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Gusto rises to the top of our list of payroll and human resources platforms thanks to its usability. While its pricing isn’t the lowest you’ll find for these services, Gusto includes features that would be an additional cost with similar providers.
Designed for small businesses, this cloud-based, all-in-one platform can be accessed from virtually anywhere through a web browser. Gusto, formerly ZenPayroll, doesn’t lock you into a contract, and if you need new features or aren’t using others, it’s easy to change your plan.
Plans and price
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
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 customer support by phone, email or chat at all subscription levels, Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time.
Ease of use
Has a user-friendly interface with simple step-by-step tools, checklists and tutorials.
Third-party integrations with QuickBooks, Xero, Aplos, ZipBooks, Autobooks, FreshBooks, Clover, Shopify, Expensify and numerous other applications.
With some payroll and benefits services, it’s nearly impossible to get a clear price upfront. That’s not the case with Gusto, which posts its monthly subscription prices publicly:
How does Gusto work?
After you provide Gusto with some basic information, you can get a feel for the product through an interactive demo. Unlike some of its competitors, Gusto doesn’t charge a setup fee. When creating your initial payroll account, you can tackle the online setup process yourself, or you can request free payroll setup assistance from Gusto.
Select a plan
Gusto plans integrate payroll, benefits and HR. Higher tiers offer additional features, and add-on benefits can be used to further customize your plan. You have the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time.
If you want benefits for your team, Gusto can help you build a benefits package. You can compare medical, dental and vision plans and providers on the app to find the best fit — assuming you live in a state where Gusto offers health benefits administration services. You can also set up 401(k) plans, 529 savings accounts, HSAs, FSAs, commuter benefits, workers’ compensation plans and life insurance plans.
Some benefits, such as the Gusto Wallet app, are available at no cost. Others, like 401(k) plans, have a monthly and per-participant cost. (Benefits pricing is available on the Gusto website.)
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 address 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. One caveat: Customer support isn’t available on weekends.
If you prefer completing tasks on your own, Gusto also provides an extensive online help center, checklists, videos and FAQs.
Some benefits aren’t available in all states
While Gusto offers payroll services and 401(k)s 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, South Dakota, West Virginia or Wyoming.
If benefits aren’t available through Gusto in a state where you and your employees are based, you may want to consider companies such as Paychex or ADP, which offer expanded benefits through professional employer organizations, or PEOs.
No mobile payroll app
Gusto doesn’t offer a mobile app specifically for payroll, but you can run payroll from a mobile device using a web browser. 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
While Gusto offers next-day direct deposit of your employees' pay at the Complete and Concierge levels, 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 will receive their money that same day. And 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 starts at $35 per month, plus $5 per person, while Gusto starts at $39 per month, plus $6 per person. Like Gusto, Square Payroll offers unlimited payroll runs, automatic payroll tax filing and help managing employee benefits. It has a contractors-only option like Gusto does, too. And similar to QuickBooks, Square has an Instant Payments option that allows you to pay employees the same day using its Cash App.
Gusto Payroll Plans start at $39 per month (base) and $6 per person per month. Read review.
RUN Powered by ADP Plans start at $59 per month (base) and $4 per person per month. Read review.
OnPay Payroll Plans start at $36 per month (base) and $4 per person per month. Read review.
Square Payroll Plans start at $35 per month (base) and $5 per person per month. Read review.
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.