Ratings Methodology for Small-Business Accounting Software

Accounting software

NerdWallet's ratings for small-business accounting software consider the following factors:
  • Range of features.
  • Ease of use.
  • Accounting standards compliance.
  • Cost.
  • Scalability.
  • Ease of sharing with accountants.
  • Integrations.
  • Customer support.
  • Pricing transparency.
  • Free trial period.
The best accounting software automates bookkeeping tasks and keeps your finances in order. It uses the double-entry bookkeeping method, pulls in data from your payroll and/or point-of-sale software and scales with your business. Key features include detailed reports along with invoicing capabilities, and it’s easy to loop in your accountant from within the software. Support is available beyond normal business hours, whether it’s through a phone call or live chat.

Data collection and review process

We collect data points for each product from its public-facing website and from company representatives. These data points are then compared against one another and against NerdWallet's standards for good accounting software to determine a star rating.

Information is gathered on a regular basis and reviewed by our editorial team for consistency and accuracy. Final star ratings are presented on a scale of one to five stars, where a one-star score represents "poor" and a five-star score represents "excellent."

The reviews team

The writers and editors behind our accounting software reviews are small-business specialists who have had their work featured by The Associated Press, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, MarketWatch and many other publications. Each writer and editor follows NerdWallet’s strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

Our small-business editorial team also covers business loans, business credit cards, business bank accounts and business insurance.

Rating specifics

Our star ratings are weighted based on our editorial and professional opinions. We use the following weightings when rating accounting software:
  • Range of features (28%).
  • Ease of use (11%).
  • Accounting standards compliance (11%).
  • Cost (11%).
  • Scalability (8.5%).
  • Ease of sharing with accountants (8.5%).
  • Integrations (8%).
  • Customer support (8%).
  • Pricing transparency (3%).
  • Free trial period (3%).

Range of features: Most businesses will look for most, if not all, of the following key features: reporting, invoicing, inventory management, bill management and a mobile app. More specifically, the software should include a range of customizable reports as well as the abilities to convert estimates into invoices and accept payments online. Advanced features, like project tracking, transaction tagging and industry-specific reporting, are weighted less than key features because they may not be necessary for freelancers and contractors. Even so, certain products do stand out for offering them.

Ease of use: These ratings are determined in part by how well a product automates necessary and recurring bookkeeping tasks, like account reconciliation. Features like online bank feeds and bank rules for categorizing transactions streamline the process further. We also take accounting dashboard customizability into account — products that enable users to adjust the information and visuals reflected in the dashboard based on particular needs rank higher in this category than those that do not.

Accounting standards compliance: Accounting products that use double-entry accounting, include a customizable chart of accounts and can accommodate both cash and accrual accounting methods rank favorably in this section for covering the basics.

Cost: Accounting products with free plans rank higher in this category. To rate products without free plans, we established price ranges based on accounting products’ least expensive monthly plans.

Scalability: How well a product can grow with a business is based on user limits and what size business the software typically supports. We determined the latter based on communication with accounting software companies and employee limits for in-house payroll software where applicable. Business size is based on how many employees the business has.

Ease of sharing with accountants: We give high ratings to products that support accountant access in all plans and make it easy to invite your accountant to collaborate. Other factors include whether a provider offers a certification course for accountants and bookkeepers to become well-versed in the software, and whether the software provides access to audit trails so accountants may see who made changes and when.

Integrations: At the very least, accounting software should exchange information with your POS system and payroll software. Bookkeeping integrations are nice to have in case you’d like to outsource those tasks as your business grows. To acknowledge the variety of integrations available, we also took into account whether a provider offers additional third-party integrations for business functions such as time-tracking, CRM, e-commerce and more.

Customer support: We consider phone and live chat support options, as well as access to an online library of support resources.

Pricing transparency: We take into account published prices as well as the degree to which the provider makes the pricing obvious and available to consumers on its website.

Free trial period: We reward products that come with a free trial for users to test the software before purchase.