Payroll Mate Review 2019: Features, Pricing, Alternatives

Randa Kriss

Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera. She has written previously for the American Kennel Club, Planted, and Serendipity magazine. When she isn’t writing, Randa loves to spend time with her fiancé, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and two cats.

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. Luckily, there are many payroll software options on the market, designed specifically to automate payroll and other HR-related tasks. Using a payroll software like Payroll Mate, therefore, can save you time, energy, and hopefully will streamline this piece of your business operations.

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: An 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 be shipped to your business and use that CD to locally install the software to your computer. The Payroll Mate software is specific to the calendar year (i.e. Payroll Mate 2019) 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.

Payroll Mate Features

Now that we’ve gone through a basic overview of Real Business Solutions’ 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—allowing you to pay your employees according to your designated payroll schedule. The Payroll Mate software automatically calculates and generates employee paychecks, incorporating the necessary federal and state tax withholdings. Additionally, this platform allows you to create customizable income, tax, and deductions categories, to fit your payroll specifically to your business’s needs. Payroll Mate supports federal quarterly and annual payroll tax forms, giving you the capability to generate and print them so that they’re ready to sign and send.

The Payroll Mate software 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. This payroll service also accommodates industry-specific payroll needs, like per mile and per piece calculations for trucking payroll and clergy taxable and non-taxable earnings for religious organizations.

Using Payroll Mate, you can print signature-ready checks and pay stubs for your employees. You also have the option to email pay stubs to your employees as well. If you’re an accountant utilizing this software for a client, for example, you can email the checks to your client so that they can print their completed checks with Payroll Mate’s preprinted compatible checks.  

Employee Information and Benefits Administration

The Payroll Mate software includes a setup wizard that walks you through how to set up payroll, showing you how to add employees and input the necessary personal data, income, and tax deductions. Additionally, you can add notes for every employee, storing important information like hire date, job title, supervisor, evaluation summaries, and more. You also have the ability to 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 as applicable 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—reports 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.

Payroll Mate also gives you the capability 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 matePayroll Mate main window. Photo credit: Real Business Solutions.

Add-Ons

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, the pricing structure is different from many other payroll software options you see on the market. Payroll Mate has a yearly cost of $119, which allows you to either directly download the software or order the CD (which costs $129 plus the cost of shipping). One you’ve paid this fee, your Payroll Mate software is good for the entire calendar year, and updates throughout the year are provided at no cost to you. This means, however, that if you purchase the software in June 2019, it will only last through the end of that respective year; in this case, through December 2019. At the beginning of each new calendar year, you’ll have to pay that $119 fee again.

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. The W-2 Mate software add-on, for example, costs $39 to download, $49 plus shipping for the CD version. The additional offerings for both Payroll Mate and W-2 Mate range in cost from $25 (generating printable W-2 copies) to $135 (send batch 1099, W-2, and 1098 forms via email). The 1095 Mate add-on is the most expensive, starting at $195 and increasing to $345 for the CD-Enterprise version.

Furthermore, Payroll Mate charges fees for both Payroll Mate compatible and blank check stocks, as well as envelopes. For 250, 500, and 1,000 compatible checks, it will cost $65, $100, and $155 respectively. Envelope costs start at $40 and go up to $100, depending on the amount of envelopes and if they’re moisture or self-seal.

It’s important to remember that if you want multiple add-ons, you’ll have to pay the fee for each one you add, on top of your yearly software cost. The Payroll Mate purchase form, however, breaks down all of the individual add-ons, what they do, as well as their cost, and calculates your total software price based on the options you pick. If you want to try Payroll Mate before purchasing, you can download their free trial—and if you end up purchasing the software, all of your data will transfer between your free and paid software.

business owner setting up Payroll Mate software

Payroll Mate Pros

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—here are two distinguishing benefits:

Simplicity and Customization

Simplicity and customization may not seem like two advantages that often go together; however, when it comes to Payroll Mate, they go hand-in-hand. Let us explain: First, without a doubt, 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 to be useful for payroll beginners. Although this payroll system is simple, however, 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. Additionally, as we mentioned earlier, Payroll Mate has specific payroll types and deductions for trucking businesses, religious organizations, and more.

Positive User Reviews

It’s not often you see a payroll software, or any business tool for that matter, with such overwhelmingly positive reviews as you do with the Payroll Mate reviews available online. Payroll Mate users rate the software very highly—4.7 stars on Software Advice and 4.5 stars on Capterra—and have little cons 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

Despite these two benefits of the Payroll Mate software, there are definitely downsides to take into account as well. Here are a few to consider:

Poor Accessibility

Although Payroll Mate seems to be easy to use and has large beginner appeal, the software itself isn’t very accessible for a number of reasons. First, 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 for your business 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, cannot be used just anywhere you have internet access—it also has no mobile capability. If you want to have multiple people using your payroll software, or want to use it on-the-go, Payroll Mate makes this extremely difficult. 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 Integration Capabilities

Compared to many of the feature sets of payroll software competitors, Payroll Mate is lacking in its capabilities. Although their software provides essential payroll and tax functionality, Payroll Mate does not have many of the HR management features, and perhaps more importantly, software integration abilities of other payroll services. 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 cloud-based payroll software. Similarly, whereas other software options can seamlessly integrate with accounting, time, or other HR software, Payroll Mate is limited in its ability to work with other products. In fact, if you want to integrate with your accounting software using Payroll Mate, you have to manually export your payroll data and then import it into your accounting platform.

This being said, on the whole, Payroll Mate is a very manual system, and utilizing its included features requires significant effort on the part of the user. This is contrasted in many other payroll services where services like direct deposit and tax filing are included as part of the software and handled automatically.

business owner happy to save time by using payroll mate

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, as you can imagine, 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 provided from QuickBooks.

The Basic plan, which costs $29 monthly (or $290 yearly) plus $2 per employee month, includes instant paychecks for W-2 employees, automatic tax calculations, free direct deposit, and free live support from experts. In terms of the Enhanced and Assisted plans, you receive additional tax features—with QuickBooks handling all tax filing through the Assisted plan. Additionally, all three plans give you the opportunity to integrate with T-Sheets, QuickBooks time management tool.

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, once again, 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.

Is Payroll Mate Right for Your Business?

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.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Randa Kriss

Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera. She has written previously for the American Kennel Club, Planted, and Serendipity magazine. When she isn’t writing, Randa loves to spend time with her fiancé, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and two cats.

Our Picks