Crunching numbers to figure out income, revenues, and taxes is essential for a small business. It's also annoying. Software can make the process far easier, with FreshBooks and Wave two of the top options. But which is for you?
We've found that FreshBooks is a better accounting software overall than Wave. While Wave is less expensive than FreshBooks, FreshBooks offers more features than Wave and FreshBooks also ranks higher than Wave in categories including customer support and flexibility, thanks to more integrations and payment processing options.
That said, both choices are worth considering, and Wave might well come out on top in your personal estimation, particularly for money-conscious small businesses everywhere.
Read on for a more in-depth look at the prices you'll pay and features you'll get from each.
On this page:
- Freshbooks vs Wave: Which Is Right for You?
- Plans and Pricing Compared
- How Do Their Features Compare?
- Ease of Use
- Customer Support
On the face of it, FreshBooks is better overall than Wave as an accounting software solution.
Still, Wave isn't bad in those categories itself, and depending on your company's needs, it might come out ahead in one of the most essential categories to a small business — price. FreshBooks costs a set monthly price, plus another $10 per user, while Wave is free to use for unlimited users and monetizes solely through its payment processing fees.
FreshBooks is best for most businesses, but Wave is a good pick for a business with a lot of employees and comparatively lower revenues, as the cost to use Wave is related to how high the payments processed are.
Here's our table quickly comparing the two services.
FreshBooks and Wave use two very different pricing plans.
FreshBooks uses the typical accounting software pricing scheme. Three paid plans available at a per-user fee after a set monthly base price, with a fourth custom-priced plan, Select, for enterprises. These are FreshBooks Lite, starting at $15 per month; Plus, at $25 per month; and Premium, at $50 per month. When billed annually, those monthly prices drop to $9, $15, and $30 per month, respectively. Each team member added costs an additional $10 per month.
Wave offers one plan at one price: free. The only cost is their payment processing fee for collecting bills: 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction for most credit cards, and 3.4% plus $0.30 per transaction for American Express.
Here's a closer look at the limits and benefits of each plan.
Freshbooks pricing plans
FreshBooks Lite costs $15 per month billed monthly and $9 per month billed annually. It's best for self-employed individuals and freelancers, tracking one user's invoices, bills, and taxes. It supports unlimited invoices, expenses, time tracking, and estimates, plus a large range of integrations. Billable clients are capped at five.
FreshBooks Plus costs $25 per month billed monthly and $15 per month billed annually. It's the most popular plan, best for small businesses, with a client cap of 50. Automatic notifications are included in this plan, as well as recurring invoices, support for late fees, client retainers, and an unlimited number of proposals.
FreshBooks Premium costs $50 per month billed monthly and $30 per month billed annually. It raises the billable client cap up to 500, but doesn't include additional features. It's likely not a great option unless your business is in danger of hitting the Plus plan's client cap.
FreshBooks Select is a custom-priced enterprise-level plan, so you'll need to contact FreshBooks for a quote. Depending on the bundle you negotiate, the plan may include a dedicated Account Manager, customized training, and a “super low” credit card transaction rate.
In addition to these plans, users will need to pay a processing fee in order to collect bills. FreshBooks' main option is FreshBooks Payments powered by WePay, which costs 2.9% plus $0.30 for all credit card transations (and 3.5% plus $0.30 for American Express). FreshBooks also supports third-party payment processors, so you may be able to find a better deal, but it will likely be at a similar price point.
For more information on FreshBooks add-ons and costs, check out our page on FreshBooks pricing.
Wave Free Plan + fees
Wave offers one core plan, with all features available through it. The only cost is the processing fee for collecting client payments through your invoices. Depending on the type of credit card or bank payment a client uses, these fees might kick in through three different tiers:
- 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction for Visa, Mastercard, and Discover
- 3.4% plus $0.30 per transaction for American Express
- Either $1 or 1% for ACH bank payments (whichever's more)
The only other cost to consider with Wave is one additional paid add-on, the Wave Payroll service. This optional service costs starts at a $35 monthly base fee, plus $6 per active employee or independent contractor. For some states, Wave Payroll can't automatically file your taxes for you, so you'll need to pick the self-service plan, which costs less: A $20 monthly base fee, plus $6 per employee or contractor. A 30-day free trial is available for both options. For more information, check out our page on Wave invoicing costs.
Here, we've thrown together an example table for a practical illustration of what Wave might cost in real terms:
Which one offers more value?
FreshBooks costs between $15 and $50 per month, plus $10 per user — this makes it best for those with just one or two users and those who hope to scale up their revenues faster than their employee base. As your business makes more money, the set monthly costs of FreshBooks will become easier to handle.
In comparison, Wave doesn't charge any upfront monthly fees, making it easy to start using if you're earning very little. And at 2.9% or 3.4%, plus 30 cents per transaction, the payment processing fee is right at the industry standard.
As your business grows, the set percentage you'll need to pay for each transaction will grow as well — but this would still be the case with FreshBooks, as you'd still need to pay either FreshBooks or a third-party in order to process your payments.
In other words, Wave is very likely the more inexpensive option. And while we do find FreshBooks to offer a stronger accounting service overall, this gives Wave a better value.
FreshBooks offers double-entry accounting, matching revenues against their connected expenses, which gives users a detailed look at their profits and losses across each invoice rather than just at the top level. All financial transactions can be categorized by equity, transfers, or refunds after they're imported. Summary reports can be easily generated and stored for the user's records.
Plus, there's an advanced option, letting users give their personal accountants the permissions to see all the data firsthand.
Wave's features are similar. Users can easily track and group expenses, taxes and income, with connections to an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts. Instant updates are available for data on customizable invoices, payments, and, if using the paid add-on, payroll. Dashboards can display up-to-date cash balances and invoice statuses, with notifications that can be turned on for bills and invoice reminders.
Wave reports can be compiled and exported covering topics including profit/loss, sales tax, cash flow, comparative and others. Exchange rate calculations are calculated automatically, and all transactions are searchable by description. Like FreshBooks, it's a double-entry software.
Invoicing and Payments
Wave's invoice builder offers a fair number of features. With Wave, users can add their company logo, customize colors, add customer notes, calculate taxes, and include estimates. But FreshBooks' invoice builder does all that and includes a few more key features that Wave is missing: It includes hourly time tracking, displays discounts, and supports file attachments.
When it comes to invoice delivery, FreshBooks also pulls slightly ahead. Both services give users a process to set up recurring invoices (a key timesaver), lets users send invoice through a mobile app, tracks invoice opens, and sends payment reminders. FreshBooks includes one big benefit that Wave doesn't have, though: It supports third-party payment processors. Wave wants users to pay for its in-house payment system, but FreshBooks lets other processors in the door as well, giving its users more options.
Both services allow users to easily capture and log receipts through a mobile app.
FreshBooks offers unlimited time tracking, starting with their lowest plan tier, the Lite plan. In sharp contrast, Wave doesn't include time tracking on its invoices, so you won't be able to easily add up the hours worked. This is one of just a few big features Wave skips, and could be a deal-breaker for some.
FreshBooks offers a broad expensing functionality. This includes unlimited expense entries and estimates across all plans, as well as expense importing, so users can auto-import expenses from their bank accounts. It also supports multiple currencies and lets receipts be photographed and logged.
Wave also offers expense tracking tools, matching the expense importing and entries that FreshBooks has, as well as including the receipt scanner built into its mobile app, which lets users log expenses in real time.
FreshBooks does not natively support payroll processing. The software does support a payroll service as a third-party integration called PaymentEvolution Payroll, so users willing to pay for an add-on can pay their employees from within FreshBooks. PaymentEvolution Payroll costs $22 per month for up to 25 employees.
Wave does offer payroll processing, however. While the main Wave service is free, users will have to pay for the Payroll add-on, which tracks payroll taxes and sales taxes when applicable. It costs $6 per employee/contractor, in addition to a base monthly fee of either $20 or $35, with the higher base price for those who are in one of the 14 states that let third-party services file business taxes for you.
The service includes both payroll taxes and sales tax (when applicable). It integrates with the Wave invoicing service, so the sales taxes charged will appear on your invoice.
Reporting & Analytics
FreshBooks covers a broad variety of possible reports, with templates for profit and loss, expenses, client accounts, sales tax summaries, and payments collected. Key graphs and charts can be set to appear on the software's dashboard, so that they'll be immediately available on a user's homepage, with the latest data autopopulated. These graphs can cover topics like monthly recurring revenue, total profits, revenue streams, and unbilled time.
Like FreshBooks, Wave's reporting can process both sales taxes and receivables (aged receivables and receivables by customer). Wave doesn't support advanced report customization, though, while FreshBooks does.
Both services offer a mobile app for iOS and Android with the core functionality required to create and send an invoice while on the go. In both cases, the apps do not include all the features that you'll get with the desktop browser versions of the accounting service.
The two apps have impressively high customer review scores across both the two places they can be downloaded: The Apple App Store and the Google Play store.
FreshBooks offers a greater deployment flexibility thanks to a much larger array of integrations. We ranked three main integrations categories:
- FreshBooks offers nine ecommerce integrations compared to Wave's two (Shopify and Square)
- FreshBooks has nine CRM integrations compared to Wave's three (Hubspot, Pipedrive, Harvest)
- FreshBooks has ten email marketing integrations compared to Wave's three (Mailchimp, Automational, and SendPulse)
Pure numbers aside, the functionality of integrations is well-reviewed across both services, so as long as the accounting service you want offers the integrations you need, you should have the tools for a smooth, integrated small business software solution.
Both services offer features aimed at ease of use, from automations to reminder notifications triggered by specific actions. While FreshBooks offers three times the integrations, they're both simple and easy to integrate.
They also both offer multiple ways to guide users through the process of setting up an account or switching from another accounting software to their own. FreshBooks and Wave both have online guides free to read for all, as well as YouTube channels with video guides to getting started with their software.
FreshBooks comes with one big limitation that Wave doesn't have: All three paid FreshBooks plans are capped at one user, compared to Wave's unlimited users.
FreshBooks offers phone support and email support, with an online knowlege base available for more easily solved issues. Unlike Wave, it doesn't have a live chat support channel or a community forum for users to discuss each other's issues. It doesn't have 24/7 support for phone or email.
Wave offers support via live chat and email, in addition to an online knowlege base and community forum — but it offers no phone support and no options that include 24/7 support coverage.
While both softwares are highly ranked for quality, our customer satisfaction research puts FreshBooks slightly ahead. Judging from the percentage of customer service reviews for each software since March 2020, our researcher gives FreshBooks a score of nine out of ten, compared to Wave's eight out of ten.
Verdict: FreshBooks or Wave?
That said, Wave does come with an attractive pricing scheme, charging users for payment processing but not for general use of the software. If the missing features aren't a dealbreaker, small businesses might find that Wave is a more wallet-friendly choice for their operations than FreshBooks.
If you think you may know which accounting software soutions fits your needs, take the next step and trial the software now.
The same six-month deal is included for the other two paid FreshBooks plans, so starting prices of $7.50 per month for the Plus plan and $15 per month for the Premium plan will eventually turn into $15 and $30 per month, respectively.
Tech.co is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps Tech.co to provide free advice and reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews. Click to return to top of page