When it comes to choosing small-business accounting software, you might find yourself comparing FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero, three of the most well-known options.
FreshBooks is typically best-suited for freelancers, contractors and service-based businesses, due to its focus on invoicing, time tracking, client-specific tools and overall user-friendliness. QuickBooks Online and Xero, on the other hand, are usually a better fit for product- or sales-based businesses, especially those with more complex accounting needs. Between QuickBooks Online and Xero, QuickBooks Online is a great option for scalability and popularity in the industry, especially with its inventory and reporting tools.
Lite, Plus and Premium plans; Select custom-priced plan
Simple Start, Essentials, Plus and Advanced plans
Early, Growing and Established plans
$15 to $50 per month
$25 to $150 per month
$11 to $62 per month
$10 per team member; up to 10 accountants included with Plus and Premium
One to 25 included users based on plan level
Free unlimited users with all plans
Mobile accounting app available for iOS and Android
Mobile accounting app available for iOS and Android
Mobile accounting app available for iOS and Android
100 integrations across multiple categories
Over 600 apps across various categories, including additional Intuit tools
Over 800 apps across various categories, including tools owned and created by Xero
Phone and email-based support, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Phone and live chat support, Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT; Saturday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Advanced plan support is 24/7
24/7 online support from Xero accounting team
Freelancers, contractors and service-based businesses
Product- and sales-based businesses with more complex accounting needs; businesses looking for a highly scalable solution
Product- and sales-based businesses with more complex accounting needs, especially those looking for a lower-priced QuickBooks Online alternative
As FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero are all web-based software solutions, they all have multiple plan options and operate on subscription-based pricing.
Xero has the lowest price option overall, with its Early plan priced at $11 per month. FreshBooks starts at $15 per month. You’ll find the highest pricing with QuickBooks Online, starting at $25 per month.
Diving deeper, however, you’ll find that the way each solution is priced is slightly different.
FreshBooks: With three subscription plans, FreshBooks pricing is largely based on the number of billable clients included with your account. FreshBooks also offers a custom pricing plan.
QuickBooks Online: With four subscription plans, the pricing for QuickBooks Online is based on the specific features included with each level.
Xero: With three subscription plans, Xero differentiates its pricing tiers based on the number of included invoices and quotes, bills and bank transactions.
Let’s break down the pricing differences between FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero in greater detail.
Each plan is available on a monthly subscription basis, although FreshBooks offers a 10% discount if you opt for an annual subscription. For any of these plans, you can add team members to your account for an additional $10 per person. With the Plus and Premium options, you can add FreshBooks Advanced Payments for $20 per month.
$15 per month
$25 per month
$50 per month
QuickBooks prices all of its plans on a monthly basis and typically offers a 50% discount for the first three months of software for new users. It also offers its in-house payroll software, QuickBooks Payroll that can be added to any of these plans. QuickBooks Payroll comes in three offerings: Core, Premium and Elite. They are available for $45 plus $4 per employee per month, $75 plus $8 per employee per month, and $125 plus $10 per employee per month, respectively.
QuickBooks Online plan
$25 per month
$40 per month
$70 per month
$150 per month
$9 per month
$30 per month
$60 per month
Like we mentioned earlier, FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero all have the same basic features.
Each of these solutions is web-based, meaning you can sign on and use your account anywhere you have internet access. Additionally, they each provide essential accounting tools — allowing you to connect your bank account, reconcile transactions, track income and expenses, send invoices, accept online payments and more.
With these similarities in mind, let’s take a look at what differentiates the capabilities of these top accounting software options.
FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero are perhaps the most similar in terms of their income and expense tracking features.
Each software allows you to connect your bank accounts and automatically receive transactions. Additionally, each software gives you the ability to categorize transactions, capture receipts digitally and optimize your categories for taxes.
When it comes down to it, however, FreshBooks is a little simpler in this area in comparison to QuickBooks Online and Xero. For this reason, FreshBooks is great for freelancers, contractors and smaller businesses — but larger businesses, especially those with employees, may benefit from some of the more advanced features within Xero or QuickBooks Online.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that to utilize Xero’s expenses features, including multi-currency capabilities, you’ll need to opt for Established, the highest-level plan. Conversely, expenses and multi-currency features are included in all FreshBooks plans. With QuickBooks Online, you’ll have access to expense tools with all plans — however, you need at least the Essentials plan to access its multi-currency functionality.
In terms of invoicing, all three of these accounting software solutions offer powerful, highly customizable invoicing software. As we mentioned in our pricing section, QuickBooks Online and FreshBooks don’t place limits on invoicing, whereas Xero requires at least the Growing plan for unlimited invoices.
This being said, as FreshBooks was first and foremost designed for self-employed professionals, you’ll find that its invoicing capabilities are the most user-friendly and straightforward. Again, with QuickBooks Online and Xero, you’ll find that its software is a little more complex — with tools like bulk and accelerate invoicing — to accommodate businesses with larger needs.
For accepting payments, FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero each allows you to accept online payments in a variety of ways to best accommodate your customers. QuickBooks Online and Xero offer their own proprietary payment processing, whereas Xero gives you the ability to accept payments through its partnership with Stripe and GoCardless.
Overall, the pricing for payment acceptance is almost identical with each of these accounting software solutions:
FreshBooks: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction for credit cards; 1% per transaction for ACH transfer.
QuickBooks: 2.9% plus 25 cents per transaction for online credit cards; 2.4% plus 25 cents for swiped credit cards; 3.4% plus 25 cents per transaction for keyed-in cards; 1% per transaction for ACH transfer.
Xero: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction for credit cards, 0.8% for ACH transfer (using Stripe); 1% plus 25 cents for ACH transfer (with GoCardless).
The biggest difference is that QuickBooks gives you the option to accept online payments, keyed-in payments through your mobile device or swiped payments with its free mobile card reader. If you’re running a brick-and-mortar business, this is certainly an advantage to QuickBooks Online.
One of the biggest differences when it comes to FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero is that FreshBooks does not include any accounts payable features. Although you have a variety of ways to send invoices, accept payments and manage your expenses, FreshBooks does not actually give you the ability to pay your business’ bills.
With Xero and QuickBooks Online, on the other hand, you have the ability to manage and pay your own business bills. To access these capabilities within QuickBooks Online, you’ll need at least the Essentials plan, whereas Xero gives you access to its bill pay tools within all plans.
This being said, however, Xero does limit you to a maximum of five bills per month with its Early plan.
Compared to FreshBooks and Xero, QuickBooks Online has the most to offer in terms of tax support. Although FreshBooks and Xero both include sales tax tools, as well as the ability to categorize your income and expenses to prepare for business taxes, QuickBooks Online takes its tax features a step further.
With all of the QuickBooks Online plans, you have tools to manage 1099 contractors, maximize tax deductions, create your own tax categories, as well as work with your accountant and plan for quarterly taxes.
Additionally, although the add-on QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping service does not include tax advice or tax filing, by working with your own bookkeeper through this service, you do receive professional assistance with your books to prepare you for tax time.
With unlimited time tracking included in all three plans, FreshBooks excels in this area in comparison to QuickBooks Online and Xero. FreshBooks includes time tracking for your whole team, the ability to record time against a specific client or project, the ability to automatically bill for tracked hours and more.
Similarly, QuickBooks Online offers advanced time tracking tools, although you need at least the Essentials plan to access them. Additionally, for the most streamlined time tracking, you’ll want to opt for TSheets by QuickBooks, which requires an extra monthly cost.
This being said, FreshBooks is much more designed to accommodate freelancers, contractors and service-based businesses, whereas QuickBooks Online is more focused on time tracking for larger sales and product-based teams.
With Xero, you only have access to time tracking tools within its Projects module, which requires the highest-level Established plan. Additionally, even with this plan level, you’ll find that Xero’s tools aren’t as robust as FreshBooks or QuickBooks Online.
When it comes to inventory management tools, QuickBooks Online and Xero both excel in the capabilities they offer. In fact, QuickBooks Online is well-known in the industry for the integrated inventory features within its accounting software.
However, you will have to opt for the Plus or Advanced plans to access these inventory management tools. The benefit to Xero over QuickBooks Online is that Xero includes the same inventory tools regardless of the plan levels.
Compared to FreshBooks, however, either QuickBooks Online or Xero will be a better fit for managing inventory. FreshBooks does not include any integrated inventory tools, although it does offer two third-party tool options in its app store.
As you may have gathered based on our discussion of pricing, user access is an area where Xero stands out significantly compared to FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online. With Xero, you can add an unlimited number of users regardless of your plan level at no additional cost.
Conversely, the number of users you receive with QuickBooks Online varies based on your plan level — with a single user account included in the Essentials plan and 25 accounts included with the Advanced plan.
In terms of financial reporting, FreshBooks certainly offers the most user-friendly, straightforward reporting tools. This gives you access to your standard financial statements, dashboards and insights. With Xero and QuickBooks Online, on the other hand, you’ll find much more in-depth reporting capabilities.
To this point, however, QuickBooks Online varies its reporting tools based on your plan level. The Simple Start plan only includes general reports, whereas the Advanced plan includes highly customizable reporting based on critical financial metrics, different categories and transaction-level details.
Although Xero’s reporting is standard across all of their plans, user reviews suggest that QuickBooks Online’s reporting tools are more intuitive.
FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero all offer their own mobile app available for iOS and Android devices. Overall, these apps have similar features — invoicing, expense tracking, dashboard monitoring, etc.
However, unlike FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online, Xero’s app does not include digital receipt capture. Additionally, to access the Expenses and Projects features associated with the Established-level plan, you’ll need to download separate apps for each of those modules.
Of the three apps, FreshBooks is perhaps the most user-friendly — and even gives you the ability to respond to client questions and feedback right from the app. Moreover, both the FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online mobile accounting apps include integrated mileage tracking — something the Xero app does not offer.
When it comes to FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero, all three of these accounting software solutions have a robust library of third-party integration options.
Each platform has an app library that extends across multiple categories from inventory tools to taxes to payments, and more.
Diving deeper, however, Xero actually has the largest app library, and while QuickBooks Online is not far behind Xero, FreshBooks’ library is significantly smaller.
Another notable integration-related point is that both Xero and FreshBooks give you the ability to integrate seamlessly with Gusto for payroll software. As payroll and accounting often go hand-in-hand, these integration options are particularly worthwhile.
As we mentioned earlier, however, QuickBooks offers their own proprietary payroll software which can be purchased at the same time as their accounting software.
Of these three solutions, there’s no doubt that they all offer a variety of self-service tools, community forums and online educational resources for their accounting software customers. In terms of more personalized support, however, Xero stands out with its 24/7 online-based support.
In comparison, although both FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online offer online and phone support, their customer support is limited to specific hours and days. To this point, it is worth noting that FreshBooks’ online support is email-based, whereas QuickBooks Online’s is live chat-based.
Overall, all three software solutions are highly rated across the internet — you’ll find that FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero each has a rating of four stars or higher on most review sites.
In terms of the benefits of FreshBooks, user reviews tend to focus on:
Ease of use, approachable for beginners.
Excellent invoicing features, especially for self-employed professionals and smaller businesses.
Time tracking and ability to work easily with clients.
Great functionality of the mobile app.
On the other hand, critiques of the FreshBooks software often include:
Limited reporting features.
Occasional syncing issues and bugs.
Could continue to add more features.
QuickBooks Online reviews
With QuickBooks Online, you’ll find that positive reviews typically mention:
Generally excellent functionality.
Ability to access it regardless of location (often mentioned in comparison to QuickBooks Desktop).
User-friendly, widely well-known.
Great integration options, easy to connect to QuickBooks.
When it comes to criticism of QuickBooks Online, reviewers often discuss:
Limited capabilities and advanced features in comparison to Desktop versions.
Some bugs and connection issues.
Poor customer support.
Expensive cost, especially if you add services.
For Xero’s customer reviews, users often talk about the following as top advantages of the platform:
Great overall functionality, particularly reconciliation and general customization capabilities.
Access to variety of third-party apps that are easy to integrate.
Excellent support, plus Xero training and educational resources.
On the other hand, these are a few points where Xero often sees criticism in user reviews:
Interface not always the most user-friendly, can take some time to learn.
Could have better tax tools.
Issues with certain features, particularly reporting.
Pros and cons of FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero
As you can see, there are a variety of different aspects to consider when it comes to comparing FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks Online vs. Xero. To make the process easier, let’s boil down the pros and cons of each of these business accounting software solutions:
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.