Gusto vs. QuickBooks Payroll: Which Is Best for You?

Gusto is more scalable and HR-focused, whereas QuickBooks Payroll offers quicker direct deposit and more robust in-house time tracking.
Hillary Crawford
Randa Kriss
By Randa Kriss and  Hillary Crawford 
Edited by Claire Tsosie

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Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll are both exceptional online, automated payroll platforms that allow small business owners to set up and process payroll, manage employee benefits and file payroll taxes. Gusto is best for businesses that plan to grow beyond 50 employees and would benefit from more HR capabilities. QuickBooks Payroll, on the other hand, is great for smaller businesses that already use QuickBooks Online for accounting and want the flexibility to run payroll through an app.

Deciding factors


NerdWallet rating 
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on Gusto's website

QuickBooks Payroll

NerdWallet rating 
Shop Now

on QuickBooks' website

Better for

Small businesses with more than 50 employees that require a robust HR ecosystem.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees that already utilize the QuickBooks suite of products.


Simple: $40 per month plus $6 per employee per month.

Plus: $80 per month plus $12 per employee per month.

Premium: Quote-based pricing.

Core: $45 per month plus $4 per employee per month.

Premium: $75 per month plus $8 per employee per month.

Elite: $125 per month plus $10 per employee per month.

Promotions available.

Tax filing and payments

Yes. Federal, state and local payroll taxes are calculated, filed and paid automatically in all three plan tiers. There are no multiple state filing fees.

Yes. Federal and state payroll taxes are calculated, filed and paid automatically in all three plan tiers. Local filing is included in the Premium and Elite plans. Multiple state filing is only included in the Elite plan.

Ability to manage employee benefits

Excellent. It offers 401(k) plans, health benefits, free health benefits administration, HSAs and FSAs, commuter benefits and 529 college savings plans.

Good. It offers 401(k) plans, health benefits and free health benefits administration.

Employee access to portal

The Gusto Wallet app lets employees access paychecks and W-2s, manage their hours and set up savings goals.

The Workforce portal website lets employees access paychecks, W-2s and PTO balances.

Live support

Good. Phone, email and chat support available Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

Excellent. Chat support available 24/7; phone support available Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT and Saturday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT.

Ease of use

Has a user-friendly interface with step-by-step setup instructions, onboarding checklists and automation options.

Has a user-friendly interface with step-by-step setup instructions, onboarding checklists and automation options.

Overall winner: It’s a tie.

QuickBooks Payroll and Gusto are neck and neck on payroll automation options, automated federal and state tax filing, usability, transparency and reporting capabilities. The products, which both earned spots on NerdWallet's best business software roundup, are simple to navigate, have modern user interfaces and include key time-saving automation features.

The decision hinges on three main factors:

  • How much you’d like to build out your HR ecosystem.

  • If you use QuickBooks Online for accounting.

  • If your small business has more than 50 employees.

HR and benefits

Gusto wins.

Gusto offers more HR-specific features than QuickBooks Payroll, like a business organizational chart, a coworker directory, customizable employee profiles, online offer letters and employee surveys. For unlimited access to HR professionals, an HR resource center and a dedicated support team, business owners can upgrade to Gusto’s highest-tier Premium plan.

QuickBooks Payroll’s Premium plan includes an HR support center, and its highest-tier Elite plan includes access to a personal HR advisor. However, its HR tools don’t extend far beyond customizable job descriptions, onboarding checklists and employee handbooks.

Gusto also has more benefits options than QuickBooks Payroll, aside from health, dental and vision insurance. Other Gusto options include a 529 college savings account, flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts and commuter benefits.


Gusto wins.

Regardless of which plan you have, Gusto allows you to integrate with third-party software for time tracking, point-of-sale and accounting software (QuickBooks Online included). Meanwhile, QuickBooks Payroll is limited to other Intuit integrations unless you use your software with QuickBooks Online. Put simply, if you don’t use a QuickBooks product for accounting, you’ll have to manually enter your payroll data into your accounting software. However, if you do use QuickBooks Online, tacking QuickBooks Payroll onto your existing plan will be extremely easy.


Gusto wins.

Gusto can accommodate very small businesses with a few employees, as well as medium-sized businesses with several hundred employees, whereas QuickBooks Payroll is optimized for small businesses with up to 50 employees. It will not work for businesses with more than 150 employees.

Mobile app

QuickBooks Payroll wins.

Although Gusto is mobile-friendly, it doesn’t have a designated mobile app for employers to run payroll on the go. QuickBooks Payroll offers a fully functional, free mobile app for iOS and Android that lets you run payroll, view reports, edit employee details, files taxes and set reminders.

Direct deposit

QuickBooks Payroll wins.

QuickBooks Payroll’s Core plan comes with next-day direct deposit and its Premium and Elite plans come with same-day direct deposit. For next-day direct deposit, payroll must be submitted by 5 p.m. PT the day before payday. For same-day direct deposit, it must be submitted by 7 a.m. PT the morning of payday. The fastest direct deposit Gusto offers is next-day in its Plus and Premium plans. Its Simple plan comes with two-day direct deposit.

Time tracking

QuickBooks Payroll wins.

QuickBooks Payroll and Gusto both have in-house time-tracking software that lets employees clock in and out and track time spent on particular projects. QuickBooks Payroll’s higher-tier plans include a GPS tracking option that sets them apart, though. The feature, which also lets you track employee mileage, is especially helpful for teams that work at different job sites. Employers can set up a geofence that nudges employees to clock in and out when they enter and exit a job site.

Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll alternatives

RUN Powered by ADP

Pricing: $59 per month plus $4 per employee per month and up. Pricing is quote-based.

RUN Powered by ADP could be a good match for business owners with 1-49 employees who don’t mind negotiating the right price. The service is exceptionally flexible and offers third-party integrations for benefits, accounting, time and attendance, recruiting and onboarding, productivity and POS. Businesses that grow beyond 49 employees, and all the way up to 999 employees, can upgrade to one of the company’s Workforce Now payroll packages.


Pricing: $40 per month plus $6 per employee per month.

OnPay has a simple pricing structure that only fluctuates based on a business’s number of employees. It includes HR tools, unlimited payroll runs, automated tax payments, W-2 and 1099 processing, and customer support through phone, chat and email. Employers can offer benefits and retirement plans to employees and integrate with other software products, including QuickBooks Online.