NerdWallet’s Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses

Double-entry accounting is a must. Also consider reporting capabilities, scalability and ease of use.

Rick VanderKnyffMar 23, 2021
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The best accounting software for small businesses makes it easy to keep detailed, accurate books. Specifically, these programs use double-entry accounting, generate useful reports, provide live support, integrate with business apps you already use and can scale with your business. If your company is planning to hire expert help, you'll also want to get a program that's widely used by accountants and bookkeepers.

Here are NerdWallet’s picks for the best accounting software for small businesses.

QuickBooks Online: Best overall accounting software

QuickBooks

on QuickBooks' site.

Price: $25 and up per month (50% off for first three months).

Pros:

  • Full suite of reports, including profit and loss statements and balance sheets.

  • Easy sharing with outside accountants or bookkeepers.

  • Double-entry accounting.

  • Access across devices, including mobile and browser (in addition to a desktop app).

  • Live full-service bookkeeping support available (pricing is quote-based).

Cons: 

  • Can take a little effort to learn.

Why we like it: QuickBooks is an industry leader, used by millions of small businesses worldwide. In the accounting field, that can mean something: If you’re working with an outside bookkeeper, QuickBooks is probably their weapon of choice.

QuickBooks Online is cloud-based and well-suited to smaller businesses, although it can scale up as your company does, from the Simple Start package (one user, two accounting firms) up to Advanced (up to 25 users and three accounting firms, plus advanced features). The program integrates with hundreds of apps, in addition to connecting easily with other products in the Intuit family handling payroll and payment processing. There's also a separate version for self-employed individuals (starting at $15 per month with 50% off in the first three months).

Xero Accounting: Best for unlimited users

Price: $11 and up per month (50% off for first two months).

Pros: 

  • Unlimited users in all pricing plans.

  • Inventory management.

  • Full reporting included with all subscription levels.

  • Automated bill and receipt capture.

  • Double-entry accounting.

Cons: 

  • No live phone support.

  • Limits on bills and receipts with the entry-level plan (five and 20 monthly, respectively).

Why we like it: Xero stands out by allowing unlimited users at every subscription tier, a potentially valuable feature for businesses where several users may need at least limited access to the system to run reports or analyze performance. You can also set up different permissions for each user so employees only have access to what's relevant to their job. By contrast, QuickBooks Online Advanced allows just 25 users and three accounting firms.

The New Zealand-based company, which has accounting software that is a market leader in some parts of the world, is also working to make inroads in the U.S. It offers a full certification program for accountants (like QuickBooks does), with more than 100,000 accountants and bookkeepers using Xero — which makes it easier for Xero customers to find outside help.

FreshBooks: Best mobile-friendly option

FreshBooks

on FreshBooks' site.

Price: $15 per month and up (60% off for first six months).

Pros: 

  • Ease of use.

  • Double-entry accounting.

  • Billing includes unlimited estimates and invoices.

  • Option to add advanced payment processing.

  • Phone and online support.

Cons:

  • Each pricing tier includes one user; each additional user adds $10 per month.

  • Limited features (no advanced budgeting or tax support).

Why we like it: FreshBooks' mobile app is intuitive and feature-rich, making it a great choice for entrepreneurs who spend more time on the phone than at a desk. Aside from general accounting functions, the mobile app also allows you to respond to clients' questions and get notified when they view or pay invoices or when invoices are overdue.

With FreshBooks' relatively recent addition of double-entry accounting, it's also now a candidate for a larger spectrum of companies, getting generally strong industry reviews for its intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Entirely cloud-based, it covers the basics and includes some attractive automated features and reports. If you need to have more than one person access the system, be sure you factor that into the price.

Zoho Books: Best for low-cost, high-value

Price: $9 per month and up (with discounts for annual billing).

Pros:

  • Ease of use.

  • Can integrate with a family of other Zoho products and several third-party apps.

  • Ability to automate workflows.

  • Phone and email support.

  • Double-entry accounting.

  • Specialized versions for nonprofits and startups.

Cons:

  • Third-party app integrations are more limited than other choices.

  • Even the top-tier plan is capped at 10 users (additional seats can be added at $2 each per month).

Why we like it: Zoho Books packs an impressive collection of features and reporting capabilities for an affordable price. Its interface is easy to learn and use, and the option to automate workflows — for example, to send an email alert if an invoice exceeds a certain amount, or to apply a discount or late fee in certain cases — makes it stand out as an attractive choice. (You can create five automated workflows under the basic plan and up to 10 under the higher tiers.)

Zoho is perhaps best-known for its customer relationship management, or CRM, and productivity apps, which integrate well with its accounting software. It's possible to create contacts on Zoho Books based on new leads in Zoho CRM, for instance.

Wave: Best free option

Price: Free (Wave makes money via payment processing).

Pros:

  • Free.

  • Ease of use.

  • Unlimited income and expense tracking.

  • Unlimited partners, collaborators or accountants.

  • Double-entry accounting.

Cons:

  • Not suitable for larger or fast-growing companies.

  • Not ideal for companies that handle foreign transactions.

Why we like it: Unlike some “freemium” software products, Wave doesn’t put out a bare-bones free product as bait, then load it down with costly upgrades. Even the free version has things like the ability to add unlimited collaborators, along with unlimited bank and credit card connections. Its separate invoicing product (also free) adds unlimited invoices and automated invoice reminders.

The company, which was purchased by H&R Block in 2019, makes money instead through payment processing, a service you can add on (starting at 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction). It also offers a payroll add-on that starts at $20 per month ($35 in tax service states).

How to decide on your accounting software

Here are some important questions you should ask before making your final choice.

Can it be accessed anywhere?

Some accounting software products are still desktop-run and can only be accessed from a certain computer. Most newer products are cloud-based and can be accessed through any device with an internet connection, in either a browser tab or a mobile app. This generally allows for greater collaboration and integrations with other business software. If accessing your accounting data from anywhere is a priority, look for a cloud-based option.

Can your bookkeeper or accountant work with it?

If you’re working with an outside bookkeeper or accountant, one way to start is to find out which accounting software they work with. QuickBooks is almost ubiquitous, but other companies, such as Xero, are making inroads as well.

Is it scalable?

You want accounting software that can grow with your business. If you're planning to scale, look for options that can be upgraded when needed and don't set limits on the use of certain features.

Does it have the features you need?

Is inventory management a priority? Are you dealing with foreign transactions? Do you need built-in payment processing? Do you need the software to integrate with other products you already use? If in doubt, try out the free trial offered by most providers.

How much does it cost?

When making the decision on which software to try, price is unlikely to be the deciding factor — but it's important to know what costs to expect and which services are included in the price. Subscription fees for most accounting software start at under $20, but add-ons could increase the price.

Bookkeeping and accounting software

$15 per month and up.

$4.99 per month and up.

$25 per month and up.

$47.25 per month and up.

Free (add-ons available).

$11 per month and up.

$10 per month and up.