QuickBooks Online Review: What You Need to Know
As you search for the right business accounting software, there’s no doubt that QuickBooks Online will be one of the first options you come across. With more than 5.6 million customers around the world, QuickBooks Online is one of the most well-known, tried-and-true business accounting solutions on the market.
However, despite the popularity of QuickBooks Online, this software may not be the best solution for every small business. With the prevalence of competitors with robust and similar services—FreshBooks, Wave, Xero, and more—you may be wondering if QuickBooks Online is the right fit for your business’s needs and budget.
Luckily, with this QuickBooks Online review, we’re here to help you determine just that. In this QuickBooks Online review, we’ll explore the breadth of the QuickBooks Online service, discussing plans, features, add-ons, and pricing. We’ll also break down the pros and cons of QuickBooks Online, as well as offer top accounting software alternatives for you to consider. With all of this information, you’ll be able to decide whether QuickBooks Online is the right accounting solution for your small business.
QuickBooks Online Review: The Basics
Before we dive into the details of the different plans, add-ons, pricing and pros and cons associated with QuickBooks Online, it’s important to get a better sense of the basics with regard to this QuickBooks product.
So—what is QuickBooks Online?
QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based accounting software designed to help small business owners manage their bookkeeping and accounting. With QuickBooks Online, you can access your accounting platform wherever you have internet access (making this software different than the traditional QuickBooks Desktop), as well as on your mobile device. You can use QuickBooks Online in the full range of web browsers, as well as through the downloadable QuickBooks Mac or Windows app.
QuickBooks Online is available on a monthly subscription basis, in four different pricing plans. Each QuickBooks Online plan offers more features, and therefore, a greater level of functionality. On the whole, however, this accounting platform allows you to perform essential accounting tasks as well as automate your processes—no long-term contract required.
- Lots of features
- Many add-ons and integrations
- Not the most user-friendly system
QuickBooks Online Features
As a small business accounting solution, there are certain general capabilities that QuickBooks Online provides, regardless of the specific plan you choose. These features include:
- Track income and expenses
- Capture and organize receipts
- Send and track invoices
- Connect your business bank account
- Download and organize bank and credit card transactions
- Print checks
- Import data from Excel or QuickBooks Desktop
- Run basic reports
- Data backup and security
- Access for two accountants
- Integrate with other QuickBooks apps and third-party tools
- Customer support resources
QuickBooks Online Review: Subscription Plans
As we mentioned, QuickBooks Online offers four different subscription plans for their accounting software. The plan that you choose will dictate the particular features that are included in your QuickBooks platform.
Now that we’ve explored the overarching capabilities that QuickBooks Online offers, let’s break down the specifics of the four plans: Simple Start, Essentials, Plus, and Advanced.
QuickBooks Online Simple Start
The first QuickBooks Online subscription plan is called Simple Start. As the name of this plan suggests, this is the most simple of the four plans. This plan allows you to perform basic accounting tasks and is designed for sole proprietorships, very small businesses, or businesses just starting out.
Let’s explore the details.
The Simple Start is the most affordable of the QuickBooks Online plans, costing $25 per month. However, for a limited time only, you can get QuickBooks Self-Employed for 50% off.
In addition to the general features we listed above, the Simple Start QuickBooks Online plan will also allow you to:
- Automatically sort transactions into tax categories
- Organize income and expenses into tax categories
- Export documents for taxes
- Accept credit cards and bank transfers
- Automatically calculate taxes from invoices
- Send payment reminders
- Match payment to invoices automatically
- Create custom invoices
- Run and export reports including profit and loss statements, expenses, and balance sheets
- Access 20 built-in reports, create customized reports
- Track cash flow and reporting through QuickBooks dashboard
- Customize and send estimates
- Accept mobile signatures and see estimates statuses
- Convert estimates to invoices
- Assign vendor payments to 1099 categories
- Manage contractor payments: who you paid, what, and when
- Access for one user, as well as up to two accountants
QuickBooks Online Essentials
The next plan to discuss in our QuickBooks Online review is the Essentials plan. At a higher monthly cost, this plan will offer greater capabilities, particularly for managing bills and time tracking.
Therefore, the Essentials plan is a great option for those who need more from their accounting software than the Simple Start plan can provide—especially if they invoice for their time.
The Essentials plan will actually cost twice as much as the Simple Start plan, at $40 per month. Just like Simple Start, however, QuickBooks is offering a limited-time discount of 50% off the first three months of your subscription.
On top of the functionality of the Simple Start plan, the Essentials plan offers additional capabilities, including the following:
- Track bill status, record payments, create recurring payments
- Pay multiple vendors and bills at the same time
- Create checks from anywhere and print when ready
- Track billable hours by client or employee and automatically add them to invoices
- Enter hours yourself or give employees protected access to enter their time
- Work with multiple currencies
- Access 40 built-in business reports
- Add up to three users, along with up to two accountants
- Integrate with TSheets by QuickBooks
- Grant users access to certain features
- Share reports without sharing a login
QuickBooks Online Plus
The third plan available for QuickBooks Online is the Plus plan. Once again, this plan will come at a higher cost than the Essentials plan, but will also offer tools for inventory and projects to expand the breadth of your accounting software.
Therefore, this plan is probably best suited for small to midsize businesses, especially those who want to track inventory as well as manage a wide variety of business operational tasks in one place.
Let’s continue our QuickBooks Online review by seeing what the Plus plan can offer.
The QuickBooks Online pricing for the Plus plan is $70 per month. Just as with the Simple Start and Essentials plans, however, you can currently get the Plus plan at 50% off for three months.
As the third option available for QuickBooks Online, the Plus plan contains all of the features of the previous two plans as well as additional capabilities, including:
- Track project profitability with dashboards and reports
- Use job costing to track labor costs, payroll, and expenses
- View all projects in one place
- Track inventory, products, and cost of goods
- Receive notifications when inventory is low
- Create purchase orders
- Manage vendors
- See what products are popular
- Import inventory from Excel or sync with Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, and more
- Access 65 built-in business reports
- Attach up to five users to your account
QuickBooks Online Advanced
The final plan to break down in our QuickBooks Online review is the Advanced plan. This is the most expansive—and most expensive—QuickBooks Online offering.
This being said, however, QuickBooks Online Advanced will give you access to more in-depth tools and capabilities, giving you the greatest opportunity to automate and optimize your business processes. With this in mind, the Advanced plan is designed for growing or larger small businesses, who want substantial functionality from their accounting software and can afford a higher monthly cost.
Let’s explore the details of the Advanced plan.
As we mentioned, the QuickBooks Online Advanced is the most expensive of the four plans—costing $150 per month. Like each of the plans we’ve discussed so far, you can access the Advanced plan at 50% off for three months with QuickBooks’ limited-time discount.
Like you may imagine, the QuickBooks Online Advanced plan provides all of the functionalities of the previous three plans. In addition to these features, the Advanced plan also includes:
- Pay and track multiple vendors, contractors, and bills
- Sync payments and create checks from anywhere
- Get 20 free bank transfers per month for two months
- Access Smart Reporting powered by Fathom
- Integrates with QuickBooks and enhances your accounting data
- Receive simple, customizable performance reports
- Measure profitability, cash flow, and other key performance indicators
- Accelerated invoicing
- Import hundreds of invoices at once
- Enter data for multiple invoices at once
- Fast-track invoicing by duplicating similar invoices for multiple customers
- Access for up to 25 users with custom user permissions
- Assign work to particular users
- Create custom permissions for deposits, sales, transactions, expense reports, etc.
- Premium customer support with QuickBooks Priority Circle
QuickBooks Online Payroll
As we mentioned earlier, all of the QuickBooks Online plans give you the ability to connect to various third-party tools, as well as integrate with other QuickBooks products. This being said, before we move on in our QuickBooks Online review to discussing the pros and cons of this accounting software, it’s worth exploring these QuickBooks-specific add-ons in greater detail.
The first add-on option to note is QuickBooks Payroll.
QuickBooks Payroll can be connected to any of the QuickBooks Online plan options, for an associated cost, and comes in two different service offerings—Self-Service Payroll and Full-Service Payroll.
Both of these software integrations allow you to run payroll on your schedule, pay employees and contractors using free direct deposit, and prepare federal and state payroll taxes. The difference, then, between the two plans is that with the Full-Service plan, QuickBooks prepares, files, and pays payroll taxes on your behalf. The Self-Service plan requires you to complete this process yourself, although you can pay and file your taxes right from QuickBooks.
Regardless of your QuickBooks Online plan, you’ll have to pay a monthly cost for access to either payroll option, as well as a monthly fee for each employee you pay using this software. The Self-Service Payroll costs $35 per month, plus $4 per employee per month. Full-Service, on the other hand, costs $80 per month, with the same per-employee fee. However, currently, QuickBooks is offering a limited-time discount to receive either of their payroll plans for 50% off for three months.
TSheets by QuickBooks
The second QuickBooks add-on worth mentioning is TSheets by QuickBooks. Unlike QuickBooks Payroll, you need at least the Essentials plan to utilize this QuickBooks add-on. TSheets connects directly to your QuickBooks accounting software and provides additional time-tracking capabilities.
With TSheets, you can allow your employees to track their time, clock in and out, and edit their timesheets. You can then review and approve timesheets, create schedules, manage PTO, and track data in real-time. The TSheets time-tracking app can be accessed on your desktop, mobile device, or tablet. Like QuickBooks Payroll, TSheets will require a subscription—$20 base fee, plus $5 per user per month.
Pros of QuickBooks Online
Now that we’ve explored everything this tried-and-true accounting software has to offer, the next step in our QuickBooks Online Review is to discuss the pros and cons.
We’ll highlight the possible benefits and disadvantages of using this accounting system so that you’ll have a better sense of whether QuickBooks Online is right for your business.
That said, as one of the most popular accounting solutions on the market, there are certainly substantial advantages to consider. Here are a few:
The purpose of accounting software is to help you manage and automate your accounting and related processes—essentially, making your business’s processes quicker and easier. Whether you choose the Simple Start or Advanced version of QuickBooks Online, there’s no doubt that this software can fulfill that purpose.
On the whole, QuickBooks Online offers a thorough feature set—including everything from invoicing to taxes—and gives you the ability to utilize their software wherever you go.
Additionally, comparing QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop, QuickBooks Online also provides particular capabilities that Desktop doesn’t offer, like custom banking rules, automatically scheduling and sending transactions, and more.
Plus, with four different plans to choose from and integration options for all of them, QuickBooks Online gives you the ability to customize your software to meet your business’s needs.
Therefore, the robust features QuickBooks Online has to offer is one of the most notable pros of this software—making it a worthy option for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Another notable benefit of QuickBooks Online, as we just briefly mentioned, is the opportunity they offer for add-ons and integrations. With any of the QuickBooks Online plans, you can connect either of the QuickBooks payroll options, as well as choose from hundreds of other third-party bookkeeping, productivity, and accounting tools.
This being said, if QuickBooks Online is missing a capability that you need for your business, there will more than likely be an add-on that you can use to fill that gap. Additionally, with tools for payroll, time tracking, and more, QuickBooks Online gives you an even greater opportunity to manage your essential business tasks in one place—and further streamline your operations.
Although QuickBooks Desktop is a comparable product, one of the biggest pros that QuickBooks Online has over this solution, as well as over other desktop software like Quicken, is the accessibility it offers.
As a small business owner with many responsibilities, it’s more likely you’ll be constantly on the go, and therefore, it will be beneficial to have access to your accounting software anywhere. With QuickBooks Online, you can access your software through any web browser, as well as through a desktop app, on your mobile device, and on tablets (both iOS and Android).
Plus, with automatic data backup and included data security, you have mobile accessibility but don’t have to worry about losing your important business information.
Cons of QuickBooks Online
Although QuickBooks Online has some impressive pros, there are also cons to consider, as well. Before deciding whether QuickBooks Online is the right solution for your business, you’ll want to think about these possible drawbacks.
Although QuickBooks currently has a discount that lessens the cost of all of their plans for three months, on the whole, QuickBooks Online isn’t the most affordable accounting software out there. As an example, both FreshBooks and Sage offer similar accounting services, but their plans are generally less expensive.
Plus, many providers, including FreshBooks, offer an annual discount, whereas QuickBooks does not.
While cost shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing an accounting solution, it is certainly a factor. Therefore, if price is one of your top concerns, you might be able to find a service that can support your business needs at a lesser cost—or, in the case of Wave accounting, for free.
Don’t get us wrong—QuickBooks Online is a pretty user-friendly accounting solution. You can get set up with QuickBooks Online fairly quickly and easily, plus, many accountants and bookkeepers are familiar with the QuickBooks interface.
However, it’s worth noting that it may not be the most intuitive system out there. In fact, many QuickBooks Online reviews report that they wish some of the functions were easier to use, less complex, and generally more intuitive.
Usability, in this sense, is particularly important if you’re, for example, looking for a home-based business accounting software, and need a solution that makes your processes as easy and comprehensible as they can be.
In contrast, there are QuickBooks Online alternatives that are known for their approachability and extreme ease of use, like Wave and even Xero. Therefore, if usability is one of your top concerns, you’ll want to keep this in mind as you consider different accounting solutions.
QuickBooks Online Review: Top Alternatives
As we’ve mentioned, there are numerous QuickBooks Online alternatives on the market—many of which provide very similar services and might be a better fit for your business.
Therefore, regardless of your thoughts on QuickBooks Online based on our review so far, you’ll always want to look into other options before making a final decision.
This being said, here are two alternatives you might consider.
Although there are many benefits to cloud-based accounting software like QuickBooks Online, you may prefer a locally hosted solution. If this is the case, you might consider QuickBooks Desktop.
QuickBooks Desktop, as a QuickBooks product, is very similar to QuickBooks Online and in fact, does offer extended capabilities that QuickBooks Online does not. With the various versions of Desktop—QuickBooks Pro, Premier, and Enterprise—you can access advanced features for inventory, reporting, job costing, and pricing that you won’t receive with QuickBooks Online.
Additionally, many of the QuickBooks Desktop products are available at a one-time cost, or annual subscription, which you may prefer over the monthly cost of QuickBooks Online.
Therefore, QuickBooks Desktop is a worthy alternative if you’re looking for a local solution with even greater functionality for your business accounting and related processes.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a QuickBooks Online alternative that is still web-based, you might consider Xero accounting. Although relatively new on the market in comparison to the legacy of QuickBooks products, Xero has quickly grown to become one of QuickBooks’ biggest competitors.
Like QuickBooks Online, Xero is cloud-based and allows you to manage your accounting processes with features like:
- Invoicing and quotes
- Payment acceptance
- Bill payment
- Expense and project management
- Purchase orders
- Taxes, and more
Additionally, like QuickBooks, Xero allows you to connect to hundreds of third-party tools, offers a mobile app, and provides different plans for you to choose from.
The three Xero plans—Early, Growing, and Established—are differentiated based on their functionality, with the Established plan offering the most robust features. These plans are available at a monthly subscription fee of $9, $30, and $60, respectively.
Therefore, when you compare Xero vs. QuickBooks, the two are actually very similar. However, Xero is often known as the more intuitive of the two platforms, with a greater focus on usability and mobile-friendliness. Moreover, Xero allows you to add an unlimited number of users—a notable benefit compared to any of the QuickBooks products. Plus, Xero offers a 30-day free trial, giving you the opportunity to test the system’s use for yourself.
QuickBooks Online Review: The Bottom Line
Considering everything we’ve discussed in our QuickBooks Online review—features, different plan options, pricing, and pros and cons—the decision is up to you. Ultimately, you know your business best, and therefore, you’re the only one who can determine which accounting software will meet your needs.
This being said, even with both the pros and cons of QuickBooks Online, there’s no doubt that this solution can well serve a variety of businesses. As a tried-and-true accounting software, QuickBooks Online is one of the most popular small business options for a reason. However, with comparable software on the market, you may find that Xero, Wave, FreshBooks, or another solution is better for your business.
And at the end of the day, if you’ve sifted through various QuickBooks Online reviews, as well as reviews for other accounting solutions, and still aren’t sure what’s best, take advantage of any free trials that are offered. By experiencing a particular accounting software for yourself, you’ll have a greater sense if it can fulfill your business needs.
Stacy Kildal is a contributing writer for Fundera.
Stacy Kildal is owner/operator of Kildal Services LLC—an accounting and technology consulting company that specializes in all things QuickBooks. From 2012 to 2017, Stacy has been 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 U.S., Singapore and Canadian versions.