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How to Turn Your iPad into a POS system

How to Turn Your iPad into a POS system
Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Turning your iPad into a point-of-sale (POS) system is easy. Whether you'd like to use an iPad POS system at your store, restaurant, office, salon or in the field, there is a simple solution for your business. It all starts with choosing the right equipment and vendor.

To turn your iPad into a mobile POS system, at the minimum you'll need a credit card reader and a POS app to process payments and manage your sales.

Credit card reader. Most iPad POS systems use a small dongle that attaches to its headphone jack. Credit card readers are usually free, but some vendors require a minimal fee if you need several of them.

You can also use a credit card machine with EMV and NFC capabilities, which lets you stay compliant with chip card regulations and accept mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. Some vendors consider this an upgrade, however. For instance, Square, our top pick for the best mobile credit card processor, offers an all-in-one contactless and chip reader as a POS add-on that costs $49 each. [Go here for a full review of Square credit card processor.]

POS mobile app. The majority of POS system vendors provide their own iPad POS apps, which come with everything you need to operate and manage your POS system. You can typically download the app straight from the Apple App Store or the vendor's website. Some vendors offer to set up your equipment and app for you, but setup is usually as easy as opening the app and following a simple step-by-step wizard to get started. Once you're done setting up the basics, the app can also help you set up other features that make it easier to run your business (see below).

Editor's Note: Looking for information on POS systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

You can have a fully functional POS system with just an iPad, but some businesses also need other equipment, such as a checkout stand, cash registers and printers. If your business needs a setup that resembles that of a traditional POS system, there are several peripheral options for you.

iPad stand. If you wish to have a stationary iPad POS system that stays in the checkout aisle, you'll need an iPad stand. The best iPad stands swivel 360 degrees, which make it easy to turn to face customers who will be signing or entering their PIN right on your iPad. Some iPad stands are also multifunctional, such as those with a built-in credit card reader for convenience. There are also iPad stands that are more on the creative side, such as ShopKeep, our pick for the best POS system for retailers. ShopKeep offers iPad stands in a variety of colors to match your business's decor and branding. [Go here for a full review of ShopKeep POS system.]

Cash register. If your business will also be accepting cash, you'll need a cash register, too. Most iPad POS system offer equipment bundles that include a cash register, but some also let you use any cash register you'd like from a third-party vendor.

Printers. A great perk of using an iPad POS system is that you can easily send receipts by email. But if you wish to print receipts, you can also connect a printer to your iPad POS system. Like cash registers, most vendors offer printers as part of an equipment bundle. Some vendors also give you the freedom of using third-party printers, but you'll also have to consider compatibility issues with the vendor's app and connectivity (see below).

Back-end equipment.This applies mostly to restaurants. An iPad POS system that connects to your kitchen can save tons of time and frustration. For example, TouchBistro, our pick for the best POS system for restaurants, lets servers take orders at the table using their iPad, and then automatically sends to the kitchen printer.  [Go here for a full review of TouchBistro POS system.]

As you consider peripherals for your iPad POS system, keep in mind that you'll also have to figure out what kind of connectivity your business needs versus what the vendor requires. Some iPad POS systems can operate only with an Internet connection, while others also have offline capabilities. Additionally, some iPad POS systems are designed to run strictly in an Apple environment and even require you to use Apple Airport as your router.

Not all iPad POS systems are alike, and choosing the right one for your business is critical to your success. To help you find the best iPad POS system for your business, check our roundup of the Best POS Systems.

Here are the five main factors to think about when choosing an iPad POS system:

Service fees. iPad POS system pricing varies widely. Some services charge a monthly and per-swipe fee. For instance, ShopKeep charges $59 per month per register plus credit card processing fees, depending on which processor you choose (the vendor's own processing service or a third party's). There are also vendors that only charge per transaction, such as PayPal Here, our pick for the best low-volume credit card processor. PayPal Here charges a flat fee of 2.7 percent per swipe with no monthly fees. Other costs to consider include equipment, setup and any hidden fees. [Go here for a full review of PayPal Here credit card processing and POS system.]

If you only need a single register with just the bare-minimum features, check out Vend, our top pick for the best POS system overall. Vend offers a free plan that is limited to one register, 10 active products and 1,000 customers. [Go here for a full review of Vend POS system.]

Service terms. No business wants to be stuck in a multiyear contract, and then get hit with hefty early-termination fees if it turns out the service doesn't meet their needs. There are many vendors that don't require any long-term contracts, so you can feel free to switch any time you want.

Features. One of the best things about an iPad POS system is that it comes complete with everything you need to manage your business straight from the mobile app. In addition to processing payments, an iPad POS system also lets you manage sales, track inventory, run loyalty programs, launch marketing campaigns, schedule appointments, make reservations, integrate third-party apps — such as your accounting software — and even keep an eye on employees. Some vendors are more flexible than others in letting you pick and choose features to save you money.

Ease of use. The best iPad POS systems don't require any tech skills. Many vendors offer a free trial or demo of their products, so be sure to check them out first to see if their iPad POS apps are intuitive enough for you and your staff. Don't forget to keep your customers in mind, too, as they will often be using the app to sign for their credit card purchases, enter their PIN and even leave tips.

For a complete how-to on choosing a POS system and credit card processor, check out our buyer's guide Credit Card Processing: How to Accept Credit Cards In-Store, Online and Anywhere.

Editor's Note: Looking for information on POS systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need: