Editor's note: QuickBooks' Essentials plan is now $40 per month (or $20 for the first three months with the 50% discount), and its Plus plan is now $70 per month (or $35 for the first three months with the 50% discount). We will consider this information as part of our full evaluation when we next update the accounting software reviews.
QuickBooks Online from Intuit is the best accounting software we reviewed overall. It has both accounts receivable and accounts payable features, and it can track projects and inventory, making it a great choice for nearly every business type. It offers a range of service tiers and is scalable, so it can grow with your business. If you want to customize the software with additional features, you can choose from hundreds of apps that integrate with this system. QuickBooks Online is updated monthly, and Intuit provides details on its blog about the improvements and new features of each update.
Visit our best picks page to see all of our recommendations for small business accounting software.
QuickBooks Online is competitively priced, offering a plan for self-employed workers and four small business plans. You can add payroll features to the small business plans for an additional monthly fee, and most plans give you the choice of either a 50 percent discount for the first three months of your subscription or a 30-day free trial. A demo of the software is available, which is a good option to try out the software and take advantage of the discount.
- The Self-Employed plan costs $10 per month and is for a freelancer or independent contractor. It can track income, expenses and mileage, and it has invoicing and basic reporting features. This plan is the only one that can't be upgraded to a higher tier; you'll have to set up a new small business account if you outgrow this plan.
- The Simple Start plan costs $20 per month and is designed for a single user. It includes features for creating estimates and invoices, tracking income and expenses, tracking sales tax, and generating basic reports. It doesn't have the mileage-tracking feature included with the Self-Employed plan.
- The Essentials plan costs $35 per month and supports up to three users. It includes all Simple Start features plus time-tracking and bill management tools.
- The Plus plan costs $60 per month and supports five or more users. It includes the previously mentioned features, along with the abilities to create purchase orders, manage inventory, track projects and pay independent contractors.
- The Advanced plan costs $150 per month and supports 10-25 users. In addition to the Plus plan features, it comes with Smart Reporting powered by Fathom, five online training classes for your team, access to a dedicated success manager and premium customer support. This plan isn't eligible for the 30-day free trial.
Ease of Use
This online accounting software, like many of its competitors, is easy to set up. You answer several questions about your business, and it customizes the program based on your answers. After you set up your account, the software prompts you with basic tasks to get started. It has an attractive, intuitive interface, and most action items are quickly accessible from the tabs on the side menu or the quick menu that opens when you click the plus sign in the upper right corner of the screen.
The dashboard is interactive and shows several graphs that give you an overview of your sales over time, income, expenses, and profit and loss. You can click on the images to drill down on each set of information. You can also customize the date range for each graph.
It's also easy to customize invoices and forms with this accounting software. It gives you several templates, accent colors, fonts and font sizes to choose from, and you can upload and position your logo. You can also decide what information to include in the header, select which columns to include in the body of the invoice and edit their labels and widths, and customize text and add a message to your customers in the footer.
Good accounting software should save you time and automate tedious tasks, and QuickBooks Online does both these things well. It has automatic bank feeds that import your bank and credit card transactions and smart reconciliation tools that identify and automatically match your bank transactions with those you've entered into the software. You can create banking rules to further streamline reconciliation and categorization. It can also automate payment reminders, recurring invoices and bill payments. It automatically backs up your data to the cloud, so you don't have to remember to do it manually.
Here's a sampling of the other timesaving features in QuickBooks Online.
You can create and send invoices from both the QuickBooks browser and the mobile app, so you can invoice customers as soon as the job is finished or the product is delivered; you don't have to wait until you're back in the office. There's also an app that allows you to invoice directly from Gmail. QuickBooks invoices are optimized for mobile, so your customers can view them immediately from their phones. If you choose to set up online payments, either through QuickBooks Payments or using an integration for a third-party payment processor such as PayPal or Square, you can add a payment button to the invoices that makes it easy and fast for your customers to pay you directly from the invoice.
You can create estimates using this software, and after your customer approves an estimate, you can convert it to an invoice with a single click rather than creating an invoice from scratch.
The software then automatically links related documents together to help you keep your billing organized and avoid sending duplicate invoices. For example, after you convert the estimate to an invoice, it adds a note to the top of the invoice that says there's a linked transaction, and you can click on it to see the type (in this instance, an estimate), date and amount of that transaction, along with a link to open that document.
You can also create recurring invoices and schedule automatic payment reminders. The software lets you track and invoice billable hours and expenses, and set the software to automatically include unbilled charges on your recurring invoices.
The Plus plan can manage inventory and vendors, and create purchase orders. You can add images of inventory items and bundle products or services that are frequently sold together, saving you the time of entering them on an invoice separately. You can also track inventory, and the software shows you how many of a particular item you have in stock when you're creating estimates, invoices and purchase orders.
Available for both Android and Apple devices and included with your QuickBooks Online account, the QuickBooks mobile app shows you an overview of your business activity and allows you to accomplish multiple accounting tasks wherever you are. You can view dashboard data, create and send invoices, accept payments, capture receipts and attach them to expenses, reconcile transactions, view customer information, and message customers.
QuickBooks Online has multiple built-in reports, including for aged receivables, general ledger, profit and loss, and trial balance. You can set your frequently used reports as favorites to make them easy to find, and you can also set up the software to automatically run and email reports to you on the schedule of your choosing.
Instead of manually exporting and importing data between QuickBooks and the other business programs you use – such as a POS system, e-commerce platform, CRM, project management software and payroll systems – you can connect to them via third-party integrations, or apps, and automatically sync data between systems.
QuickBooks Online has a rich assortment of features, but some are unique to certain plans, so if there are specific tools you need, you'll want to make sure the plan you choose includes them. For example, mileage tracking is only available on the Self-Employed plan. Project tracking, inventory tracking and 1099 contractor management features are only available with the Plus and Advanced plans. Keep in mind that you can't upgrade from the Self-Employed plan to the Small Business plans (you would need to create a new account), but you can upgrade within the Small Business plans at any time.
QuickBooks offers its customers multiple support resources. You can contact the company for help via phone or live chat, or you can consult the company's knowledgebase or ask questions on the community forum. If you want to learn more about how to use the software, you can watch tutorial videos, listen to webinars and enroll in training classes. The company posts information about new features and software updates each month on its blog, along with articles of interest to small business owners.
Here are a few more things about QuickBooks Online to consider as you select accounting software for your business:
- QuickBooks Online uses bank-grade security to protect your data, and you can opt in to two-factor authentication. You can set user permissions to control the access of employees you invite to the system, and the software includes an audit log that tracks every login and logout as well as every change made to your files.
- This accounting software is suitable for businesses with one or multiple locations, and it can also track classes if your business is organized by department.
- Nonprofits in need of accounting software can use the small business plans, and you can use the statements feature to send end-of-year donation letters noting summaries to your donors.
QuickBooks Online is the best accounting software overall for small and midsize businesses, including those with multiple locations and departments. It is affordable, includes nearly every accounts receivable and accounts payable feature we looked for in our testing, and has multiple timesaving tools. However, there are a few things to be aware of before you select it as your accounting software:
- You can't upgrade the Self-Employed plan, so if your business is growing or you think you might hire an employee soon, you'll want to choose one of the Small Business plans.
- The Small Business plans don't include a mileage-tracking tool, so if you need this feature for your employees, you'll need to find an app for it that integrates with the system.
- You'll need multiple subscriptions if you run multiple businesses.
- The plans limit the number of users, so keep in mind how many people will need to access the software when you select a plan. Be aware that your accountant now counts as a user on your plan.