Modern day cash drawers evolved from traditional cash registers and are an important part of any point of sale (POS) system. While you can have a cash drawer without a POS system it is difficult to have a POS system without a cash drawer.
The basic functionality of a cash drawer is simple – it is used to store cash, cheques, eftpos receipts and any other physical tokens accepted from the customers during transactions. Regardless of the growth of digital payment devices and card payment processors, many customers still prefer using traditional payment modes such as cash.
The first patent for a cash register was filed in 1883 to create a cash storage system that could not be pilfered by employees. These cash registers would not open unless the totalling key was pressed, and would signal with a bell that a sale was taking place. Cash drawers work on a similar principle, and open upon receiving a particular instruction from the POS operating system.
A cash drawer may be simple in concept, however, learning all about them can help you choose the best cash drawer for your POS system and business needs.
What is a Cash Drawer?
A cash drawer is a compartment typically stored underneath a point of sales system. It features removable tray where cash from transactions is stored. Additional physical items such as order receipts and credit/debit card payment receipts can also be stored in the cash drawer. There are typically media slots in the front of the drawer so that cheques and receipts can be added without opening the drawer each time.
To aid in speedy transactions, a variety of currency values are kept in the cash drawer so that accurate change can be given to customers. The cash drawer opens upon receiving a specific order, either manually or electronically. There are options for flip top cash drawers and traditional slide out formats, and additional accessories are available for mounting and locking the cash drawer.
Evolution of Cash Drawers
From the very beginning of human society and trade, where people would pay for a product or service, there has been a need for a safe place to store the money. Typically, there would be a cash box that would store all the money and valuables. Over the years, as more employees were added to businesses, there became a need for safeguarding transaction money from pilfering and theft. As a result, cash registers were invented.
Cash registers can be considered the predecessors of point of sale systems. They were used at checkout points to track purchases, accept payments and print receipts. Basic reporting features were available in the form of tracking the number of purchases made in any given day. As technology evolved and needs of businesses grew, cash registers were linked with scales, barcode scanners, and eventually debit/credit card processors.
Point of sale software effectively replaced the cash register technology by offering database support, advanced features, and versatile functionality. In comparison to cash registers, POS systems can aid in inventory management, analytics, sales, employee management and customer management. All the data is also saved and is easily accessible. While POS software along with touch screen terminals and receipt printers took over some of the roles of cash registers, there was still a need to safely store cash. The solution was cash drawers.
A cash drawer is a straightforward POS hardware component that stores cash and any other physical media desired. It is connected with the POS system and opens and closes upon receiving specific orders from the attached POS system. Most cash drawers also come with a pair of keys to open them manually.
Cash Register Vs Cash Drawers
A cash register and a cash drawer both have the same basic concept – to store cash. However, a cash register can function independently and does not need to be connected to any operating system. In contrast, a cash drawer is used as a component of a POS system and needs an operating system to function.
In some regions, small businesses do use cash registers as they are cheaper and easier to setup as compared to a POS system. There are also low recurring costs. Nevertheless, POS systems offer a significantly greater amount of benefits, due to which a majority of businesses have made the switch to POS systems.
Types of Cash Drawers
There are broadly two types of cash drawers, namely manual cash drawers and electronic cash drawers.
- Manual Cash Drawers
Also known as touch cash drawers, these manual cash drawers do not require any power supply. There is a manual trigger to open and close the cash drawer as needed. This can be in the form of a pushing system, where employees push once to open and push again to close. There can also be a key that is used to trigger the cash drawer to open.
Manual cash drawers are easy to operate and manoeuvre, and can be moved to any location as required. However, the security features on a manual cash drawer are less than those in an electronic cash drawer. If there are not many people who would be handling the cash drawer, you can consider a manual version.
- Electronic Cash Drawers
An electronic cash drawer is generally connected to a POS system directly and uses a power supply. It can be opened following a trigger from the POS system or from the receipt printer. As a result, these cash drawers are more secure and promote greater accountability for users.
In case of any malfunction, there is a usually a key that can be used for manual opening of the cash drawer. However, the day to day operations are conducted through electronic triggers. For larger businesses where there will be a greater number of people handling the cash drawer, an electronic cash drawer is ideal for better security and seamless operations.
Benefits of a Cash Drawer
Apart from being an important component of a POS system, cash drawers offer additional benefits as well:
- Cash Organisation: With a cash drawer, there is a single location where all the cash transactions take place and currency is stored. This helps by making it easier to provide customers with required change, and facilitating cash management and organisation.
- Storage: A cash drawer is a safe and secure place to store cash throughout the day. Once the day is over, the cash can then be moved to a different location as desired, or stored longer in the cash drawer.
- Internal Security: Theft by employees is unpleasant and can lead to an ugly situation. A cash drawer regulates and monitors each time it is opened, reducing the ability of employees to slip money out.
- External Security: In the unfortunate event of a robbery attempt, thieves will not be able to access the cash easily, giving you time to react, report, and rectify the situation.
How to Choose A Suitable Cash Drawer?
Cash drawers are long lasting, provided you buy one that is good quality and from a reliable seller. Typically, a well-made cash drawer will have a long life, and so it is advisable to analyse the options available so you can make a suitable choice. Here are the aspects to consider when you are selecting a cash drawer:
Cash drawers are available in a wide range of prices, from AUD $70 to $160, based on the material used, size, connectivity and other features. While it is important to consider your budget when making the purchase, also weigh in the benefits, and how much use you are expecting to get out of the cash drawer.
For any electronic cash drawer, it is important to check the connectivity options and how it will be integrated with other components of your POS setup. While a manual key can be a last option in case of an emergency, an electronic cash drawer is typically be connected with the receipt printer. The connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the drawer kick port on the printer. If you already have a POS setup, check the integration options, especially on the receipt printer.
- Cash Storage
As the basic purpose of a cash drawer is to hold money, consider how much money should it be capable of holding? If your business deals with a large volume of cash on a day to day business, you would need more space.
On the basis of the currency values that you expect to receive, you can decide on how many note holders and coin holders there should be. Some cash drawers have flexible holders that can be adjusted as per need. Also consider how many media slots do you need to slip in cheques, receipts or coupons without opening the entire cash drawer.
- Size and Layout
Cash drawers are often slightly tucked away from plain sight, for example, fitted beneath a POS processor, or maybe under a counter, to make them less obvious and safer from theft. A cash drawer is relatively large when compared with other POS components. If you require more slots and sections within the cash drawer, you can expect the size to go up further.
Consider where you want to place the cash drawer. How much space is available? Will it fit the number of slots required? Will a front open or traditional pull out style be more suitable? After purchase it is difficult to adjust the size of a cash drawer, so it is better to plan ahead.
A cash drawer tends to go through plenty of wear and tear, as it is used multiple times every day, unavoidably getting slammed at times. Consider how much will the cash drawer be used? Will a majority of the transactions be in cash or only occasionally? Cash drawers are generally made of steel, but the design, thickness of the metal, and construction can also influence the durability. Less durable cash drawers will be more affordable while stronger versions would be costlier.
A cash drawer is a simple yet important component of your POS system. Even with the trend of customers preferring to use digital modes of payment, it is unlikely that cash payments be entirely discontinued. Apart from cash, these drawers can be used to store other physical items safely, such as card payment receipts.
There are several aspects to consider when you are selecting a suitable cash drawer, including your budget, the size, capacity, connectivity, security, and durability. Based on the volume of sales and cash transactions, your needs from a cash drawer will vary.
At POS Plaza you can find good quality cash drawers that complement your POS system, including cash drawers that are printer/terminal driven and serial/USB based, with a variety of accessories. Reach out to our experienced team to help you in finding the best cash drawer for your needs.