QuickBooks Online Accounting Software Review 2020
QuickBooks Online has more than 2 million global users,1 and for the most part, its popularity is warranted. But QuickBooks definitely has its shortcomings, most notably its high price and low customer service ratings.
QuickBooks tops nearly every list of the best small-business accounting software—and with good reason. Intuit, QuickBooks’ parent company, has been an accounting staple since the 1980s; those decades of experience culminated in a user-friendly, hyper-accessible product that basically does it all, from sales tax estimation to extensive accounting reports.
But QuickBooks definitely has its drawbacks, and if you’ve just launched a business, the software’s high pricing could be a deal breaker. Do QuickBooks’ perks outweigh its downsides? Keep reading; we’ll break it down to help you decide.
To give business owners a boost during the COVID-19 crisis, QuickBooks is offering new users 70% off for the first three months. If you want to capitalize on the pricing, you’ll have to waive your 30-day free trial, but doing so lowers the cheapest plan, Simple Start, to $8 a month. The priciest plan, Advanced, hops from $150 a month to $45 a month. And QuickBooks’ Self-Employed plan for freelancers, which usually costs $15 a month, currently costs just $1 a month for 12 months if you sign up now.
|Plan name||Number of users||Key features|
|Self Employed||1 user|
Expense tracking, basic reporting, mileage tracking, invoicing
|Simple Start||1 user|
Expense tracking, receipt organization, mileage tracking, sales tax tracking, estimates
Simple Start features + bill management, time tracking
Essentials features + inventory tracking, project profitability tracking
Plus features + bill payment, batched invoices and expenses, workflow automation
QuickBooks Online plans and features
QuickBooks is one of the most scalable, versatile small-business accounting solutions out there. Whether you’re a self-employed individual with a limited software budget or you own a small to medium-sized business counting on growth, QuickBooks has a plan for you—though whether it’s priced right is another question.
FYI, QuickBooks Self-Employed is specifically geared toward freelancers. It has only basic bookkeeping features (including minimal reporting), doesn’t help with more complex business taxes, and accommodates just one user. If you aren’t a freelancer, Self-Employed honestly won’t work for you.
But if you are a freelancer, QuickBooks Self-Employed helps you charge clients, track expenses, and prepare for tax time with features like these:
- Invoicing and payment acceptance
- Receipt capturing
- Quarterly tax estimation
- Basic reporting, including profit and loss reports and itemized tax deductions
You’ll also get QuickBooks’ mobile accounting app, which beats every other accounting app on the market hands down. At $15 a month, QuickBooks Self-Employed isn’t the cheapest choice for freelancers (which is true of every QuickBooks plan, honestly), so if frugality is your main goal, a free accounting solution like Wave will save you that extra $180 a year.
As of April 2020, QuickBooks is offering QuickBooks Self-Employed for just $1 a month for all new users. The bargain pricing lasts a full year—and $12 for a year sure beats the typical pricing of $180.
QuickBooks Simple Start
Simple Start is QuickBooks’ cheapest plan for solopreneurs and small-business owners. At $25 a month, it doesn’t come cheap—we assume you’re expecting this caveat by now—but it features a pretty good accounting service roundup:
- Income and expense tracking
- Mileage tracking
- Invoicing and payment acceptance
- Receipt capturing and tracking
- 1099 contractor management
- Sales (and sales tax) tracking
- Customizable report generation
Note that Simple Start doesn’t include inventory tracking. However, QuickBooks syncs with hundreds of third-party apps, many of which offer better inventory tracking than QuickBooks does). So if you sell goods, you don’t necessarily need to exclude Simple Start.
In our book, QuickBooks Essentials and QuickBooks Plus are the best QuickBooks plans for small and midsize businesses. Essentials, priced at $40 a month, adds bill management and time tracking along with better reporting—including accounts receivable and accounts payable, which are necessary for businesses that take customer payments on credit.
QuickBooks Essentials also lets you grant access to three users, which could include you, your accountant or bookkeeper, and one other person in your business. It’s a useful feature if you want multiple eyes on your cash flow. Heads up, though: it’s frustrating that QuickBooks limits the number of people you can add by plan. Competitors like FreshBooks let you add as many users as you want for an extra $10 per person per month while every Xero plan includes unlimited users at no additional cost.
QuickBooks Plus jumps up to $70 a month for two key additions: inventory tracking and project profitability tracking. Frankly, QuickBooks’ inventory management solution is a bit underwhelming, but using the same platform for sales tax and income tracking has its perks. And with project profitability tracking, you can look at payroll, labor costs, and (if you offer custom pricing for each job) job costing.
QuickBooks Advanced is QuickBooks’ heftiest plan, and at $150 a month (that’s $1,800 a year), it’s well out of range for most small-business owners. With 25 users, extensive reporting, online training, and a dedicated account manager, QuickBooks Advanced isn’t quite an enterprise-level solution, but it is built for bigger businesses with dozens of employees and a steady cash flow.
QuickBooks Online pros and cons
- Excellent, user-friendly interface
- Extensive reporting features
- Highly rated mobile app
- Expensive plans
- Low customer service ratings
QuickBooks Online pros
Here’s our honest opinion: QuickBooks is absolutely worth the hype. First of all, the software is, by and large, fairly intuitive. It’s easy to set up and use, which is crucial when you’re delving into the world of finances—the numbers themselves are hard enough to wrangle without clunky software to hold you up.
Post-setup, QuickBooks helps you stay on top of your finances with extensive reporting. The pricier your plan, the more reports you get, which makes sense; the heftier plans are built for bigger businesses, which usually have more complex finances (for instance, high-level inventory management and payroll). Most notably, with QuickBooks Plus and Advanced, you can access 60+ reports, all of which can give you at-a-glance information about how your business is performing.
And if you do most of your accounting on the go, QuickBooks Online is one of your best solutions. Of all our top accounting software solutions, it has one of the highest-rated mobile accounting apps. The app is basically an all-in-one accounting platform that lets you create invoices, scan receipts, manage expenses, track mileage, and reach out to customers from any web-enabled device.
In other words, QuickBooks’ app does just about everything the accounting software can do—a rarity among accounting software providers. Even better, both iOS and Android users are happy with the app’s performance. On Apple’s App Store, 123.6K users give the app an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars,2 and on Google Play, the app averages 4.2 stars between 33K users.3
QuickBooks’ app does just about everything the software can do—a rarity among accounting software providers. Even better, both iOS and Android users are happy with the app’s performance.
QuickBooks Online cons
We may have hinted at this a few times so far in this review . . . but Intuit’s QuickBooks is on the higher end of expensive accounting software providers for small businesses. In fairness to QuickBooks, the extensive features do help justify the price. But that’s poor consolation for small-business owners who, in our opinion, shouldn’t have to dedicate a big chunk of their monthly finances to managing said finances.
Plus, with its above-average cost, you’d think QuickBooks could invest in a good customer service experience . . . but you’d be wrong. On most fronts, QuickBooks has super low customer satisfaction ratings; for instance, on Consumer Affairs, Intuit QuickBooks gets just one star out of five for customer satisfaction.4
Managing a growing team? You can add QuickBooks Payroll to your existing QuickBooks Online plan. Pricing starts at $45 a month plus an additional $4 per paid employee per month (the cost per employee increases with each plan). And all of QuickBooks’ payroll plans include full-service payroll, which means QuickBooks calculates and files payroll taxes for you.
Unfortunately, at its best, we can only describe QuickBooks Payroll as functional. It gets the job done, but at a higher cost than payroll service alternatives like SurePayroll, which starts at $19.99 a month, or OnPay, which starts at $36 a month.
Most importantly, QuickBooks Payroll doesn’t have a tax filing guarantee unless you subscribe to its priciest plan (that’d be QuickBooks Payroll Elite, which starts at a ridiculous $125 a month plus $10 per employee). If QuickBooks makes a mistake with your taxes, you’ll deal with the resulting IRS penalty yourself. That isn’t the industry norm—almost every other payroll provider includes a tax penalty guarantee with every plan—and we see it as a huge downside to QuickBooks’ already below-average payroll plan.
Based on its high cost and limited tax filing guarantee, we can recommend QuickBooks Payroll only to existing QuickBooks users who like QuickBooks’ interface and don’t want to deal with third-party payroll integration. Even if that describes you, though, we strongly recommend you explore an alternative payroll provider, like Gusto, which syncs easily with QuickBooks, includes a tax filing guarantee, and generally offers an all-around better payroll product.
QuickBooks is generally pretty easy to set up yourself, though launching any accounting software gets harder the more complex your business is. But if you don’t want to tackle software setup on your own—or if you just want additional help customizing QuickBooks to your business—you can request expert setup from a QuickBooks bookkeeper.
For a one-time $50 fee, a bookkeeper will walk you through the entire setup process. In particular, they’ll help you create your chart of accounts, which is a list of all the financial accounts your business will use to record financial transactions. Creating a thorough chart of accounts is one of the most important ways to set your business up for success, so in our book, the extra help is worth the $50 charge.
What apps does QuickBooks sync with?
QuickBooks syncs with just about every popular accounting app you can think of, including Gusto, Square, PayPal, Stripe, and Google Calendar. Plus, Intuit owns several other accounting products, including TurboTax, Mint, and TSheets, all of which integrate seamlessly with your QuickBooks Online account.
How much does QuickBooks cost?
QuickBooks starts at $15 a month for freelancers and $25 a month for self-employed business owners. And QuickBooks almost always has a discount for new users—if you waive your 30-day free trial, you’ll usually get three months for 50% off (or more).
What is QuickBooks Desktop?
QuickBooks Desktop is Intuit’s other, older accounting software program. Unlike Intuit QuickBooks Online, which is cloud based, the desktop version is installed once on your computer. QuickBooks Desktop has most of the same features as QuickBooks Online, but you can’t access your account from anywhere in the world; your business’s financial data is saved to your computer instead.
While QuickBooks Online requires a monthly subscription, QuickBooks Desktop costs a one-time fee, starting at $299.95. If you want to update your software, you’ll pay that same price once a year to get all the upgrades.
Since QuickBooks Desktop lives on your, well, desktop, it’s not as flexible as QuickBooks Online. A few other desktop drawbacks? Customer service costs $89 for only 90 days of support. You also have to pay extra for each user you add, including an accountant or bookkeeper, and the QuickBooks app isn’t included.
There are two QuickBooks Desktop plans: QuickBooks Desktop Pro (one-time payment of $299.95) and QuickBooks Desktop Pro Plus 2020 (annual payment of $299.95). The Pro Plus plan includes software updates, data backup, and better customer support.
QuickBooks Desktop does have a few perks, though, like intensive industry-specific reporting. It lets you recalculate job costs and rebill customers, and there’s a little more customization.
Our advice? QuickBooks Online has better flexibility, data security, updates, and mobile access, so if those things are important to you, that’s the plan we recommend. If you’re interested in QuickBooks Desktop, get in touch with a QuickBooks representative; they’ll let you know if the older desktop plan can work for you.
Is there a good alternative to QuickBooks?
QuickBooks has several solid competitors, many of which offer similar accounting services at a lower cost. If you like QuickBooks but want to pay a bit less, we recommend looking at FreshBooks, Xero, and Wave Accounting.
QuickBooks is user friendly, flexible, and chock-full of smart features. If you’re okay with the price and aren’t worried about working through technical problems by yourself, QuickBooks can help you get your finances in line.
Looking for an affordable QuickBooks alternative? Check out our review of the year’s best accounting software for small businesses—one of our nine other accounting options could work for you.
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.
1. The QuickBooks Blog, “QBO Surpasses 2 Million Global Customer Milestone“
2. App Store, “QuickBooks Accounting“
3. Google Play, “QuickBooks Online Accounting, Invoicing and Expenses“
4. Consumer Affairs, “Intuit – QuickBooks“