We recommend Intuit QuickBooks Online as the best accounting software for small businesses. We chose QuickBooks from dozens of accounting software options. To understand how we chose QuickBooks, see our methodology and a list of accounting software vendors on our best picks page.
Although QuickBooks is our best pick, you can also check out our runner up, Xero accounting software. We talk more about Xero below.
Why QuickBooks Online?
Of all the accounting software we reviewed, QuickBooks offers the best and most affordable paid packages and services for different types of businesses. QuickBooks Online has all the necessary accounting features for all types of small businesses, including freelancers, consultants, online merchants, store and restaurant owners, and service providers. Whether you're just starting out or looking to expand, QuickBooks can provide you with only the basic features, or the software can be scaled and customized with advanced capabilities to fit your growing business's needs.
The cheapest plan is limited to only one user, but even though it costs just $9.99 per month, it doesn't compromise on key features that self-employed and new small business owners need in order to easily manage their finances. Features include financial reporting, tracking of income and expenses, the ability to download bank and credit card transactions, automatic data backups, and quarterly and year-end tax preparation and filing.
Ease of use
To find out exactly how easy it is to use QuickBooks, we tried the accounting software ourselves by signing up for a business account. During the registration process, QuickBooks first asks about your company so that the software can create a customized dashboard that would be most beneficial for your type of business.
Right off the bat, we were pleased at how simple it was to get started and add new information. There was no need to fuss with different menus or go in circles just to find our way; for instance, it was very easy to connect bank accounts and credit cards straight from the dashboard, as well as operational data like vendor information, new hires and new customers.
The dashboard itself is where the magic happens. QuickBooks updates its online dashboard periodically, providing a more intuitive user interface. Navigation is easy, with a top navigation bar and a side menu. The dashboard also gives you snapshot of your financial status, with information such as income, overdue and paid invoices, expenses, profits and losses, and even a to-do widget. This means you can see the "health" of your business right when you log in.
To try QuickBooks yourself, consider a free, 30-day trial, which doesn't require a credit card. You can also watch videos and demos to further explore how easy it is to use the QuickBooks Online accounting software.
When we asked small business owners what the "perfect" accounting software is like, there was one resounding requirement across the board: The best accounting software saves business owners time and doesn't add to the already stressful nature of small business accounting. We've found that QuickBooks easily lives up to that expectation.
QuickBooks is all about automating tasks, making accounting less time-consuming and definitely less stressful for small business owners. The software can automate everything from recurring invoices and bill payments to the syncing of data across bank and credit card transactions. You can also automatically reconcile and categorize expenses, eliminating the tedious, time-consuming task of manually doing so for every single transaction. QuickBooks can also save you from creating financial reports from scratch with the software's wide collection of built-in reports.
In addition, data is backed up automatically, so you never have to worry about whether your books are safe and up-to-date.
Other time-saving features that QuickBooks has to offer include email invoices, which help you get paid more quickly; these offer tracking and the ability to accept online payments and send electronic signatures.
QuickBooks also integrates with more than 150 third-party apps, such as those designed for email marketing, e-commerce, customer relationship management (CRM), payment processors, time tracking, payroll services and many more. This can save you plenty of time by streamlining processes and allowing you to automatically import, export and sync data in real time among the different services.
Customer support is an integral part of any business solution, and QuickBooks passes with flying colors.
QuickBooks offers both phone and chat support, which you can access directly throughout the QuickBooks website. But if you'd like to troubleshoot problems yourself, there are also several resources that can help: a Learn & Support knowledgebase, a small business resource center, the QuickBooks blog, and a community center. QuickBooks also gives you access to local certified Intuit advisers who can give you one-on-one help on using the software and running a business.
Speaking to a QuickBooks sales rep was also a pleasant experience. We asked a long list of questions, and the rep happily answered all of them in great detail. Throughout the process, he also asked us several questions about our business, and then recommended the best QuickBooks products and plan for our specific needs.
We were also impressed that the rep went the extra mile by pointing us to areas of the company's website where we could find the additional information we needed. He also informed us about current discounts and special promotions we could take advantage of, without pressuring us to sign up for a paid account on the spot.
One of the biggest benefits of using QuickBooks Online is that it is "accountant approved." Not only does it have all the features accountants deem as must-haves for small businesses, but it also eliminates many headaches if you currently use an accountant or decide to hire one in the future.
This is because most accountants already use QuickBooks, so they won't have to learn, and you won't have to teach them, how to use the software. And if you use an outside accountant, you can avoid compatibility issues when you send or export QuickBooks reports and files. Whether the accountants are helping you take better control of your finances or assisting only with tax prep, using accounting software that accountants are already familiar with makes the process easier for everyone involved.
The QuickBooks sales rep also noted that your accountant will have access to your QuickBooks account for free. In other words, your accountant doesn't count toward the number of users allowed by your chosen plan.
A major drawback to QuickBooks Online is that its mobile app lacks features. Most accounting software products offer a mobile app so you can do your accounting and view your business's finances on the go. However, QuickBooks' free mobile app offers only very basic features on the iPad, the iPhone and Android devices, limiting what you can do on your phone and tablet. Here's what you can do on those devices:
- iPads — View customer information, send invoices, add photos and accept electronic signatures. Note that you cannot edit customer information from your iPad.
- iPhones, and Android phones and tablets — View and edit customer data, instantly create and send estimates and invoices, mark invoices as paid, and see customer balances.
Why you should also consider Xero
Xero Accounting is our runner-up for the best accounting software for small business. Xero both offers the best value and is super easy to use.
Xero is known as the as the "QuickBooks alternative," and as such, comes with the same base capabilities as QuickBooks. However, it offers more bang for your buck. It starts at just $9 per month and includes features like 1099s, billing, expense reports and unlimited users, all of which cost extra on QuickBooks. Xero also comes with an affordable payroll solution for $30 a month, which would run you around $75 per month on QuickBooks, depending on the number of users and employees.
Additionally, Xero is one of the easiest accounting software options we've ever come across. When we tested Xero, we were impressed by its simple, yet extensive user interface and how we were able to get started right away. It is so intuitive that we were pretty much able to teach ourselves how to navigate the software and use its core features.
We also like that Xero functions a lot like QuickBooks, complete with an informative, aesthetically pleasing dashboard with a simple tabbed navigation. So it is pretty much a tie on ease of use. That's also an advantage if you're switching from one software option to the other. We tried Xero on a desktop computer, iPad and iPhone, and had no problems getting our books in order on any of these devices.
One drawback to Xero is that it may not be the accounting software that your accountant uses. Although many accountants have already made the switch to Xero, QuickBooks is still the leading accounting software for accountants. This is an important consideration if you hire freelance bookkeepers or deal with an accounting firm, especially around tax time.
To resolve this issue, Xero gives you convenient access to partner accountants and accounting firms that use the software. The company also makes it easy to make the switch yourself by providing plenty of resources to export data from QuickBooks and quickly get started with Xero.
Ready to choose your accounting software? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- How to Choose an Accounting Software
- The Best Accounting Software for Small Business
- Quickbooks Online Review: Best Small Business Accounting Software
- Wave Accounting Review: Best Free Accounting Software for Small Business
- Zoho Books Review: Best Accounting Software for Really Small Businesses
- FreshBooks Review: Best Accounting Mobile App for Small Business