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.

Comparison chart

FreshBooks

QuickBooks Online

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

Top features

  • Unlimited invoices, expenses, estimates and time tracking.

  • User-friendly interface and excellent mobile app.

  • Integrated, in-house payment processing with option for FreshBooks Advanced payments solution.

  • Four, scalable plan options with advanced features for invoicing, reporting, inventory and taxes.

  • Wide variety of integration options, as well as QuickBooks/Intuit tools.

  • Integrated, in-house payment processing with options for in-person payments.

  • Unlimited users with all plans.

  • Customizable and robust advanced features for inventory, reporting, invoicing, etc.

  • Largest app store for third-party integrations.

  • 24/7 online customer support.

$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 app

Mobile accounting app available for iOS and Android

Mobile accounting app available for iOS and Android

Mobile accounting app available for iOS and Android

Integrations

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

Customer support

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.

Established

$9 per month

$30 per month

$60 per month

What’s included

  • Send five invoices and quotes.

  • Enter five bills.

  • Reconcile 20 bank transactions.

  • Hubdoc to capture bills and receipts.

  • Send unlimited invoices and quotes.

  • Enter unlimited bills.

  • Reconcile unlimited bank transactions.

  • Hubdoc to capture bills and receipts.

  • All Growing plan features.

  • Multi-currency.

  • Expenses module to capture and manage claims.

  • Projects module to track project time and costs.

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.

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.

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.

With FreshBooks, you can add as many team members as you’d like, but to do so, you’ll have to pay $10 per person, regardless of your plan. In this way, FreshBooks certainly pales in comparison to QuickBooks Online in Xero in terms of users.

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.

User reviews

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.

FreshBooks reviews

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.

Xero reviews

For Xero’s customer reviews, users often talk about the following as top advantages of the platform:

  • Cost-effective.

  • 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:

FreshBooks

  • User-friendly, great mobile app.

  • Unlimited invoices, expenses and estimates with all plans.

  • Excellent time tracking tools with all plans.

  • Competitively priced.

  • Great tools for freelancers, contractors and service-based businesses.

  • No bill pay/accounts payable features.

  • No inventory management tools.

  • Have to pay for additional users.

  • Plans limit number of billable clients.

QuickBooks Online

  • Robust overall functionality, especially tax tools, inventory, invoicing and time tracking.

  • Integrated payment processing with slightly lower rates and options for in-person processing.

  • Option to use proprietary payroll software.

  • Most plan options, very scalable.

  • Most expensive plan pricing.

  • Need higher-level plans to access more than one user account.

  • Some of the best tools (bill pay, inventory and advanced reporting) require expensive, higher-level plans.

  • Lowest priced plan ($9 per month).

  • Unlimited users with all plans.

  • Highly customizable advanced features, especially inventory and reporting tools.

  • Largest app store for third-party integrations.

  • 24/7 online-based customer support.

  • First plan option limits invoices, quotes, bills and transactions.

  • Limited tax tools.

  • Time tracking and multi-currency tools require highest-level plan.

  • Mobile app doesn’t include digital receipt capture.

 A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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