ADP vs. Square Payroll: How to Choose the Right One for Your Business

ADP is a payroll giant with a robust set of features, but Square's straightforward pricing is welcome.
Lisa Anthony
Christine Aebischer
By Christine Aebischer and  Lisa Anthony 
Edited by Tina Orem

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

MORE LIKE THISSmall Business

If you want to compare ADP vs. Square Payroll, you’ve come to the right place. This guide breaks down everything you need to know about these two payroll platforms including how they perform, where they excel, where they fall short and how much you can expect to pay for either option.

ADP vs. Square Payroll: Overview

Ultimately, the decision between ADP Payroll and Square Payroll comes down to a few core considerations. The first is price: Square offers upfront pricing that doesn’t depend on negotiations with sales teams. ADP Payroll’s pricing is less transparent, making it difficult to tell how much it might cost the average business to implement the platform.

On the other hand, Square Payroll offers fewer features, which can be a positive or a negative based on what your business needs and how many staff members you need to pay every month. ADP offers class-leading features and benefits, which may be more important to you depending on the size and scope of your organization.

Comparing features

Both ADP and Square Payroll feature a robust set of tools to help you manage every aspect of your company’s small-business payroll needs. They come with a full set of tools via desktop and mobile apps, support for a wide-ranging number of employees and versatile tax reporting tools to make your life easier when it comes time to pay small-business taxes (and for your employees to file their returns, too).

The core of ADP Payroll is its payroll processing, payment types, tax handling and year-end form creation. The platform also supports integrations with common accounting platforms and can file paperwork for new employees on your behalf with state and federal agencies.

Square also offers these tools, as well as a few more: First, there’s full integration with Square’s other tools, including the popular Square payment processing platform. Newer businesses and those that need help establishing benefits can work with Square’s partners for preferential pricing too.

All told, both platforms take care of many of the same core features that come with effectively managing payroll. The real difference comes down to price, your business’ specific needs and whether you’re already working with either vendor for other services.

Differences between ADP and Square Payroll plans

Although both platforms offer many of the same tools, their plans and pricing differ. Square Payroll has two plans — both of which have flat pricing. Companies that only need payroll assistance for contractors pay just $5 per contractor per month. If you have both employees and contractors, you’ll pay a monthly base fee of $35, plus $5 per employee/contractor per month.

ADP Payroll has several plans.

ADP Run, which is for smaller businesses and those with fewer and less complicated payroll needs. ADP Run supports up to 49 payees and comes in four varieties.

  • Essential is ADP’s basic payroll solution for small businesses. This version comes with the payroll processing capabilities one might expect, which includes tax calculations, filings and withholdings. You’ll also be able to view employee reports, onboard new employees easily and deliver W-2 and 1099 forms to employees automatically.

  • Enhanced offers all of these tools, as well as ZipRecruiter and background checks. This plan also provides help with unemployment insurance and wage garnishments.

  • Complete has more HR features, including employee handbook creation assistance, HR training and live support from ADP’s team of HR professionals.

  • HR Pro functions more like a PEO than just a payroll platform, which may offer you several benefits if your business is of a size where these broader HR requirements become a factor. ADP HR Pro also offers work-life assistance programs and legal services, and it comes with a dedicated team of HR advisors.

ADP Workforce Now is designed for larger small- and medium-sized businesses ranging from 50 to 1,000 employees. Its plans vary by business, and an ADP representative helps create the plans. Options include time tracking, talent management, benefits administration, paid time off tracking and business insurance services.

None of the ADP software options come with pricing information online, which means you will have to contact a representative to receive a quote based on your employee count and needs.

ADP Payroll customer reviews

With this ADP vs. Square Payroll comparison overview in mind, let’s take a closer look at how each platform stands out — and where they fall short, according to customers.

ADP Payroll pros

  • ADP Run gets high marks for its easy-to-use interface, which has a simple navigation for routine and complex payroll tasks.

  • It’s relatively easy to pay by way of physical checks, direct deposit or paycards.

  • The system also administers payroll taxes and other withholdings without the need to tackle these tasks manually, including garnishment payments.

  • Users can also generate customizable reports, receive labor law posters and run payroll online, by phone or with the mobile payroll app.

RUN Powered by ADP®

NerdWallet rating 
Shop Now

on ADP's website

ADP Payroll cons

Like all payroll platforms, ADP is not without its demerits. The system can be somewhat difficult to set up initially — especially for business owners who may not have tons of experience or confidence with setting up new software for their companies. There are occasional hiccups with direct deposit functions, according to some reviewers, but these appear to be episodic rather than widespread.

Square Payroll customer reviews

Square may have started as an easy way for small-business owners to accept payments on the go, but the company now offers a solid payroll solution as well.

Square Payroll pros

  • As with ADP Run, Square Payroll also gets high marks for its intuitive design and simple navigation.

  • The software is generally customizable and convenient for most business owners.

  • Square also gets kudos for offering helpful customer service.

  • Square Payroll is competitively priced for most businesses, making it an affordable yet powerful option.

Square Payroll

Shop Now

on Square's website

Square Payroll cons

Every platform has its own issues and Square Payroll is no exception.

  • HR support and software tools aren’t listed in either of the packages offered by Square. You can get access to a dedicated HR manager and services through Square’s partner Bambee at an additional cost.

  • Reviewers give the program low marks for mostly technical issues and mention a lack of customizable features.

A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet

One blue credit card on a flat surface with coins on both sides.
Smart money moves for your businessGet access to business insights and recommendations, plus expert content.
Sign up for free