Intuit QuickBooks Online is one of the most fully featured accounting software products on the market. It’s used and trusted by millions of customers worldwide, and its software plans can accommodate small businesses and massive international enterprises alike. It integrates with most third-party business apps, which makes it a versatile, user-friendly choice for businesses using multiple software tools to manage their workforce.

However, QuickBooks Online has one of the highest starting prices of any bookkeeping and accounting software product. Business owners — including and especially freelancers — will likely find that Wave Accounting’s comprehensive tools meet their financial management needs just as well as QuickBooks. Additionally, since Wave is free for life, it’s a better choice than QuickBooks for new businesses on a strict budget.

Below, we’ll cover the key differences between QuickBooks Online vs. Wave Accounting, including their features, pros, cons and pricing.

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QuickBooks Online vs. Wave Accounting: Comparison table

QuickBooks Online and Wave Accounting share the same basic bookkeeping features. Both accounting products use double-entry accounting by default. Both also integrate with most other business apps, Intuit QuickBooks through built-in integrations and Wave via Zapier. However, they offer different levels of scalability, in-depth accounting features and customer support, which we’ll explore in more detail below.

FeaturesQuickBooks OnlineWave Accounting
Income and expense trackingYesYes
Invoice generation and payment acceptanceYesYes
Payment acceptanceYesYes
Mobile accounting appYesYes
Number of usersLimited by planUnlimited
Number of plansFourOne
Payroll software integrationYes (QuickBooks Payroll)Yes (Wave Payroll)
Starting price$30 per monthFree for life
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QuickBooks Online and Wave Accounting pricing

The QuickBooks logo.
Image: QuickBooks

QuickBooks Online has four accounting plans with varying prices, features and user limits:

  • QuickBooks Simple Start costs $30 per month and includes one user + accountant access.
  • QuickBooks Essentials costs $55 a month and includes three users + accountant access.
  • QuickBooks Plus costs $85 a month and includes five users + accountant access.
  • QuickBooks Advanced costs $200 a month and includes up to 25 users + accountant access.

Intuit also has a freelance plan called QuickBooks Self-Employed, which helps freelancers track expenses and taxes but does little else. QuickBooks Self-Employed starts at $15 a month, but Wave Accounting has more features at a better price.

The Wave logo.
Image: Wave

In contrast, Wave Accounting has just one accounting plan that includes all features. Its software is free for life and includes unlimited invoicing, billing, payment acceptance, expense tracking, bank connections, users and businesses. For instance, freelance sellers can use it to manage multiple Etsy, Amazon and eBay shops without paying an extra fee for each separate business account.

QuickBooks Online Payroll and Wave Payroll

Both QuickBooks and Wave have their own payroll products that integrate seamlessly with their respective accounting software. If you have employees, include add-on payroll software costs when considering whether QuickBooks Online or Wave makes more sense for your bottom line:

  • QuickBooks Payroll starts at $45 a month + $5 per payee per month.
  • Wave Payroll starts at $20 a month (self-service) or $40 a month (full-service) + $6 per payee per month.

Feature comparison: QuickBooks Online vs. Wave Accounting

Accounting features

If you need bookkeeping basics only, both QuickBooks Online and Wave Accounting should suit you nicely, since they share many key features:

  • Automatic bank account syncing and reconciliation.
  • Double-entry recordkeeping.
  • Free accountant access.
  • Income and expense tracking.
  • Unlimited invoicing and online payment acceptance.
  • Crucial accounting reports (profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow).
  • Automatic tax categorization.

However, QuickBooks Online has more accounting features than Wave Accounting. The QuickBooks Simple Start plan includes all the features listed above as well as the following:

  • Receipt capture for accurate expense tracking.
  • Project cost estimates (convertible to invoice).
  • Cash flow tracking.
  • Mileage tracking.
  • 1099 contractor management.

Higher-tier QuickBooks accounting plans add even more features, such as time tracking, inventory management, bill management, profitability forecasting and more.

Put another way, if you need more than basic accounting features, QuickBooks Online is a better choice for you than Wave — as long as you’re comfortable with QuickBooks’ above-average starting price.

Mobile apps

Both QuickBooks Online and Wave Accounting have highly rated mobile apps. With both accounting providers, iOS and Android users can accept payments, access funds, create and send invoices, and check income and expenses on the go.

But just as with their browser-based interfaces, QuickBooks’ features outnumber Wave’s on mobile as well. Only QuickBooks Online lets freelancers track mileage, convert estimates to invoices and scan and upload receipts.

Crucially, Wave also lacks a mobile payroll app for both employees and employers. You can integrate Wave Payroll with Wave Accounting for seamless general ledger updates, but only QuickBooks Payroll will let you check payroll amounts and pay employees on the go. While Wave syncs with third-party time-tracking apps, it doesn’t have a built-in employee time clock or self-service portal.


Some of Wave’s features are better suited to midsize and big businesses than QuickBooks’, including its multi-business management and unlimited user access. However, QuickBooks’ features and more comprehensive plans give businesses plenty of room to grow: As your company expands, you can upgrade to a new plan instead of switching accounting software providers altogether.

Payroll integration

Both Wave and QuickBooks offer solid full-service payroll software that help small-business owners pay employees on time. While neither provider has a free payroll solution, Wave’s self-service plan costs just $20 a month plus $6 per employee. If you don’t mind filing payroll taxes on your own, Wave has the more affordable payroll solution of the two providers.

If you have between one and five employees, Wave Payroll’s full-service plan is cheaper per month than QuickBooks Payroll. However, thanks to QuickBooks Payroll’s lower per-employee fee, you’ll save more with QuickBooks than Wave as you add more employees.

Monthly costPrice with 1 employeePrice with 5 employeesPrice with 10 employeesPrice with 50 employeesPrice with 100 employees
QuickBooks Payroll$50$70$95$295$545
Wave Payroll (full-service plan)$46$70$100$340$640

Additionally, QuickBooks Online integrates with more payroll providers than its own in-house payroll software. For instance, you can integrate your QuickBooks accounting software with Gusto, even though QuickBooks Payroll and Gusto are direct competitors. Although you can use Zapier to integrate Wave with other products, Wave Payroll is the only payroll software Wave directly, seamlessly syncs with.

QuickBooks pros and cons

QuickBooks pros

  • Multiple plans for scalability.
  • Thorough accounting features.
  • Excellent mobile app with freelance-friendly features like mileage tracking and receipt capture.
  • Hundreds of native third-party app integrations.
  • Built-in time tracking, payroll, inventory tracking and payment add-ons.

QuickBooks cons

  • Above-average base price.
  • Poor customer service reviews on multiple third-party websites.
  • Poor customer experience with recent mobile app updates.

Wave pros and cons

Wave’s pros

  • Completely free business accounting software.
  • Unlimited users, business, invoices and bank or credit card connections.
  • Affordable Wave Payroll plan add-ons.
  • Automatic payroll journal entries synced with Wave Accounting.

Wave’s cons

  • Fewer features than most paid accounting providers.
  • No phone-based customer service option (email and chat only).
  • Third-party integration through Zapier only.
  • Full-service payroll available in just 14 states.

How we evaluated QuickBooks Online and Wave Accounting

To compare QuickBooks Online and Wave Accounting, we considered how each product stacked up in the following key areas:

  • Bookkeeping and accounting features, including journal entries, bank reconciliation, general ledger integration, reporting and forecasting.
  • Ease of use, including mobile app access, user-friendly cloud-based interfacing and ease of setup.
  • Customer service, including general customer service reputation, customer support hours, types of customer contact and customer complaints.
  • Third-party integrations, especially with small-business payroll, time-tracking and workforce management software.

To evaluate how well each product performed in these categories, we created free accounts with each provider. We also viewed demos, read product specs and white papers, and consulted reviews on third-party sites like Gartner Peer Insights, the App Store and Google Play.

Should your organization use QuickBooks Online or Wave Accounting?

If you’re a freelancer or small-business owner whose primary consideration is affordability first and features second, Wave Accounting is a better pick for you than QuickBooks Online. Its completely free software has the basics you need to manage your business’s finances and plan for a profitable future.

However, if you plan on growing your business in the future, QuickBooks Online is a far better choice than Wave. Its reporting features, integrations, user-friendly apps and multi-plan scalability will help you plan for growth and expand far into the future.

Other accounting solutions

1 QuickBooks

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QuickBooks from Intuit is a small business accounting software that allows companies to manage business anywhere, anytime. It presents organizations with a clear view of their profits without manual work and provides smart and user-friendly tools for the business.

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2 Acumatica Cloud ERP

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Acumatica Cloud ERP offers powerful finance and business intelligence tools to streamline company-wide accounting processes. Track costs, control billing, and manage time/expenses with multi-currency support and powerful financial reports. Acumatica makes real-time financial data available anytime, anywhere, on any device. Harness this data to make informed accounting decisions, reduce workloads, close the books faster, accelerate growth, and transform how you do business in the digital economy.

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