Wave Accounting is among the best — if not the best — free accounting software programs for small businesses. But while many freelancers and sole proprietors prefer Wave’s no-cost bookkeeping features, you might not be among them.

If you’re looking for a Wave alternative, FreshBooks and Zoho Books are our top recommendations. FreshBooks is perfect for invoice-based businesses while Zoho Books is ideal for microbusinesses that need a free accounting plan.

Below, we break down Wave’s top competitors by their features, pricing, pros and cons. We’ll also explain who Wave is best for and detail its strengths and weaknesses to help you decide if Wave or an alternative is the right financial solution for your small business.

Top Wave Accounting competitors and alternatives: Feature comparison table

Starting priceUnlimited invoicingUser limitsTop payroll integrationsLearn more
Zoho Books$0/mo.YesAdditional feeZoho PayrollVisit Zoho Books
FreshBooks$19/mo.YesAdditional feeGustoVisit FreshBooks
Xero$15/mo.No UnlimitedGustoVisit Xero
QuickBooks Online$30/mo.YesUp to 25 usersQuickBooks Payroll, GustoVisit QuickBooks Online
Kashoo$216/yr.YesOne userSurePayroll, PaychexVisit Kashoo
Sage 50 Accounting$595/yr.YesUp to 40 usersSage PayrollVisit Sage
Wave Accounting$0/mo.YesUnlimited (with paid plan only)Wave PayrollVisit Wave Accounting

Product and pricing details up to date as of 1/23/2024.

Top Wave Accounting competitors

Most businesses that choose Wave do so for its free-for-life accounting plan, so you should know upfront that Zoho Books is the only Wave alternative on our list with a truly free plan. Additionally, Zoho’s free plan is only available to businesses with annual revenue below $50K USD. If that describes your business’ financial situation and you’re interested only in free accounting software, skip to our Zoho Books review to see how it compares to Wave Accounting.

All other accounting solutions on our list (Zoho Books’ paid plans included) offer free trials that range from 14 to 30 days. Some providers — most notably, QuickBooks Online — let you choose between either a discount or a free trial, but you can’t select both options.

Zoho Books: Best free plan

Zoho Books icon.
Image: Zoho Books

Our star rating: 4.7 out of 5

Zoho Books is among the most fully-featured accounting software providers on our list — even more so than industry favorite QuickBooks Online. With six different accounting plans, its scalable solution supports businesses as they grow from small start-ups to multi-state enterprises.

If your business’s revenue is below $50K USD per year, you can take advantage of Zoho Books’ free plan for small businesses. It allows for one user plus free accountant access, but note that you can’t add more users, even for an extra fee, unless you sign up for Zoho Books Standard or higher.

Zoho Books’ pricing

Zoho Books’ six plans range in price from $0 a month to $240 a month. Users can save by paying for each plan annually instead of month to month, though we suggest taking advantage of Zoho Books’ 14-day free trial before committing to an annual plan. Zoho’s starting prices are as follows:

  • Zoho Standard costs $20/mo. billed monthly or $15/mo. billed annually.
  • Zoho Professional costs $50/mo. billed monthly or $40/mo. billed annually.
  • Zoho Premium costs $70/mo. billed monthly or $60/mo. billed annually.
  • Zoho Elite costs $150/mo. billed monthly or $120/mo. billed annually.
  • Zoho Ultimate costs $275/mo. billed monthly or $240/mo. billed annually.

Zoho Books’ stand-out features

Zoho Books’ free plan includes most of the same features as Wave Accounting as well as the basic features included in its competitors’ lowest-tier paid plans:

  • Multi-lingual invoices with multiple automations (recurring invoices and late payment reminders, etc.)
  • Estimates.
  • Online payment acceptance with offline payment tracking.
  • Mileage, expense and income tracking.
  • Client management, including client portal for simple collaboration.
  • Double-entry accounting with bank reconciliation, accountant access and chart of accounts.
  • 1099 contractor management.

Higher-tier plans add bill pay, inventory management, project tracking, time tracking and in-depth reporting features.

Zoho Books’ pros

  • Low additional user fee ($3/person/mo.), especially compared to FreshBooks ($11/person/mo.).
  • Thorough automations with customizable workflows.
  • Multiple plans with simple scalability.
  • Excellent integration with Zoho’s full suite of products, including Zoho Projects and Zoho Invoice.

Zoho Books’ cons

  • Higher starting price than competitors like Xero and Wave.
  • Shorter free trial than most competitors.
  • Automations and workflows can be confusing for first-time users and new business owners.
  • Limited payroll integration options.

To learn more, read our Zoho Books review.

FreshBooks: Best invoicing software

FreshBooks logo.
Image: FreshBooks

Our star rating: 4.1 out of 5

Like Wave, FreshBooks’ unlimited customizable invoices make it a great solution for freelancers with service-based businesses. Both Wave and FreshBooks let you schedule automated recurring invoices, accept online payments through invoices and set up payment due date reminders. Both software tools also have notably user-friendly invoice templates that are simple to customize.

While FreshBooks offers unlimited invoices, each plan limits the number of clients you can bill each month. (With the cheapest plan, the number is just five.) Additionally, Wave Accounting uses double-entry accounting, which is the best way to catch and fix accounting mistakes early on. FreshBooks’ cheapest plan doesn’t include double-entry accounting, and it doesn’t include free access for your accountant, either.

FreshBooks’ pricing

Along with its custom enterprise-level accounting plan, FreshBooks has three invoicing, accounting and billing plans for small and midsize businesses:

  • FreshBooks Lite starts at $19 per month.
  • FreshBooks Plus starts at $33 per month.
  • FreshBooks Premium starts at $60 per month.

FreshBooks also offers a 30-day free trial.

FreshBooks is the only accounting software product on this list to offer both annual and month-to-month payment options. Customers who choose to pay annually lock in at least a 10% discount, though FreshBooks’ frequent discounts for both annual and monthly plans can run as deep as 70% off for six months.

FreshBooks’ stand-out features

  • Built-in time tracking, expense tracking and receipt capture.
  • In-software tool for client communication and collaboration.
  • Easy estimate-to-invoice conversion.
  • Payroll integration with Gusto and SurePayroll.

FreshBooks’ pros

  • Customizable invoices with thorough automation.
  • Simple software setup with a clear, user-friendly interface.
  • Uncomplicated client collaboration through FreshBooks’ client portal.

FreshBooks’ cons

  • $11/mo. fee for each additional user.
  • Billable clients limited by plan.
  • Fewer third-party integrations than QuickBooks Online and Xero.

For a more in-depth look at FreshBooks’ features, pros and cons, read our FreshBooks review.

Xero: Best for product-based businesses

Xero logo.
Image: Xero

Our star rating: 4.4 out of 5

Make most of your money selling products rather than services? Xero is the only accounting product on our list to offer inventory tracking with its cheapest plan.

Along with inventory management, Xero’s users get bank reconciliation, cash-flow management, quotes, invoices and bill tracking — starting at the comparatively low monthly cost of $15. Xero’s more comprehensive plans add project tracking, expense management and multi-currency support.

Unlike Wave, all of Xero’s plans include unlimited users at no additional cost. (Wave allows for unlimited users with its paid Pro plan only, not its free Starter plan.) Both providers also offer easy-to-customize invoices, though Xero’s cheapest plan limits users to sending just 20 invoices or quotes per month.

Xero’s pricing

Xero has three accounting plans for small and midsize businesses, making it a more scalable pick than Wave Accounting:

  • Xero’s Early plan costs $15 per month.
  • Xero’s Growing plan costs $42 per month.
  • Xero’s Established plan costs $78 per month.

Each Xero plan includes a 30-day free trial.

Xero’s stand-out features

  • Online payment acceptance through Stripe, GoCardless and more.
  • Customizable purchase orders, easily convertible to bills.
  • Thorough reporting features with simple accountant collaboration.
  • Multi-currency acceptance with most expensive plan.

Xero’s pros

  • More third-party integrations than any other accounting software for small businesses.
  • Comprehensive features for product-based businesses, including inventory tracking.
  • Notably user-friendly accounting software.

Xero’s cons

  • Thorough expense tracking only included with priciest plan.
  • Invoice and billing limits with cheaper plan.
  • Online customer service only (no phone-based service).

Interested in learning more about Xero? Read our in-depth Xero review.

QuickBooks Online: Most user-friendly software

QuickBooks logo.
Image: QuickBooks

Our star rating: 4.6 out of 5

QuickBooks Online, a cloud-based accounting service offered through powerhouse financial company Intuit, is among the most comprehensive, user-friendly accounting systems available. Its basic plan includes far more features than Wave Accounting, such as 1099 contractor management. Its mobile app comes with mileage tracking. The software’s expense tracking and tax categorization simplify tax time for freelancers who depend on tax write-offs at the end of the year.

However, many small businesses don’t have the budget for QuickBooks’ above-average starting price. As opposed to the $0 you’ll pay to use Wave Accounting (or the $16 you’ll pay for its slightly more robust paid plan) QuickBooks Online’s cheapest plan will cost you $30 a month.

QuickBooks Online’s pricing

QuickBooks Online has four cloud-based accounting plans for small businesses:

  • QuickBooks Simple Start costs $30 per month.
  • QuickBooks Essentials costs $60 per month.
  • QuickBooks Plus costs $90 per month.
  • QuickBooks Advanced costs $200 per month.

First-time QuickBooks users can sign up for a 30-day free trial or take advantage of a 50% off discount for three months. Even with the three-month discount, though, QuickBooks Online’s high starting price puts it outside many business owners’ budgets.

Additionally, QuickBooks increases its pricing much more frequently (and with much less advance warning) than other accounting solutions. If you sign up for QuickBooks, be aware that you might be paying more for the same plan a year down the line than you would initially.

QuickBooks Online’s stand-out features

  • Time tracking, project management and inventory tracking (with higher-tier plans only).
  • Access for up to 25 users.
  • Simple sales tax tracking.
  • Maximized tax savings through easy expense categorization.
  • More accounting reports than most competitors.

QuickBooks Online’s pros

  • Hundreds of built-in third-party app integrations for payroll, job costing, time management, inventory tracking and more.
  • Comprehensive accounting and bookkeeping features.
  • Freelance-friendly focus on expense tracking and expense categorization for tax time.
  • Fairly seamless syncing with the Intuit suite of products, including TurboTax, Mint and QuickBooks Online Payroll.

QuickBooks Online’s cons

  • Substantially higher starting price than most competitors.
  • Comparatively frequent price hikes.
  • Below-average customer support ratings.
  • Comparatively high software learning curve for first-time business owners.

Learn more by reading our QuickBooks Online review.

Kashoo: Best invoicing app

The Kashoo logo
Kashoo

Kashoo is a small-business-focused accounting service that offers paid accounting software alongside a budget-friendly invoicing app, TrulySmall Invoicing. TrulySmall’s invoicing features are nearly as comprehensive as FreshBooks’ and include automated payment reminders, unlimited invoices, invoice-based payment acceptance, and unlimited estimates that convert easily to invoices once you and your client agree on payment and services.

Kashoo also has two paid small-business accounting plans, both of which have enough features to compare favorably to big-name competitors like QuickBooks and Xero. Whether you opt for Kashoo’s invoicing app or more robust accounting plan, you’ll get the same direct line to customer support with top-notch level of customer service and tech support. Unlike Wave Accounting and Xero, Kashoo’s customer service is available both over the phone and via email.

Kashoo’s pricing

Kashoo has two different plans for freelancers as well as small and growing businesses:

  • TrulySmall Accounting costs $216 per year.
  • Kashoo Accounting costs $324 per year.

Like Zoho Books, Kashoo’s free trial period lasts just 14 days rather than 30. TrulySmall Invoicing includes five free invoices for new customers.

Kashoo’s stand-out features

Both of Kashoo’s accounting plans (TrulySmall Acconting and Kashoo) include the following bookkeeping services:

  • Automatic bank reconciliation.
  • Expense tracking.
  • IRS-friendly chart of accounts.
  • Online payment acceptance.
  • Well-reviewed, fully functional mobile apps for Android and iOS.

On top of the basic features offered with TrulySmall Accounting, the more advanced Kashoo plan includes inventory management, project management and optional payroll integration with SurePayroll (along with a handful of other small-business payroll providers).

Kashoo’s pros

  • Customer support available via email or over the phone.
  • Solidly user-friendly accounting apps with easy, intuitive setup.
  • Comprehensive accounting automations, including automatic bank reconciliation with both paid plans.

Kashoo’s cons

  • Fairly limited accounting features compared to competitors like Zoho and Intuit QuickBooks.
  • Limited invoice customization with both TrulySmall plans.
  • Middle-of-the-road pricing.

Learn more by reading our Kashoo review.

Sage 50 Accounting: Most intuitive desktop solution

The Sage HRMS Payroll logo.
Image: Sage

Our star rating: 4.6 out of 5

With Sage 50 Accounting, Sage’s desktop-based accounting plan, users can create invoices, track bills and check expenses with automatic bank reconciliation. Sage 50’s entry-level plan has far more features than Wave Accounting has for free, and its thorough automations can save enough time to make the price worth it for tech-savvy business owners.

Sage Accounting distinguishes itself from the rest of the accounting software market by offering exceptional customer service. Software users who purchase a Sage membership can access hundreds of talks, online classes and other learning resources. This add-on feature is especially useful for first-time business owners who are learning the legal and financial ropes of self-employment.

Sage 50’s pricing

Sage 50 Accounting has three accounting plans, all of which are charged at an annual subscription rate:

  • Sage Pro Accounting costs $595 for your first year with access for one user.
  • Sage Premium Accounting costs $970 for your first year with access for one user.
  • Sage Quantum Accounting costs $1,610 for your first year with access for 40 users.

Sage 50’s stand-out features

  • Cash flow forecasting.
  • Unlimited invoices.
  • Automatic bank reconciliation.
  • Expense tracking.
  • Mobile app access.

Sage 50’s pros

  • 24/7 customer support (online only).
  • 40 users with higher-tier plan.
  • Excellent community resources for new business owners.
  • Sage Payroll integration.

Sage 50’s cons

  • Above-average starting price.
  • No month-to-month payment plans available.
  • Higher learning curve for users new to accounting software.

Is Wave Accounting worth it?

Image: Wave Accounting

Our star rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wave Accounting’s free-for-life plan is quite simply the best free accounting software for most freelancers and small businesses, so if you’re looking specifically for budget-friendly bookkeeping, Wave Accounting is your best bet.

However, if you have more expansive accounting needs, opt for a more fully-featured accounting service like QuickBooks Online, Xero or Zoho Books instead. While Wave Accounting’s paid plan, Wave Pro, has more bookkeeping tools than the free plan, it still can’t compare to more fully featured competitors.

Wave’s pricing

Wave has two accounting plans and a handful of add-on paid services:

  • Wave Starter is completely free for life.
  • Wave Pro costs $16 per month (billed month to month) or $170 per year (billed annually).

While Wave Pro includes unlimited receipt scanning, Wave Starter users must pay $11 per month or $96 per year to access the same feature. Plus, Wave Starter charges standard transaction fees for online payment acceptance. Wave Pro users get a discount.

Wave Payroll — which is Wave Accounting’s main integration — doesn’t have a free option. Both of its plans cost a monthly fee:

  • Self-service payroll (available in 36 states) costs $20 per month plus $6 per employee paid.
  • Full-service payroll (available in 14 states) costs $40 per month plus $6 per employee paid.

Wave’s stand-out features

  • Unlimited invoicing, billing, estimates and record keeping.
  • Online payment acceptance.
  • Free invoicing app.
  • Cash flow management.
  • Customer management.
  • Unlimited users (including accountant access) with paid plan.
  • Expense tracking, automatic bank imports and automatic late payment reminders with paid plan.

Wave Accounting pros and cons

Wave’s pros

  • Completely free-for-life plan.
  • Extremely user-friendly interface and easy setup.
  • Straightforward, professional invoice templates with easy customization.
  • Seamless integration with Wave Payroll.

Wave’s cons

  • No native third-party app integration, including with third-party payroll, time tracking, inventory management and project management software.
  • Limited customer service available through email only.
  • Limited accounting features, especially compared to fully-featured competitors like QuickBooks Online and Xero.

To learn more about Wave, dive into our detailed Wave Accounting review.

Do you need an alternative to Wave Accounting?

You might need an alternative to Wave Accounting if…

  • You sell products and would prefer accounting software with built-in inventory management.
  • You’re planning to eventually hire more employees and expand into more states, meaning you need an accounting solution that scales with you.
  • You want to sync your accounting software with a payroll solution other than Wave Payroll.
  • You’re part of a midsize business, large company or enterprise.
  • You want a customizable accounting solution.

You might prefer Wave Accounting to a competitor if…

  • You’re a freelancer whose primary consideration is budget-friendly financial management.
  • You need only key accounting features, such as basic reports, invoicing, online payment acceptance and expense/income tracking.
  • You don’t need to integrate multiple third-party business software tools with your accounting tool.

Still not sure? Take advantage of free software trials

We aim to provide you with the best possible accounting software reviews, but there’s simply no substitute for hands-on experience. Since Wave Accounting is free — and since its competitors all offer free trials — we recommend creating a trial account for any software you’re considering.

Once you’ve experienced the software for yourself, you’ll have an easier time determining whether Wave or a competitor is ideal for you.

Methodology

To find Wave Accounting’s top competitors and assess each one fairly, we looked into third-party reviews on sites like Trustpilot and the App Store, among others. We set up free trial accounts with every provider on our list so we could experience the software for ourselves. While test-driving the software, we focused on how each performed in the following areas, using the following questions to guide our testing process:

  • Pricing. Did the software include a free trial? Did the features offer enough value to offset the price? Was the pricing fair and in line with the industry standard? Did the provider charge extra for features that should come as standard with any business software?
  • Accounting features. Did the software include the basic components of any functional accounting software? What stand-out features did each service offer? Were the features most suitable for freelancers, small business owners, midsize businesses or corporations? What add-on features could users opt into?
  • Customer service. Did the accounting service offer multiple modes of communication, including live chat, email and phone-based customer support? Did the company offer extended weekday hours, weekend hours or 24/7 support? How responsive was the customer service team?
  • User-friendliness and accessibility. Did the software offer a mobile app with positive reviews on both Google Play and the App Store? How tricky was it to set up a free account, create invoices and perform other basic accounting tasks? Did verified users report having a generally positive experience with the software interface? How many third-party apps did the software sync with?
  • Scalability. How many plans did each software service offer? Did the number of features increase with higher-tier plans? Did these features add enough value to justify the cost increase?

Read our software review methodology piece for more in-depth information on how our star ratings are calculated.

Subscribe to the Daily Tech Insider Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest in technology with Daily Tech Insider. We bring you news on industry-leading companies, products, and people, as well as highlighted articles, downloads, and top resources. You’ll receive primers on hot tech topics that will help you stay ahead of the game. Delivered Weekdays

Subscribe to the Daily Tech Insider Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest in technology with Daily Tech Insider. We bring you news on industry-leading companies, products, and people, as well as highlighted articles, downloads, and top resources. You’ll receive primers on hot tech topics that will help you stay ahead of the game. Delivered Weekdays