Xero vs. Wave – Which Suits You Best?

obrBy Fergus O'Sullivan — Last Updated: 27 Apr'18 2016-12-12T05:54:10+00:00

Here at Cloudwards.net, we’re all about making life easier for people.

Computer programs you can use anytime, anywhere are a huge part of that. Since small businesses are people, too, we’re looking at several ways in which entrepreneurs can make life easier for themselves.

Any business falls or stands by its books, so doing them well needs to be a priority for anyone running a firm, large or small. Currently, there are several online accounting programs on the market, each with their pros and cons as you can read in our article on best accounting software.

In this article we’ll be looking specifically at the strengths and weaknesses of two very popular apps, namely Xero and Wave. Where Xero came up in a world of established titans, quickly taking over a fair bit of market share, Wave is a newer solution that in turn wants to conquer hearts and minds.

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

Both offer a strong suite of features that will step up your bookkeeping and give you the reins over your company’s finances: this article will mostly be focusing on deciding which type of user will enjoy the most benefit from which one.

That being said, there is always bound to be a winner in any comparison.

Table of Contents:


Sending out invoices is the staple of any small business and both Xero and Wave understand that very well.

Composing one take a minute, tops, and not only is it easy, you can customize your invoices to your heart’s content in both apps. When it comes to your own design, Wave outshines Xero thanks to its friendly interface and great choice of templates to work from.

If custom invoices are important to you, Wave is the best choice.

Invoicing is easy with Wave.

Both programs require a minimum of data entry, but Wave does feel a little smoother when compared to Xero.

This is simply because you’ll be switching less between screens and when you do you won’t be hit by Xero’s notorious long loading times.

Xero offers a clear invoicing interface.

Xero’s cool feature in this category is that it lets you set reminders that either notify you when a client is late or sends an email automatically, saving you time otherwise spent chasing down tardy clients.

Merchant Services

Receiving money after sending out an invoice can be a tricky proposition: your client needs to process it first, send a check or approve a transfer, etc. If they have a credit card or a PayPal account, though, some programs let users send a payment link with the invoice itself, making everyone’s life a lot easier.

Wave lets you do this through the program itself at a reasonable rate, positively encourages it, in fact, as it’s one of the few things the company actually makes money on.

Xero doesn’t offer an integrated option, but has a host of third-party apps to choose from that offer this service.

This underlines a strong point of Xero’s: the program offers fewer integrated options than many of its competitors, but no other program supports as many plug-ins, giving users plenty of flexibility.


Both programs are good at giving you an overview of all your incoming money, but the styles differ greatly. Wave is more concise, offering simpler overviews while Xero tries to emulate more professional programs with an avalanche of graphs, charts and the like.

The difference for casual users will be minimal, though they might pull a little toward Wave for its simplicity, but it may be a concern for people who want to keep a close eye on their finances.

Business owners who want to micromanage their money will most likely prefer Xero.

Wave's overview is basic but effective.

When it comes to invoicing, it’s a bit of a coin toss between Xero and Wave: casual users will most likely prefer Wave, while more advanced users or people who need detailed information will probably prefer Xero.


Don’t you just love paying bills? No? Well, both Xero and Wave will make life a little bit easier so it will hurt less to see money leaving your coffers each month.

Neither of them allow you to pay bills through the program but tracking outgoing money is as easy as ever.

In both cases you get the option to feed your bank statements directly into the program, minimizing data entry. The little that is left is in both cases pretty easy as it’s simply a matter of picking from some pre-loaded items, adding a vendor from your contact list and then entering the amount.

Xero offers a great overview.

In our opinion, Xero is a little bit better because it allows you to set reminders, ensuring that you won’t forget to pay and avoiding any late fees.

It’s a great little feature and will save you some trouble down the road.

Bank feeds

The option to import bank transactions directly from your account to your accounting program is one of the most powerful features of bookkeeping in the cloud.

Rather than spend precious hours inputting data, it’s all done automatically freeing you up to actually run your business.

Xero as well as Wave are great in this category, offering a clean interface that sets up a bank feed in a minute or two. Both let you connect with a host of banks from all over the world, though Wave’s list seems to be slightly more exhaustive, recognizing more obscure institutions from small countries.

Setting up a feed is easy.

You won’t go wrong choosing either program in this category, though users should probably check beforehand whether their bank is supported before taking the plunge.

Entrepreneurs who bank with small institutions are especially warned in this regard.


Wave automatically wins this round in a way since it’s free except for select functions. On top of that, Xero is also a bit more expensive than most other cloud accounting programs.

Two strikes against Xero, here.

Xero’s pricing plans

Price Plan
$ 9 00monthly
$ 30 00monthly
$ 70 00monthly
Users Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited

- Send 5 invoices and quotes;
- Enter 5 bills;
- Reconcile 20 bank transactions.

- Send invoices and quotes;
- Enter bills;
- Reconcile bank transactions.

- Send invoices and quotes;
- Enter bills;
- Reconcile bank transactions;
- Multi-currency support.

At $20, Xero’s basic plan offers very limited use so unless you’re running a very small company chances are you’ll end up with the $30 package. Except for things like inventory, this means that users are paying $30 for what Wave offers for free. Xero’s unique features are cool but not really worth paying that kind of money for.

A third strike against Xero is that multi-currency support costs another $10 per month, which all of its competitors offer for free.

All in all, budget-conscious business owners are best off choosing Wave. If Xero’s third-party support is vital for your business it may be worth shelling out the money for, but only then.


Using a program without too many headaches is a very important criterion and you can’t really go wrong with either Wave or Xero. Both offer a smooth experience that lets users get done what they need to without too many problems.

Reviewers need to be nitpickers, though, so this impatient author prefers Wave a little bit over Xero.

Wave transitions well between screens as well as requiring fewer of them to perform simple tasks. With Xero, it seems like each time a single action needs to be performed a new screen has to load up again.

The difference is maybe just a few seconds, but again, impatient types will likely find themselves getting annoyed.

Here ends the nit-picking.


Wave is marginally easier to navigate than Xero thanks to placing its buttons slightly more logically. The latter also uses a bit more jargon than Wave, so sometimes you’ll spend more time looking for an obscure function than you would otherwise.

Wave is easy to navigate.

The main strike against Xero here is that the program offers buttons with icons rather than words, which is fine, but there are no tooltips, which is not fine. New users will find themselves committed to playing interface roulette while they are getting adjusted to the program.

Wave, on the other hand, does that fine, but offers less insight into your finances.

Xero seems to have a graph for everything and makes analysis of your books much easier than its competitor does.


New users will feel welcome when using either program for the first time. Each offer simple yet comprehensive tutorials that guide you through the basics of using the program with simple language.

There is also a rich resource library for both.

Xero uses pop-ups that need to be clicked away, while Wave uses balloons that you can ignore if needed. In this sub-category, the choice of program is most likely based on personal preference.

Customer service

Though both programs are pretty easy to use, there is always the chance of issues arising. Xero and Wave both have pretty good customer service, though they are strictly email-based.

With Xero you submit a ticket describing your issue and you will either get an email back fairly quickly or, if they problem is particularly bad, they’ll give you a call.

It’s a bit unconventional, but it works well.

In Wave’s case, this is one of the few times the real price of using a free program pops up: once you submit a ticket it can take up to 48 hours for someone to get back to you. If you expect to need a lot of help using a program, you may want to avoid Wave.

Wave is easy to navigate.

This category results in a tie, since Wave is a bit easier to use, but loses points for customer service. The choice here depends entirely on the user.

Advanced functions

Of the two, Wave is the most basic though many extra functions can be plugged in with third-party apps. Then again, if third-party apps figure large in a business owner’s plan, Xero is the best option since no other online accounting app makes it so easy to plug these in.

If integrated solutions are preferred, entrepreneurs may be best serviced by QuickBooks Online.


Xero and Wave are both excellent programs and the choice between them will most likely be inspired by personal preference. The biggest factor in favor of Wave is its price: many business owners need to watch their pennies and for them Wave will be perfect unless they need advanced functions.

If so, Xero, despite the price tag, is the better choice since it’s wide array of third-party plugins will let you do almost any task you can think of. Thank you for reading our Xero vs. Wave review. Let us know in the comments which program you ended up with.

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