Here at we’re looking to help people either starting out with their own business or those seeking to improve the running of their current one. Toward that end we’ve done a series on best cloud-based accounting programs, as well as some comparisons between the more popular ones like QuickBooks Online vs. Xero.

In this article we’ll be looking at two online accounting solutions tailored for people that don’t necessarily want to spend too much time doing their books, but want to cover the basics well enough that they don’t need an accountant to do all the work for them. Those professionals charge hefty fees, after all.

FreshBooks and Wave are two programs that both aim at helping people with no clue on how to do their own books with their daily accounting through a clean, simple interface and other user-friendly features. Both come with a fairly manageable learning curve and are ideal for novice bookkeepers.

Read our in-depth analyses: FreshBooks Review 2018 and Wave Review 2018.

Of course there are plenty of differences between the two as well, which we’ve spread out over several categories we think will be most important to our readers. Below you’ll find them, as well as which of the two compared online accounting solutions has the most to offer per set of features.

Table of Contents


Keeping track of incoming money is one of the main reasons business owners opt to start doing their own books. Invoices are bound to all manner of spoken and unspoken rules and not only do you want to make sure all of them are recorded in one place, they need to look good, too.

Wave does a great job of both: not only does it offer all kinds of customization options for your invoices, more than any competitor, putting together all the data necessary is a matter of a few clicks.

FreshBooks, in contrast, despite having been designed as an invoicing program from the get-go, feels almost clunky when compared to Wave despite its new, revamped look. Though it’s a wonderful program in its own right, after some time spent with Wave you get the feeling this is how it should be done.

Merchant Services

When sending out invoices, some businesses will find great benefit with attaching a payment link directly to the invoice. Especially if you’re dealing with a large number of small amounts a PayPal or credit card option is great.

Until recently, FreshBooks only offered this service through third-party provider Stripe but now North American users can access an integrated option. Wave offers both Stripe integration as well as an integrated option for users anywhere.

This may be more important than it seems at first as having a built-in merchant service means that you won’t have to import data or, worse yet, enter it by hand. If you’re in the States or Canada, either program works fine, but outside you may want to consider opting for Wave.


You need to know how much money is coming in and preferably be able to see it at a single glance. Both do a great job at this, but with FreshBooks there’s nothing to see after that first look: what you see is what you get and if you need more detailed information you’re out of luck.

Wave offers a full battery of reports, graphs and charts, so aficionados of these should definitely stick with that one. That tight grasp on your business’ finances can mean a lot in a tight spot.

Though FreshBooks is not without its merits in this department, the trophy for invoicing goes to Wave.


When it comes to keeping track of outgoing money both programs are a little limited compared to the competition, offering very basic data entry and without the layering of different kinds of outgoing money.

Neither offers another handy feature: paying bills. The only cloud accounting solution that seems to offer BillPay is QuickBooks Online.

Wave does a slightly better than FreshBooks in the billing department, offering better import of data as well as more different options. Wave wins this round thanks to its slightly better implementation of these features.

Bank Feeds

A huge advantage to taking your books online is the ability to link your bank account to your accounting program, eliminating data entry and making checking the numbers a lot easier.

FreshBooks has done a lot of work recently, so now both it and Wave offer thousands of banks from all over the world you can link to. In both cases linking is a piece of cake thanks to some great menus and you’ll be up and running in no time.

Navigating the banking screen is a teensy bit better in Wave, so it wins in this category, but the difference is negligible.


Well, you can’t beat free, so Wave wins this category by default: except for payroll and merchant services this app offers a full accounting suite free of charge. Even then, you’re looking at a very reasonable cost unless you have more than five employees.

FreshBooks’ Pricing Plans

Price Plan
$ 15 00monthly
$ 25 00monthly
$ 50 00monthly
Users 5 50 500

Process unlimited invoices,
Send unlimited estimates,
Accept credit card payments online,
Sync with bank accounts.

Process unlimited invoices,
Send unlimited estimates,
Send proposals,
Accept credit card payments online,
Send payment reminders & charge late fees,
Schedule recurring expense payments,
Sync with bank accounts,
Reports included.

Process unlimited invoices,
Send unlimited estimates,
Send proposals,
Accept credit card payments online,
Send payment reminders & charge late fees,
Schedule recurring expense payments,
Sync with bank accounts,
Reports included.

FreshBooks, on the other hand, can be a good deal if you’re a small business. However, the mid-range plan is a little on the expensive side, with the top-end one being one of the most pricey on the market.

In fact, FreshBooks’ top-range plan loses out on almost every comparison, so large businesses should avoid this program unless spending money for no reason is part of company strategy.

Though it could be construed as a little unfair, Wave wins here, hands down.


Using either program is a real pleasure: buttons are where they need to be, there’s little jargon to be found and they run smoothly on even older computers. Wave is the more aesthetically pleasing of the two, with cute little animations making your tasks marginally less dreary.

FreshBooks design is all about getting stuff done with it’s stark color scheme and massive buttons. It’s rather basic, but is not without its merits. A certain kind of user could greatly enjoy using this program.


At first glance the two programs look a lot alike, though Wave has more buttons since it can do a little more than FreshBooks can. This first impression is proven as you use either of the two: both are responsive, easy to use and have a flat learning curve that will have you using them like a pro within a day or two.

The main difference between the two, again, is that Wave is a little harder to use simply by having more things it can do. This lack of capability makes FreshBooks a little bit easier to handle, though as a user you’ll most likely be hitting a ceiling at some point.

Wave can just do more, yet its interface is still designed to be simple.


Wave and FreshBooks both have extensive documentation to help bookkeepers new and experienced along in using their respective products. Wave’s is a tiny bit more comprehensive, but that coincides with the application’s greater range of functions.

When using either accounting program, users are greeted by pop-ups that explain all the different buttons to you and will tell you how information should be entered. The language on these is easy to understand and you’ll be using either program like a pro within a few days.

Troubleshooting is also done through guides and the programs’ forums, so it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need direct help from a rep, when you do, however…

Customer Service

Occasionally you’ll still encounter a problem you can’t solve with guides and users that are particularly worried about this are best off with FreshBooks and their 24-hour helpline. Their friendly reps know what they’re talking about and you’ll be out of the woods in no time.

Not that Wave is bad, they just don’t offer a live person to talk to. Their system works like many others do, giving users the option to submit a support ticket and then sorting the problem out as best they can through email and chat.

On the whole, FreshBooks and Wave both offer a very pleasant experience for users, with few real drawbacks in either. FreshBooks, however, ads that little extra something that makes the difference between good and excellent and it therefore wins this round.

Advanced Functions

Though not applicable to everyone, whether an online accounting solution offers advanced functions for users that need them now or in the future can be important.

If you feel you’re in that group, you may want to give FreshBooks a miss. Though the company is constantly improving their product, anything beyond the basics is currently not really happening.

Wave doesn’t offer much either in this department, but it has a little more than FreshBooks as well as slightly better plug-in support for third-party apps. It also has payroll, which is one of the handful of functions that you need to pay for, though it is still cheaper than what professionals charge.


As cutting Gordian knots goes, this one is on the tricky side: both Wave and FreshBooks offer a great accounting solution that will make the lives of small-business owners a lot easier without too many bells and whistles to distract them.

However, since Wave's lack of a price tag while offering slightly better functionality than FreshBooks pushes it firmly into the “win” column. For no cost each month you get a full suite that does everything FreshBooks does, offering a smoother experience at the same time.

Thank you for reading, and let us know which of the two you prefer in the comments below.

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