There’s a saying that nothing in life is free. There are a lot of companies that give away products or services for free; however, one has to ask oneself, is it really free? Why would a company give a product away for free? A company gives a product or service away for free because it will lead to profits in the future. This is true for free POS systems as well. There are several reasons companies offer free POS software online, so beware of the ramifications of installing this software onto your machines.
Read the Fine Print
Look very closely at the fine print of the contract they offer you for the free POS system. Many companies will reserve the right to alter the terms of the agreement and all they have to do is give you 30 days’ notice. They sometimes also require a monthly fee AND a quarterly fee for the entire length of the contract (3 to 5 years). Your free POS system is suddenly not so free. Their goal is to catch you with the free offer and reel you into paying for it to continue using it.
Locked in Credit Card Processing
Most companies that claim to offer free POS systems tie credit card processing into their agreement. Harbortouch is the classic example of a credit card processor claiming to offer a 'free' point of sale. Read these contracts carefully and you'll see that you are required to process credit cards with these companies for the life of the contract. Our advice in these situations is to always be cautious. Anytime a processor has you locked into an agreement, they don't have much incentive to keep your processing rates and fees low or even competitive. Let the free market do its work and shop around to see how much you're potentially overpaying.
Limited Features and Functionality
Free POS systems and software are typically a “bare bones” approach to POS. Systems without inventory control or other features, are essentially a glorified electronic cash register. For this reason, free POS software is not as flexible and robust as reputable POS software. Free POS system hardware also has the unfortunate reputation of being cheap and unreliable. Search for reviews of any company claiming a free system to see what real users think and if they've had any problems. You might be surprised.
Point of Sale Contracts
Many free POS providers will lock you into contracts that can be anywhere between 3 to 5 years. Estimates show that technology doubles in capability every two years across the board. You will either be stuck with slow or incompatible POS software after a few years or need to purchase potentially expensive upgrades to keep your system current. If you decide to exit the contract, you could be stuck paying a fortune for early termination fees. Some may even require you to pay all monthly and quarterly support fees remaining in your contract if you terminate early. And the worst part, typically the contract is all backed with a personal guarantee, so even if your business fails, you're still on the hook for all your payments.
So is free POS software actually free? No. Nothing is. The biggest consideration when searching for POS software providers should then be flexibility, quality, and support. Having an antiquated POS system with poor technical support that isn’t current with the trends can lead to loss of business and financial repercussions that can have a significant impact on your business. Essentially, you get what you pay for.