Wave vs. QuickBooks: which is the best accounting tool?

wave vs quickbooks

When you run your own business, you soon find out it's not just about doing what you love. As an entrepreneur or freelancer, you may need to wear many hats: as head of sales, marketer, customer service lead, and whether you love it or loathe it, chief finance officer.

If you don't have seamless processes for managing the flow of money in your business, you have trouble on your hands. However, financial software is here to help.

With the many accounting and invoicing tools on the market, you can simplify, streamline and even automate your financial tasks.

Two of the best accounting systems for small businesses and freelancers are Wave and QuickBooks. But how do they stack up?


Comparing QuickBooks vs. Wave in 2020 – which is the best accounting software for you?

The main difference between the two accounting systems is that Wave is free and QuickBooks is not.

Another difference is that QuickBooks is one of the most comprehensive finance tools on the market, while Wave is a better choice if you want simplicity instead of complexity.

Before we get started, know that in this post we're focusing on QuickBooks Online - Intuit's cloud product that's available on any device - rather than their desktop solutions.


When to choose Wave

1. You want to save money

While QuickBooks has price plans ranging from $25 to $150/month, Wave accounting software is free.

But is Wave really free? Yes! Their accounting and invoicing software is free and unlimited, so you get instant access to all features after signing up. You also don't need a credit card to sign up.

Jump ahead to our pricing comparison of Wave vs QuickBooks to find out what Wave charges for and how they make money.

Screenshot 2019-10-04 at 17.40.03


2. You're a small business owner or freelancer

Wave is built for businesses with one to nine employees and is ideal for freelancers, consultants, designers, writers and small agencies.

Their features are straightforward but comprehensive enough for any early-stage or intentionally small business, and it’s a breeze to send simple yet fully customizable invoices for a range of products and services.

Wave also announced Wave Money in June 2020, their take on "the future of small business banking". This will offer their customers a business bank account with a debit card and mobile app with built-in bookkeeping. We're really excited to see how this benefits Wave users as it becomes more widely available. It's currently in limited release and only available to US-based, single-owner businesses.

If you want a budget-friendly accounting and invoicing solution, Wave is a great free alternative to QuickBooks.



3. You want simplicity

Using Wave for your accounting is a breeze. The user experience is clean, bright and incredibly simple to navigate. Wave offers a surprisingly comprehensive feature set for a free accounting tool, and everything is neatly organized so it's easy to find what you need.

Alternatively, QuickBooks lets you do more with the system, but can be clunky and overwhelming for those just starting out. Looking at user reviews for ease of use on G2, Wave is rated 9.0/10 and QuickBooks Online is rated 8.1/10.


4. You need quick and easy setup

Wave is free forever, so you don't need a trial or demo to get started. Once you've signed up, you have access to all the features you need.

As Wave is so easy to set up and use, it's a better choice than QuickBooks if you're not sure what you're looking for or are less tech-savvy.

If you're looking at other simple alternatives to QuickBooks, you might also come across FreshBooks. Here's our comparison of FreshBooks and QuickBooks:


When to choose QuickBooks

1. You want a more comprehensive accounting solution

Don't get us wrong, Wave doesn't fall short because it's free – it offers an incredible amount of features and contends with many paid accounting apps.

However, QuickBooks Online is probably the most comprehensive accounting tool on the market – especially if you have the budget and requirements to justify the higher price plans.

With QuickBooks, you can take advantage of advanced reporting, inventory management, mileage tracking and so much more. That said, most small businesses will have less need for the features at a higher price point.

QBO Reports.jpg


2. You have a bigger business or work in retail

QuickBooks can be quite heavy for freelancers and very small businesses, even when using its Essentials plan. However, while Wave is built for businesses with up to nine employees, QuickBooks has no upper limit and tends to thrive as you scale and need more advanced features.

If you have a retail business, QuickBooks Online is also a better financial tool for you. Its inventory management features and easy integration with QuickBooks Point of Sale makes running your business easy-peasy.


3. You plan on scaling your business soon

Switching business tools can be a pain. If you know you're going to focus on scaling your business soon, you might want to avoid tools that are designed with small businesses in mind, such as Wave.

QuickBooks is a wonderful tool for small to mid-sized businesses that plan on getting bigger: you can be sure that you'll have all the features you need as you scale.

QBO Homepage


4. You want features that Wave doesn't have

It's hard to beat free accounting and invoicing software, especially if you're a freelancer or very small business. However, Wave cannot – and shouldn't – offer every possible feature for niche use cases. This is more QuickBooks' jam.

It's hard to find something that QuickBooks can't do, especially considering Intuit's range of other products that can easily slot together, like QuickBooks Point of Sale.

It can be worth paying for QuickBooks instead of Wave when:

  • You have a retail business and inventory management is important to you
  • You need to track mileage
  • You need to track time (although tools like FreshBooks offer this at a lower price point)
  • You want more advanced reporting
  • Your accountant specializes in QuickBooks, as many do in the US

Comparing Wave vs. QuickBooks feature sets

Is Wave better than QuickBooks? The honest answer is that it depends on your business, your budget and the features that are important to you.

If you're looking for free accounting software, Wave is one of the best tools to try out. Wave offers a brilliant range of core accounting and invoicing features, and small business owners should find everything that they need in that department. It also offers payments, receipts, multiple users and even multiple businesses to be managed in the same free account.

Although Wave has a very comprehensive feature set, there are some aspects that QuickBooks covers that Wave does not. These include time tracking, mileage and inventory management.

Here's our comparison table of Wave versus QuickBooks feature sets to give you a quick overview:

Wave plansFeatures
Wave (free)- Unlimited bank and credit card connections
- Unlimited income and expense tracking
- Unlimited guest collaborators
- Run multiple businesses in one account
- Unlimited customizable invoices
- Receipt scanning
- Online payments


QuickBooks plansFeatures
QuickBooks Essentials ($25/month)- Send invoices and accept payments
- Manage bills and expenses
- Track sales and tax
– Capture and organize receipts
- 1 user
QuickBooks Plus ($70/month)Essentials features, plus:
- Track project profitability
- Track inventory
- Track time
- 5 users
QuickBooks Advanced ($150/month)Plus features, plus:
- Smart reporting
- Custom user permissions
- Premium care & training
- Enhanced custom fields
- 25 users


Track income and expenses for accounting

With QuickBooks, it's simple to connect your bank accounts, credit cards, PayPal and Square and categorize and run reports on your expenses.

The mobile app lets you take photos of receipts and it'll automatically match it up with existing transactions. This takes a lot of the hassle out of one of the most frustrating parts of bookkeeping.

QuickBooks is designed to get you in the best possible position when tax time rolls around, but it also keeps you up-to-date throughout the rest of the year.

The built-in cash flow statement is an especially useful indicator of how much money you have to cover your bills and what's left for non-essentials.

QuickBooks profit and loss indicator

QuickBooks cash flow reporting


Wave has a built-in integration with PayPal and a range of banking integrations, although live bank feeds are only currently available for customers in the US.

In the Chart of Accounts section of your dashboard, you get a simple overview of your Assets, Liabilities, Income, Expenses and Equity accounts to keep your accounting updated year-round:


Wave Chart of Accounts in user dashboard


Like QuickBooks, the Wave Receipts app for iOS and Android lets you scan receipts on the go and say goodbye to paper receipts and spreadsheets.

Wave also has useful reporting for cash flow statements, profit and loss, balance sheets, sales tax reports and more. Like most other Wave features, these are super simple for small businesses and freelancers to understand at a glance.

Wave accounting cash flow reporting



QuickBooks has a great library of native integrations, including connections to 400+ business apps.

Wave only has built-in and supported integrations with Google Sheets and PayPal, but you can sync it to your other apps using solutions like PieSync (best for two-way contact syncing) and Zapier (best for one-way trigger-action automations).

With PieSync, you can also connect both QuickBooks and Wave to hundreds of other business tools to see your latest contact data in every app.

Get started with a free trial of PieSync to create a two-way sync between Wave and QuickBooks and your other business tools.


Customer sentiment

Overall, both Wave and QuickBooks are loved by their customers. Wave's average rating of 4.4/5 stars from 200 reviews showcases its small but passionate fanbase, while QuickBooks' 4.0/5 stars from a whopping 2,349 reviews reveals its huge satisfied user base.

Wave edges ahead of QuickBooks when it comes to ease of use and ease of set up, while QuickBooks wins on its range of features.

As another popular accounting software that customers love, you can also compare QuickBooks with Xero:

Wave vs. QuickBooks pricing

The main difference between Wave pricing and QuickBooks pricing is that Wave is free. However, take a moment to compare the two systems' plans to make sure you have access to all the features you need.


Wave pricing

Wave's free plan includes:

  • Unlimited bank and credit card connections
  • Unlimited income and expense tracking
  • Unlimited guest collaborators
  • Run multiple businesses in one account
  • Unlimited customizable invoices
  • Receipt scanning
  • Online payments

So how does Wave make money? And what will you need to pay for?

Transactions: Wave offers several products: Invoicing, Accounting, Receipts and Payments. Of these, Payments is pay-per-use and the others are free.

With Wave, you pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction per credit card transaction for non-European issued cards, and 1.4% + 20p per transaction for European issued cards.

Where your customers are located will depend if Wave works out cheaper than QuickBook's price per transaction:

Quickbooks payment fees

Payroll: There's also a fee if you want to pay your staff with Wave – their payroll service for companies in the US and Canada includes a $20-35/month base fee, plus $6 per active employee and independent contractor paid.

Wave Advisors: If you're in North America, you can get even more benefits from Wave by paying for a Wave Advisor. Their accounting coaching is available from $79/month, while bookkeeping and a tax service for US businesses start at $129 per month.


QuickBooks pricing

Quickbooks Online has three price plans: Essentials ($25/month), Plus ($70/month) and Advanced ($150/month). You can try Essentials and Plus for free for 30 days, or call for a product demo of Advanced.

QuickBooks also offers 50% off for your first 3 months if you buy without a free trial period.

Here's the difference between what you get in each QuickBooks plan from their pricing page:

QuickBooks Online pricing plans compared

Summary: when to choose Wave vs. QuickBooks

So, when should you choose Wave and when is QuickBooks a better choice? Here's a simple comparison of the two financial software options:

When to choose WaveWhen to choose QuickBooks
You want to save moneyYou want a more comprehensive accounting solution
You're a small business owner or freelancerYou have a bigger business or work in retail
You want simplicityYou plan on scaling your business soon
You need quick and easy setupYou want features that Wave doesn't have

Wave is also limited for businesses outside of North America, so QuickBooks or an alternative like Xero might be a better choice if you're in other parts of the world.


Looking for other accounting software to compare with QuickBooks and Wave?

Deciding between QuickBooks and Wave as your accounting system depends on your business size, industry, and the features that matter most to you. Wave is fantastic for early-stage businesses and freelancers, while QuickBooks scales beautifully and most accountants love it.

However, one thing you need to make sure of regardless of your software choice is that it integrates with the rest of your tech stack.

PieSync makes it easy to sync your contact data two-ways between QuickBooks and Wave and your other apps. This means you're always looking at the right information about your customers in every app.

With hundreds of options to connect your apps, you can perfectly align your accounting software with your customer support tool, CRM and the other apps your business relies on.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.