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QuickBooks® Online

Quickbooks Online has been a leading name in accounting software for decades. It offers a wide variety of features designed to meet the needs of both large and small businesses. While new users may experience some difficulty with learning how to use Quickbooks, we were impressed with the level of customer support offered. With Quickbooks Online, it's easy to scale your bookkeeping as your business grows, since it offers tiered packages for companies of all sizes.

A Favorite Among Accounting Professionals

Intuit’s QuickBooks® Online is one of the most widely-used accounting software programs for small businesses. With five different plans, including one for freelancers and independent contractors, the software provides features for businesses of all sizes and industries.

That said, QuickBooks Online does have a bit of a learning curve compared to other accounting software options, and it can be pricey, especially if you decide to add payroll services to your package. Here’s everything you need to know about QuickBooks Online and how to decide if it’s right for you.


  • Robust, comprehensive feature set
  • Access to assistance, from guided setup to ongoing support
  • Access to Intuit's virtual bookkeeping service for an additional fee
  • Easy integration with other business software, tools and accounts


  • Plans are relatively expensive compared to competitors; in some cases, freelancers and independent contractors can get by with free alternatives
  • Limited account users for lower-tier plans; only the highest tier plan allows for more than 5 users
  • Steep learning curve; new users may need some time to learn all the tips and tricks


  • QuickBooks Online offers a wide range of features for small and medium businesses across five plans.
  • The software program can have a steep learning curve, but most tiers (excluding Self-Employed) include free guided setup.
  • The software maker, Intuit, also offers add-ons, including time tracking, payroll management, payment processing and virtual bookkeeping.
  • QuickBooks Online can be costly compared to competitors, so it's crucial that you consider both the benefits and drawbacks before you sign up.

About QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online


QuickBooks was first introduced as a desktop version and quickly became the most popular bookkeeping software among small- and medium-sized businesses. In 2001, Intuit launched QuickBooks Online and has made adjustments and improvements since then to provide better services to a wide variety of small business owners. According to Intuit, more than 7 million customers use QuickBooks Online around the world.

With QuickBooks Online, small business owners don't need to download any software because the software is cloud-based. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access your financials in real-time. In addition to various bookkeeping features, QuickBooks Online also offers payroll services, time tracking, and payment processing, which you can add to your plan. You can even opt to hand over all of your bookkeeping to an expert at Intuit.

Because the QuickBooks Online software can be difficult to navigate at first for uninitiated customers, Intuit offers free guided setup on all plans except the Self-Employed version or during a free trial.

Currently, all plans are 50% off for your first three months; the prices below are the non-promo cost per month.

QuickBooks Online Plans

Plan Monthly Cost



Simple Start








QuickBooks Online Self-Employed

The least expensive of the five tiers, QuickBooks Online Self-Employed, is designed specifically for freelancers and independent contractors. For $15 per month, it offers the following features:

  • Import and track your income and expenses
  • Capture and organize receipts
  • Estimate quarterly tax payments
  • Basic reports, including year-by-year summaries of work activity
  • Track miles

If you also want to do your taxes with TurboTax®, you can upgrade to the Self-Employed Tax Bundle for $25 per month, which allows you to pay your quarterly taxes directly from QuickBooks, transfer your data directly into TurboTax, and get one federal and one state tax return filing.

Finally, you can upgrade to the Self-Employed Live Tax Bundle for $35 per month, which gives you access to a CPA throughout the year, who will also do a final review of your tax return before you submit it.

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QuickBooks Online Simple Start

If you're just starting out or your small business is still in its early stages of growth, you may consider the Simple Start plan, which costs $30 per month. With this tier, you'll get everything from the Self-Employed plan, plus the following:

  • Maximize tax deductions
  • Customize invoices and accept payments from clients and customers
  • Create custom estimates, which can be converted into invoices
  • Track sales and calculate sales tax
  • Manage 1099 contractors
  • Connect one online sales channel
  • Forecast cash flow

QuickBooks Online Essentials

At $55 per month, the Essentials plan adds value to business owners who want more automation with their invoices and payments and prefer more detailed reports. In addition to Simple Start plan features, the Essentials plan offers:

  • Recurring invoice billing and vendor payments
  • Track bill status
  • Detailed reports, including sales, accounts receivable, and accounts payable
  • Time tracking for you and your employees
  • Connect three online sales channels

Also, unlike the lower-tier plans, Essentials allows up to three users, making it a better option for partnerships and small businesses with multiple stakeholders.

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QuickBooks Online Plus

As your business grows, so will your need for a more detailed analysis of your financials and forecasting. With QuickBooks Online Plus, which costs $85 per month, you'll get just that. On top of the Essentials plan features, you'll also get the following:

  • Profitability tracking for individual projects, including user-friendly dashboards and detailed reports
  • Inventory tracking, including alerts when it's low
  • More specific budgeting, inventory, and class reports
  • Connect all online sales channels

With the Plus plan, you can add up to five users to your QuickBooks Online account, giving better access to stakeholders as you grow.

QuickBooks Online Advanced

The most expensive QuickBooks Online tier, the Advanced plan, is designed for medium-sized businesses with a lot of stakeholders, more complex needs, and integrations. In addition to the QuickBooks Online Plus features, the Advanced plan offers the following features for $200 per month:

  • Seamless data transfer between QuickBooks and Excel for better insights and analytics
  • Integrate premium apps, including LeanLaw, HubSpot, DocuSsign®,, Salesforce, Centage, and more
  • On-demand training to make the most of the software
  • Data backups and restoration services
  • Unlimited chart of accounts and entries
  • Employee expense tracking and management
  • Customized access for users
  • A dedicated account team at Intuit
  • Workflow automation
  • Custom reports
  • Class and location tracking for revenue

Business owners can add up to 25 users to their books and also invite up to three bookkeepers or CPAs.

QuickBooks Online Add-Ons

In addition to the five pricing tiers, Intuit offers some standalone or add-on services that you can choose based on your company's needs. Here's a quick summary of what's available.


QuickBooks offers three payroll tiers, ranging from $45 to $125 per month — again, with a 50% discount for the first three months. You'll pay between $5 and $10 per employee in addition to that base rate. 

Here's what you'll get with each tier:

Payroll Core Payroll Premium Payroll Elite


$45 plus $5 per employee per month

$75 plus $8 per employee per month

$125 plus $10 per employee per month


  • Full-service payroll
  • Auto payroll
  • Health benefits
  • 401(k) plans
  • 1099 e-file and pay
  • Expert product support
  • Next-day direct deposit
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Automated taxes and forms
  • Workforce portal
  • Garnishment and deduction management
  • Payroll reports
  • All Payroll Core benefits
  • Same-day direct deposit
  • Workers’ compensation administration
  • HR support center
  • 24/7 expert product support
  • Expert review of your payroll setup
  • Time tracking on the go
  • All Payroll Premium benefits
  • Expert setup
  • Time and project tracking on the go
  • Tax penalty protection
  • Personal HR advisor

Time Tracking

QuickBooks Online offers two time-tracking pricing tiers:

  • Premium - $20 plus $8 per user per month
  • Elite - $40 plus $10 per user per month

Both tiers allow business owners to keep track of their employee attendance and time off, schedule shifts, and streamline payroll and invoicing.

Additionally, the Elite tier provides project tracking, allowing you to compare estimates for actuals, view a feed of project activity, and more.


As previously mentioned, some of the QuickBooks Online plans allow you to receive payments from clients and customers. There's no cost to set up payment processing, but Intuit charges fees for ACH, debit card, and credit card transactions.

Transaction Fee

ACH bank payments

1% ($10 maximum)

Credit or debit card through an invoice

2.9% plus $0.25

Credit or debit card via a card reader

2.4% plus $0.25

Credit or debit card keyed

3.4% plus $0.25

Virtual Bookkeeping

If you're not comfortable managing your business finances, you can enlist the help of a live bookkeeper who can go through your books and bring them up to date. There is an upfront cleanup fee for this service, which is based on your signup month, tax filing status, and business start date.

You'll then get ongoing support, so you don't have to worry about bookkeeping going forward. The bookkeeper will provide you with essential reports, so you can make better business decisions and ensure that your books are ready for tax season every year.

That said, it doesn't include financial advisory services, tax advice, income or sales tax return filing, creating or sending 1099s, or payroll management. The fee, which starts at $200 per month, also doesn't include a QuickBooks Online subscription.


Overall, QuickBooks Online offers an immense amount of value, as well as more than enough features to handle the average business's accounting needs. However, as with any tool or service you. can use to manage your business finances, there are some instances where it may not be the best choice for what you're trying to accomplish.

  • Plans are Relatively Expensive: Compared to some of its competitors, QuickBooks Online can be expensive, particularly for smaller businesses that only need basic reporting, invoicing, and bookkeeping software. In some cases, freelancers and independent contractors can get what they need for free.
  • Limited Account Users on Lower-Tier Plans: Unless you shell out for the highest-tier plan, the largest number of users you can have at a time is five, and the cheapest plan doesn't allow for multiple users at all.
  • Potentially Steep Learning Curve: You don't have to be an accounting whiz to understand QuickBooks Online, but it can take some time to get set up and to learn all the tips and tricks to maximizing the program's features — even with help from an Intuit expert.

The Bottom Line: Is QuickBooks Online Right for You?

Before you make a decision about your bookkeeping software, it's important to understand your company's needs, your experience with bookkeeping, and your budget. Take your time to shop around and compare multiple options to get an idea of what's available and how much what you need would cost.

Ready to give QuickBooks a try? Start here.

Then, compare pricing and plans across multiple providers to determine the best fit for you. If you're already working with an accountant or a bookkeeper, seek their advice as you make your decision. While you can always switch to a different software program later, the process can be tedious and time-consuming, so it's best to research all of your options thoroughly now to avoid having to switch later.


Ben Luthi

Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer and credit card expert. He has a degree in finance from Brigham Young University and worked in financial planning, banking and auto finance before writing full-time for NerdWallet and Student Loan Hero. Ben is now a full-time freelance writer and enjoys traveling and spending time with his two kids. His work has appeared in several publications, including U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Money, Success and Slickdeals.