QuickBooks Online Review
- Impressive features
- Advanced inventory features
- Numerous integrations
- Good tax support
- Good mobile apps
- Poor customer support
- Unintuitive UI
If you’ve heard of accounting, you’ve heard of Intuit QuickBooks. Intuit was founded in 1983 with the idea that there should be a better, simpler way to do accounting; it has been one of the biggest names in accounting and personal finance for three decades now. The company’s first product, Quicken, was launched in 1984. QuickBooks followed in 2002, and QuickBooks Online came along two years later.
QuickBooks Online offers true double-entry accounting with ample reports and a strong chart of accounts, as well as customizable invoices, inventory capabilities, payroll support, multiple currencies, and over 400 integrations. Since its inception, QuickBooks Online has grown to 2.2 million users and the software has seen some significant changes and advancements, including a complete interface rehaul in 2013 and again in December 2016. The software continues to be updated on a regular basis, and one of the most recent updates includes a long-awaited project management feature. However, in gaining a project management feature, the software has virtually lost its time tracking feature.
There are few other downsides to QuickBooks Online, which is generally a feature-rich, high-quality software. The customer service leaves something to be desired; both the quality and quantity of support are surprisingly poor for such a large company. A few customers complain that QuickBooks Online still cannot compare to its desktop counterpart. And to top it off, the company has increased prices. But the biggest issue by far is that the notoriously easy-to-use software has become incredibly complicated, unintuitive, and hard to navigate–so much so that for the first time in my tenure at Merchant Maverick, we’ve had to drop the software from 5 stars to 4.5 stars.
That said, a 4.5 star rating still places QuickBooks Online far above the average cloud program. There are several features offered by QuickBooks Online that you can’t get with the more traditional, locally-installed version of QuickBooks (such as automatic sales receipts, split transactions, scheduled invoices, and location and class categories). Many customers believe the sheer mobility of QuickBooks Online is entirely worth the upgrade. And despite the now convoluted navigation, the program still has a better learning curve than QuickBooks Pro.
Continue reading to learn more about QuickBooks Online’s recent changes and to see if QuickBooks Online is a good fit for your business.
Table of Contents
Since our last review, QuickBooks has increased their mid-sized plan by $5 and their largest plan by $10, so discounts are more important than ever. Intuit is currently offering a discount of 30% off the first six months of service with any plan (50% if you add payroll). There is no end-date given for the deal, so check these discount details to ensure the promotion is still occurring.
Note: The discount is invalid if a customer uses the free 30-day trial before purchasing.
Simple Start Plan
- Unlimited invoices
- Unlimited estimates
- Expense tracking
- Live bank feeds
- 27 reports
- Integrates with 400+ apps
- One user, plus two accountants
- Unlimited invoices
- Unlimited estimates
- Expense tracking
- Accounts payable
- Time tracking
- Live bank feeds
- 53 reports
- Integrates with 400+ apps
- Three users, plus two accountants
- Unlimited invoices
- Unlimited estimates
- Expense tracking
- Accounts payable
- Time tracking
- Project Management
- Class tracking
- Live bank feeds
- 75 reports
- 1099 tax support
- Integrates with 400+ apps
- Five users, plus two accountants
In addition to increasing their pricing plans, QuickBooks has significantly increased their payroll support. What was once $25/mo now costs $39-$99/mo depending on your plan, and that’s not even including the cost of employees. You can choose between enhanced payroll and full-service payroll.
Web-Hosted or Locally-Installed
Web-hosted. No downloads or installation required.
Hardware or Software Requirements
As cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online operates with nearly all internet browsers so long as you have Internet access. For Windows computers, the latest version of Google Chrome and Firefox are recommended, as well as Internet Explorer 10+. For Macs, the most recent version of Google Chrome and Firefox are recommended, as well as Safari 6.1+. QuickBooks Online also has desktop apps for Windows and Macs, which are said to run faster. Linux is not supported by QuickBooks Online at this time.
In order to read forms and use the print checks feature in QuickBooks Online, you will need Adobe Reader 7.0+ or the Firefox PDF plugin.
Learn more about the specific computer system requirements here.
Specific Size of Business
QuickBooks Online is ideal for all types of small business. The smaller plans fit freelancers, independent contractors, online sellers, micro businesses, and small businesses. Unlike most other web-based software programs, though, QuickBooks Online actually has the advanced accounting features needed to support mid-sized and large businesses as well (so long as you don’t have a lot of employees). With advanced reports, a strong chart of accounts, and even payroll capabilities, the only thing large businesses may be missing is access for more than five employees.
Note: If you are on the QuickBooks Plus plan, you can purchase more employees for an additional monthly cost, but the maximum number of users is 25.
Both cash-basis and accrual accounting.
Ease of Use
Once upon a time, QuickBooks Online was an easy to use software fit for accountants and non-accountants alike. But since our last review, QuickBooks Online has seriously declined in the user experience realm.
- Set Up – Over the years, Quickbooks Online has streamlined the setup process. You simply fill out your business information and choose which features matter most to your company (invoicing, POS, expense tracking, eCommerce, accounting, sales tax, mobile, employees). QuickBooks Online then creates a business profile for you according to these preferences. (Don’t worry, you can add features at a later time as necessary.) After this, the software guides you through key features and prompts you to watch a few explanatory videos. This is when things become a little tricky. Once your profile is set up, you’ll want to spend a fair amount of time in settings. The settings menu is not always intuitive, but it’s where you’ll find the ability to enable features, customize invoice templates preferences, connect to your bank account, and more. After you’ve thoroughly perused your settings, be sure to add your contacts, items, and chart of accounts before jumping into the software.
- Organization – A menu on the left side of the screen has tabs that mark Dashboard, Banking, Sales, Expenses, Employees, Reports, Taxes, Accounting, My Accountant, and Apps. When you click on each of these, you’ll see a menu bar on the top of the screen with related features (for example, if you click on Sales you’ll see All Sales, Invoices, Customers, and Products and Services; see picture below). On the top right-hand corner of the screen, you’ll see icons for Quick Create, Search, Settings, and Help. The quick-create button at the top of the Home page is a shortcut to every major feature you might need. If you do happen to get lost or can’t find a necessary feature, the settings gear probably holds the answer.
- Instructions and Guidance – If the guided software walkthrough isn’t helpful, or you can’t find what you need in settings, you are basically out of luck. Customer service options are incredibly limited. There are a few video tutorials for very basic feature explanations and a community forum—Intuit’s attempt at a help center—but finding the answers you are looking for is not easy (more on that later). Your best bets are to mess around with the software long enough to figure it out yourself, brave being on hold by calling a representative directly, or go to YouTube and check out user guides and videos created by actual QuickBooks Online users (not by Intuit).
- Problems – My experiences using QuickBooks in the past have been incredibly pleasant and any issues I did have were minor annoyances that weren’t significant. I wish I could say the same this time around. There were several major issues I encountered when using the software.
- Poor Navigation – My biggest issue with the software is that it is incredibly difficult to navigate. Nothing is where I expect it to be. QuickBooks Online lumps features together under umbrella words like Sales or Banking. I would so much rather have a straightforward menu that has designated tabs for Invoices, Estimates, Contacts, Time, etc. Certain key features, like Time and Estimates, don’t even appear in any of the submenus, let alone the main menu. You have to access them through the quick-create section, which is incredibly ineffective. Additionally, the settings menu is more difficult to use than ever as the software exits you out of each section as you complete it, forcing you to go back into settings all over again to make any additional changes.
- Limited Time Tracking – The time tracking feature in QuickBooks Online has never been ideal, but now the feature is even more limited. I hope that the company will improve this feature in the near future.
- Major Software Glitch – I experienced a major glitch with my account where I was unable to use the sales tax module completely. I was in contact with customer support for over three weeks before the issue was resolved. Despite numerous promises to update me on my service case, I was only contacted about the issue once and was not updated about the Intuit engineers’ progress on my issue a single time. I had to call in several times a week to check on the issue (which ended up being an easy fix). If I were an actual business owner, I would have been unable to keep my books for three weeks. Unacceptable.
- Worldwide Outage – While I was retesting the software, there was one morning where I couldn’t access my account. I called customer service and it turns out QuickBooks Online had a worldwide outage where users were unable to login to their QuickBooks Online accounts. The worst part? QuickBooks didn’t say a single thing about the issue. No tweets, no ETA on a fix, no admission that there even was a problem. Nada. Luckily, accounts were back up in a matter of hours, but the situation was poorly handled and made me lose trust in the company.
QuickBooks Online has an impressive feature selection, especially for a cloud-based software. This section covers only the basics, but you can click here for a full list of features.
- Dashboard – A basic dashboard includes a list of tasks and charts for Invoices, Expenses, and Accounts, Profit and Loss, Sales, and Tips. There’s also a “see all activity” option at the bottom of the dashboard that will take you to a full audit log and history of recent activity.
- Invoicing – The redesign in 2016 gave QuickBooks Online one of my favorite invoice customization features ever. There are five invoice templates (or you can import an existing invoice template via Microsoft Word). The invoice customization portal is among the most developed on the market and it’s incredibly easy to use. It’s possible to customize the logo, logo position, font, font size, header, footer, number of columns, and more. When creating an invoice, any saved contact information is automatically filled in. You can create default invoice messages and add shipping charges, discounts, and attachments to invoices. You can send invoices reminders to late customers and can send recurring invoices if you have the Essentials or Plus plan. QuickBooks Online also makes it easy to send sales receipts and refunds receipts when necessary. As a recent addition, QuickBooks Online now offers invoice tracking so you can see when customers view and take action on an invoice.
- Estimates – Creating estimates is easy and invoice conversion takes only moments. Estimates are sent via email and customers receive the documents as PDFs. You can set a default estimate message. Sadly, there is no way for customers to comment on an estimate once it is sent to them (there is a “client portal” for invoices, but it is really just a glorified preview tab). To create estimates, you have to go to the quick-create button as there is no separate estimates tab in the Sales menu.
- Client Portal – QuickBooks Online does offer a client portal, but only for invoices, not estimates. Customers can view, print, save, pay, or ask questions about their invoices.
- Contact Management – QuickBooks Online has one of the best contact management systems I have seen. When saving clients and vendors, not only can you add general contact information, but you can also include a display name, billing address, shipping address, preferred payment method, default payment terms, opening balance, attachments, and default tax codes. You can attach important files, like contracts, to each contact. You can also save time by sending batch emails to contacts. As a recent addition, you now have the ability to change what you call customers (i.e. Clients, customers, donors, guests, members, patients, or tenants), which is a cool bonus.
- Expense Tracking – You can add individual expenses, manually import bank statements, or enable live bank feeds. It’s possible to categorize expenses and attach receipts to them as well. Unlike most accounting programs, QuickBooks Online does not use Yodlee for their live bank feeds, and as Yodlee is known to violate some banks’ terms and conditions, QuickBooks Online gets extra points for using their own bank connector.
- Bank Reconciliation – As mentioned above, QuickBooks Online has live bank feeds which makes bank reconciliation easy. QuickBooks used to have good duplicate transaction detection and transaction. Unfortunately, these features no longer exist and you now have to manually match every transaction, though you can still create custom bank rules. Here’s a quick video about how bank reconciliation works in QuickBooks Online.
- Accounts Payable (Essentials and Plus Plan Only) – With QuickBooks Online, you can enter and sort bills easily. You can also set recurring bills and schedule them to be paid at a later date or pay bills directly online, which is a great new feature. With the Plus plan, you can create purchase orders and convert them to bills.
- Chart of Accounts – This feature stays true to traditional accounting practices. QuickBooks Online has a default collection of accounts set up, but you can customize each account to fit your business. There is no way to automatically track fixed assets and asset depreciation, which is surprising for such a well-rounded accounting software.
- Budget (Plus Plan Only) – Unlike the desktop version of QuickBooks (which only allows one year-long budget), you can have multiple budgets in QuickBooks Online. You can use data from a previous financial year as your basis for a budget, or you can copy existing budgets. You can create budgets by customer, class, location, or by year.
- Inventory (Plus Plan only) – While each plan has item list management, only the Plus plan tracks inventory. When adding items you can save default sales prices, purchase prices SKU numbers, and create item descriptions. You have the unique option to create item bundles, which make invoicing a breeze. QuickBooks Online is also one of the only solutions that allow you to attach an image to each item, which I really appreciate. You can now set inventory reorder points and see the current stock level when you are creating invoices; this saves a lot of headaches.
- Project Management (QuickBooks Lab) – This feature is accessed through QuickBooks Lab, which basically means it is still in beta and will be a fully-integrated part of QuickBooks Online very shortly (you can still use the feature in the meantime). You can create projects, add billable and unbillable time and create billable and unbillable expenses. You can easily send invoices for projects as well. Since this is such a new feature, I was surprised to see how developed the project capability is—the feature even includes job costing so you can see how profitable your projects are. There is no way to add tasks at this time.
- Time-Tracking (Plus Plan Only) – The time tracking feature has seen better days. You can still add a “single time activity” and create weekly timesheets by going to the quick-create button. However, there is no time tracking tab on the main menu or on any of the subsequent submenus. If you want to view your time, you have to run one of four reports ( Recent/Edited Time Activites, Time Activities by Customer Detail, Time Activities by Employees Detail, or Unbilled Time). QuickBooks needs to restore this feature to be used in the actual software, not just viewed through reports.
- Payroll (Additional Cost) – Payroll is incredibly easy to set up. You simply go to your employees, establish a pay rate (by salary or by hour), set employer taxes, add W-4s, and set a payment schedule (weekly, biweekly, monthly, every other Friday, etc.) Then print the payroll stubs and check out the payroll reports. You can set an email reminder to let you know when it’s time to pay your employees
- Reports – The number of reports you can access varies depending on your plan (the Simple Start plan begins at 27 reports and the Plus plan tops out at 75 reports). These reports cover basic accounting needs and give helpful sales insight as well. For a full list of reports and report details, go here. QuickBooks Online also offers a complete audit log with each plan.
- Packing Slips – QuickBooks Online supports packing slips.
- Location and Classes – This unique feature lets you sort transactions, estimates, and billable hours by a specific location or class. You can also run Profit and Loss reports by specific location or class.
- Print Checks (Plus Plan Only)– QuickBooks Online gives you the unique ability to print checks directly from the software. You can order checks directly from QuickBooks Online as well.
- Sales Tax – You can save as many sale taxes as needed. In addition, you can assign a default sales tax to your customers.
- Tax Forms and Support (Plus Plan Only) – The Plus plan lets you prepare and print 1099s for each employee. There is an additional fee to send these forms via e-file.
- Multi-Currency – QuickBooks Online supports multiple currencies.
- Importing/Exporting – QuickBooks Online’s importing feature is refreshing and easy to use compared to most other programs. You can import your customers, vendors, chart of accounts, products, and services. You can only export data to Excel from QuickBooks Online.
- API – QuickBooks Online has API available for developers.
This is where QuickBooks Online really drops the ball. Not only does it lack email support, the phone services it does offer are often slow, and representatives vary in their knowledge of the software.
QuickBooks Online offers phone support from 6:00 am – 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday; Saturday hours are 6:00 am – 3:00 pm PST. In our past reviews of this software, wait times for support were between 20 and 30 minutes. I was glad to see that the wait time has dropped significantly with waits averaging 10 minutes. There were several times where I got to speak to a representative without being on hold at all which was unheard of in past reviews (calling at 7:00 am PST is the way to go). When you do finally get through to a customer service rep, they are incredibly nice but vary in terms of helpfulness. Some representatives are incredibly knowledgeable, and others are less informed than you would expect.
All of QuickBooks Online’s support services include:
- Phone – Call customer support at 1 (800) 488-7330.
- Help Center – I was very happy to see an improved Help Center with ample articles on the various features in QuickBooks Online. This is now my go-to support option. The help center features FAQs as well.
- Community Forum – One of the biggest support services QuickBooks offers is the community forum. Both Intuit employees and fellow customers can answer any questions posted, and new questions are answered relatively quickly. Personally, I found that the search bar functioned poorly. What’s more, filtering through all QuickBooks products to find QuickBooks Online specific articles was a bit annoying.
- In-Program Help Button – QuickBooks Online features a help button in the top right corner of the software. The search results are drawn from the QuickBooks community at large, so you want to make sure your question is addressed by an actual Intuit employee.
- Video Tutorials – QuickBooks Online features video tutorials to explain how each function works. The videos, while mildly helpful, are incredibly basic and feel more promotional than educational.
- YouTube – YouTube features the same tutorials you can get on the QuickBooks Online site, but in my experience, videos from fellow users on YouTube are much more helpful.
- QuickBooks Online Classes – QuickBooks online offers both in-person and online classes at an additional cost. For more information, go here.
- QuickBooks Resource Center – There is also a QuickBooks Small Business Resource Center that hosts articles, business advice, and guides.
- QuickBooks Blog – QuickBooks has a blog, but again there is no separating QuickBooks Online from other QuickBooks products. The search bar is very limited and articles mostly consist of recent updates and ongoing giveaways. I found myself very underwhelmed by this resource.
- QuickBooks Pro Advisor – QuickBooks Pro Advisors can help walk you through the program (comes at an additional cost).
- Social Media – QuickBooks has a Facebook page where they post updates and helpful advice articles. Customer comments are generally responded to within 24 hours and responses are relatively helpful and always kind (despite the vitriol of a few customers). There is also a Twitter feed specifically for QuickBooks Online users. Posts feature updates, helpful articles, and a few inspirational quotes. Very few customer tweets are found, so Facebook might be a better bet for questions and comments.
Negative Reviews and Complaints
Although many customers praise QuickBooks to high heaven, there are a few significant shortcomings to the software. Frequent complaints about the software running slowly have been addressed, but other things have risen to replace this issue. Some common gripes include:
- Poor Customer Service – This is by far the biggest customer complaint. Many users dislike the slow service and report being on the phone for obscene amounts of time. A couple users say the customer service used to be better but has since declined, and a few people claim that QuickBooks tried to scam them into paying an extra service fee in order to fix the problems they were having.
- Bugs and Crashes – Various bugs and crashes are reported across multiple sites. In the past, downtime and outages have also been a fairly common complaint, though this seems to be less of an issue now.
- Hard to Learn – Users are beginning to complain that the software is difficult to learn and hard to navigate. This is a new issue in my experience.
- Doesn’t Compare to QuickBooks Desktop – Another common complaint is that QuickBooks Online does not compare to the desktop version. Quite a few customers were so underwhelmed by the software that they ended the service completely, while others switched back to the desktop version.
- Unauthorized Charges – One customer reported that her account was charged without authorization and it took five months to fix the problem.
Positive Reviews and Complaints
Despite the above complaints, there are many happy QuickBooks Online users. In fact, most of the company’s ratings have gone up since our last review
Intuit is accredited by the BBB with an A+ rating. QuickBooks Online, specifically, receives 4/5 stars on GetApp. The mobile apps rank highly with Android users (4.3/5 stars) and iOS users (4/5 stars). The software has also gone from 2.4/5 stars to 3.2/5 stars on G2Crowd in a sixth-month span.
Here are a few of the things users love most:
- Mobility – The most common praise is that QuickBooks Online gives mobility to users and companies. Previous QuickBooks Desktop users particularly like that they are no longer tied down to one computer.
- Good Accounting – QuickBooks Online is praised as one of the best full-featured accounting software options around. Accountants in particular rave about the reports, chart of accounts, and bank reconciliation features.
- Easy to Use – Many customers find QuickBooks Online easy to learn and use, especially compared to the desktop version of the software. Even non-accountants find the software enjoyable to use.
- Feature Selection – The number of features supported by QuickBooks Online is a common point of praise. Many users particularly like payroll capabilities.
- Saves Time – Countless businesses report that QuickBooks Online saves time and keeps their companies organized.
- Ample Integrations – With 400+ integrations, it’s no wonder customers like the number of add-ons available to them.
Here’s what a few users are saying:
“I am not an accountant. Not even a bookkeeper. But I find QuickBooks pretty easy to use. I help and do various tasks for a small service business called 1 on 1 Lessons. Either at the end of each day or at the end of the week, I record sales and expenses and add receipts or attachments for every item. It is very easy to do this and feels intuitive to find things in QuickBooks.” – Stephanie Kumets, 1 on 1 Lessons
“QBO is consistently becoming more and more robust. In true Intuit fashion, they are listening to their users and adding new features constantly. And if QBO doesn’t do it, there’s an app that does that will sync seamlessly with your file.” – Carolyn Franjko, MJ Business Solutions
“QuickBooks Online has impacted our business by allowing us to just focus on marketing on sales and not on accounting, which is so crucial for a small business when sales is the most important thing. Because of QuickBooks accounting hasn’t been a headache.” – Andrew Kitirattragarn, Dang Foods
Integrations and Add-Ons
QuickBooks offers an unbelievable number of integrations. The software is compatible with over 500 third-party integrations. And to top it all off, QuickBooks Online also supports Zapier, a third-party add-on that connects users with 750 additional integrations. Of these integrations, around 30 are payment gateway processors.
Recently, QuickBooks Online has gotten rid of several of our favorite integrations. Fortunately, there are plenty of other great choices available.
- Stripe – Payment platform for both web and mobile payment methods. Read our full review here.
- Magento – One of the top internet retailer platforms out there. Read our full review here.
- Gusto – A payroll software that also manages health benefits, worker’s comp, and even 401(k) plans.
- T-sheets – A time management solution with job costing and scheduling features.
- Expensify – An expense management solution with reporting and automatic expense reimbursement.
- Sumac – Nonprofit software that tracks donations, volunteer sign-ups and more.
- Temponia – A time tracking solution that utilizes calendar-based scheduling to track projects and billable hours.
- Insightly CRM – Free project and contact management software.
QuickBooks Online uses 128-bit SSL encryption and multi-factor authentication. Physical safeguards have been implemented at the Tier 4 data center, and routine testing ensures security. For more information on Quickbooks security, and to learn how you can play a factor in making your data even more secure, go here.
As mentioned earlier, I usually find that QuickBooks Online lives up to Intuit’s reputation of providing some of the most advanced accounting solutions on the market. The software offers traditional accounting and is still easier to use than its Desktop counterpart; however, significant navigational difficult has made me nostalgic for the version I used to know.
The QuickBooks Online of old was simple and had features that were accessible and easy to find. Not only are key features like Time Tracking and Estimates hard to locate now, the company has dropped some of the automations and developments that made it great and increased prices to boot.
But here’s the thing about nostalgia: I know I cannot let my preference for a past iteration cloud the things QuickBooks Online still gets right. The software offers a wide breadth of features and has the complex accounting capabilities that small business owners need. Quickbooks offers an unbelievable number of integrations and is evidently working on bettering their customer support (though I still wish they’d add email support). The company has also created a much-needed project management feature, and the ability to pay bills electronically is a welcome addition.
Moreover, it’s worth acknowledging that the company has addressed several issues I had with the program in my last review and added touches like the ability to charge for shipping and grant discounts on invoices. Between these positive changes and the consistent monthly updates of the software, I have strong hopes that QuickBooks Online can be restored to its previous greatness.
If I am harsh on this version of the product it is only because I truly loved QuickBooks Online in the past, and want to see its old ease of use restored. I’ll be keeping close tabs on the company’s monthly improvements and will update this review accordingly. So feel free to check in with us for the most up-to-date information and do take the software for a spin yourself—our rating may be temporarily down, but 4.5/5 stars is nothing to sneeze at.