FreshBooks vs. Xero

FreshBooks and Xero are two of the most popular alternatives to QuickBooks, and each has "unlimited" features that set it apart. If you need unlimited users more than anything else, Xero could work for you. And if unlimited invoicing and expense tracking is more your thing, FreshBooks is a good pick.
Best for invoicing
Fresh Books
FreshBooks
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
Starting from
$15.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Unlimited customized invoices
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Highly rated mobile app
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    No bank reconciliation with cheapest plan
Best for collaboration
Xero
Xero
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2
Starting from
$12.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Unlimited users
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Inventory management with every plan
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    No expense tracking with cheapest plan

Data as of 1/4/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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QuickBooks' parent company, Intuit, has been changing the accounting software game since the early ʼ80s. With millions of worldwide users, it's the powerhouse of the accounting world—with good reason.

But there are alternatives to QuickBooks out there, and two of the best, FreshBooks and Xero, have made a huge splash in a much shorter amount of time. Xero, founded in New Zealand in 2006, has 2 million current users.1 And FreshBooks, founded in Canada a few years earlier, has had (an astonishing) 24 million users since its founding.2

Both companies offer affordable plans for freelancers, well-rounded mid-tier plans for growing businesses, and comprehensive enterprise plans. But could one software option work better for you than the other? Read our comparison to find out.

FreshBooks vs. Xero 2022

Brand
Starting price
Free trial
Mobile app
Key features
Get started
Fresh Books

FreshBooks

$15.00/mo.

30 days

iOS and Android

Unlimited invoices, time tracking, automatic bank account syncing

Xero

Xero

$12.00/mo.

30 days

iOS and Android

Unlimited users, 1,000+ third-party app integrations

Data as of 1/4/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

FreshBooks: Most comprehensive

FreshBooks
Fresh Books
FreshBooks
4 out of 5 stars
4.0

Starting at $15.00/mo.

With its clean dashboard, automatic bank reconciliation, and built-in time tracking and payment acceptance features, FreshBooks is a good pick for small-business owners who want one platform to tackle multiple tasks.

Data as of 1/4/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

FreshBooks plans and pricing

Plan name
Starting price
Number of clients
Key features
Learn more
Lite $15.00/mo.

Up to 5

Invoices, expense tracking, time tracking, tax reports

Plus $25.00/mo.

Up to 50

Lite features + double-entry accounting, automated recurring invoices, automated late fees

Premium $50.00/mo.

Up to 500

Plus features + up to 500 billable clients

Data as of 1/4/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

FreshBooks' cheapest plan bundles a bunch of key accounting features into one tidy platform:

  • Customized, unlimited invoices
  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • Online payment acceptance (ACH transfers and credit card payments)
  • Automatic bank account reconciliation
  • Accountant access

At $15 a month, FreshBooks Lite is perfect for freelancers who are juggling just a handful of clients and projects. But since the Lite plan limits you to five billable clients a month, anyone other than freelancers and solopreneurs will probably have to pass it up.

Luckily, FreshBooks' next plan, FreshBooks Plus, starts at just $25 a month. With up to 50 billable clients each month, it's a better fit for small to midsize businesses.

FreshBooks Plus also adds perks that streamline financial tasks for busy small-business owners, such as automatic late payment reminders for your clients' overdue bills, automatic late fees (if the reminders don't work out), and automatic recurring invoicing. (In the blank-slate rush of a new month, it's easy to forget last month's unpaid bills, which could leave you missing out on a substantial chunk of cash.)

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Pro tip: Additional users
Wary of being the only person tracking your company's finances? You can add as many additional users as you like to any FreshBooks plan, but bear in mind that it'll cost you $10 extra per person per month.

The Premium plan doubles the price and multiplies the number of monthly billable clients by 10; you can bill 500 clients a month, but in all other respects, Premium is the same as Plus. And frankly, if your business is big enough that you're juggling 500 clients a month, $50 is an absolute steal.

FreshBooks pros and cons

Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable plans with thorough accounting features
Pro Bullet Robust customer support team with multiple contact methods
Pro Bullet Highly rated mobile app
Cons
Con Bullet Single-entry accounting required for cheapest plan
Con Bullet No built-in inventory management
Con Bullet Limited billable clients per month

Where FreshBooks stands out

FreshBooks includes a few accounting-adjacent services you usually have to get through a secondary provider, like time tracking and payment acceptance. You'll still need to find a thirty-party app for payroll, though (FreshBooks recommends Gusto).

Info
FreshBooks' bookkeeping services

Want more in-depth financial help and an extra set of eyes on your books? FreshBooks can pair you with a bookkeeper who keeps your books compliant, balanced, and accurate.

In a world where more and more people use their phones to get online, a software provider is only as good as its app. Fortunately, FreshBooks' mobile accounting app is, by all accounts, excellent. The iOS app has 4.8 stars from just over 10K users,3 and the Android app performs similarly well with 4.3 stars from 3.7K users.4 With the app, you can check out your financials at a glance, create and send invoices, and capture receipts to track expenses entirely on the go.

FreshBooks also has a more robust customer service department than many other software providers (like Wave, which only offers email assistance). If you need help from FreshBooks, you can get in touch by phone, chat, or email, or just search the extensive online support library for help with common problems.

Where FreshBooks falls short

Ask any accountant: double-entry accounting is the most accurate way to keep your books. With this method, you enter each financial transaction twice, which helps eliminate errors and verifies that your books really are balanced at the end of the day.

Alas, with its cheapest plan, FreshBooks offers only single-entry accounting, which isn't great. Sure, single entry can work okay for freelancers with one or two clients, but it's way too simplistic for any other type of business.

And while we like FreshBooks' time-tracking and bill-payment inclusions, the software still lacks a few built-in features, most notably inventory management. You'll have to find inventory management software that syncs with FreshBooks, which isn't necessarily a bad thing—there are dozens of great options. Still, it's a bummer that FreshBooks Classic's inventory tracker didn't carry over to the new FreshBooks.

Pin
Pro tip: Third-party integrations

The best accounting software integrates with other great software (like inventory management, payroll, and billing software) to make tracking business financials a piece of cake. Make sure your favorite business apps sync with your accounting software before you sign up; like most accounting software providers, FreshBooks lists its integrations online.

Finally, we find FreshBooks' client limitations a little frustrating. Don't get us wrong; you get a lot of bang for your buck with the Lite plan, and its unlimited features are stellar. But what's the point of unlimited invoices when you can bill only five clients a month?

Find Your Money—and Keep More of It

With plans starting at $15 a month, FreshBooks is well-suited for freelancers, solopreneurs, and small-business owners alike.

  • Track time and expenses
  • Create custom invoices
  • Accept online payments

Xero: Best for collaboration

Xero
Xero
Xero
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2

Starting at $12.00/mo.

Each Xero plan includes unlimited users—a perk practically unheard of in accounting software circles, especially software that starts at $12 a month. With built-in inventory tracking and a massive library of third-party app integrations, Xero works well for small and midsize businesses alike.

Data as of 1/4/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Xero plans and pricing

Plan name
Starting price
Number of invoices per month
Key features
Learn more
Early $12.00/mo.

Up to 20

Invoicing, inventory management, bank reconciliation
Growing $34.00/mo.

Unlimited

Early + bulk transaction reconciliation
Established $65.00/mo.

Unlimited

Growing + multi-currency support, expense tracking, project management

Data as of 1/4/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Xero's basic plan, Early, comes with basic accounting features made to suit freelancers, including these:

  • Bank account syncing and automatic reconciliation
  • Online invoicing with billing and payment acceptance
  • Receipt scanning and uploads
  • Easy on-time bill payment

While the Early plan includes unlimited automatic bank reconciliation, it does limit you to sending only 20 invoices a month. It also keeps you to entering just five bills a month, which means it's not a good fit for businesses with more extensive expenses. 

Unlike FreshBooks, Xero doesn't limit the number of clients you can bill—only the amount of invoices you can send. If you're billing more than five clients a month, Xero will work better for you than FreshBooks. On the other hand, if you're sending the same five clients multiple invoices throughout the month, FreshBooks could suit you better. (And don't forget that Xero's cheapest plan includes automatic bank reconciliation. FreshBooks' doesn't.)

To remove Xero's limits, you'll have to upgrade to the Growing plan, which has all of the Early plan's features at $34 a month instead of $12. That's a big jump, but the price is worth it to access unlimited bill entering, quotes, and invoicing.

And while the Established plan is double the cost, it has the best features for bigger teams. For instance, it includes expense and project management, both of which help you keep better tabs on a larger cash flow and a larger team. It also lets you accept bills and send invoices in multiple currencies, a necessary feature if your business is big enough to operate in more than one country.

Other features worth noting? Unlike FreshBooks, Xero has a built-in inventory feature, though you don't have to use it. Xero syncs with so many third-party apps that you can almost certainly hook up your preferred point-of-sale and inventory management software.

Xero pros and cons

Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable starting price
Pro Bullet Unlimited collaboration with each plan
Pro Bullet 1,000+ third-party business app integrations
Cons
Con Bullet Limited number of invoices, quotes, and bill entires per month
Con Bullet Expense and project management with most expensive plan only

Where Xero stands out

Xero lets you add as many users as you want to your accounting plan, so if collaboration is key for you, put Xero at the top of your list.

Of course, Xero does more than provide easy collaboration for its users: it practices what it preaches by integrating with more than 1,000 popular business apps. That's even more third-party apps than QuickBooks pairs with. Honestly, your favorite financial app would have to work hard not to sync with Xero.

And while we're on the subject of mobile apps, Xero's isn't too shabby. It's not as popular as FreshBooks' accounting app, but iOS users still give it 4.5 stars out of 5 while Android users give it 4.4.6 With the recent addition of Hubdoc, on-the-go receipt capturing is easier than ever.

Where Xero falls short

Xero shares one of FreshBooks' top weaknesses: its cheapest plan limits you to sending 20 invoices and entering 5 bills a month. (Technically, since FreshBooks includes unlimited invoices, you could send as many as you wanted to your limited number of clients.) 

Speaking of expenses, only Xero's most expensive plan lets you manage them. You can use Hubdoc to scan and upload receipts, but you can access more detailed expense management only if you're paying $65 a month.

The takeaway

Still torn between Xero and FreshBooks? Here's our bottom line on both: 

  • FreshBooks is an outstanding choice for service-based freelancers, sole proprietors, and small-business owners who need excellent invoicing software with thorough automation and options for client input.
  • Xero's unlimited user number makes it a great choice for partnerships and multi-owner LLCs where more than one person has an eye on the books. Its bank reconciliation and inventory management features also set it apart from FreshBooks—especially for product-based freelancers (like Etsy sellers).  

Not thrilled about either Xero or FreshBooks? Check out our other picks for the year's best small-business accounting software.

FAQs

Are FreshBooks and Xero better than QuickBooks?

That depends—what are you looking for in accounting software? If you want super user-friendly software that accountants and bookkeepers use daily all over the world, QuickBooks Online is definitely a solid choice. But if you're looking for more affordable software that still offers comprehensive features and better customer service, FreshBooks and Xero could suit too.

Does FreshBooks sync with TurboTax?

No. TurboTax is owned by Intuit, the company that created QuickBooks—which means the software syncs with QuickBooks, but not with Xero, FreshBooks, or most other players in the game.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources
1. Xero, "About Us." Accessed January 4, 2022.
2. FreshBooks, "The FreshBooks Story." Accessed January 4, 2022.
3. The App Store, "FreshBooks Cloud Accounting." Accessed January 4, 2022.
4. Google Play, "FreshBooks – Invoice + Accounting." Accessed January 4, 2022.
5. The App Store, "Xero Accounting." Accessed January 4, 2022.
6. Google Play, "Xero Accounting." Accessed January 4, 2022.

Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie McQuarrie has been writing for and about small businesses since 2014. Prior to writing full-time, she worked with a variety of small-business owners (from freelance writers to real-estate solopreneurs), which gave her a front-row look at small-business owners' struggles, frustrations, and successes. Currently, she’s Business.org’s accounting and payroll staff writer. Her work has been featured on SCORE.org, G2, and Fairygodboss, among others.
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