Wave Accounting Review 2020

Are you a freelancer, solopreneur, or small-business owner looking for easy, affordable accounting help? Wave’s free accounting, invoicing, and receipt-scanning apps are hard to top, but if you want to accept Wave payments, you’ll have to pay a little extra.

Best for Freelancers
3.1 out of overall
Free invoicing, accounting, and receipt scanning
Unlimited expense and income tracking
Affordable self- and full-service payroll plans
Mobile apps for invoicing and receipts only
Last Updated: More than 6 months
Over the last year, Wave has gradually expanded its full-service payroll plans to 14 states (in early 2019, that number was just 8). We updated our piece to include the most recent information.

When you’re a small-business owner, every penny counts—and that goes double if you’re a solopreneur or freelancer. Can you afford a monthly fee for accounting and bookkeeping software? Or should you run the risk of doing taxes by hand, potentially making a costly mistake?

With free accounting software from Wave, you can skip the monthly accounting fee and dodge the risk of making mistakes when you calculate finances yourself. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Like most things in life, even the deliciously free ones, Wave’s apps have a few drawbacks. But for the most part, its free accounting and bookkeeping software lets small-business owners get accurate, intuitive accounting help—all at the blissful cost of exactly zero dollars.

Wave App products and plans
Plan nameStarting priceFeaturesLearn more
Wave AccountingFree
Unlimited expense tracking, unlimited bank connections, unlimited users
View Plan
Payments by Wave
2.9% + $0.30 per credit card transaction, 1% per bank transaction

Direct payment acceptance from customers’ credit cards or bank accounts
View Plan
Data effective 1/2/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Wave Accounting is best for freelancers and solopreneurs

When you’re working for yourself, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars a month on fancy accounting software with every possible bell and whistle. Instead, you need software that crunches numbers and an app that easily accepts payments—and that, in turn, could make Wave accounting software your perfect fit.

Okay, but doesn’t free usually mean fewer features? For accounting software companies that offer a free plan but make money on the upsell, sure, the free plan usually doesn’t have much to offer. But since the Wave Accounting app has only one plan, users get every accounting feature the service provides. And there are quite a few accounting and bookkeeping features to go around:

  • Unlimited credit card and bank account connections
  • Unlimited expense tracking
  • Unlimited income tracking
  • Unlimited invoicing and receipt scanning (with Wave Invoicing and Wave Receipt Scanning, both free)
  • Financial statements, such as profit and loss (income) statements, cash flow statements, and sales tax reports
  • Reminders for bills and invoicing
  • Easy integration with PayPal, Etsy, Shoeboxed, QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and more
  • Easy-to-read dashboard

When you consider that many accounting software companies charge extra for these services, Wave’s bookkeeping and software is a steal.

Wave also lets you manage multiple businesses under the same Wave account. If you have multiple Etsy shops or freelance in a few different industries, you won’t have a hard time keeping your ventures separate.

Of course, Wave doesn’t offer the same time-tracking and multiple-user support as competitors like QuickBooks Online do—which is why it’s perfect for freelancers and solopreneurs who need to manage money and accounts but not employees.

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Wave Accounting pros and cons

  • Completely free accounting, invoicing, and receipt-scanning apps
  • No credit card requirement to sign up
  • Affordable payroll plans
  • Full-service payroll available in only 14 states
  • No mobile app for accounting

Wave pros

Wave isn’t like a week-long Starz trial through Amazon Prime—you won’t find an extra charge on your credit card a month later and realize you forgot to cancel your “free” trial. When you sign up for Wave, you don’t have to enter any credit card information; just add an email address, create a password, and get started.

Plus, while we think Wave is especially great for freelancers and solopreneurs, it can work well for other small-business owners too. For one thing, its payroll plans don’t cost all that much: Wave’s self-service plan starts at $20 a month. Even its more expensive full-service payroll plan starts at $35 a month, so if you’re looking to bundle accounting with payroll, you can definitely do a lot worse than Wave.

Wave cons

For now, you can only get Wave full-service payroll in 14 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Most other popular payroll companies, including Gusto and QuickBooks Online, offer self-service plans in all 50 states, so if payroll tax service is a must for you, you’ll probably want to explore other payroll options.

Of course, if you freelance, you don’t need to worry about payroll processing. But here’s a con for both freelancers and small-business owners with employees: Wave’s only fully functional mobile apps are its invoicing app and receipts app. The invoicing mobile app is well reviewed on both the App Store and Google Play (which is pretty rare in the world of small-business accounting apps). But if you were hoping to do accounting on the go with Wave, you’re out of luck.

Wave’s plans and products

We’ve covered Wave Accounting pretty thoroughly, but what about Wave’s other products? Let’s look closer at two of Wave’s most important offerings for budget-conscious freelancers, contractors, and solopreneurs: invoicing and payments.

Wave Invoicing

Along with offering unlimited free invoicing, Wave’s invoicing software also lets you create invoices customized to your business. You can add your logo, use your colors, and customize the columns to look however you want. You can also quickly transform estimates into invoices and set up automatic recurring invoices and billing.

Unlike Wave Accounting, Wave Invoicing has a perfectly functional app so you can send invoices on the go and get mobile notifications when a customer opens, views, and pays their bill. Wave Invoicing also syncs automatically with its accounting counterpart; you won’t have to juggle multiple providers to turn your invoices into trackable accounting data.

FYI, Wave customers occasionally report that their invoices end up in their clients’ spam or junk mail folders. If you use Payments by Wave (which we discuss below), you might have to follow up with clients to make sure they’ve received your invoices. But since you should get a notification when a client opens their invoice, you can follow up pretty quickly if the notification never comes.

Of course, being able to send invoices isn’t all that great if you can’t use Wave to accept and track customer payments too. That’s where Payments by Wave comes in—and unlike Wave’s other freelance-friendly products, it’s not 100% free.

Payments by Wave

The perks of using Payments by Wave? It’s an easy way to get paid. Customers can pay straight from the invoices you send them, and the payments automatically sync with your Wave accounting software. Plus, two days isn’t a terrible amount of time to allow for credit card processing. It’s not the best . . . but it’s not the worst either.

The cons? Like we mentioned above, if you choose to use Payments by Wave, you’ll pay 2.9% + $0.30 per credit card transaction and 1% per bank transaction (a.k.a ACH, or Automated Clearing House, transaction). Credit card payments arrive in two business days. Bank payments take a little longer—they’ll arrive between two and seven business days.

At the same time, most payment-processing companies charge a fee for each transaction. Plus, we like that Wave only charges you for transactions; there’s no base fee to integrate their payment software with the rest of the Wave App suite of products.

Wave FAQs

Does Wave do double-entry bookkeeping?

Yes, Wave’s accounting software does automatic double-entry bookkeeping. Not quite sure what that means? Double-entry bookkeeping is an accounting process that means you include two entries for every financial transaction—one entry on the credit side of your ledger and one on the debit side. The goal of double-entry bookkeeping is to minimize your chance of errors and ensure your account balances (you can learn more about this principle in our balance sheet article).

Alas, like most accounting principles, double-entry bookkeeping is a lot more complicated than this simple explanation. If you’re not a bookkeeper or accountant, the system can feel daunting—so it’s excellent that Wave takes care of it for you for free.

Does Wave do accrual-based accounting or cash-based accounting?

While competitors like QuickBooks Online let you choose which accounting system you want to use, Wave offers only accrual-based accounting, not cash-based accounting.

Definition: Cash-based accounting and accrual-based accounting

Cash-based accounting: This method of accounting tracks your revenue and expenses by the exact moment cash enters or leaves your account. Cash-based accounting is generally simpler than accrual-based accounting because it doesn’t require you to set up accounts receivable or accounts payable.

Accrual-based accounting: This method of accounting tracks your revenue and expenses by when a project is completed or a bill is due, not by the exact time cash enters or leaves your account. Most businesses in the US use accrual-based accounting, not cash-based accounting.

If you want Wave but also want to use cash-based accounting, check out Wave’s customer support forum to get advice on workarounds.

Is Wave really free?

Yes, Wave really is free, if you’re referring to Wave Accounting, Invoicing, and Receipt Scanning. All three products include unlimited invoicing, receipt scanning, credit card and bank account syncing, and contacts. You don’t have to enter a credit card number when you sign up, which means there’s no risk of unexpected fees.

If you use Payments by Wave, you’ll be charged a fee with each transaction. Payroll by Wave costs a monthly fee plus a fee per employee or independent contractor, and you can also get professional bookkeeping and accounting help through Wave Plus.

The takeaway

Wave proves that comprehensive accounting software doesn’t need a huge price tag. With Wave, freelancers and entrepreneurs can get the most important features—invoicing, receipt-scanning, and expense and income tracking—without paying through the nose for features they don’t need.

Want to explore options besides Wave? Check out our accounting software review to find more options that could meet your unique business needs.


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.