QuickBooks vs Wave: Which Is The Best Online Accounts Package?

Finding an online accounting platform for your small business can be daunting, especially if you’re attempting to upgrade. Quickbooks and Wave are two highly regarded business accounting tools that are perfect for small businesses.

Compare Quickbooks vs. Wave

Overview of QuickBooks

Quickbooks dashboard.

After a decade and a half of development and software innovation, QuickBooks is perhaps the most fully-featured online accounts package, both in its core feature set and the number and quality of integrations that can let you do more with it.

Whether it’s inventory management, 1099 contractors, timesheets, bill payment, batch invoicing, business analytics and more, it’s less an accounting program than it is a digital hub for everything and anything you need or want to do with your business finances.

Overview of Wave

Accounting dashboard in Wave

Founded just a handful of years after QuickBooks online, Wave is nevertheless still seen as the scrappy upstart of the field, due in no small part to it being completely free (yes, you read that right).

Marketed definitively to the SME market, Wave earns its money through its payroll integration (available only in the US and Canada) and fees from payments processing. Happily, Wave is an intuitive and powerful tool in its own right, even aside from the compelling price tag.

Major features in Quickbooks vs. Wave

Aside from being offered online and protected with 256-bit SSL encryption there aren’t a lot of similarities between the two platforms. Both offer web-based as well as mobile app access to your accounts, and their iOS and Android versions both do a nice job of replicating the desktop experience on your phone or tablet. For companies that sell physical products and have more than a couple of people the software diverges.

Major differences between QuickBooks and Wave

While their core functions are largely similar, QuickBooks and Wave differ in the number and types of integrations and their usefulness to keep your company’s organizational structures running through project management.

Integrations included in Quickbooks vs. Wave

The biggest difference between QuickBooks and Wave is in the number of integrations. QuickBooks has literally hundreds of apps and extensions that let you connect payment data directly from PayPal or Shopify, collect and organize CRM leads with Method, and more. There are even QuickBooks integrations dedicated to specific industries like Buildertrend that lets you integrate estimates and plans for construction projects.

Wave doesn’t have a lot of native integrations that connect to it automatically. In fact, payroll and payments are really the only integrations, and they are central features of the tool even though they behave like apps you have to connect. But Wave does connect to data conversion services like Zapier, which is a third party app provider that can connect Wave to about 100 services and apps.

Of course, by the time your Wave connection exceeds 100 tasks per month via Zapier, the connection tool charges a monthly fee not dissimilar to subscribing to QuickBooks. So if you need your accounting provider to reach that far, QuickBooks is probably a better choice out of the gate.

Project management in QuickBooks

QuickBooks also leads the way with project management and time tracking features. Solopreneurs can probably do just fine tracking projects with some text documents, spreadsheets and notes scrawled on cocktail napkins. But time tracking can be pretty important even for one-person SMEs, because so much service-based commerce is time-based.

Choosing the best small business accounting software

QuickBooks is more suited to a larger company involved in more economic activities like staff, contractors, physical or digital shopfront products and multiple tax reporting responsibilities.

Its highest pricing tier, at $90 per month, gives access to up to 25 users, so it’s less suited to a small operation of only one or a couple of people. By the time you get down to the lowest offering from QuickBooks, where you only need a few features for a much smaller business, you can find better value for the money in other options.

Wave – costing absolutely nothing and with no restrictions on the number of customers or products – is a good example. A lot of the features you’ll need as an SME like unlimited invoices, expense tracking, reconciliation, paying bills and a rudimentary inventory database are all present.

Wave is missing more advanced inventory management, a dedicated project management tool and multiple users, but if it’s just you and your basement- or dining table-based service business, you won’t need those so much.

Wave’s charges for its payroll service ranges between $20-35, and payments are charged at 2.9% plus $0.30 (more for American Express). It even offers to have a Wave accounts specialist do all your books for $149 per month and file taxes and perform quarterly reviews of your financial health at $1,500 per year.

Using most of those services however – even just the payroll service – costs around as much as QuickBooks’ SME-targeted service tiers, so if you need payroll as well as more of the advanced features Wave doesn’t have, QuickBooks is a better deal for around the same money.

But to muddy the waters further, even if you reach the stage of needing integrations and features QuickBooks has but Wave doesn’t, QuickBooks is pretty (in)famous for not being as user-friendly as other online accounts packages, including Wave. If you’re something of a newbie, you might appreciate the ease of use no even if the price would buy you more features elsewhere.

Drew Turney
A graphic designer and web developer by trade, Drew capitalised on his knowledge of technology in the creative field to launch a freelance journalism career, also specialising in his other passions of movies and book publishing. As interested in the social impact of technology as he is the circuitry and engineering, Drew’s strength is observing and writing from the real-world perspective of everyday technology users and how computing affects the way we work and live.

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