Our 2017 research and analysis of accounting software leads us to again 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 this software, see our methodology and a list of accounting software vendors, check out our best picks page.
Why QuickBooks Online?
QuickBooks Online is the best accounting software for small businesses. It's intuitive to use, competitively priced, connects to your business bank accounts, and is packed with features such as invoicing, expense tracking, inventory management, purchase ordering, and reporting.
The software is scalable, and you can upgrade your account between the top three tiers as your business grows. Companion apps for Android and iOS devices are available, and the software integrates with hundreds of third-party applications.
Of all the accounting software we reviewed, QuickBooks Online offers some of the best pricing, with four service tiers designed to accommodate the needs of different business types. The company offers a 30-day free trial, but if you skip it, you can receive a 50 percent discount on your subscription for six months.
The Self-Employed plan is the most basic and costs $10 per month. Designed for independent contractors and freelancers, it allows you to track mileage, income and expenses, create invoices, accept payments and run reports. This is the only plan that can't be upgraded to a higher tier, requiring you instead to set up a new account.
Simple Start is the next plan. It supports a single user and it costs $15 per month. In addition to the features included with the Self-Employed plan, it allows you to send estimates, and it tracks sales and sales tax. The Essentials plan supports multiple users, costs $35 per month and includes the features of the previous plans, along with bill management and time tracking. The Plus plan costs $50 per month and can help you track inventory, create budgets and pay independent contractors that use the 1099 form. You can add payroll features to these top three tiers for an additional monthly fee.
Ease of use
To find out exactly how easy it is to use QuickBooks Online, we tried the accounting software ourselves by signing up for a trial business account. During the registration process, QuickBooks first asks several questions about your company so the software can customize the dashboard to suit your type of business.
It was simple to get started with the software and add information to the system. There was no need to fuss with different menus or go in circles trying to navigate the software. For instance, it was very easy to connect bank accounts and credit cards straight from the dashboard as well as enter operational data for vendors, employees and customers.
The dashboard interface feels intuitive. It has a top navigation bar and a side menu that makes it easy to find the features you're looking for. It displays a 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 gives you a quick overview of the health of your business as soon as you log into the system.
When we asked small business owners what the "perfect" accounting software should do, there was one resounding requirement across the board: save time. QuickBooks Online easily lives up to this expectation.
QuickBooks Online is all about automating tasks, making accounting less time-consuming and less stressful for small business owners. The software can automate recurring invoices and bill payments, sync data from bank and credit card transactions, and reconcile and categorize expenses, which eliminates the tedious, time-consuming task of manually doing so for every single transaction. QuickBooks can also spare you the task of creating financial reports from scratch thanks to the software's wide collection of built-in reports. In addition, it automatically backs up your data so you never have to worry about whether your books are safe and up-to-date.
Another timesaving feature that QuickBooks offers is electronic invoicing, which helps you get paid more quickly. You can email invoices to your customers through the system, track them and accept online payments and electronic signatures.
QuickBooks Online integrates with hundreds of third-party applications, such as those designed for email marketing, ecommerce, customer relationship management (CRM), payment processing, time tracking, payroll services and more. This can save you time by connecting the software to the business programs you already use, allowing you to automatically import, export and sync data in real time among the different services.
QuickBooks Online provides several support channels to its customers. It offers both phone and chat support, which you can access directly throughout the company's website. Or, if you prefer to troubleshoot problems yourself, the support page has a searchable knowledgebase and a collection of articles, guides and videos. QuickBooks also offers a blog, a user community and training classes. If you want in-person assistance, QuickBooks gives you access to local certified Intuit advisers who can give you one-on-one help on using the software and advising your business.
When we contacted the company as a small business owner looking for new accounting software, the QuickBooks sales rep we spoke with was pleasant and helpful. He answered our questions, asked about our business and recommended a software plan based on our specific needs. He directed us to areas of the company's website where we could find the information we were looking for and informed us about current discounts and special promotions we could take advantage of, without pressuring us to sign up for an account.
Other benefits of QuickBooks Online
One of the biggest benefits of using QuickBooks Online is that it's "accountant approved." Not only does it have all the features accountants deem as must-haves for small businesses, but it eliminates the learning curve since most accountants already use QuickBooks, so you won't have to teach them how to use the software.
If you use an outside accountant, you can avoid compatibility issues since the software allows you to give him or her access to the system. Whether your accountants are helping you take better control of your finances or assisting only with tax prep, using accounting software that they're are already familiar with makes the process easier for everyone involved.
The QuickBooks sales rep we spoke with also noted that your accountant receives access to your QuickBooks account for free. In other words, your accountant doesn't count toward the number of users allowed by your 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 iOS and Android devices, limiting what you can do on your phone and tablet. Here's what you can do on those devices:
- Send invoices
- Reconcile transactions
- Take photos of receipts and attach to expenses
- View customer information and add new customers
- View dashboard data, such as your account balance, profit and loss report, and open and past due invoices.
If you prefer to do most of your accounting from your mobile device, check out our review for FreshBooks and Xero below. Both apps are packed with features and offer the best mobile experience for on-the-go accounting.
You should also be aware that if you download the 30-day free trial, you forfeit the six-month, 50 percent discount.
Ready to choose your accounting software? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- How to Choose Accounting Software
- The Best Small Business Accounting Software 2017 Guide
- QuickBooks Online Review: Best Small Business Accounting Software
- Wave Accounting Review: Best Free Small Business Accounting Software
- Zoho Books Review: Best Microbusiness Accounting Software
- FreshBooks Review: Best Mobile App for Small Business Accounting
- Xero Review: Best Accounting Software for Mac
Additional reporting by Sara Angeles.