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OnPay Review

The Best Payroll Service for Very Small Businesses

A Business News Daily Review

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend OnPay as our 2018 pick for the best online payroll service for very small businesses.

When choosing an online payroll company, very small businesses' needs differ from those of larger companies. Some midsize and large businesses have dedicated staff members who are payroll experts and can handle all of those tasks. A very small business doesn't have those types of employees to rely on. Instead, running payroll is likely one of multiple hats that the owner wears. With this in mind, finding payroll software that is easy to use is of the utmost importance.

Very small businesses want payroll software that makes running payroll a simple task. The software's interface should be easy to understand and learn. The actual task of running payroll each pay period should be able to be completed in a few easy steps. OnPay checks all of those boxes. The software has a clean interface that anyone can learn to use, and payroll can be run in just a few minutes.

Very small businesses also want a comprehensive payroll solution. It needs to handle both payroll and payroll tax responsibilities. In addition, since microbusiness owners likely don't know all of the intricacies of payroll taxes, the service should offer assurances that the tax filings and payments will be correct and on time.  

OnPay handles all payroll tax responsibilities. It withholds the proper amount from each paycheck, completes and files the necessary paperwork for you, and makes the tax payments to the proper state and federal agencies on your behalf. In addition, OnPay offers a tax guarantee that all of its work will be done on time and correctly.

Other aspects of a payroll system very small businesses will be looking for are an affordable price point and responsive customer service that is available to provide assistance when they need it. OnPay also meets these criteria well.

To understand how we selected our top picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of online payroll services on our best picks page.

Editor's note: Looking for information on payroll systems? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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OnPay has one service plan for all users. This online payroll company charges a monthly base fee of $36 per month, plus $4 per employee. Unlike other payroll services, which usually have tiered pricing options that include different features, OnPay's monthly fees include all of the features the company offers.

The only other fee you may incur is for year-end tax forms. OnPay charges $5, plus shipping, per employee to print and mail year-end tax forms to your business or $6, plus shipping, per employee to mail forms directly to each employee. However, you can print W-2s on your own for no additional cost.

There are no long-term contracts with OnPay. You pay month to month and can cancel at any time for no charge. There are no annual fees or extra fees for withholding, remitting or filing payroll taxes. All new customers receive the first month of service for free.

We like that OnPay is transparent about its pricing. The company's website clearly outlines all of the costs, and it includes a price calculator that figures out your exact monthly fee based on how many employees you have. Some of the services we looked into require you to call for a price quote, while others only give a price estimate and won't provide specifics on pricing until you fully commit to their service.

OnPay can handle all of your company's payroll and payroll tax needs. The service allows an unlimited number of payroll runs each month for W-2 employees and 1099 contract workers. The option to run payroll at any time allows you to create multiple pay schedules for different types of employees. For example, contract workers can be paid every week and salaried employees every other week.

With OnPay, employees can be paid by check, prepaid debit card or direct deposit. For direct deposit, employees are paid two days after each pay run. You can also print checks for employees using any standard printer. The checks are created automatically and do not require any special software.]

OnPay handles all your payroll tax responsibilities. The service calculates your payroll taxes each month, processes the required payments, and pays local, state and federal tax agencies for you. In addition, the company prepares and files all your quarterly and annual payroll returns. At the end of the year, OnPay generates W-2 and 1099 forms.

The company also guarantees all of its tax services. This means that if OnPay ever makes an error on your taxes, such as paying the wrong amount or not paying on time, it will correct the problems and pay any fines or interest you incur.

The service also manages all payroll deductions. Deductions are calculated every pay run and listed on each employee's paystub. The system allows as many types of payroll deductions as you want, including the following:

  • Standard dollar amount or percentage deductions
  • Goal or loan deductions that stop automatically
  • 401(k), IRA and other retirement contributions
  • Section 125 or (pretax) health insurance deductions

OnPay integrates with several types of accounting software: QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero. The system also integrates with a number of other programs, including Kabbage, When I Work, Humanity, America's Best 401k, Guideline, Zenefits, ThinkHR and PosterElite.

Another benefit of OnPay is that it manages employees' time off by tracking PTO, vacation and sick-time accruals. Time can be accrued per pay period, annually or hourly. PTO policies can also accrue at a certain point of time, such as the beginning of the year or on the employee’s anniversary date. Accrued and remaining hours are visible to employees on their paystubs and online.

OnPay offers several additional services, including employee insurance benefits, workers' compensation plans, an online HR library and 401(k) retirement plans.

OnPay is a cloud-based payroll service that doesn't require any software to be installed or maintained and is accessible online from anywhere.

To run payroll, you log in to the system, click on the Payroll tab and choose the employees you want to pay. You add the hours each employee worked and make sure the proper deductions are withheld for health and retirement benefits. You also have the option to add in any employee bonuses or commissions. OnPay allows one-time changes to pay rates and deduction amounts.

The system instantly calculates the pay run and displays the totals for review. If everything is correct, the payroll will run. You can then print out checks on your own or have the money deposited directly into your employees' bank accounts or prepaid debit cards.

Adding employees into the system is also a simple process. You start by filling in basic details on the employee, including their name, address, birthdate and start date. Then, you add information about their pay rate, such as how often they are paid, whether they are hourly or salaried employees, how much they are paid, and federal and state withholdings. Once that information is entered, the staff member is automatically saved into the employee roster and eligible to start getting paid.

Alternatively, employees can onboard themselves. They can log in to the system and enter all of their key details on their own.

If you're transferring data from your old payroll service, OnPay can also take care of some of this work for you. Businesses transferring from a previous payroll service can give OnPay their current payroll information, and a member of its staff will have your new account set up and ready to use within three business days.

To make sure you remember to run payroll on time, you can set up email reminders up to 14 days before your payday. OnPay emails employees once payroll has been completed so they know to look for their paychecks or check their bank accounts for the direct deposit.

We like that the system offers five types of user access levels for those with different roles throughout the company:

  • Owner: This is the owner of the account, who has full access to the system.
  • Approvers: They have full access to the account but can't delete other users.
  • Controllers: They have access similar to approvers' but can't approve a pay run.
  • Managers: They have access similar to controllers' but can only view and edit employees to whom they have been assigned.
  • Employees: They can access paystubs, year-end tax forms and other information for their account. These are lifetime accounts, which an employee can access even after leaving your company.

In addition to logging in online, administrators and employees can tap into the system via mobile devices. OnPay offers a mobile-friendly website with touchscreen compatibility. It can be used to access payroll history, view and edit employee information, enter hours, and calculate, review and submit pay runs. Employees can use the mobile website to see their paystubs and year-end tax forms.

We were very impressed with the support we received from OnPay.  To test the quality of service, we called the company numerous times, posing as a business owner interested in payroll services.

During our initial call, we were greeted by a company executive instead of a typical customer service representative. Despite hearing that we were only looking for information for a potential new business, the executive took time to answer our questions instead of passing us off to someone else.

Throughout our nearly 30-minute call, the executive answered each of our questions clearly and comprehensively. He also took the time to explain how the company was founded and why he felt it stood out from other services. While other companies we spoke with spent time trying to convince us that their service was the best, OnPay did so in a way that focused on its offerings rather than bashing its competitors.

During subsequent calls, we received the same high level of service, even though we were speaking to support representatives and not company executives. During our additional calls, the representatives were friendly and helpful. They answered all of our questions thoroughly, and by the end of our conversations, we had a clear understanding of how the system worked.

At no time did anyone at OnPay try to pressure us into signing up for the service. They simply answered our questions and encouraged us to call back if we were interested in moving forward.

OnPay offers customer service between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. In addition to in-person support, the OnPay website features a Knowledge Center section that includes a variety of training guides on how to use the system.

One potential downside of OnPay is that it doesn't have its own mobile app. While it does have a mobile-friendly website, some organizations prefer to access their payroll system through an app.

Another minor negative is that there is a charge to have the year-end forms mailed to you or your employees. However, you always have the option of printing them out and distributing them yourself for free.

We were disappointed that we couldn't find any record of OnPay or its parent company, Payroll Center Inc., with the Better Business Bureau. We would have liked to see how it rates in terms of providing service to consumers and what, if any, complaints have been levied against the company.

Ready to choose a payroll service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for information on payroll systems? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.