Best Online Payroll Services 2019

Jeph Preece ·
Senior Domain Editor
Updated
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Choosing the best payroll service for your business is a combination of balancing needs with wants to find a service capable of delivering both in a way that makes sense in a cost-benefit analysis. As such, we spent up to 40 hours researching and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the best online payroll services. We evaluated and compared the monthly fees, the scalability, the HR features and overall customization of the cloud-platform. Each online payroll service has strengths and weaknesses, making them great for specific kinds of business needs.   


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Best for a Growing Business

ADP

ADP is your best option if you’re a growing company because of its scalability and history of stability within the payroll service industry.
ADP has been around for 70 years and is the most widely used online payroll services in the U.S. The success of ADP largely relies on its flexibility to meet the needs of small, medium and large businesses, making it the best option for a payroll service capable of growing along side your business. It’s capable of integrating with all the most common accounting software, such as QuickBooks, Sage, Wave and Xero, making the payroll processing a fully automated experience. And since all of your information is stored in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about losing information from a crashed computer system. ADP has three payroll suites designed for 1-49 employees (Run Powered by ADP), 50-999 employees (ADP Workforce Now) and 1,000 or more employees (ADP Vantage HCM). At each level, the payroll is automated and the tax compliance issues are automatic. However, many features of ADP are not included in the package cost and require additional fees for filing tax document and other more specialized services like mailing checks to employees or placing wages on prepaid debit cards. The packages also don’t include HR services, but you can easily add them as you need to, but at a cost. In addition, ADP charges a rather steep $200 setup fee, but you get two months free and can cancel the service if you’re dissatisfied. In this way, ADP allows you to test drive it long enough to get a good idea of how it fits your needs before committing to it.
Pros
  • Great business reputation
  • Works with most accounting software
  • Two month trial allows you to test-drive it
Cons
  • Charges fees per payroll
  • Additional fees for filing W-2 and 1099 forms
Get QuoteADP
Best for Handling Freelancer Payrolls

Gusto

With unlimited payees at an affordable cost each month, Gusto is the best online payroll service for small and medium businesses who work with contractors.
If you’re a business who relies on hiring freelance contractors, Gusto is your best option. Not only is it an affordable payroll service, costing just $39 per month for the Core package, plus $6 per month for each employee, but it costs the same for processing the payroll for independent contractors. This price includes a completely automated payroll system, employee self-service features, PTO tracking and the administration of health benefits and workers compensation filings. There are two additional packages, the Concierge package and the Complete package, which include more comprehensive features. Each package, however, includes a month trial period where you can test the service before paying anything. Each package also includes time-tracking and mobile apps for employees to view their pay stubs and request time off. In addition, your tax filings are automatically filed and taxes withheld, making compliance with tax laws simple enough to avoid fines. Gusto has some downsides, primarily in its limited health benefits offerings, allowing employees to enroll in health insurance and other benefits. Currently, the feature is only available in 23 states and Washington DC. Another downside is its inability to process payroll for any international employees or contractors.
Pros
  • Compatible with all major accounting software
  • Filing tax forms is free
  • Unlimited payees
Cons
  • Employee Benefits features aren’t available in every state
  • Doesn’t do payroll for international employees
Get QuoteGusto
Best for HR Services

MyPayrollHR

MyPayRoll HR is our pick for best cloud-based payroll service for HR benefits. The service offers automatic payroll and HR in a simplified format for businesses.
It’s all in the name - MyPayroll HR. This service is the best cloud-based payroll system for businesses wanting to package payroll with HR benefits. It packages payroll with HR services into one simple pricing structure. You can administer ACA filings, employee benefits, applications, workers compensation, scheduling and more. It starts at just $11.50 per employee after a $100 setup fee. There’s also an HR resource center for other work-related issues. Included in the price is the processing of W-2 and 1099 year-end tax forms, something that many payroll companies charge extra to do. Employees registered on the system have access to all their pay information and balances of paid time-off they have accrued. As this is an entirely cloud-based tool, it is accessible from any computer with a browser, although the site is secured with encrypted SSL to maintain security. Despite lacking a mobile app, MyPayroll HR provides solid payroll service, but it’s also an excellent solution for any business that isn’t yet large enough to have an HR department but needs at least some of the services one would provide.
Pros
  • Simple pricing structure
  • Unlimited payrolls
  • Tax filing is included
Cons
  • Exports data to accounting apps rather than being driven by them
  • No mobile app for employees
Get QuoteMyPayrollHR
Best Full-Service Payroll

TriNet

Many companies aren’t looking to employee a Human Resources department, and for them a full-service, cloud-based solution like TriNet with comprehensive HR, payroll and employee tracking is ideal. If your company works with contractors alongside employees, TriNet can manage payroll for both. And the service includes a lot of features that reduce the overhead in coordinating and managing staff. Through its HR team, TriNet can also manage a wide range of employee benefits, like medical insurance, that can be customized on a per-employee basis. The volume of available services does have a significant cost implication, with most quotes working out at about $1,700 per employee per year. That might seem steep, but when you factor in a team of experienced HR staff and divide those wages among the number of employees, it is likely to seem much less expensive.
Pros
  • Comprehensive services, including risk compliance
Cons
  • Very expensive
Get QuoteTriNet
Best for Low-Cost Entries

Paycor

Paycor earned our pick for businesses with tight budgets because of its low cost per employee. As with most cloud-based payroll services, you can customize the features to meet your HR, payroll and employee management needs, and this cost varies. But with with Paycor, a single payroll costs about $11 per employee, which means you can have 300 employees processed for just $355. And you can lower this with a discount if you enroll in yearly agreement with 26 pay periods. One downside is the annual end-of-year tax filings are not included in the cost, and at a cost of about $25 per employee, those fees can add up quickly. Still, even with the additional tax filing fees, Paycor is more affordable than other services. That said, the service doesn’t provide a trial period, which is disappointing because to receive those savings you have to commit to a full year.
Pros
  • Affordable prices per employee
Cons
  • Additional fee for end-of-year processing
Get QuotePaycor

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What We Evaluated

It might be a marketing cliche, but the purpose of an online payroll service is quite literally to save your business time and money by automating the entire payroll process. Imagine turning a full day of getting payroll ready for your employees into a matter of minutes. You gain valuable time, allowing you to turn your focus towards other priorities, like coming up with new strategies for growing your business. So with this in mind, we evaluated each service’s ability to automate the payroll process, and compared this with the cost savings.

We found most payroll services offer essentially the same benefits and services, such as tax withholdings and filings. The major difference in these services is the overall design of the cloud platform and SaaS features, which can determine how well the service fits your needs and whether it’s scalable enough to fit your expected growth over time.

We looked at how easily these cloud-based SaaS companies integrate with your accounting software, tax filings and time clock management. And we evaluated how well the service can grow with your business by looking at how easy you can add and remove to scale the platform to your needs.

In addition, while the basic pricing structures are similar from one service to another, we found that often cheaper services may have more affordable costs per employee but charged additional fees the more expensive services didn’t, like tax filings. Depending on your business’ size, these additional fees can actually make the more affordable monthly option less cost-effective in the long run. So, it’s important to research the cost-impact of multiple services before committing to a service. And if you can, use services with trial periods or commit only to a short test period where you can see if the service fits your needs and budget. 

How Much Does Online Payroll Cost?

Most cloud-based payroll services require you to speak with a representative to get an accurate quote of how much the services costs. This is because most of these services are module-based SaaS - you can pick and choose what kind of functions and features you want for your business. That said, most online payroll services have a pricing structure based on a month fee between $20 and $100 with an additional fee for each employee you have on payroll. Those fees cost between $1 and $15 per employee for each payroll you run.

How to Make a Payroll Checklist

If you go shopping around for an online payroll service without knowing what you need, you risk spending money on services and features you don’t need or choosing a service that lacks a feature you need or wish you had, like HR features and benefits. As such, John Duval of Fuse Workforce, recommends taking the time to closely evaluate the following payroll checklist:   

  • Company Size: First and foremost, you need to consider size - number of employees, freelancers, and vendors. Most payroll services have packages for small, medium and large businesses, which include a monthly fee or a fee for each processed payroll. But also, most services also charge a fee for each employee on the payroll. This is vital information to have ready so you know each services cost impact. 
  • Payment Structure: You also need to know how many employees are salary, hourly, paid commissions and your over-time policies.
  • Payment Delivery: Decide whether to offer your employees the options of a direct deposit, printed checks delivered at work or mailed checks.  
  • Locations: If you have offices in separate locations, you have to determine how this might affect the pay structure and delivery. For example, if hourly workers are in a remote office, you need a service with remote check-in features to manage their time. You also may need to account for how the service is capable of handling the complexities in tax withholdings for various states, localities and countries.
  • Customization: Do you want to be able to adjust how the online payroll services dashboard looks and how features are organized? Is internal branding important to you?
  • Scalability: Every online payroll service claims to be scalable, but some are better than others. You need a service capable of adapting to your company’s growth.
  • System: Online payroll services integrate with most accounting software but they also offer cloud-based software.
  • Suite or Siloed: Online payroll services typically offer full suites or siloed features, where you can pick and choose what features you want. Are you looking for something comprehensive with a simple payment structure or a siloed service you can customize, but which may be more difficult to evaluate from a billing perspective?
  • Mobile: Do you want mobile access to payroll, allowing you to access it anywhere? 
  • Support: How much do you value support? Any time you’re looking to do business with a service, especially one handling something as important as your employee’s paychecks, you need to carefully evaluate the service’s support features.
  • Employee Self-Service: How much access do you want to provide your employees? Most payroll services have cloud-based platforms designed specifically for your employees to request PTO, view company policies, choose health benefits, download pay stubs, access tax documents and punch timecards. 
  • Alerts: Do you want to be alerted to issues and errors? Do you want reminders for deadlines? Choosing a service with alerts helps keep you on track.
  • Taxes: Tax withholdings and filings are among the most complicated and error-prone issues with doing payroll on your own. Most online payroll services automatically withhold your employee’s taxes and make the payments and filings for you. However, some charge an additional fee to do this, especially at the end of the year. Look for a service with an accuracy guarantee on their tax withholdings. 
  • Lifecycle Management: By integrating HR and payroll into one platform, you can take care of the full lifecycle of an employee, from hiring to retiring.
  • Additional Modules: Are there any additional needs specific to your business? For example, do you have to meet specific federal requirements as a contractor or do you have employees who have special wage garnishment requirements?