Gusto Review 2023: A Top-Notch Payroll and HR Platform

Gusto enables small businesses to easily manage payroll and human resources needs in one platform.
Lisa Anthony
Claire Tsosie
By Claire Tsosie and  Lisa Anthony 
Edited by Christine Aebischer

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5.0

NerdWallet rating 

Gusto rises to the top of our list of best payroll software because it’s easy to use and competitively priced. Plus, it includes features, such as unlimited payroll runs and garnishment payments, in its lowest-tier plan that some Gusto competitors charge extra for or don’t offer at all.

Designed for small businesses, this cloud-based, all-in-one platform can be accessed from virtually anywhere through an online browser. Gusto, formerly ZenPayroll, doesn’t lock you into a contract and it’s easy to change your plan as your business evolves.

Pros

Cons

  • Unlimited payroll runs.

  • Contractor-only plan option (monthly base fee waived for six months).

  • Ability to upgrade, downgrade or cancel plans at any time.

  • Lifetime employee portal access.

  • Robust third-party app integrations.

  • Health benefits aren’t available in all 50 states.

  • No mobile payroll app.

  • Same-day deposit isn’t an option.

Deciding factors

Plans and price

  • Simple: $40/month base price, plus $6/month per person.

  • Plus: $80/month base price, plus $12/month per person.

  • Premium: Quote-based pricing.

  • Contractor: $35/month base price; $6/month per person.

Tax filing and payments

Taxes are calculated, filed and paid to federal, state and local agencies at no additional cost.

Ability to manage employee benefits

Manage medical insurance, health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, 401(k) plans and more, with payments automatically deducted from payroll. (Health benefits not available in all states.)

Employee access to portal

Employees have lifetime access to their own account to view pay stubs, obtain W-2 forms, track hours and change personal information.

Live support

Offers live customer support by phone, email or chat at all subscription levels Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time. (Priority support with direct phone and email support is an add-on.)

Ease of use

Has a user-friendly interface with simple step-by-step tools and checklists.

Integrations

Third-party integrations with QuickBooks, Xero, Aplos, ZipBooks, Autobooks, FreshBooks, Clover, Shopify, Expensify and numerous other applications.

Gusto Payroll

Get 25% off the Plus plan for a limited time

Gusto
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on Gusto's website

Gusto pricing

With some payroll and benefits services, it’s nearly impossible to get a clear price upfront. That’s not the case with Gusto, which lists its monthly subscription prices on its website:

  • Full-service single-state payroll with two-day direct deposit.

  • Unlimited payroll runs including bonus and off-cycle.

  • Federal, state and local tax filings and payment.

  • Health benefits administration with online enrollment.

  • W-2s and 1099s with digital copies for employees and contractors.

  • State new hire reporting.

  • Accounting and time-tracking integrations.

  • Workers’ compensation administration as an add-on feature.

  • Basic employee hiring and onboarding tools.

  • Deduction and payment of garnishments (except in South Carolina).

  • Gusto Wallet mobile app for employees.

Includes everything in the Simple plan plus the following:

  • Full-service multi-state payroll

  • Next-day direct deposit.

  • Time tracking and project tracking.

  • Time off management.

  • Job postings and applicant tracking system.

  • Workforce cost reports.

  • Organization chart and employee directory.

Includes everything in the Plus plan plus the following:

  • Unlimited access to certified HR experts.

  • Priority phone and email support.

  • Health insurance broker integration.

  • Anonymous employee surveys.

  • Performance reviews.

  • Compliance alerts for state and federal law changes.

  • HR resource center that includes templates for handbooks, HR policies and job descriptions.

  • Unlimited contractor payments in all 50 states.

  • 4-day direct deposit.

  • 1099-NECs filed and emailed to contractors.

  • New hire reporting, if required by state.

How does Gusto work

You can get a feel for the product through an interactive demo, after you provide Gusto with some basic information. Unlike some of its competitors, Gusto doesn’t charge a setup fee. And you can request free payroll setup assistance from Gusto or tackle the online setup process yourself when creating your initial payroll account.

Select a plan

Gusto plans offer integrated payroll, benefits and HR, with higher tiers offering additional features. Add-on benefits can be used to further customize your plan, and you have the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade at any time.

Add benefits

If you want benefits for your team, Gusto can help you build a benefits package. Or, you can compare various medical, dental and vision plans and providers on the platform to find the best fit yourself — assuming you live in a state where Gusto offers health benefits administration services. You can also set up 401(k) plans, 529 savings accounts, health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, commuter benefits, workers’ compensation and life insurance. Some of these benefits carry a per-participant cost.

Benefits

Top-notch employee portal access

Gusto gives your employees the ability to manage many tasks themselves through their own Gusto employee portal and the Gusto Wallet app. Employees can complete onboarding paperwork, select benefits and access pay stubs and other records through the portal on their own.

Gusto also gives lifetime account access to employees as long as there’s an email associated with the accounts. If an employee leaves the company, and years later needs access to their pay stubs, they can still view and download them through their Gusto account — even if their former company has stopped using Gusto. Not all small-business payroll services offer lifetime access to former employees.

Time-saving automation and integrations

Gusto provides numerous ways to automate payroll and HR tasks. At no additional cost, you can set payroll to run automatically, with a reminder sent to you the day before. Gusto will calculate, file and pay your local, state and federal payroll taxes automatically, and will even report new hires to the government for you.

Regardless of your plan level, Gusto also enables you to integrate with many types of third-party accounting, time tracking, expense management, point-of-sale and HR software. Integrations include popular accounting apps like QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero. The ability to sync data with Gusto means less time spent on manual entry.

Broad customer support

With any subscription level, you’ll be able to get customer support via phone, chat or email from actual humans — specifically, Gusto’s representatives in San Francisco or Denver. That’s a big plus, especially for those who are new to setting up payroll and benefits. However, customer support isn’t available during weekends and priority payroll and HR support is an add-on.

If you prefer completing tasks on your own, Gusto also provides an extensive online help center, checklists, step-by-step guides and other information.

Drawbacks

Some benefits aren’t available in all states

While Gusto offers payroll services and 401(k) plans in all 50 states, its services for health benefits, HSAs, FSAs and commuter benefits come with some geographic restrictions. Gusto has coverage available in a majority of states and Washington, D.C. However, it doesn’t currently offer these benefits in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming.

If benefits aren’t available in a state where you and your employees are based, you may want to consider companies that offer expanded benefits through PEOs, such as Paychex and ADP.

No mobile payroll app

Gusto doesn’t offer a mobile app specifically for payroll, but you can run payroll from a mobile device by using a web browser. However, this won’t offer the same user experience and may require extra scrolling on some pages. If you prefer to run payroll on the go, Roll by ADP is a chat-based, mobile payroll app that offers unlimited payroll in all 50 states.

Alternatives to Gusto

QuickBooks Payroll

While Gusto offers next-day direct deposit of your employee’s pay at the Plus and Premium level, QuickBooks Payroll provides same-day direct deposit with its higher tiers. That means you can submit payroll by 7 a.m. Pacific time on payday, and your employees receive their money that same day. Plus, even though Gusto integrates with QuickBooks, if you already use Intuit accounting and tax software, adding QuickBooks Payroll may be a logical next step.

Square Payroll

Square Payroll's monthly fee starts with a $35 base price plus $5 per person, compared with Gusto’s monthly fee starting at a $40 base price plus $6 per person. Like Gusto, Square Payroll has a contractors-only option, but without the monthly base fee. It also offers unlimited payroll runs, includes features to automatically file payroll taxes and can help you manage employee benefits. And similar to QuickBooks, Square has an Instant Payments option that allows you to pay employees the same day using the Cash App.

Payroll software

Gusto
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on Gusto's website

Gusto Payroll Plans start at $40 per month (base) and $6 per person per month. Read review.

ADP
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on ADP's website

RUN Powered by ADP Plans start at $79 per month (base) and $4 per person per month. Read review.

OnPay
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on OnPay's website

OnPay Payroll Plans start at $40 per month (base) and $6 per person per month. Read review.

Square
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on Square's website

Square Payroll Plans start at $35 per month (base) and $5 per person per month. Read review.

QuickBooks
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on QuickBooks' website

QuickBooks Payroll Plans start at $45 per month (base) and $4 per person per month. Read review.

Wave Payroll Plans start at $20 per month (base) and $6 per person per month.

Providers may offer lower promotional pricing.