FreshBooks vs. Wave Accounting: Wave Wins

Wave takes the lead by offering functionality similar to FreshBooks, but at no cost.
Mar 28, 2022

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FreshBooks and Wave Accounting are both solid small-business accounting software options, but Wave offers most of the features FreshBooks does, but for free. If you’re looking for a simpler, more affordable option than QuickBooks (NerdWallet’s current pick for best accounting software), Wave is a functional, user-friendly choice.

FreshBooks is still a great product, with competitive pricing, advanced invoicing features and mobile-friendly interface. However, its lower-priced plans set limits on users, clients and accountant access, making Wave a better option for easy bookkeeping, accounting and invoicing for a small business or freelancer needing more flexibility.

Deciding factors

FreshBooks

Wave

Price

$15 per month and up. (Promotions may apply.)

Free.

Better for

Freelancers and independent contractors; small businesses.

Service-based businesses and freelancers; small businesses not looking to scale.

Maximum number of users

One; $10 per user per month for more.

Unlimited.

Maximum number of financial accounts

Unlimited.

Unlimited.

Ease of sharing with accountants

Good; no accountant access on lowest-priced plan.

Excellent; you can send email invites to your accountant with editor permissions.

Scalability

Average; some plans set limits on number of users and clients.

Average; no advanced accounting plan options outside of its free software.

Ease of use

Excellent; user-friendly interface and well-rated customer support.

Excellent; intuitive layout and a help center with resources.

Overall winner: Wave

While FreshBooks has slightly more advanced accounting features and live customer support, Wave offers most of the same capabilities, for free. Wave includes unlimited users, clients and accountant access, which FreshBooks only offers with its higher-priced plans.

Businesses willing to pay higher prices as they scale, or prioritize mobile access and customer support, may prefer FreshBooks, but Wave’s free platform is sufficient for most small businesses and easy to use without prior accounting experience.

Neither option, however, is very scalable, so fast-growing and larger businesses should consider a more robust accounting system.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

Businesses considering one of these two options are likely looking for a simpler, more affordable accounting solution than products like QuickBooks Online.

Wave is a fully free software that includes accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping and receipt-scanning tools. The software includes unlimited clients, users and invoicing. It also offers automatic payment reminders and syncs invoices with accounting data. Wave Payments does come with payment processing fees, however; these also apply for online invoices with built-in payment options.

FreshBooks offers four plans that can be paid monthly or yearly. Keep in mind that additional users cost $10 more per user per month.

Plan

Price

Features

Lite

$15 per month or $180 annually.

  • One user with five billable clients.

  • Unlimited invoices, expense entries and time and mileage tracking.

  • Automated bank import.

  • Tax and business health reports.

  • Acceptance of credit card payments and ACH bank transfers online.

Plus

$25 per month or $300 annually.

  • One user with 50 billable clients.

  • All features in Lite.

  • Unlimited proposals.

  • Double-entry accounting reports.

  • Ability to set up client retainers.

Premium

$50 per month or $600 annually.

  • One user with unlimited billable clients.

  • All features in Plus.

  • Customized email templates and signatures.

  • Information about project profitability.

Select

Custom pricing.

  • Two users with unlimited billable clients.

  • All features in Premium.

  • Personal account manager.

Scalability

Winner: Wave

FreshBooks does offer more advanced features than Wave, but Wave’s simple software allows businesses to grow in the number of clients and staff at no additional cost. The company also has several add-on products including Wave Payments, which only charges payment processing fees, and Wave Payroll, which starts at $20 per month.

The platform doesn't place limits on the number of users or clients, but it offers no advanced plans; what you see is what you get.

Ease of sharing with accountants

Winner: Wave

With Wave, you can invite your accountant via email with “editor” permissions, which gives them full access to purchases, accounting and reports, plus limited access to sales. The company also offers bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and tax assistance through its Wave Advisors service starting at $149 per month.

FreshBooks includes accountant access with its Plus and Premium plans in a similar way. You can invite your accountant via email and designate them with the “Accountant” role, which gives them access to invoices, expense reports and account charts without the ability to take any unnecessary actions. However, this access is not available on the lowest-cost plan.

Invoicing

Winner: Tie

FreshBooks’ advanced invoicing features are one of its strengths. The software includes customizable designs, recurring digital invoices, discounts and instant updates, all of which are available on the mobile app.

Wave’s invoicing is also unlimited and automatically syncs with your accounting. Like FreshBooks, it includes customizable templates and also has a dedicated invoicing mobile app with status notifications. It can turn estimates into invoices once approved and has the ability to accept online credit card and bank payments within invoices using Wave Payments (fees apply).

Both companies offer robust, unlimited invoicing capabilities with easily accessible mobile reports.

Customer service

Winner: FreshBooks

FreshBooks’ customer support is highly rated on several online review sites. Emails are normally answered within 90 minutes, and phone calls are answered within three rings by a customer support representative. Customer support is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Wave offers customer support through live chat and email, though the chatbot only provides automated answers. The support team usually responds to emails within two business days, according to a company representative. Live phone support is only available for paid services like Wave Advisors and Wave Payroll.

Other accounting software to consider

QuickBooks Online: Best overall

Price: Plans from $25 to $180 and up per month.

QuickBooks Online is NerdWallet’s current pick for best accounting software. It’s cloud-based and highly scalable, offering plans including up to 25 users and three accounting firms. The software has a range of features and add-ons and integrates with hundreds of apps including QuickBooks’ own payroll and payment processing software.

Xero: Unlimited users

Price: Plans from $12 to $65 and up per month.

Unlike FreshBooks and QuickBooks, Xero allows unlimited users in even its lowest-priced plans. It offers an accountant certification program and connects with over 800 small-business apps including PayPal and Gusto.

Zoho Books: Low-cost, high-value

Price: Plans from free to $70 and up per month.

Zoho Books also provides a range of features including automated workflows and real-time project tracking, but like FreshBooks, limits the number of users for all of its plans. Zoho has a suite of accompanying software that integrates with its accounting program, including customer relationship management, sales and marketing tools.

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