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
Wave
  • Check
    Free invoicing, accounting, and receipt scanning
  • Check
    Unlimited expense and income tracking
  • Check
    Affordable self- and full-service payroll plans
  • X
    Fewer features than paid software

Wave Accounting is a completely free accounting software alternative to pricier competitors like QuickBooks and Sage. And while it doesn't have as many features as those competitors, Wave's unlimited expense tracking and free invoicing makes it an ideal solution for many freelancers.

Like most things in life, even the free ones, Wave Accounting (and Wave's other free apps, such as Wave Invoicing and Payments by Wave) have a few drawbacks. But for the most part, its free accounting and bookkeeping software lets freelancers and solopreneurs get accurate, intuitive accounting help at the blissful cost of exactly zero dollars.

Wave App products and plans

Plan name
Starting price
Features
Learn more

Wave Accounting

Free

Unlimited expense tracking, unlimited bank connections, unlimited users

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

Data effective 9/21/20. 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.

Wave Accounting features

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.

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

Wave Accounting pros and cons

Pro Heading
Strengths
Pro Bullet Completely free accounting, invoicing, and receipt-scanning apps
Pro Bullet No credit card requirement to sign up
Pro Bullet Affordable payroll plans
Con Heading
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Full-service payroll available in only 14 states
Con Bullet 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—even with its above-average fee of $6 per employee paid.

Wave cons

For now, you can get Wave full-service payroll in only 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 fully customized invoices. 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

With Payments by Wave, customers can pay straight from the invoices you send them, and the payments automatically sync with your Wave accounting software. At 2.9% + $0.30 per credit card transaction and 1% per bank transaction, Wave's fees are fairly standard. We also like that Payments by Wave doesn't cost a monthly base fee, unlike accounting software that bundles invoicing and payments in with accounting features.

Wave FAQ

Does Wave do double-entry bookkeeping?

Yes, Wave’s accounting software does automatic double-entry bookkeeping, which is an accounting process that includes 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 correctly (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 nice 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. If you want Wave but also want to use cash-based accounting, check out Wave’s customer support forum to get advice on workarounds.

Not sure on the difference between the two accounting systems? That's not a huge deal—you can just go with what your accounting software provides—but you can also check out our article on accrual vs. cash accounting to learn more.

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.

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.

Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie spent two of the last four years writing for and with small-business owners—from dentists in Australia to plumbers in the Midwest. She spent the other two writing in depth about internet and security. She’s passionate about reading, hiking, and dedicating every spare second to writing for fun (at lunch, between meetings, on the train, before breakfast . . . ). Her content helps small-business owners tackle the logistics of running a business so they can focus more on their passions too.
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