Wave Review (Formerly Wave Accounting)
- Easy to use
- Numerous features
- Attractive invoice templates
- Help from expert accountants available
- Limited mobile apps
- Unsuited for large businesses
- Poor customer support
Have you heard of the free accounting software that is making waves in the accounting industry? In the five that we’ve been following Wave, the software has grown from 1 million users to over 4 million users.
What makes Wave so popular?
First off, you can’t beat the price tag. Wave is completely free, and unlike other free accounting programs, there are no artificial limits on invoicing, contacts, items, or other features. The only thing you have to pay for is adding payroll, payment processing, or professional bookkeeping.
The company has also been rolling out update after update to make Wave a robust software with tons of features geared specifically toward small business owners. Wave’s software was the first to offer an integrated lending feature, coming to the scene a whole year before QuickBooks Online’s lending platform. A brand new Wave design and Wave logo, along with more recent updates, such as automated expense tracking and a lightweight eCommerce feature, have made the software even better. An acquisition by H&R Block in 2020 also brings the potential for future updates and improvements, including the launch of Wave Pay.
That said, there are still quite a few areas where Wave could stand improvement. There’s no project management feature, limited time tracking, limited inventory, and poor mobile apps. Additionally, you can’t add multiple users, making it unscalable for larger businesses. But, despite these drawbacks, Wave is still the best free accounting software out there.
Read on to see if Wave is the right choice for your small business.
Table of Contents
Wave “has always been and always will be free,” a structure that the company plans to maintain following its acquisition by H&R Block. Unlike most free plans, Wave doesn’t limit you to a certain number of invoices, customers, or transactions, making it one of the best free options out there — plus, there are no pesky ads. The company generates revenue from its credit card processing, payroll, and bookkeeping services and uses this revenue to keep the software completely free. You can cancel your account at any time.
Wave’s accounting software is free and includes:
- Unlimited invoicing
- Unlimited estimates
- Contact management
- Expense tracking
- Accounts payable
- Basic inventory
There are several additional Wave products that you can purchase for your business:
- Payroll: Wave offers two payroll options: tax service payroll or self-service payroll. Tax service payroll means Wave handles your payroll and payroll taxes for you. The service costs $35/month + $6/month per employee or independent contractor. Tax service payroll is available in 14 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. It is also available in most of Canada. There’s self-service payroll for the other 36 states, which costs $20/month + $6/month per employee or independent contractor. With self-service payroll, Wave will still calculate your payroll for you; you’re just responsible for filing your taxes.
- Worker’s Compensation: Wave has partnered with AP Intego to bring worker’s compensation insurance to users eligible for full-service payroll.
- Payments By Wave: Wave offers payment processing to allow you to accept payments directly from customers. Wave charges 2.9% + $0.30 per credit card transaction with a processing time of two days. Amex credit card processing costs 3.4% + $0.30 per transaction. For ACH payments, Wave charges 1% per transaction with a processing time of two to seven days.
- Wave Advisors: Wave Advisors (initially known as Wave Plus) includes expert help from, you guessed it, Wave advisors who can assist in accounting coaching, bookkeeping, or taxes. If you’re new to accounting or want to outsource your bookkeeping or tax filing, these can be great additions — honestly, I’m surprised more companies don’t offer these perks. Here’s a breakdown of what these services include and how much you can expect to pay:
|Wave Advisor Service||Price||Details|
|Bookkeeping & Payroll Support||$79/month||A Wave expert handles your bookkeeping tasks for you, which can include categorizing transactions, reconciliation, insights, planning, and more.
A personal Wave accounting coach to help advise and guide you on handling your accounting with 30 minutes of live coaching a month, plus email support.
|Accounting & Payroll Coaching||$229||A Wave accounting coach to help advise and guide you on the best handling of your accounting with 1 hour of live coaching and 30 days of email support. They can also review and correct your account and assist with migrating to and setting up your Wave account.|
|Tax Service||$1,500+/year||A Wave expert takes care of your year-round taxes, which can include filing federal and state tax returns, representing you with the IRS, quarterly reviews, insights, and planning.|
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Wave is cloud-based, so no downloads or installation required.
Hardware & Software Requirements
As cloud-based software, Wave is available on nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection. Up-to-date versions of browsers are recommended but not required. The company also features three iOS apps — Wave Invoicing (iOS 12.0+), Receipts by Wave (iOS 11.0+), and Wave Money (iOS 12.0+) — as well as two Android apps — Wave Invoicing (5.0+) and Wave Money (5.0+).
Specific Size Of Business
Wave is ideal for small businesses. The software is designed specifically for small business owners to use, no matter what kind of bookkeeping background they come from. The software supports multiple companies and offers personal accounting as well. A direct Etsy integration also makes Wave an ideal accounting software for Etsy sellers.
Wave does offer payroll, but the software isn’t scalable enough for larger businesses, as it doesn’t support multiple users. You can grant access to collaborators who have view-only access or view and edit access where they can “create and send invoices, manage transactions, and generate reports.” Wave is also available in multiple countries.
Wave uses both cash-basis and accrual accounting; Wave’s cash-basis accounting is limited to choosing to run reports as cash-basis or accrual.
Ease Of Use
Wave’s newly redesigned UI is well organized and easy to use. The only downside is that there’s no back button, but navigating the software is still pretty simple. Wave’s software takes very little time to set up and get used to — and it doesn’t require a background in accounting (especially considering that you can now get extra help with your accounting and bookkeeping from Wave advisors). The company also offers good customer support options, including an accounting guide, to help you learn to balance the books and use the software.
For a free software program, Wave boasts an impressive, robust feature set that rivals even some paid accounting software programs.
Wave offers the features you need to handle your business’s bookkeeping, and then some. With Wave, you have access to expense tracking, bank reconciliation, and reporting to help you manage your finances. Wave also has some of the most appealing invoices on the market. Wave also offers time-saving automations, such as recurring invoices, automatic billing, and receipt scanning, all of which make your life as a small business owner easier.
Here are some of the features you can find in Wave:
- Expense tracking
- Bank reconciliation
- Accounts payable
- Contact management
- Inventory management
- Importing and exporting
- eCommerce checkout links
For a full breakdown of these features and their capabilities, read our complete guide to Wave’s features.
Wave Customer Service & Support
Wave offers a decent number of support resources to customers, but the response times are slow. Phone and chat support are only available for payroll or credit card processing customers. So if you have a question that can’t be answered in the Wave Community or the Help Center, your only option is email. Emails take a day for a response. If you have a pressing issue, don’t expect a quick answer. It’s worth mentioning that we have not tested the response time of the Accounting Coach service; the personalized email support there may be quicker. (If you’ve used Wave’s accounting or bookkeeping services, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!)
On the plus side, Wave has a very comprehensive Help Center, so, hopefully, you won’t need to contact support much. The company also recently added the Wave Community. Here are all of the ways you can reach Wave:
- Support Form: You can contact Wave’s customer service team through the in-software support form.
- Phone & Chat: Phone and chat services are available for Payroll, Credit Card Processing, and Lending inquiries. Contact Wave for more details.
- Help Center: Wave provides a comprehensive Help Center with helpful how-to articles and guides. These articles and guides are well laid out with easy-to-follow steps and plenty of screenshots for us visual learners.
- Community: In the Wave Community, you can interact with other Wave users to find answers to questions, business tips, and inspiration from other people who have successfully used the product.
- Wave Advisors: Wave Advisors is an additional bookkeeping service that gives you more support.
- YouTube: Wave used to have a very developed YouTube channel with over 85 videos. Now, it only has just over 25 videos, and there aren’t many that demonstrate the software or teach you how to use features.
- Blog: Wave features a comprehensive blog with tons of articles and advice for small business owners as well as company announcements and updates.
- Social Media: Wave has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Wave User Reviews
Negative Wave Reviews & Complaints
Wave’s accounting reviews are generally positive across the board. While the majority of reviews are still positive, the company has recently received a 1.81/5 star rating on the BBB. While positive reviews far surpass the negative reviews, here are a few of the recurring complaints:
- Slow Servers & Downtime: Wave has always had an issue with slow servers and downtime. While there haven’t been any recent downtime reports, a few users still complain about the software’s loading speed.
- Poor Mobile Apps: Customers dislike that there are multiple Wave apps instead of one central full-featured Wave app. They also report various bugs in the apps. A new centralized app is in the works, but there’s no release date at this time.
- Limited Features: Users want more reports, better bank transaction categorization, payroll for independent contractors, a dashboard, and mileage tracking. While Wave hasn’t addressed all of these issues yet, it has added a new cash flow report, automatic transaction categorization, 1099 payroll support, and a dashboard.
- Lack Of Integrations: Several users complain about a lack of third-party integrations.
- Expense Tracking Errors: Several users had an issue with duplicate transactions, and multiple users report having to often reconnect to their bank accounts.
Positive Wave Reviews & Testimonials
For the most part, Wave receives high praise from its users. The software gets 4.42/5 stars on Software Advice, 4.4/5 stars on G2Crowd, and 7.2/10 stars on TrustRadius. Also, Wave is BBB accredited and boasts an A+ on the BBB website. Here are some of the aspects users appreciate in their Wave reviews:
- Price: You can’t beat free, and Wave users agree.
- User-Friendly: Users like the fact that it is easy to learn, easy to navigate, and easy to understand, without all of the typical accounting jargon.
- Saves Time: Users also appreciate that Wave saves time, not just because it is easy to learn but also because it is cloud-based and has mobile apps.
- Personal Accounting: The ability to manage personal and business accounts in a single place is a favorite with business owners, particularly freelancers, independent contractors, and eCommerce shop owners.
- Good Invoicing: Users appreciate that Wave offers professional-looking invoices that are easy to create and keep track of.
Here is what a few users are saying:
I like Wave because it’s free. For most small businesses you really don’t need a ton of complicated features (depending on what you do), and for me this software fits the bill perfectly. It syncs my bank accounts, lets me label stuff so my accountant can sort through it at the end of the year, and did I mention it’s free?
Great for business beginners and advanced users. Compared to all the other cloud accounting choices it holds it’s own. Why make your business accounting difficult, isn’t running a business difficult enough?
Was VERY simple to integrate into my woodworking business. Since most if not all my transactions are electronic, categorizing my expenses has never been simpler. Thanks for eliminating my shoe box.
I’m in awe of this software. I’m a small start up and I’ve gone through at least 10 or 12 other platforms with a Goldilocks effect of “This layout is too unimpressive” or “This makes payment too laborious for clients”…until Wave. It’s just right.
Wave Integrations & Add-Ons
Wave offers a limited number of integrations, although it does support a much-needed Zapier integration, which connects Wave with 1,000+ add-ons. The integrations Wave directly connects with are PayPal, Etsy, and Shoeboxed. You can also use the new Checkouts feature to create buttons on websites, such as Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. API is available for developers.
Wave currently uses 256-bit data encryption as well as a read-only version of banking information to protect privacy. The company uses Amazon Web Services to store its data. Data is regularly backed up, and servers are monitored 24/7. Contact Wave directly for more security details.
Final Verdict: Is Wave Accounting Worth It?
Wave has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years. The company has addressed many customer complaints in its latest redesign, including adding 1099 payroll support, duplicate transaction management, expense transaction automation, and cash-basis accounting. The brand new checkouts feature is one-of-a-kind and a great addition for business owners who need to charge multiple customers quickly.
However, there are a few features the software is still lacking. There’s no project management, limited time tracking, and no additional users, which rules the software out for a lot of businesses. Hopefully, with Wave’s track record for updates, it will add these features soon and also up the customer service response times. In the meantime, though, business owners can check out these Wave alternatives to fully explore their accounting software options.
Until then, the software is still a good solution for small business owners looking for simple, easy-to-use accounting software that won’t break the bank. Wave’s customer support resources and new Wave Advisor services make it easy for people with limited accounting experience to learn the software. It’s also great for Etsy shop owners and other eCommerce businesses using Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress.
If Wave sounds like it might be a good fit for your business, give it a try! After all, it’s free.
Wave Accounting FAQs
We've done in-depth testing of each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth testing of each and confidently recommend them.