Xero VS Wave

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Xero vs. Wave

TieHardware or Software RequirementsTie
Users and Permissions
Ease of Use
Mobile Apps
Customer Service and Support
TieNegative Reviews and ComplaintsTie
TiePositive Reviews and TestimonialsTie
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Choosing accounting software is hard enough. But when you are stuck comparing apples to oranges, what do you do? Although Wave and Xero are two cloud-based accounting programs, they definitely stem from their own separate trees.

Xero is a robust accounting solution that rivals QuickBooks in terms of capability and popularity. It’s been around since 2006 and offers fully featured mobile apps, amazing customer service, access for unlimited users, and an impressive feature selection. Although the company says they are “small business” software, the depth of features and steep pricing is much more suitable for mid to large-sized businesses.

Wave, on the other hand, is completely designed with the small business in mind. The software is easy to use and is full of features like invoicing, contact management, personal and business expense tracking, and even lending. But what makes this option even more appealing is the pricing. Wave is completely free, and there’s no catch.

So, when you have two very different software options designed for two distinct audiences on opposite ends of the pricing spectrum, how do you decide which will be the most fruitful for your company? Well, that’s what we’re here to tell you.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll put Wave and Xero head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.


Winner: Xero

Both software programs offer a detailed chart of accounts, a bank reconciliation feature, and the basic accounting reports you need to run your business. However, Xero comes out victorious because it supports both accrual and cash basis accounting and has far more reports than Wave. Wave only offers accrual accounting, which is surprising since the company designs their software for smaller business owners.


Winner: Xero

Expense Tracking
Bank Reconciliation
Separate Personal and Business Expenses
Chart of Accounts
Contact Management
Accounts Payable
Time Tracking
Tracking Categories
Sales Tax
Tax Support
Importing & Exporting

In the chart above, each software only has two X’s, so doesn’t that make them completely even in this category? Well, that’s not necessarily the case.

While Wave offers an incredible amount of features, Xero offers more. And in most cases, Xero’s features are more thorough and capable (the only exception being that Wave offers much better invoicing customizations). Xero offers invoicing, expense tracking, complex contact management, inventory, 60+ reports, class tracking, and even tax support.


Winner: Wave

Here is where Xero drops the ball. Xero offers five scalable pricing plans ranging from $9-$180/mo. While there is a small Xero plan available, the five invoices and 20 bank transactions limitation renders this plan almost useless to small business owners, especially in comparison to Wave.

Wave is completely free—no catches, no gimmicks, and no artificial limits on features. This price point is particularly appealing if you look back at the features chart and realize how many of the same features you are getting for $0/mo. If you run a small business, Wave is definitely the better option; Xero can actually be quite spendy. (For mid-large size businesses, the steep cost may not matter as much, but for small business owners trying to stay afloat, every penny counts.)

Hardware or Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

As cloud-based software, both Wave and Xero are compatible with nearly any device, so long as you have an internet connection.

Users and Permissions

Winner: Xero

Both Wave and Xero boast unlimited users, which is almost unheard of in the accounting software world. However, Xero far exceeds Wave in terms of user permissions. Wave offers a “read-only” restriction, but any other users will have full access to all features and data. Xero, on the other hand, has much more developed user permissions. You can set five different levels of access and grant or restrict access based on specific features as well. You can also require users to send completed invoices, bills, or expenses in for approval before being sent.

Ease of Use

Winner: Wave

Here is where Wave shines. Wave is incredibly easy to use. The software is quick to learn and simple to set up. Good customer service makes any hiccups along the way easy to overcome. Because Xero is more detailed, it takes a little longer to get used to. Tedious .csv imports also make the setup process a long one for Xero users.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Wave

Wave’s iOS and Android apps–Receipts by Wave, Invoices by Wave, and Payroll by Wave (just for iOS)–have received high praise from customers. The recent redesign of the Invoices by Wave app has been received well and offers strong invoicing features on the go. Some users complain about how Wave breaks their apps up by features rather than offering a general, comprehensive app, but these complaints are far fewer than the complaints about the Xero app.

Xero users are generally unhappy with the limited functionality of their apps and the constant bugs and crashes.

Customer Service and Support

Winner: Xero

To this day, Xero has the best customer service I have seen. Not only does the company offer a great number of support options, the customer service representatives are also well informed and incredibly quick to respond to inquiries. The longest I ever had to wait for a response was sixty minutes.

Wave still put up a good fight here as they also offer good customer service. Wave just has fewer support options and responses are slightly more delayed (inquiries are responded to within a day, which is still impressive, especially compared to other accounting software companies like Quickbooks).

Negative Reviews and Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both companies can stop holding their breath over which unlucky software wins this section. Both Xero and Wave are generally loved by their users. Reviews are positive overall, and about the same number of complaints can be found for both companies.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Xero has more positive reviews, simply because it has been around for longer and has a larger user base. However, the ratio between positive and negative reviews is similar for both companies. Xero and Wave receive high praise from their users across multiple review platforms, which is a plus for both software companies.


Winner: Xero

Both Xero and Wave integrate with Zapier, an add-on that connects your software with 750+ applications. However, in addition to Zapier, Xero boasts 500+ integrations, as opposed to Wave’s three. So, Xero takes the cake here.


Winner: Xero

Ordinarily, this section results in a tie, but Xero has set itself apart in terms of security. Both Wave and Xero use data encryption and redundancy, as well as physical security measures at their prospective data centers. However, Xero performs regular security audits and boasts an unheard-of record of 99.97% uptime.

To learn more about cloud security read our article, Is My Accounting Safe in the Cloud? and What is SSL? A First Look at Online Security.

And the Overall Winner Is…

Wave vs Xero

Despite the fact that Xero has won nearly every category, I still had a hard time declaring it the winner. Xero has proved itself to be the superior software in theory, but Wave may sometimes prove the best choice in practice.

Wave is ideal for small businesses in need of basic accounting and beautiful invoicing. The free pricing structure of Wave is nearly unbelievable. For companies who are looking to save money, or who are not quite ready for the in-depth features of Xero, Wave is a brilliant choice. Wave is also ideal for Etsy sellers since the software offers a strong Etsy integration and allows you to separate personal and business expenses.

For mid- to large-sized businesses, or businesses looking for a scalable software that will grow with their company, Xero is the best choice; the company even holds the Merchant Maverick title of “Best Accounting Software for Larger Businesses.” This software boasts incredibly detailed and robust features, amazing customer service, and unparalleled uptime, as well as ample integrations and positive customer reviews. If you are looking for strong accounting capabilities, Xero won’t let you down. If you choose to go with Xero, check out our free How To Set Up Your Xero Account guide to learn how to optimize your account.

Whichever you choose—Xero, Wave, or even something else altogether—our comprehensive reviews can help you make an informed decision during your hunt for the perfect accounting software.

Read our full Xero and Wave reviews for more information. After doing your research, be sure to take each software for a test run, and feel free to reach out with any questions you have along the way.

Get Started With Xero

Get Started With Wave

Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause

Head Accounting and Invoicing Writer
Chelsea Krause is a writer, avid reader, and researcher. She became interested in accounting software because of her constant desire to learn something new and understand how things work. When she's not working, she can be found drinking obscene amounts of coffee, daydreaming about her newest story, reading anything written by C.S. Lewis or Ray Bradbury, kayaking and hiking, or watching The X-Files with her husband.
Leave a comment



    Hi there,

    Thanks so much for this article! It was really helpful. I had actually already looked at both apps and decided to go with wave. It’s incredibly user friendly, and glad to hear that you recommend it for small businesses like myself! Definitely the better choice for now =)

      Chelsea Krause

      Hi Imogen,

      I’m glad you found this helpful, and I’m happy to hear that you’ve found a great solution for your business!

      Best wishes,

      -Chelsea Krause


        Great article, thanks! If I started out with Wave, could I export the data to import into Xero at a later date?

          Chelsea Krause

          Hi Laura,

          I’m glad to hear you found this post helpful! You absolutely can start with Wave and export the data when you’re ready to switch over to Xero.

          You can export your company data from Wave via .csv or .xls. You’ll want to use .csv in order to import the information into Xero. With Xero, you can import a chart of accounts, contacts, items, invoices, credit notes, bills, bank statements, and more via .csv.

          Xero has fairly strict .csv templates that you have to follow, so you most likely will need to edit your company information from Wave before you can import it successfully. The process will take some time, but it is definitely doable, and Xero offers great customer service if you need any help along the way.

          I hope this helps and feel free to reach out if you have any further questions!

          – Chelsea Krause

            Jonathan Ephraim

            Which software do you prefer as a writer?

              Chelsea Krause

              Hi Jonathon,

              Honestly, I’m really fond of both programs. I like both Wave and Xero’s feature set and customer support. For me, the main kicker on which software is best depends on how much prior accounting knowledge you have and what size business you run. While I love the in-depth features of Xero (and while it has more features than Wave), the software can be pretty hard to learn if you aren’t experienced in accounting or business. Wave is much easier to use, but not quite as developed (though it does still have most everything I look for in a software as a writer).

              When it comes down to it, I would choose to use Wave personally if I were running a small business and Xero if I were running a large business.

              I hope this helps!

              -Chelsea Krause

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