Finding the right business accounting software is crucial for automating and optimizing your financial processes—saving you time and effort that you can then put into other aspects of your business. This being said, if you’re looking for a place to begin your software search, you might explore providers that offer free software, like ZipBooks or Wave. Although a free accounting platform might not always be the right choice for your business, if you’re just starting out or are on a strict budget, it certainly may be worth considering.
With this in mind then, how do ZipBooks and Wave compare as accounting solutions? This ZipBooks vs. Wave comparison guide is here to help. We’ll break down everything there is to know about these two platforms—from features to pricing—so that you have all the information you need to decide which (if either) of these software systems is best for your business.
Not only are ZipBooks and Wave similar in that they both offer a free software option, but they’re also both web-based solutions that provide an accessible and user-friendly way for small business owners to manage their essential bookkeeping and accounting tasks.
This being said, these two platforms do have their differences, and exploring these differences will help you determine which option may be better-suited for your business’s needs.
You can find a summary of our Wave vs. ZipBooks comparison below:
Three standard plan options—Starter, Smarter, and Sophisticated—plus an Accountant plan
Single plan option with paid add-ons available
Starter plan is free; paid plans start at $15 per month
Free accounting software; additional costs for Payments by Wave and Wave Payroll
– Three plans to choose from, including one free option
– Time tracking, project tools, customized user permissions, document sharing available with paid plans
– Highly customizable invoicing
– Unlimited collaborators and account connections, customizable chart of accounts and exportable reports—all for free
Depends on plan, only one user with free plan
Can add unlimited collaborators
Free ZipBooks accounting app available for iOS
Free Invoicing and Receipts apps available for Android and iOS
Stripe, Square, PayPal, Slack, Gusto
Wave Payroll and Payments by Wave, plus a few third-party integration options
Live chat support with paid plans
Email-based support; live chat support available with either paid add-on
Automated bookkeeping with time tracking and project management tools; smaller and newer businesses
Greatest functionality within a free accounting software; new businesses, freelancers and other B2B businesses
With this summary in mind, let’s get into the details of our Wave vs. ZipBooks comparison in terms of features. First and foremost, it’s important to mention that although ZipBooks does offer a free software plan, this is only one of four total plans they offer—with three standard plans and an accountant-specific plan. With Wave, on the other hand, their free accounting software is the only option they offer. They do, however, provide paid add-ons that you can choose to connect to your free account.
ZipBooks is a web-based accounting software—meaning you can sign up for your account online and use it wherever you go, as long as you have internet access. ZipBooks breaks their service into four plans—Starter, Smarter, Sophisticated, and Accountant. As you might imagine, the first three plans are designed for small business owners, whereas the Accountant plan is specialized for the needs of accounting professionals.
Sample ZipBooks dashboard. Image source: ZipBooks
This being said, the features you receive with ZipBooks will be unique to the plan you choose, with each higher-level plan adding functionality to the one before.
First, the Starter plan is the most basic of the ZipBooks plans. With this plan, you’ll receive the following capabilities:
Next, ZipBooks offers the Smarter plan, which includes all of the features of the Starter plan, as well as:
The Sophisticated plan has the most functionality of the three standard ZipBooks plans. The Sophisticated plan includes all of the capabilities of the Starter and Smarter plans, plus:
Finally, although this plan is designed for accountants, as opposed to general business owners, it’s worth giving a high-level overview of what it offers:
As you can see, despite their three different plan levels, ZipBooks features are mostly focused on basic bookkeeping, automation, and invoicing. In fact, compared to some other accounting solutions, both ZipBooks and Wave generally cater to the essentials, as opposed to including more advanced tools for tasks like inventory management, job costing, and purchase order creation.
Sample Wave dashboard. Image source: Wave
This being said, when it comes to Wave’s only accounting software option, this platform can offer:
While Wave only offers one accounting system, they do provide two paid add-on options that you can choose to integrate with your accounting software to expand your functionality. The first of these add-ons is Payments by Wave, which allows you to accept online payments, including credit cards and bank payments.
More specifically, Payments by Wave also includes:
The second add-on Wave offers is their payroll integration. With Wave Payroll, you’ll be able to run payroll and connect all of your data directly with your accounting software. There are two different versions of Wave Payroll—Self-Service and Full-Service. Full-Service Payroll, in which Wave handles all of your state and federal payroll tax filings and payments, is currently only available in 14 states.
Overall, however, Wave Payroll allows you to:
Ultimately, despite the way they structure their services, these two accounting software providers have a number of similarities in the features they offer. With all of this information in mind then, let’s compare Wave accounting vs. ZipBooks in terms of pricing.
ZipBooks prices each of their plans on a subscription basis (other than the free Starter plan). Wave, on the other hand, is a completely free accounting software unless you opt to integrate their paid add-ons.
With ZipBooks, the cost of your software will depend on which of the plans you choose. This being said, the pricing of the ZipBooks plans break down like this:
Of course, regardless of the plan you’re using, if you plan to accept online payments through ZipBooks, you’ll need to pay for payment processing.
If you use the free Starter plan, you can use Square or PayPal to accept payments. If you use any of the other plans, you also have the option to use Stripe for payment processing. With any of these processors, you’ll simply pay a 2.9% +$0.30 fee per transaction to accept online payments. ZipBooks recommends that you use Square for payment processing as they have the deepest integration.
Additionally, if you choose to take advantage of ZipBooks’ partnership with Gusto to manage your payroll, you’ll have to sign up and pay for a Gusto account separately. Pricing for Gusto Payroll starts at $39 per month, plus $6 per person per month.
Finally, although you can use the ZipBooks Starter plan for free as long as you want, ZipBooks also offers a 30-day free trial for both their Smarter and Sophisticated plans.
As we’ve mentioned, there is no monthly or annual cost to use Wave’s accounting software. Instead, you’ll only pay to use Wave if you add their payments or payroll services.
First, Payments by Wave is a pay-as-you-go service, meaning you won’t pay any monthly fees—you’ll only pay when a transaction is made. For credit card payments, you’ll pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for Visa, Mastercard, and Discover; 3.4% + $0.30 per transaction for American Express; and for bank payments, you’ll pay 1% per transaction with a $1 minimum required fee.
With Wave Payroll, on the other hand, you’ll pay a monthly fee, as well as a separate per-person monthly fee. For Full-Service Payroll, (meaning Wave handles your payroll taxes) you’ll pay $35 per month, plus $6 per active employee per month and $6 per independent contractor paid per month. For Self-Service Payroll, you’ll only pay a $20 monthly fee, plus the same monthly fee for employees and independent contractors. Once again, it’s important to mention that Full-Service Payroll is currently only available in 14 states.
So, based on all of the information we’ve discussed, what does the final Wave vs. ZipBooks comparison look like?
Ultimately, because Wave and ZipBooks are quite similar in what they offer, each platform’s advantages are much more specific than what you would see when comparing Wave vs. QuickBooks, for example.
Although you do have to pay to access some of ZipBooks’ extended features, within their product suite, they do offer a handful of tools that Wave does not.
For example, if you opt for the $15-per-month Smarter plan, you’ll be able to create and manage projects, track time live or record manual time entries, and set fixed or hourly billing rates. Despite everything Wave has to offer, their software does not include any capabilities for project management or time tracking.
Additionally, even though Wave allows you to add an unlimited number of collaborators (for free), you can only distinguish collaborators by four categories—viewer, editor, admin, or payroll manager. With ZipBooks, on the other hand, even though you need a paid plan to add users, you can get much more specific with their permissions. When you add a team member in ZipBooks, you can choose which items—including options for payments, customers, time tracking, projects, reports, etc.—you want the user to be able to access.
Plus, ZipBooks project and document sharing tools make it much easier to collaborate with your team members than Wave does.
Moreover, although Wave offers two different mobile apps (one for invoicing and one for receipts) that are available for both iOS and Android devices, on the whole, the ZipBooks iOS accounting app is much more functional.
Not only can you manage invoices and capture receipts with the ZipBooks app, but you can also view, add, edit, delete, and manage customer contacts, time entries, estimates, expenses, and team member accounts.
All of this being said, if you think your business would largely benefit from these specific ZipBooks features (and you don’t mind paying for them), you might decide that ZipBooks, and not Wave, is the right solution to meet your needs.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for the greatest capabilities you can get from a free software, it’s very likely that Wave will be the better solution for your business.
When it comes down to it, Wave includes a number of features within their free system that you have to pay for with ZipBooks. For example, within Wave’s platform you receive unlimited collaborators, unlimited account connections, recurring invoices, automated reminders, a customizable chart of accounts, and exportable reports—all of which you only get with one of ZipBooks paid plans.
Plus, even though ZipBooks offers increasing customization options for invoicing with each of their plans, overall, Wave’s free invoicing software is much more robust.
Additionally, Wave offers free, email-based customer support (plus live chat if you use Payments or Payroll), whereas ZipBooks only provides customer support for their paid plans. Moreover, although the Wave mobile apps may not include as many capabilities as the ZipBooks app, they are available for Android devices, which the ZipBooks app is not.
Finally, even though ZipBooks allows you to accept online payments and connect your payroll through third-party tools, it’s a notable benefit that Wave offers their own proprietary services. With your accounting, payments, and payroll platforms all created by the same provider (Wave), you’re much less likely to have connectivity or other problems than if you’re integrating tools from three different providers (say, ZipBooks, Square, and Gusto) together.
With all of this in mind, Wave is definitely going to be a more functional option if you’re trying to avoid paying a monthly subscription fee for your accounting software—especially if you’re looking for invoicing capabilities.
At the end of the day, although Wave and ZipBooks are both simple, accessible, and fully functional accounting solutions, there are areas in which both platforms are lacking.
First and foremost, neither Wave nor ZipBooks is very scalable, despite the three different plans ZipBooks offers. If your business grows and expands, these providers don’t offer plans with greater capabilities or the option to add functionality through third-party integrations.
In addition, both ZipBooks and Wave are limited in their features. Although these two systems can handle your basic business bookkeeping and accounting needs, they don’t offer options for more advanced functionalities like bill pay, inventory management, job costing, and purchase orders. Plus, with a large focus on invoicing, neither of these solutions are very well-suited for product-based businesses.
So, if you’ve come to this point in our ZipBooks vs. Wave comparison and aren’t sure that either option can meet your needs, you might consider these two top alternatives.
There’s a reason that QuickBooks Online is one of the most popular accounting solutions on the market. Not only does it have name-brand recognition, but it’s also one of the most feature-rich and scalable platforms out there.
With QuickBooks Online, you have four plan options—and with the increasing features of each plan, you can easily upgrade your software as your business grows. Additionally, within these four plans QuickBooks Online goes beyond the essentials, with functionality for paying bills, preparing taxes, evaluating project profitability, creating purchase orders, tracking inventory, managing projects, and more.
Plus, as one of the most well-known solutions on the market, QuickBooks Online can integrate with hundreds of third-party tools (as well as other Intuit products), allowing you to connect to systems you already use, or find new ones to use and connect to QuickBooks, thereby expanding your capabilities within a single system.
Unlike Wave accounting or ZipBooks, however, QuickBooks Online does not offer any free plans. The most basic plan, Simple Start, costs $25 per month. Nevertheless, if you need more than what ZipBooks or Wave can offer, especially as a product-based business, there’s no doubt that QuickBooks Online is a solution worth considering.
If you’re looking for a wide range of functionality, you might also think about Zoho Books.
Like QuickBooks Online, Zoho Books can offer a greater variety of features beyond your basic bookkeeping and accounting. With the Zoho Books Professional plan, (their third-tier level) you’ll have access to billing tools, a client portal, purchase and sales orders, inventory tracking, and more.
Plus, within the Zoho suite of products, you can also access Zoho CRM, Inventory, Expense, Subscriptions, Projects, Analytics, and Sign Integration and connect these platforms with Zoho Books. Of course, these tools will require additional costs; however, they’ll also offer you an easy way to expand the range of features included within your accounting solution.
The Zoho Books Professional plan costs $50 per month or $40 per month if you choose an annual subscription. Zoho Books also offers two lower-level plans (a free plan and the Standard plan for $20 per month) if you don’t need everything that’s included in the Professional plan.
All of this being said, if you think you need access to a greater variety of tools and capabilities than those that are offered by ZipBooks and Wave, Zoho Books, like QuickBooks Online, is certainly worth considering.
At the end of the day, only you can decide which accounting software is best for your business—whether ZipBooks, Wave, or an alternative solution. As we’ve discussed throughout this ZipBooks vs. Wave comparison, both ZipBooks and Wave are highly accessible, user-friendly, and functional platforms, especially if you’re looking for a free accounting software option.
With this in mind, considering that their features are designed to manage basic bookkeeping and accounting tasks, ZipBooks and Wave are well-suited for newer businesses, as well as freelancers, contractors, or any B2B business.
Ultimately then, with all of the similarities of these two solutions, choosing between them will depend on the smaller details. If you want the most functionality out of a free software platform, Wave will be the better choice. If you need project and time tracking tools—which Wave doesn’t offer—ZipBooks will be the better choice.
This being said, the most efficient way to choose between Wave vs. ZipBooks (or any other platforms, for that matter) is to break down exactly what you’re looking for in an accounting solution—considering specific features, plan options, budget, and more. Then, you’ll be able to compare any option to your list of qualifications to decide whether or not it can meet your needs.
Plus, if you’re still trying to decide between ZipBooks and Wave, you can always sign up for a free account and see how each system functions for yourself.
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.