Online Accounting Software of 2019 | FreshBooks, Intuit QuickBooks and More
We spent 32 hours researching and evaluating the best online accounting software designed specifically for small to medium businesses. We compared plan options, pricing structure, automated features and interface design. We also evaluated how well each service tracks your accounting data so you can effectively view the health of your business’ cash flow, from both a macro and micro perspective. The best cloud accounting services don’t just balance your books but help you set realistic goals for profits and growth. Read the reviews below to find the best online accounting software for your business.
FreshBooks earned our pick for best cloud accounting software for small business owners because of its ease of use and automated features.
Xero's reliable data reports and easy to read graphs make it our pick for best online accounting software for tracking performance.
Intuit QuickBooks Online
Intuit QuickBooks Online earned our pick for most versatile cloud accounting software because it's excellent for any industry and purpose.
Best for Small Business Owners
FreshBooks was designed specifically with the self-employed, small business owners in mind.
FreshBooks was designed specifically with the self-employed, small business owners in mind. With its customizable interface, you can shape it to fit your company’s specific needs. It automates your invoices, tracks your expenses, scans your receipts, logs your hours, creates and sends project estimates and provides an easy way for you to collaborate with contractors and clients.
Since so many of the features are automated, it makes balancing your cash-flow less of a chore, which is exactly what you need if you’re a small business owner and not an accountant. It comes with an app, so you can track your invoices and send payment reminders while you’re away from the office. The invoices accept and process online credit card payments, so you get paid sooner. It can even be set up to automatically include late-fees on overdue invoices.
At $25 per month for 50 clients and $50 per month for 500 clients, the cost of FreshBooks is in line with the market price for similar SaaS invoicing plans. That said, you can use it for free for 30 days, allowing you to see how well it works for your business before committing to a monthly subscription.
A downside to FreshBooks is its lack of inventory management features. This means it’s not great for businesses with large physical inventories, like a retail or food service business.
Best for Performance Tracking
Xero securely integrates with your bank accounts and tracks all of your accounting data to create easy to read graphs and reports via the business performance dashboard.
To make growth projection goals for your business, you need to know exactly how your business is performing, from a macro (year-to-year) and micro (day-to-day) perspective. This is why Xero is our pick for the online billing service for data tracking. It securely integrates with your bank accounts and tracks all of your accounting data to create easy to read graphs and reports via the business performance dashboard. With reliable data on your business, you can track stuff like debt ratio, net worth, liabilities, net revenue, gross profits, and other metrics specific to your business. With such reliable performance data, you can make better-informed decisions and more realistic goals.
As a cloud accounting service, Xero is also very good at automating your invoicing process and tracking your expenses. You can customize your invoices to match your company’s brand, and Xero provides branding templates to make this personalization just a matter of uploading your logo. The service automatically sends overdue notices to clients and sets up repeating invoices for regular customers. Since it’s all online, you don’t have to worry about data-loss or backing up your data. In addition, you can use the mobile app to access your accounting information, send invoices and receive payments.
A downside to Xero is the lack of partnerships with banks to set up direct bank feeds for a seamless flow of information between your financial accounts and your Xero account. Currently, just four banks have partnerships with Xero, though the service does say if you don’t use one of the banks, they will do what they can to get a partnership with your bank.
With four plans for QuickBooks Online, with each priced affordably, you can find a plan to fit your business needs and budget better than other services.
Intuit QuickBooks Online is easily the most recognized brand of accounting software in the U.S., as the company has been designing invoicing and finance software since the early 1980s. With four plans for QuickBooks Online, with each priced affordably, you can find a plan to fit your business needs and budget better than other services. It features a plan specifically for freelancers and a plan for a growing small business. The SaaS cloud-interface is compatible with a wide range of third-party business apps.
The most comprehensive plan, the Plus, costs just $30 per month for the first three months and $60 per month thereafter. The cloud-based interface automates the invoice process, captures receipts, maximizes tax deductions, accepts and processes payments, sends estimates, calculates sales and state taxes, and tracks inventory. And you can add a full-service payroll for an additional fee, ranging from $18 to $40 per month and $4 per employee, depending on whether you want a self-service or full-service payroll. Either way, the cost for the online payroll service is exceptional.
A recent update added a project profitability tracking tool to help you see labor costs, payroll and expenses specific to a job. This helps create more accurate estimates and helps keep you on track with current projects. In addition, Intuits easy integration with other Intuit products makes it an excellent tool for managing and growing your business, regardless of what industry you’re in.
Best for Mid-Market Businesses
The Core Financials product from Sage Intacct is designed to automate the most important financial ledgers for mid-market businesses. This U.K.-based cloud invoicing service earned the G2 Crowd 2018 award for best mid-market cloud financial management, in large part because of how the features and functionality are tailored to your business. It’s aimed at chief financial officers and accounting departments of medium-sized companies, so it might be too complicated for small business owners or self-employed sole proprietors. However, if you’re a small business that’s growing into a mid-market company, Sage Intacct is an excellent option.
Sage Intacct’s Core Financials is a full-featured financial management suite of features covering automated invoicing, accounts receivable, inventory tracking, compliance reporting and project collaborations. One of the reasons it’s a popular mid-market cloud financial management service is because it’s customized to your business’ needs from the outset. You’re not choosing a one-size-fits-all plan, but consulting with a sales representative to create your core financial plan. The downside to this is the pricing is not clear until you contact their sales team.
Best for Retail & Food Services
Square is the among the most widely used services to offer easy-to-setup point-of-sale systems for taking and processing credit card payments. Not only does Square provide a simple cloud-based invoicing system, but it provides the physical POS devices for taking card payments on location. This is why Square is our pick for the best cloud accounting service for retail and food services.
Square makes the invoicing process remarkably simple to configure and use, which means you don’t need to be financial guru or accountant to keep your books balanced. You send invoices using the POS app or the Square Dashboard interface. As with other cloud invoicing services, you can customize how your invoice looks, set automatic payment reminders, accept online payments, and track invoices and their payment statuses.
Unlike the other services we reviewed, Square doesn’t charge a monthly fee for invoicing. Rather, it charges a fee for each invoice of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents for each invoice paid online through its service. This pricing method can be an advantage for many small companies, but may not be cost effective for large businesses.
Why Trust Us
Since 2003, Top Ten Reviews has been a leading online publisher of expert reviews. We specialize in a wide variety of categories, ranging from consumer focused tech products to services for small and medium businesses. And each category receives between 40 and 140 hours of research, comparative testing and careful analysis. In addition, we consult with industry experts to get insights on what separates the best from the rest.
What We Evaluated
Your business cannot succeed if you don’t manage your cash flow effectively. Most businesses fail, not because the product or service was not good, but because the books weren’t managed effectively to maximize the return on investments in time and capital. As such, we looked closely at how each online accounting service achieve this purpose for a small business owner still in charge of managing their ledger.
Every business has different challenges with different approaches to survival and growth, but the big picture principle is always the same - you want more money to come in than going out. And it’s this principle that should drive your decision on what kind of accounting software you should use.
Money Coming In
The most important feature of online accounting software is the automated invoicing. With it, you don’t have to manually send invoices to clients. The software takes care of the invoicing process, from sending the bill, processing the payment and calculating the results in your accounts receivable ledgers. It should account for taxes and even send late-payment reminders with late fees, should you choose to have such policies. You should be able to access your invoices from a mobile device and even physically take payments on location if needed.
We also looked at how well the accounting software created estimates to send to clients. The best software allows you to create the estimate and send it to the client for feedback or approval. And once approved, it should automatically convert the estimate to a working invoice.
If your business does work in multiple countries, look for an accounting service with multi-currency capabilities. Most offer this, but often only within the most comprehensive package.
Money Going Out
We looked at whether the accounting software tracked your bills and debt, and whether it paid these bills automatically or if it just tracked the money required to keep the business afloat. We also made sure the software scanned and tracked receipts for deductions and auditing purposes.
The money going out also includes features to help with payroll, inventory control, product development, market research and any other investments required to improve your business. Some of these features, such as payroll, require different fees. And some cloud accounting services don’t provide payroll services at all.
Finally, you need the accounting software to provide reliable performance data about your businesses performance, in both macro (year to year) and micro (day to day) reports. You can’t understand your return on investments if you don’t have good data. And if you can’t grasp your businesses ROI, you’re not going to make the best decisions for growth, much less survival. As such, don’t underestimate the financial health reports. Look for reports capable of delivering reports on a wide range of criteria, like debt-to-revenue ratio, inventory trends and more.
How Much Does Online Accounting Software Cost?
For self-employed with just a handful of clients, you can expect to pay around $10 per month, though some services have free plans, though these generally limit the number of invoices you can send to just a few with very little customization. If you’re a small business owner with 50 to 100 clients, you can expect a lot more features and pay between $20 and $30 per month. For 500 or more invoices, it costs around $50 per month. Adding payroll services is an additional fee based on a monthly fee around $20 and an addition $4 to $12 fee for each employee.
Should I Apply For a Small Business Loan?
You started a business to make money, not go into debt. And in a perfect world, your business would take off from the day you open the door, but we all know perfect worlds only exist in fairytales. In reality, applying for a small business loan is necessary just to get your company up and running. Many of the most successful businesses operated at a loss for decades before they turned a profit.
According to Tim Mullaney of CNBC, taking on debt, via loans, lines of credit and business credit cards, early in a business venture is necessary to not only develop the product or service, but to gain market share. Companies like Amazon operate at massive losses for many years, taking on debt or sacrificing profits to capture a larger part of the market. This is not an accident, but done with a long-term plan in mind. And that’s what it really comes down to - when you take on debt, it needs to have purpose and a plan aimed at a return much greater than the debt plus the interest rate applied over time. However, even if you’re just a humble retailer running a hipster bookstore and cafe, you may need to take on debts from time to time to keep your business afloat, especially in the early days of the business. You may not know for a few years that spring and fall months are when you receive most of your annual income, and may need small business loans or lines of credit to make it through the lean months.
Whatever your situation, it’s important to do your research and have a plan in place for how you’re planning on repaying the loan. Depending on the loan type or line of credit, you may have to present a detailed plan of how you expect to use the debt to benefit your business.
What Is a Business Credit Score?
Every consumer with debt has a credit score and credit reports. These scores and reports, which are strictly regulated by laws, are used by banks, businesses, landlords and sometimes potential employers to evaluate your risk as a consumer. The reports show how much debt you have compared to your estimated income, whether you make late payments, if debts have been sent to collections and if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy.
The information in the three reports is then used to create a FICO credit score to represent your risk in a simple and quick format. This number is used to either approve loans, credit cards and other financing or determine the interest rate. A good score means you pay less interest. A loan approved on a low credit score means you’ll likely have to pay an interest rate many times greater.
However, while consumer credit scores are well-known, many small business owners don’t realize their business also has a credit score. There are several kinds of business credit scores used for different purposes. According to NAV, the most common credit scores and reporting agencies are Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX, Intelliscore PLusSM from Experian and FICO LiquidCredit Small Business Score.
Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX: 0-100
Score shows how promptly your business pays bills. Used by vendors and suppliers to evaluate terms of contracts related to your business.
Intelliscore PlusSM from Experian: 0-100
Score predicts the likelihood of delinquency on outstanding debts. Used by lenders to determine terms of business loans and lines of credit.
FICO LiquidCredit Small Business Score: 0-300
Specifically made for small businesses, this ranks businesses based on their payment history, but it often includes personal credit reports and scores along with the business score, especially when the business is small and relatively young. Lenders use this score to determine SMB loans and lines of credit.
With business credit scores, most of the criteria used to calculate your score are similar to your personal credit score - debt ratio, credit utilization, outstanding debts, length of credit history, bankruptcies, liens and judgements. However, there are other considerations, such as the company size and industry risk that also factor into the score.
Similar to your personal credit score, it’s important to stay on top of your business credit score. This means regularly evaluating your business credit reports, looking for errors and immediately correcting any errors you find. In addition, it means having a strategy in place for building your credit score or repairing your credit score if you find it’s fallen below satisfactory levels.