Wave Review (Formerly Wave Accounting)
- Personal and business account management
- Beautiful invoicing
- Supports multiple companies
- Good customer service
“No jargon. No complicated software. No MBA required.”
Wave, a free, cloud-based program that supports 2.2 million users, has been making ‘waves’ in the accounting world since 2010. From humble beginnings, the company has now grown to 105 employees. It has earned the place of #9 in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 List, the title of Best Free Accounting Software for Businesses by Business News Daily, and here at Merchant Maverick’s we’ve named Wave the Best Free Accounting Software as well. And the company themselves still uses their own software to balance the books.
So why do we like it? Well, for starters, the software is completely free. Yes, there are additional costs for payroll and premium support. However, all of the standard features in Wave are free forever (there are no artificial limits like you’ll find with other ‘free’ accounting options). Wave’s beautiful, easy-to-use interface provides tools for invoicing, estimates, expense tracking, billing, advanced sales tax settings and more. The company has also just launched a new Android app, added an important integration with Zapier, and is constantly updating the software to better fit customers’ needs.
While a few more updates are needed to compensate for drawbacks like slow servers, limited contact management, and a severe lack of accounting reports, Wave is still a viable option for many small businesses who want to save money.
Check out the video overview of Wave and continue reading this article to learn more.
Wave “has always been and always will be free.” Unlike most free plans, Wave does not limit you to a certain number of invoices, customers, or transactions, making it one of the best free options out there. (Wave is able to offer free software because it runs in-software ads. They are small and unobtrusive, however, so I have never minded them.) For a full list of free features, go here.
- Unlimited invoicing
- Unlimited estimates
- Contact management
- Expense tracking
- Personal accounting
- Supports multiple businesses
- Nine users, plus one accountant
You might be asking yourself: what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one. You get all of the features listed above at zero cost to you. If you’re looking for further support or functionality, however, there are a few extra services you can purchase.
- Payroll – Wave Payroll begins at a base fee of $15/mo (each employee costs an additional $4/mo). If you have 10 or more employees, that number drops to $2/mo per employee.
- Credit Card Processing – Wave Payments enables online payments of invoices. Wave uses a pay-as-you-go model and charges 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction.
- Plus Support – Free users get free email support (see below for details). However, chat support can be added for $9/mo.
- Advanced Support – This plan adds both chat and phone support for $19/mo.
Web-Hosted or Locally Installed:
Web-hosted. No downloads or installation required.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
As cloud-based software, Wave is available on any computer, including Mac, Windows, and Linux. Up-to-date versions of browsers are recommended, but not required. Wave also features three iOS apps: Invoice by Wave (iOS 7+), Receipts by Wave (iOS 7.1+), and Payroll by Wave (iOS 5+). There is also a Receipts by Wave app for Android (2.3.3+), and the company just launched the Invoice by Wave app for Androids (4.1+) this month.
Specific Size of Business:
Wave is designed with the small business owner in mind. Not the small business owner with an MBA; not the trained CPA; but the everyday freelancer, independent contractor, or micro-business entrepreneur who believes in their work and their dreams.
Wave targets small businesses with nine employees (or fewer) and has tailored its feature set for that demographic. Larger businesses with more than nine employees still can use the software, but it might not have the robust feature set and accounting reports necessary to support a larger business.
Ease of Use:
Wave is one of the easiest accounting software programs to set up. Navigation is simple, and overall organization is intuitive. The interface is pretty to look at too, which never hurts.
- Set Up – To set up your account, you simply enter your business name and the type of business you run; Wave does the rest. The software sets up a chart of accounts for you. All you have to do is go into settings and set your preferences (default invoice template, default invoice due date, sales taxes, etc.). The first time you enter the dashboard, Wave will give three options: 1) Send Invoices and Estimates. 2) Track Income and Expenses. 3) Set Up Payroll. There is also a Things You Could Do list that disappears after you have used the software for awhile.
- Organization – Wave is simple and easy to learn. A dashboard of charts and graphs gives you a quick look at the financial state of your business. Icons on the left mark Dashboard, Transactions, Invoices, Payments, Bills, Receipts, Accounting, Reports, and Payroll. There are ‘business deals’, ‘need help,’ and ‘accountant’ buttons in the top right-hand corner, with a settings gear underneath them. The business deals button is a pretty cool resource that takes you to a page of coupons for Wave users (usually discounts for third-party integrations).
- Instructions and Guidance – You likely won’t need much instruction or guidance since the software is so simple to learn. But if you do need help in the beginning stages there is a getting started guide in Wave University and a very helpful video demonstration that overviews the software. There is also a Help Center and a support form for more specific questions.
- Problems –
- Glitchy – The software glitched on me a few times. Nothing major, just enough to drive me a little crazy.
- Slow – I was driven even crazier by slow loading times. I assumed at first that the problem with was my own server until I researched various customer reviews and discovered that it is a consistent issue.
- Poor Bank Reconciliation– Not only does the software run slow, categorizing transactions is also slow-going. If you connect your bank account to Wave, this is not a problem. However, if you are manually importing bank statements, you also have to manually—and individually—categorize each transaction. Supposedly banking rules are on the update list, but there is no specific date for when this much-needed feature will be delivered.
- Reduced Number of Reports – This was my one big disappointment. When we reviewed Wave in January, the software had 11 reports. In July, they had nine. Today there are only three. While the company says they want to keep things simple so users only have the features that they need, this seems too simple; I found myself wishing for the old Wave.
- No Cash Basis Accounting – As it is a company that focuses on small businesses, I was surprised to find Wave does not support cash-basis accounting in addition to accrual accounting. Hopefully, this is something we will see with future updates.
For a free software, Wave offers a robust feature set that rivals even some paid accounting software programs – and the lack of limits on free features makes Wave even better. Below is a list of the basic features you can find in Wave. For further information, check out full list of feature descriptions here.
- Dashboard – The dashboard features neat charts for Recent Activity, Bank Accounts and Credit Cards, Income and Expenses, Payable and Owing, Net Income, and Expense Breakdown. Icons on the right-hand side mark common features.
- Invoicing – If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know I’m a little bit picky about invoicing templates (or a lot bit picky). But I have nothing to complain about with Wave. Wave provides three distinct, yet incredibly professional invoice templates with customizations like color and logo. You can create default notes, headings subheadings, and footers. You can also create recurring invoices and easily see if your customer has viewed an invoice or estimate already or not. The only thing a bit annoying is that sales tax has to be set for each item when creating an invoice (rather than simply calculated off the amount at the bottom of the invoice).
- Estimates – Estimates are also easy to create although there is only one default template. You can send invoices and estimates using Wave, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Outlook. You can also export estimates as PDFs or print them to be sent by mail
- Expense Tracking – You can either connect your account to bank live feeds or manually import bank statements. If you choose to manually import your data, you also have to manually and individually categorize each transaction, which takes a long time. Note: Like all software using bank live feeds, Wave partners with Yodlee, who may violate some banks’ Terms and Conditions. Consult with your bank to see whether live bank feeds are a good choice for you.
- Receipts– Mobile apps make it easy to snap a picture of your receipt and organize it in Wave. You can also upload your receipts manually or email your receipts to Wave and they will take care of it for you.
- Billing – Entering and paying bills is simple and easy to do. The only drawback is that you can’t set recurring bills.
- Item Tracking – This feature can’t quite be called inventory as there is no item tracking and zero reports regarding items. There is, however, a basic item list, which includes an item description, amount, account, and default sales taxes.
- Reports – Reports are incredibly easy to run, but the number of reports is limited. The three reports available are Profit and Loss, Account Transactions, and Balance Sheet.
- Sales Tax – The sales tax feature is pretty advanced for accounting software, especially a free one. You can set an indefinite amount of sales taxes in Wave. You can also set compound taxes and differentiate between recoverable and non-recoverable sales tax.
- Multi–Currency – Wave supports multiple currencies and exchange rates are updated daily.
- Imports/Exports – Wave allows for importing and invoicing of almost every feature except reports (the one that matters most). You cannot download or print the reports you’ve run.
Customer Service and Support:
Wave offers customer service support from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST.
For a free software, I was honestly surprised by the number of support resources offered. There are many paid accounting software options, QuickBooks included, who don’t provide this kind of sampling. Some may find the additional costs for chat and phone support annoying, but the free support is decent enough that I never found a need for the extra support. What’s more, support form response time has improved significantly since the last time we reviewed Wave. Supposedly, free email support users can expect responses within two-three days, while premium support users can expect one-day responses; however, as a free user, all of my questions were answered in less than a day. In addition, Wave has a good sampling of other resources including:
- Support Form – All customers receive free email support. An email form can be submitted here.
- Phone (Additional Cost) – Phone service is available at an additional cost of $19/mo. A contact number is made available at purchase.
- Chat (Additional Cost) – Chat is available for an additional cost of $9/mo or chat and phone combined is $19/mo. From reviews, I gather that chat is most helpful with questions on how to operate specific features.
- Help Center – Wave provides a comprehensive Help Center. It’s a bit hard to navigate at times, but it offers 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.
- Wave University – Wave University is similar to a help center, but focuses more on training people on how to use features, rather than trouble shoot them.
- YouTube – Wave offers over 87 YouTube videos and demonstrations that I found particularly helpful. There are short videos that explain each feature in detail or longer webinars that provide an overview of the entire software.
- Small Business Tips – This section of the Wave blog is geared specifically toward small business advice.
- Blog – The entire Wave blog can be found here.
- Social Media – Wave has Facebook and Twitter accounts, both of which they maintain regularly and use to post helpful articles and business insights. Facebook is a better place to look for customer service help, while Twitter is a better place to find a cute video or two about Wave kids and the Wave dog.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
With a few exceptions, Wave reviews are positive across the board. However, there are a few recurring issues that users have with the software:
- Slow Servers and Downtime – One of the biggest complaints is how slow the application can be. Users also complain about the amount of downtime the servers experiences. It doesn’t take much scrolling on Twitter to realize that this is still a very prevalent issue. One user even said that he doesn’t understand why Wave is so focused on adding new features when their existing ones don’t run well.
- Mobile App Bugs – Many users complained about mobile app bugs, particularly with Receipts by Wave. Wave is constantly updating their mobile apps, so hopefully these issues have been addressed already, if not in the near future.
- Lack of Reports – User after user begged for more reports than the three currently offered.
- Cry for More Features – In addition to more reports, users requested features like custom bank categories, billing subscriptions, open API, and estimates functionality with the mobile apps. Quite a few of these customers were also frustrated because they felt that Wave was not listening to their requests.
- Payments Take Too Long – A few users expressed concern (and mild rage) because the payments they were supposed to receive through Wave’s credit card processor were taking far too long to get to them.
- Lack of Integrations – Quite a few people complained about a lack of third-party integrations. However, with Wave’s new Zapier integration, this issue has definitely been resolved (more information below).
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
For the most part, Wave users seem genuinely pleased with the product. There are an ample number of reviews written about the software. Wave gets 4.5/5 stars on both Software Advice and G2Crowd, and 7.9/10 stars on Trust Radius. Almost every app by Wave is rated at 4+ stars (out of five), with the newest Android app coming in at 4.7/5 stars. In addition, Wave is BBB accredited and boasts an A+ on their site.
Some of the most common praise of Wave include:
- 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 e-commerce shop owners.
- Good Feature Selection – One of Wave’s most well-liked aspects is its robust feature set. Users especially like the receipt scanner, payroll feature, and multiple company support.
Here is what a few people 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?” – Scott E.
“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?” – Cathy Fanning | IT Consultant
“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 :)” – Puddle Town Woodworking
Integrations and Add-Ons:
While Wave has dropped several integrations since the last time I reviewed this software, they have added one major integration—Zapier. Zapier connects Wave users with nearly 500 third-party add-ons, which addresses one common complaint about lack of integrations. In addition to Zapier, the integration list for Wave includes:
- Paypal – Accept online payments and enable electronic payment of invoices. (Read our review here.)
- Etsy – Connects your Ety store expenses to Wave. Also provides a testimonial and media platform to promote your items.
- Shoeboxed – Replaces your receipt shoebox with a cloud-based expense tracking tool. Includes receipt scanning and expense reports.
Wave uses 256-bit data encryption as well as a read-only version of banking information to protect private data. Data is automatically backed up and servers are monitored 24/7 by physical security. Read more about Wave’s security measures here.
Ultimately, while Wave is lacking in a few areas, these deficits are more than outweighed by the number of excellent features offered at an unbeatable price. I would like to see the company restore their former number of reports. I also hope to see faster servers, a bank reconciliation solution, and a contact management section in the future. I have been told that banking rules, open API, and a lending feature are all in the works and will be coming out in New Waves over the next 6-18 months (although there is no specific update roadmap).
Until then, the current feature set and free price point will still be a good fit for many small businesses. The quality of these features often rivals and exceeds that of paid software. With beautiful invoicing, easy expense tracking, and no artificial limits on the word ‘free,’ Wave is definitely worth giving a try. Besides, it won’t cost you anything.