Square Payroll VS Gusto: Which Payroll Software Is Better?
|Pricing Start Point||Good||Excellent|
|Ease of Use||Excellent||Excellent|
|Reviews & Complaints||Excellent||Good|
|Hardware & Software Requirements||Fair||Excellent|
|Best For||Small to midsize businesses||Small to midsize businesses|
|Next Steps||Start Trial
Between balancing the books, serving customers, and managing employees, small business owners have plenty on their plates. Using payroll software to calculate your workers’ paychecks and tax withholdings is an easy way to save precious time and get you back to running your business.
At Merchant Maverick, we know the importance of finding solutions that work for your small business’s needs and budget. Thus, we’ve created this handy guide to compare two top payroll software applications: Square and Gusto.
We’ll dive into each software’s features, pricing, compatible integrations, and feedback from small business users. Read on for our Gusto vs. Square Payroll comparison, and find out which software which is the best option for your business.
Table of Contents
Square Payroll VS Gusto
Payroll software isn’t a cookie-cutter solution. By examining Square Payroll vs. Gusto, we’ll weigh the pros and cons, including a plan-by-plan breakdown for each. While both software apps boast easy-to-use interfaces and competitive pricing, there are some key differences to consider when choosing between Square Payroll and Gusto.
Before hashing out the details, we’ll start with a high-level view of both payroll options, including their pros and cons.
Square is well-known in the small business community for its multitude of products and services, such as point of sale (POS) and payment processing. When it comes to payroll, Square Payroll checks the boxes for easy use and compliance. With any subscription, Square’s features cover the essential payroll functions like direct deposit and tax filing.
For small businesses already using other Square products, tacking on Square Payroll is a logical choice to further integrate operations. For instance, businesses with Square POS can carry over its time-tracking functions at the register for employees to clock in or out of their shift. It’s as easy as setting up each employee with their own unique code in the system.
Square’s straightforward dashboard and features have garnered praise from payroll newbies. However, businesses may find the narrow scope of features limiting, though they can pony up for add-ons like workers’ compensation insurance and 401k retirement plans. Square Payroll’s pricing structure, which is largely on a per-employee basis, lends itself to small to medium businesses that don’t need extra bells and whistles.
- Straight-forward pricing breakdown
- Good tax support
- Handy mobile app
- Easy to integrate with Square’s other products
- Included features are less advanced compared to Gusto
- Limited reporting options
- Less health benefits options than Gusto
Formerly known as ZenPayroll, Gusto has been in the payroll software industry since 2012. The cloud-based payroll platform has a reputation for its straightforward interface and the ease at which it can automatically calculate payroll and tax filings. Gusto supports flexible payment schedules too, which comes in handy whether following a standard bi-weekly plan or periodically doling out bonuses and commissions.
Gusto is effective at integrating other aspects of business, such as HR, employee onboarding, and benefits administration. Through the employee portal, workers can log hours and keep track of PTO with any of Gusto’s three plans. Additionally, Gusto can sync up with third-party applications, such as the popular accounting program QuickBooks.
Gusto has the essential nuts and bolts of payroll covered, but its provision of extra features isn’t extensive across its three plans: Core, Complete, and Concierge. This actually makes Gusto a budget-friendly option, even with some extra add-ons like health insurance and 401(k) plan support. Between pricing and features, Gusto is a fit for many small and midsize businesses looking for a practical platform to take care of payroll.
- Transparent pricing for tiered plans
- Integrated time tracking and HR
- Intuitive user interface
- Prepares year-end tax forms
- Unlimited payroll runs (for businesses with <100 employees)
- Limited time tracking
- Only supports 11 reports, similar to Square
- Health insurance offered in only 38 states and D.C.
|Unlimited Pay Runs||✔︎||✔︎|
|Benefits Administration||Costs extra||✔︎|
|New Hire Reporting||✔︎||✔︎|
|Next Steps||Start Trial
On the surface, Square and Gusto have many of the same payroll features. However, the functionality and cost of certain features are quite different in practice. Let’s take a closer look at Gusto vs Square payroll to see how they stack up on some key features.
HR & Employee Management
Payroll software isn’t just about processing payment and taxes. Many applications, including Gusto and Square Payroll, come with some HR features and employee management tools too.
With either Square plan, businesses can handle basic HR tasks like employee onboarding. For more comprehensive HR features though, you’ll have to purchase teams management — an add-on feature that costs an extra $35 a month per business location. Through teams management, you can input job titles, PTO, benefits, deductions, and garnishments for all your employees. Businesses can also set varying degrees of access, depending on whether an employee has HR responsibilities or not.
Gusto offers some HR functions across all three of its plans, though Core is pretty limited beyond PTO. Upgrading to the Complete plan grants access to a greater range of HR tools, including employee surveys, PTO requests, and onboarding new hires. Gusto’s most expensive plan, Concierge, packs the most HR support, including compliance assistance, custom employee handbooks, and training courses. Once set up, the employee dashboard has specific sections for employees, contractors, offers, and an organization chart to assign managers to each worker.
Gusto’s UI makes benefit administration easy to do from the employer dashboard. It’ll indicate what benefits you offer, which you don’t, and the enrollment period for each, so you don’t accidentally have a lapse in coverage. All three plans handle garnishment payments, whereas holiday pay is only included in the Complete and Concierge plans. Additional benefits like Gusto 401k, college savings plans, and tax-advantaged spending accounts can be tacked too for extra monthly payments.
Square Payroll also makes benefits administration easy to access on the employer dashboard. Similar to Gusto, it highlights which benefits you do and don’t offer. Where the two software apps diverge, however, is in benefits options. For example, Gusto offers thousands of health plans, whereas Square partners with SimplyInsured for health benefits. If your benefits exist outside the scope of Square and its partners, you’ll have to do more work to calculate deductions yourself.
Gusto’s pricing structure lets small businesses make easy cost comparisons and determine how a prospective plan would fit within their budget. The monthly cost per plan is characterized by a base rate plus a flat fee added for every person in a customer’s payroll.
- Basic: $19/month + $6/month per person (employee or subcontractor)
- Core: $39/month + $6/month per person
- Complete: $39/month + $12/month per person
- Concierge: $149/month + $12/month per person
In terms of general Gusto pricing, there are extra costs for adding on benefits administration services and other features to complement Gusto’s payroll software. For instance, customers can tack on health benefits, Gusto 401k retirement plans, workers’ compensation insurance, 529 college savings plan, and tax-advantaged spending accounts
Square Payroll pricing is about as straightforward as it gets for both plans. The Pay Contractors Only Plan is well-suited for businesses with 1099 employees exclusively.
- Pay Contractors Only Plan: $5/month per person paid.
- Pay Employees & Contractors Plan: $29/month plus $5/month per person paid
Square Payroll has several optional add-on features, including health, worker’s compensation, and retirement benefits. These are offered by partner companies and vary in price per small business customer. Generally, they charge a monthly rate that increases incrementally per employee.
Ease Of Use
Since small businesses generally run payroll on a biweekly or semi-monthly basis, being comfortable with using the interface and features should be key considerations when deciding between Square Payroll vs. Gusto Payroll.
The first step is setting up the software. With Gusto, you’ll have to handle this yourself, though there are step-by-step instructions and customer support available to help guide you along. While this may take more upfront work, you may be able to get your payroll up and running quicker than waiting for assistance from corporate headquarters.
Similarly, Square Payroll does not complete implementation for its customers. In a nutshell, the initial set up is as easy as inputting your business information, such as address and tax information. From there, you can begin entering employee information, including pay rates, your PTO accrual system, and other functions.
While browsing customer reviews, it’s clear that most small businesses find Gusto’s employer portal to be well-organized. The main dashboard includes a “things to do” list that provides updates if payroll is coming up or notifications that you have time-off requests from employees. Gusto’s payroll features, such as run payroll and time tracking, are listed on a left-hand sidebar that’s visible from the dashboard.
Once Square Payroll is set up and ready, employers can quickly access features from a dashboard on the left-hand side of the screen. This includes sections for tax forms, payroll history, team management, and possible integrations, such as Intuit QuickBooks.
Both Square Payroll and Gusto have employee portals that make it easy for small business workers to take care of payroll and HR needs. Gusto’s employee portal is easy to use and provides information on payroll schedules, tax withholdings, and PTO requests among other features.
With Square, employees receive an email to handle onboarding themselves. They’ll choose their preferred payment method and fill out tax information, which then integrates with the employer portal. The employee portal is also where they go to print off tax forms and pay stubs.
Customer Service & Support
Small businesses using Square Payroll can access customer support specialists Monday to Friday from 6am-6pm PST. In some cases, small businesses have complained about a lack of payroll knowledge among call center representatives. Other outlets for accessing customer support include email, social media, and in-software chat forums. If you’re in need of immediate assistance outside business hours or prefer taking the DIY route, Square’s help center contains plenty of how-to articles and YouTube tutorials.
Gusto’s quality customer support is one of its main selling points. Once you’re a Gusto customer, you can reach support staff by phone, email, live chat, and social media during business hours from Monday through Friday. If you’re in need of assistance outside these hours, you’re still in luck. Gusto’s Help Center, Resource Center, and Ask Gusto how-to articles are loaded with useful tips and information. Although all four Gusto plans have access to customer support, the Concierge plan delivers the extra perk of a dedicated customer service team to help with HR and compliance.
Reviews & Complaints
Having dealt with countless customers, small businesses don’t need reminding to take the most outlandish complaints with a grain of salt. Still, looking at reviews from other small business customers brings up some consistent trends for both Gusto and Square Payroll.
Generally speaking, Gusto receives mostly positive feedback. Reviews have praised their tax support, as well as the software’s intuitive nature, transparent pricing, and its ability to save business owners time and energy. On the flip side, some customers have complained about limited reporting and analytics. In some cases, customers have expressed the wish that Gusto covered international employees and contractors too.
Square also has more positive than negative reviews on the whole. For the most part, users enjoy Square’s straightforward UI and payroll processing. They also find the payroll reminders and transparent pricing to be positive attributes. Like Gusto, the limited reporting is a recurring complaint. Customers who don’t use other Square products have expressed frustration with a dashboard crowded with programs they don’t even use. Finally, small businesses that need greater customization in their payroll scheduling and deductions have taken issue with Square’s inability to accommodate their unique needs.
Syncing up payroll with other aspects of your business can further streamline operations and save time. Gusto has 26 integrations, as well as an Application Programming Interface (API) to connect other applications. From a small business standpoint, accounting, POS, and expense tracking are some helpful integrations. Since Gusto’s time tracking capacity is limited, users will be glad to know that TSheets can be easily paired with payroll to enhance scheduling abilities.
Small businesses that already use Square POS, Square Appointments, or any of its other products will appreciate how easily they interconnect. When it comes to other integrations though, Square Payroll is a bit limited compared to Gusto. Outside its own applications, Square Payroll has six other possible integrations, most notably QuickBooks, TSheets, and ZipRecruiter.
The Key Differences Between Square Payroll & Gusto
After evaluating Square Payroll vs. Gusto by features, pricing, ease of use, customer support, reviews and complaints, and integrations, let’s revisit the most notable differences between both payroll options.
- Pricing Structures: Square’s Pay Contractors Only plan is incredibly affordable for small businesses that fit this model. Aside from this bare bones plan, Square Payroll and Gusto have similar pricing structures, with Square offering slightly cheaper rates. The tables may turn when add-on features begin stacking up.
- Employer Mobile App: If you’re on the go and traveling often, Square’s mobile app can let you run payroll wherever you are. At this time, Gusto does not offer a mobile app.
- Benefits Administration: Comprehensive benefits administration requires paying for add-on features for both software applications. However, Gusto’s range of options significantly outnumber Square’s.
- Integrations: Gusto’s 26 integrations to Square Payroll’s six is an obvious difference. It’s also worth noting that Square’s other products can interconnect other components of your business and that Gusto’s API allows developers to do more integrations.
Which Is Best For My Business Needs: Gusto Or Square Payroll?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to running a small business, and the same goes for processing payroll. For the most part, small business customers are satisfied with Gusto and Square Payroll. That being said, there are some situations when one option outweighs the other.
Choose Square Payroll If…
- You have a small business that exclusively employs 1099 contractors
- You’re not interested in tons of add-on features
- You already use other Square products, such as Square Online, Square POS, and Square Marketing.
Choose Gusto If…
- You run a small or startup businesses
- You value streamlined payroll, HR, and benefits management over sophisticated analytics and reporting.
- You need flexible payroll runs for contractors, tipped workers, or employees earning bonuses or commission.
Square Payroll VS Gusto Comparison: The Final Verdict
Gusto’s success in the payroll realm can be attributed to its transparent, budget-friendly pricing structure and easy-to-manage interface. The software’s leading features – automated payroll processing, direct deposits, tax filing, and PTO management – are available across all four plans. Benefit options, such as medical, vision, dental, 401(k), and tax-advantaged savings accounts are affordable add-on features if desired. For these reasons, small and startup businesses stand to benefit from the straightforward features, pricing, and integration with other software and applications.
When taken together with its sister products, Square Payroll can offer a comprehensive timekeeping, payroll, and payment processing solution for small businesses. Square Payroll pricing is among the most competitive in the industry, and their transparent rates mean you don’t have to stress about hidden fees throwing a wrench in your budget. Although the features aren’t leading the pack, they have the nuts and bolts of payroll and tax filing covered for small-medium businesses. If you’re not currently using or considering other Square products, Gusto’s superior customization and employee management may be worth the modest bump in pricing.