Payroll Mate Review 2020: Is It Right for Your Business?

Administering payroll is just one element involved in managing HR for your small business—and yet, it can be one of the most complex and time-consuming, especially if you’re running it manually. That’s why many business owners opt for payroll software.  To help you decide if Payroll Mate is the right payroll software for your business, we’ve created this Payroll Mate review. We’ll break down the features, pricing, pros, and cons of this desktop-based software. With the variety of payroll services available to business owners, we’ll also discuss top alternatives, so you have a better sense of which payroll service might best fulfill your business’s needs.

Payroll Mate Overview

Payroll Mate is a desktop-based payroll software created by a company called Real Business Solutions. Since 2006, U.S.-based Real Business Solutions has offered Payroll Mate as a payroll solution for both small businesses and accounting firms. Payroll Mate can be purchased online and downloaded to your PC (Windows-compatible only) or you can order a CD to locally install the software to your computer. The Payroll Mate software is specific to the calendar year (i.e. Payroll Mate 2020) and downloadable updates are provided throughout the year as necessary.

When using Payroll Mate, you can prepare and run payroll based on different schedules, calculate payroll taxes, pay your employees, and monitor PTO, as well as generate reports and export payroll data for import into your accounting software. For access to more forms and tax functionalities, like 1099s and W-2s, you have the option to purchase Payroll Mate add-ons and download these to your software.

  • Simplicity and customization
  • Positive user reviews
  • Poor accessibility
  • Limited features and integrations

Payroll Mate Features

Now that we’ve gone through a basic overview of Payroll Mate, let’s dive deeper into the full feature set this payroll software has to offer.

Payroll Processing and Taxes

Payroll Mate gives you the ability to set up and process your payroll according to your designated payroll schedule. The software automatically calculates and generates employee paychecks, incorporating the necessary federal and state tax withholdings. Additionally, you can create customizable income, tax, and deductions categories. Payroll Mate also supports federal quarterly and annual payroll tax forms, so you can easily generate, print, sign, and send.

Payroll Mate supports different types of pay periods (i.e. weekly, bimonthly), as well as multiple pay types (hourly, salary, overtime), and allows you to run payroll per employee or as a batch. You can print signature-ready checks and pay stubs or email pay stubs to your employees as well. Industry-specific payroll needs are also available.

Employee Information and Benefits Administration

The Payroll Mate setup wizard walks you through how to set up payroll, allowing you to add employees and input the necessary personal data, income, and tax deductions. You can also store important employee information like hire date, job title, supervisor, and evaluation summaries, as well as designate employees as “inactive,” if you have seasonal or part-time employees who won’t always be part of the current pay cycle.

Payroll Mate can track and accrue both vacation and sick days for your employees—calculating them when you run payroll. This software also supports the full range of employee benefits including FSAs, 401(k) plans, retirement plans, and additional fringe benefits. Moreover, you have the ability to define custom benefit types and incorporate them into your payroll process.

Reporting and Data Export

You can generate numerous different reports using Payroll Mate—for tax liability, employee earnings, employee lists, payroll totals, deposit requirements, and more. All of the reports you create in your payroll software can be exported to Excel, CSV, and PDF or sent by email.

There’s also the option to export your payroll data into accounting software like QuickBooks or Sage. You also have the ability to do a general ledger export for import into an accounting or human resource management software. Additionally, if you’re switching to Payroll Mate from another payroll software, you can import your employee HR information and payroll setup from that software into Payroll Mate.

payroll mate

Payroll Mate main window. Image source: Real Business Solutions


Payroll Mate gives you the option to purchase certain add-ons that will extend the functionality of your software. The W-2 Mate software add-on, for example, gives Payroll Mate the ability to support W-2, 1099-MISC, W-3 and 1096 forms. If you need additional form access, you can choose from the W-2 Mate options, some of which include electronic filing, creating PDFs of W-2s and 1099s, and importing W-2 and 1099 data.

In addition to the W-2 Mate add-on, Payroll Mate also offers add-ons for:

  • Printing government-approved W-2 and W-3 forms
  • Generating NACHA-formatted files for direct deposit
  • Adding up to 100 companies with 1,000 employees per company to your software
  • Importing timesheet data
  • MICR ink check printing
  • Additional state payroll tax reporting
  • Vendor and 1099 management
  • 1095-C and 1094-C forms (called 1095-Mate)

Security and Maintenance

Finally, to protect your payroll data, Payroll Mate offers password protection and social security number blocking. This software also has one-step backup and restore functionality, meaning that it reminds the user to back up their data every time the software is closed. Additionally, software updates are available throughout the calendar year (as they are released) at no cost. Payroll Mate offers U.S.-based customer support by phone, email, and chat, as well as through a platform-integrated tutorial website.

Payroll Mate Pricing

Since Payroll Mate is a locally installed payroll software (rather than a cloud-based system), the pricing structure is different from many other payroll software options on the market. You’ll pay a yearly fee of either $119 to directly download the software or $129 plus shipping to order the CD. As we mentioned, Payroll Mate is based on the calendar year. Thus, if you buy the software in June, it will only last through December before you have to purchase the next year’s software (for the same $119 or $129).

If you want to download any of the add-ons that Payroll Mate offers, you’ll have to pay a yearly cost respective to the specific add-on option. You can use the Payroll Mate purchase form to select which add-ons you need at the time of purchase, but here is a breakdown of this pricing:

  • W-2 Mate: $39 to $49 for initial software (additional W-2 Mate add-ons range from $25 to $135)
  • W-2 Kit: $47
  • 1099 Kit: $47
  • W-2 and 1099 Kit: $52
  • 1095-Mate: $195 to $345
  • Direct deposit: $95
  • Printable W-2s and W-3s: $25
  • Additional companies: $125
  • MICR ink check printing: $50
  • Additional state payroll tax reporting: $40
  • Vendor and 1099 management: $69

Payroll Mate Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve broken down both the features and cost of Payroll Mate, let’s explore how this software compares in the payroll marketplace. There are certainly advantages, as well as downsides of choosing Payroll Mate for your business.

Payroll Mate Pros

  • Simplicity and customization: One of the most striking benefits of Payroll Mate is the platform’s simplicity. By all appearances, it’s straightforward, easy to use, and is truly designed for payroll beginners. While this payroll system is simple, it still provides impressive customization abilities for business owners in a range of industries. Payroll Mate allows you to pay per employee and run payroll based on your own schedule, as well as gives you the ability to create custom payroll, benefits, and deduction categories.
  • Positive user reviews: Payroll Mate users rate the software very highly and have few negatives to report. Some of the most frequent comments talk about how intuitive, easy, and efficient the Payroll Mate software is to use. Many users also say that it’s a great option for small businesses that need an inexpensive solution. On the whole, Payroll Mate reviewers seem to feel strongly in their support for this product.

Payroll Mate Cons

  • Poor accessibility: The fact that Payroll Mate is desktop-based software is definitely limiting. Because you have to download Payroll Mate and install it locally, you can only use the software on one computer (unless you pay more for additional user access). This not only limits who can use Payroll Mate, but where it can be used. Payroll Mate, unlike cloud-based payroll software, has no mobile capability. Moreover, Payroll Mate is only compatible with Windows, which means anyone who uses a Mac cannot use this platform for their payroll software.
  • Limited features and integrations: Compared to other payroll software providers, Payroll Mate is lacking in its capabilities—missing many HR management features and software integrations abilities. Many of the features that you have to purchase as add-ons, like 1099 and W-2 forms, are included in the basic level plans of many cloud-based payroll software solutions. Similarly, whereas other software options can seamlessly integrate with accounting, time-tracking, or other HR software, Payroll Mate is limited in its ability to work with other products.

Payroll Mate Customer Reviews

While positive user reviews were mentioned above as an advantage of the software, let’s take a closer look at what users have to say about Payroll Mate. Overall, many reviews are positive, with the standout themes surrounding the platform’s simplicity, ease of setup, and helpful customer service. If you’re looking for bare-bones payroll software and run a small operation, it seems like Payroll Mate is a great option.

However, if you run a larger business with more complex payroll needs, Payroll Mate may not be the right fit. Negative reviews center around the outdated-looking interface, limited features, lack of integrations, and—building on this point—having to manually enter data between other software platforms.

Cost is a dividing issue for many users. Some praise the price for being much lower than other solutions they’ve tried—even opting for Payroll Mate once their previous software became too expensive—while others say it’s too expensive for what it offers. For users who only need the basic functionality, this is likely a cost-effective solution; however, if you need several add-ons, this will become a much pricier option.

Alternatives to Payroll Mate

As you can see, there are justifiable reasons for choosing (or not choosing) Payroll Mate as your payroll software. However, with all of the different payroll options available to business owners, it’s certainly worth exploring what other providers have to offer. Whether you’re interested in Payroll Mate for their desktop-based platform, ease of use, or affordability, there are competitor services you’ll want to consider as well:

QuickBooks Desktop Payroll

If one of the reasons you’re interested in Payroll Mate is because it’s a desktop-based software, QuickBooks Desktop Payroll is an alternative you might want to look into. QuickBooks Desktop Payroll integrates directly with the QuickBooks Desktop accounting software. This payroll is offered in three different plans, Basic, Enhanced, or Assisted, with each plan including an increasing amount of service.

The Core plan, which costs $45 monthly plus $4 per employee per month, includes automated taxes and forms, automatic payroll, and employee services for health benefits and worker’s comp.

Their most popular plan is the Quickbooks Premium Payroll plan, which costs $75 per month, plus $8 per month per employee. It comes with integrated mobile time tracking, same-day direct deposit, expert product support, and access to the HR support center.

The third and most expensive option is the Elite plan, which costs $125 per month plus $10 per month per employee. You get all of the full-service payroll features and more. Onboarding is done for you and you get a personal HR advisor and elite product support that is based in the United States.

Although there’s no doubt that QuickBooks Desktop is more expensive than Payroll Mate, the functionality might outweigh the cost, especially if you want features like free direct deposit, seamless accounting integration (even more so if you use QuickBooks for accounting), and more support for tax forms and filing.

Patriot Payroll

On the other hand, for a more cost-effective Payroll Mate alternative, you might consider Patriot Payroll. Patriot Payroll is a cloud-based payroll software known for its ease of use and affordability. Patriot offers two plans, Basic and Full Service, with the main difference between the two being that Patriot handles your tax deposits and filing with Full Service. The Basic Plan costs $10 per month, plus $4 per employee per month. In this plan, you’ll receive the ability to run unlimited payrolls, customize payroll settings, set up free direct deposit, and gain access to a dedicated employee portal. Patriot also offers free payroll setup and support and integration capabilities for their time and attendance, accounting, and HR software.

Although the cost of Payroll Mate might end up being cheaper, the accessibility and features of Patriot Payroll are worth considering. Just like QuickBooks, Patriot has a leg up on Payroll Mate when it comes to direct deposit, integration options, and tax forms and filing. Additionally, like Payroll Mate, Patriot Payroll has overwhelmingly positive online reviews.

Try Patriot Payroll for Free

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, there are numerous reasons to consider Payroll Mate for your business’s payroll software. Payroll Mate certainly could be a valid option for small businesses that need a simple, straightforward payroll platform that is extremely cost-effective. Additionally, Payroll Mate seems to be a good fit for business owners who want control of their payroll and tax processes, and who don’t mind a more manual approach (compared to other offerings on the market).

However, despite Payroll Mate’s cost appeal, this platform is probably not best-suited for business owners who are looking for more wide-ranging features, integration capabilities, and automated payroll and tax functionalities. At the end of the day, however, the right payroll software for you depends on your specific business needs—and exploring different platforms and taking advantage of free trials are great ways to help you make this decision.

Senior Staff Writer at Fundera

Randa Kriss

Randa Kriss is a senior staff writer at Fundera.

At Fundera, Randa specializes in reviewing small business products, software, and services. Randa has written hundreds of reviews across a wide swath of business topics including ecommerce, merchant services, accounting, credit cards, bank accounts, loan products, and payroll and human resources solutions. 

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