Wave Payroll’s fast facts

Our star rating: 3.4 stars

Pricing: Starts at $20 per month + $6 per employee

Key features:

  • Automatic tax calculations and filing.

  • Customizable payroll schedules.

  • Worker’s compensation insurance options.

If a super easy-to-use payroll software is your dream, Wave Payroll delivers. Its user interface is gorgeous and focuses on point-and-click simplicity. Anyone can quickly start paying staff without complication.

But beyond the aesthetic visuals, this small-business payroll software is limited. Its lack of support outside the United States and Canada is a dealbreaker for global organizations. Plus, there are no advanced capabilities such as performance management.

Let’s dig deeper and see if Wave Payroll is your perfect match.

Looking for a more robust outsourced payroll solution? We recommend Justworks as our top PEO alternative to Wave.

Wave Payroll’s pricing

Wave Payroll’s pricing is both straightforward and affordable.

The platform doesn’t offer various subscription “tiers.” Instead, everyone gets the same features included — except for automated tax filings. That perk, which determines your final price, depends on where in the U.S. your employees work.

In 14 states, including California and New York, Wave’s base price starts at $40 monthly. These locales include automatic tax filing.

But in the other 36 states, the cost is $20 per month. In these areas, Wave calculates your tax liability for you, though you still need to submit your tax paperwork manually.

Wave Payroll plans and pricing

PlanMonthly priceSupported U.S. states
Full-service tax states$40 + $6/employee or contractorArizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin
Self-service states$20 + $6/employee or contractorAll others

Pricing and details up to date as of 2/15/2024.

Complimentary accounting and invoice software

A nifty feature is Wave’s no-cost accounting plan, which is available to Wave Payroll users. That’s right, you can balance your books and generate invoices at no additional cost. And luckily, these other tools are similarly user-friendly and visually stunning.

There is no free lunch, though. Wave generates revenue through payment processing; when a client pays an invoice created with the platform, the company charges a credit card fee. This cost is standard practice, and competitors, like PayPal, also levy it. Still, there is an expense involved, just not upfront.

Wave also charges an additional fee for receipt scanning — unless you upgrade to Wave Pro, Wave’s paid accounting plan, which costs $16 per month. Wave Pro also includes thorough automation, expense tracking and multiple users. Wave Pro users also get a slight discount on transaction fees.

If you don’t need Wave Pro’s full suite of accounting tools, you can add receipt scanning to your free Wave Accounting plan for $11 a month or $96 a year.

Wave Payroll’s key features

Wave Payroll boasts several standout features designed to make the payroll process hassle-free.

SEE: How to Choose Payroll Software (TechRepublic)

Automatic tax calculations and filings

Wave Payroll automatically calculates, withholds and pays federal and state taxes for businesses in 14 U.S. states. This feature is a huge relief for time-strapped business owners. And it’s a unique perk since many competitors, like Zoho Payroll, will calculate taxes but don’t file them for you.

Customizable payroll schedules

With Wave Payroll, businesses can customize their payroll schedules. Some options include weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. While ADP and others also provide this ability, Wave offers it at a much more affordable price. This lower cost is a testament to Wave’s keen small-business appeal.

Worker’s compensation insurance options

The platform seamlessly integrates with Next Insurance, a third-party workers’ compensation insurance provider. This connection makes it a piece of cake to stay covered against liability. Of course, you can still source your own provider, but we appreciate Wave’s efforts to save small-business owners time and frustration when searching for coverage.

Wave Payroll pros

  • User-friendly interface.
  • Accounting integration.
  • Employee-facing appeal.

User-friendly interface

Wave Payroll stands out with its simplified dashboard and intuitive design. This beautiful approach is invaluable for small-business owners who might not be payroll experts. The point-and-click interface is structured so that even novices can dish out paychecks stress-free.

Accounting integration

The software’s ability to seamlessly integrate with other Wave products, including accounting and invoicing, is a significant advantage. This connection means businesses can manage multiple financial aspects from a singular platform. For comparison, many competitors require technical knowledge to link third-party programs. As a result, Wave’s seamless integrations are a breath of fresh air.

Employee-facing appeal

Wave Payroll isn’t just beautiful for small-business owners — it also offers a rich experience for staff members.

Employees can easily pull detailed pay stubs and tax documentation. They can also update their contact information, tax withholdings and other information. While these abilities are the norm, Wave’s gorgeous interface will impress your staff. In turn, this positive experience can improve morale and give a more professional image to your business, which can help reduce employee turnover.

Wave Payroll cons

  • Limited global reach.
  • Lack of advanced HR features.
  • No employee benefits support.
  • Mobile app limitations.

Limited global reach

One of Wave Payroll’s more notable drawbacks is its focus exclusively on U.S. and Canadian businesses. Similar easy-to-use competitors like Gusto provide global support. So, if you need multinational paycheck processing, Wave won’t fit the bill.

Lack of advanced HR features

While Wave Payroll nails payroll basics, businesses seeking a more comprehensive HR solution might feel underwhelmed. The platform lacks advanced abilities, like talent and performance management and advanced data analytics.

For small-business owners focused on merely keeping people paid, Wave is a great choice. But for growing entities desiring next-level support, the platform falls short.

No employee benefits support

Let’s cut to the chase; the platform doesn’t provide worker benefit packages. Sure, it can handle deductions from paychecks, but you’ll need to separately source health insurance offerings — among other items — for your staff.

This lack of benefits support is massively inconvenient. Competitors like ADP offer these perks in-house. So, even though Wave boasts a beginner-friendly concept, the platform surprisingly leaves you out to dry regarding non-cash compensation.

Mobile app limitations

Wave Payroll’s app, while functional, only encapsulates some of the features available on its desktop version. This discrepancy can frustrate business owners or HR personnel who need to manage payroll on the go. While basic functions such as payroll runs are supported, the limited mobile experience may push users back to the desktop version, slashing the convenience factor.

If Wave Payroll isn’t ideal for you, check out these alternatives

Perhaps Wave’s limited functions are too underwhelming for you, or maybe you need international support in Europe or elsewhere. If so, there are other payroll competitors for you to consider.

SEE: Top 6 Wave Payroll Competitors and Alternatives

Justworks

If you’d rather not deal with payroll, HR, hiring and offboarding on your own, a professional employer organization like Justworks can do it for you. While Justworks is a good deal more expensive than Wave Payroll, it’s definitely more fully featured and saves busy business owners a great amount of time.

Justworks has two plans:

  • Basic: $59 per employee. Includes payroll, HR, compliance, onboarding, offboarding, performance management and limited employee benefits.
  • Plus: $99 per employee. Includes Basic features plus employee medical, vision and dental insurance benefits.

Read our review of Justworks’ PEO solution for more details.

Gusto

A well-regarded name in the payroll and HR software realm, Gusto delivers more than just payroll processing.

Unlike Wave Payroll which has limited HR functionalities, Gusto offers a more comprehensive suite. This array includes performance management, time-tracking and tools for employee onboarding. Plus, the competitor supports global operations beyond the U.S. and Canada.

And similar to Wave Payroll, Gusto also showcases a beautiful, user-friendly interface. This perk means you don’t have to sacrifice functionality for visual appeal.

Paychex

Catering primarily to midsize and large enterprises, Paychex offers a level of sophistication and customization that might be overkill for smaller businesses but is perfect for larger ones.

One standout feature is its advanced reporting and analytics, which exceeds what Wave Payroll offers. This functionality lets businesses derive insights from payroll data, helping inform broader business strategies.

Plus, Paychex’s global reach makes it suitable for multinational corporations. This international span addresses one of the significant limitations of Wave Payroll.

Square Payroll

The Square Payroll is a perfect companion if you already use the company’s popular point-of-sale (POS) system. You can integrate the two solutions to unearth new insights into your business. For example, you could compare payroll costs per hour to sales transactions. This data could illustrate timeframes that you can reduce staffing.

And unlike Wave Payroll, Square Payroll is tailored for businesses that employ both salaried employees and hourly workers who might earn tips. This niche appeal ensures that payroll computations are accurate and compliant in tip-heavy industries.

Final thoughts

Wave Payroll is an excellent choice for small businesses needing a simple, beginner-friendly solution. The platform focuses on keeping people paid with few bells and whistles. This functional approach is ideal for simple operations.

But if your business is growing, Wave may feel inadequate. And if you’re planning on paying people outside of the U.S. or Canada, then forget it altogether. Wave only serves these two North American countries. To see other options, take a look at our top payroll software picks.

Review methodology

The information for this review was gathered by analyzing Wave’s website and technical documentation and considering feature suitability for small-business owners, as well as conducting an in-depth analysis of user reviews from trusted review sites, among other sources. Additionally, competitive analysis was conducted to understand how Wave Payroll stands compared to industry peers.

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4 Workforce Now - ADP

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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