use my tablet or smartphone as POS hardware?

Yes, you can use your tablet or smartphone as POS hardware with Shopify. We offer a free POS app that can be downloaded on both iOS and Android devices. The app allows you to accept payments, manage inventory, and track sales, all from your mobile device. Additionally, we offer a range of hardware options that can be used with the app to enhance your POS experience.

How does POS hardware integrate with my existing software?

Shopify's POS hardware integrates seamlessly with our existing software. Our hardware is designed to work with our POS app, which is connected to your Shopify account. This means that all of your sales data, inventory levels, and customer information is synced across all of your sales channels in real time. Additionally, our hardware is plug and play, so you can start using it right away without any complicated setup.

What’s the difference between POS hardware vs. software?

POS hardware refers to the physical devices used to process transactions, such as card readers, cash drawers, and receipt printers. POS software, on the other hand, is the digital platform used to manage sales, inventory, and customer data. While both hardware and software are essential components of a POS system, they serve different functions. Hardware is used to physically process transactions, while software is used to manage the data associated with those transactions. At Shopify, we offer both hardware and software solutions to help you manage your POS operations.