Quickbooks Pro vs. Premier: The Ultimate Comparison for Small Business Owners

Stacy Kildal

Stacy Kildal

Contributor at Fundera
Stacy Kildal is owner/operator of Kildal Services LLC—an accounting and technology consulting company that specializes in all things QuickBooks. In 2012 & 2013, Stacy was named one of CPA Practice Advisor’s Most Powerful Women In Accounting. Stacy is one of the three hosts for the QB Show and has also been featured frequently on Intuit’s Accountant Blog, Community "Ask the Expert" forums, at various Intuit Academy To Go podcasts, as well as hosting a number of Intuit Small Business Online Town Hall sessions. She is a big fan of working mobile and has been recognized by Intuit as being an expert on QuickBooks Online, having written Intuit’s original courses for the US, Singapore and Canadian versions.
Stacy Kildal

For many small business owners, QuickBooks is a popular choice for accounting software, but it’s just one choice they need to make. Which version should you get?

Although many QuickBooks users find themselves gravitating to the online version of the product, some still prefer (or can only use) the desktop version of QuickBooks. QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier are both excellent products. QuickBooks Desktop, in general, is one of Intuit’s all-time best products. So, if you are evaluating which is right for you, use this ultimate comparison of QuickBooks Pro vs. Premier.

The Perks of QuickBooks Pro

QuickBooks Pro is a simple, deceptively robust, and powerful solution that solves the following everyday small-business accounting needs:

  • Supports up to 3 simultaneous users in a data file
  • Receivables and revenue: invoices, credit memos, statements, sales receipts, receive payments, estimate to invoice
  • Payables and expenditures: purchase orders, item receipts, pay bills
  • Job costing
  • Inventory part tracking
  • Time and mileage tracking
  • Banking activities: deposits, checks, credit card charges, credits, bank charges, interest, paychecks, online banking, bank reconciliation
  • Sales tax: collect and pay sales tax
  • Multiple currency
  • Price levels: fixed %
  • Reports: budgets, robust operational and financial reporting
  • Miscellaneous: create letters and labels, memorize reports and transactions, customize templates, export to Excel, print/e-file 1099s, track leads, stay organized, navigate easily, experience good user security/access, email transactions with documents attached

Many accounting professionals can lift QuickBooks Pro beyond its fundamental boundaries with plenty of workarounds, and even a mid-market company could use it for 80% of its daily needs. This is true even though we’ve all heard often-repeated tales of large businesses that should be on some Oracle product rather than QuickBooks Pro.

QuickBooks Pro is bookkeeping legend, with some old timey folklore built in. Your mama’s mama used it. Your dad still has 2003 Pro installed on an old Windows 98 machine down in the basement of the house you grew up in … and it still works. It was Intuit’s accounting answer to AOL’s “You’ve Got Mail” for email.

Every business that invested in an accounting solution at one point installed QuickBooks Pro. It is bread and butter, the T-bone next to the mashed potatoes, the Chevy ’57 of bookkeeping software.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right product for you.

The Power Behind QuickBooks Premier

So what makes a QuickBooks Premier not Pro? Meaning, what features does Premier have that Pro does not, and why is this important?

Now, I  need to qualify something: I am about to list the key accounting maneuvers that Premier has over Pro. But you need to know that Premier has several different versions itself, and they do not all have the same feature set.

For a detailed breakdown, please see the QBO Show’s QuickBooks Matrix. Woody Adams (long-time Intuit employee and friend) tries to keep it up to date. Having very little short-term memory left, he commits to 98% accuracy most days (he told me to write that!). However, I do not plan to go into depth regarding what Premier Contractor has versus Non-Profit, etc. (I will one day, though, I promise.)

So, to generalize it as best I can, the main features of QuickBooks Premier that are not in Pro:

  • 5 concurrent users in data file
  • Sales orders/back order tracking, current availability tracking, sales order to PO to invoice
  • Unit of measure, build assembly, inventory center
  • Job costing: estimate to PO, change order tracking, view unbilled time and expense from 1 window, batch invoice time and expense
  • Reporting: balance sheet by class, previous reconciliation reports, forecasting, business planner, industry specific reporting
  • Price levels: per item, not just fixed percentage
  • Billing rate levels
  • Journal entries: create a reversing entry
  • Filter sales order and purchase order reports based on current availability
  • Closing date exception report

That’s a lot of features—and a lot of shop talk. I understand it can be overwhelming,

A better way to think about it might be the most popular reasons someone would choose QuickBooks Premier over QuickBooks Pro. Here’s what I usually see:

QuickBooks Premier’s “Top Seller”

1. Back orders: Let’s say you need to know what products were invoiced and what is left over to still ship to the customer. Pro has no such visibility.

2. Sales orders: A non-posting sales transaction to hold the order until you invoice against it. Premier also has the sales order fulfillment worksheet and easier sales order workflow management, too!

3. Current availability tracking: Not in all flavors of Premier … but super critical to know what you can promise to a customer against not just the stock you have on hand but the stock already committed to another customer. In QuickBooks Pro, you will be blind.

4. Estimate to purchase order: For contractors, this is quite possibly the main reason to upgrade to Premier. Imagine an estimate with 30 lines of materials you need to purchase for the job. How cool would it be to just create a purchase order from that estimate?

5. Previous reconciliation reporting: One of the main reasons accountants want their clients to use Premier.

6. Reverse journal entry

7. Price level by item: Leveraged for a great many purposes, nice to not be limited solely to a fixed percent price increase or decrease, but one of your own desire and across the items you want the level to impact. For manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retail, this can often be critical. Fixed percent is nice but not flexible enough.

Deciding on QuickBooks Pro vs. Premier

Now that you know the fast facts about these products, I want to leave you with some general advice to keep in mind as you decide between QuickBooks Pro vs. Premier:

1. Do NOT buy the Retail version of Premier. There really is no point to it at all. You should invest in a true point-of-sale product.

2. For QuickBooks Premier, the popularity of the versions are as follows: QuickBooks Accountant, Contractor, Manufacturer & Wholesale, and then Non-Profit. If you’re in one of those categories, they’re worth exploring.

3. Every desktop edition of QuickBooks has the Loan Manager that’ll help you track your payments on small business loans, which is lacking from QuickBooks Online and is a great feature.

Lastly, you could consider the Accountant Edition of Premier even if you are not an accountant. Here are a few tools you’ll find in that version that you won’t in the non-accountant version. My favorites are in bold:

  • Batch Enter Transactions
  • Batch Void/Delete Transactions
  • Flag journal entries as “Adjusting”—relates to an Adjusting JE report
  • Ability to create a “Period Copy,” lop off a year to send to the IRS if get audited, as well as other beneficial Condense features
  • Access to all (well, 99%) of Premier industry reports
  • QuickBooks Statement Writer
  • Fixed Asset Manager—old school but it still works great

Moral of the story is: If you need a desktop version of QuickBooks but don’t need to go as big as Enterprise, I would highly recommend Premier over Pro. When it comes to QuickBooks Pro vs. Premier, Premier has more functionality that would benefit most small business owners.

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.
Stacy Kildal

Stacy Kildal

Contributor at Fundera
Stacy Kildal is owner/operator of Kildal Services LLC—an accounting and technology consulting company that specializes in all things QuickBooks. In 2012 & 2013, Stacy was named one of CPA Practice Advisor’s Most Powerful Women In Accounting. Stacy is one of the three hosts for the QB Show and has also been featured frequently on Intuit’s Accountant Blog, Community "Ask the Expert" forums, at various Intuit Academy To Go podcasts, as well as hosting a number of Intuit Small Business Online Town Hall sessions. She is a big fan of working mobile and has been recognized by Intuit as being an expert on QuickBooks Online, having written Intuit’s original courses for the US, Singapore and Canadian versions.
Stacy Kildal

2 Comments

Most Recent

  • Stacy Kildal

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

    The Retail version doesn't manage inventory the way a true POS system would (ie: Tshirts with different attributes like size/color), nor does it perform like a cash register system, as a POS program would.

  • Lauren Marie

    Sunday, January 8th, 2017

    Hi! Could you explain this "1. Do NOT buy the Retail version of Premier. There really is no point to it at all. You should invest in a true point-of-sale product." Thank you!

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