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Top 3 Payroll Software: Comparison of Gusto, OnPay and Wave

Category: B2B News

Why do you require payroll software? To start, it helps to authorize and control the payroll process, and manage multiple approval processes, which are two common pain points of global payroll. In today’s globally linked economy, it’s difficult to disregard these pain points. There’s no need to fret as they can easily be managed with a cloud payroll software that offers process automation and user permissions capabilities.

Payroll management systems present more advantages, addressing the following concerns:

  • You’ve graduated from spreadsheets
  • You want to concentrate on core tasks
  • Your current platform isn’t adequate any more
  • You wish to bring payroll in house to reduces costs
  • You wish to consolidate all payroll tasks

Interestingly, the last reason reflects the majority motive why companies opt for payroll software. A report by TMF reveals that 36.5% of enterprises want efficiency in their payroll process.

If you have any of the above issues, you need to check out payroll software platforms. To help you make an informed selection, we’ve prepared a detailed guide that compares three of the leading payroll solutions on the market. Let’s start.

What are the top 3 payroll software solutions on the market?

 Chief features of payroll software

  • Payroll processing. Schedules pay period, calculates salaries, estimates total cost, and distributes payroll via check printing or direct deposit Attendance management. Add/removes staff members, handles working hours, leaves, and absences
  • Add-on features.Core accounting tools, expense management, bonus calculator
  • Employee records. Centralizes database, may also provide self-onboarding tools to enable new staff to complete their profiles
  • Payslip generation. Prints out pay stubs, allows workers to save PDF payslips for reference in the future
  • Accounting, ERP, and HRM integration. Integrates with important solutions like accounting, timesheet, recruitment, reporting, and analytics Compliance. Empowers you to comply with federal and state tax and social security requirements using default settings or manual entries

 1. Gusto

Gusto payroll interface

Gusto is considered one of the best payroll systems for small businesses. It may appear lightweight, but it effectively runs payroll processing in the background, letting you concentrate on other HR work.

We rate Gusto a focused payroll management solution; it offers the payroll essentials you need without burdening you with gimmicky features that add to costs and confusion. You can check for yourself how this application can fit your small business payroll needs when you sign up for a Gusto free trial.


An award given to products our B2B experts find especially valuable for companies

Gusto won our Expert's Choice Award for 2017

Our score
User satisfaction

Gusto helps you manage HR and payroll processes such as employee onboarding, worker’s compensation, retirement plans, and health benefits. It presents a simple yet intuitive interface with easy navigation for wage computations, and handling employee records and state and federal taxes.

Specifically, Gusto offers one of the better benefits management functionality for small budgets. You can customize packages for different staff members, and the app gives you room to devise exceptional compensation plans for top employees. Another advantage is Gusto is easy to set up. In addition, employees can enter their own details, which saves HR staff the work of entering each record.

 Key features of Gusto

  • Automated new hire reporting
  • Automatic tax processing
  • Collaboration
  • Detailed payroll reports
  • Digital paystubs
  • Digital signatures
  • Direct deposit & checks
  • Easy cancellations
  • Easy charitable donations
  • Flexible payment schedules
  • Health, retirement, college benefits
  • Hourly or salary rates
  • Mobile responsive
  • Multiple pay schedules
  • Payroll and worker’s compensation
  • Payroll on AutoPilot
  • Pre-tax benefits
  • Reimbursements
  • Time off requests
  • Unlimited bonus and off-cycle payrolls
  • Vacation & sick days

 2. OnPay

OnPay payroll reports interface

OnPay is a simple-to-use yet comprehensive payroll system for the needs of small and medium-sized companies. This cloud-based platform simplifies payroll processes, and automates payment workflows and tax filing. Users can seamlessly enter payroll data such as hours, reimbursements, bonuses, and tips. The software incorporates responsibilities such as benefits (401(k) retirement and health insurance) and compensation insurance for pay-as-you-go employees. Check out the app’s features when you sign up for OnPay free trial here.

OnPay stands out as an affordable and cost-effective program in the payroll software niche. It helps to execute unlimited payroll runs for W-2 staff and 1099 contract employees monthly. You can pay employees via direct deposit or check. But note that direct deposit is available only to employers who apply for the functionality and pass the risk evaluation conducted by the vendor.

OnPay helps you handle payroll taxes by calculating your federal and state taxes, withholding the required amounts, making tax payment, and filing tax forms. The company guarantees accuracy in the process and willingly takes responsibility if there is any mistake in the tax filing.

Key features of OnPay

  • Automated tax filings
  • Automated tax payments
  • Certified payroll professionals
  • Custom payroll reports
  • Digital paystubs
  • Employee self-onboarding
  • Export payroll data
  • Free data migration and setup
  • Free phone, chat, email support
  • Integrated 401(k)
  • Integrated health benefits
  • Integrates with Quickbooks, Xero
  • Lifetime accounts for employees
  • Mobile friendly
  • Multiple permission levels
  • Multiple PTO accrual rates
  • Multiple state payroll
  • No charge for cancellations
  • Online employee portal
  • Pay 1099 contractors
  • Pay by debit card
  • Pay by direct deposit
  • Pay-as-you-go workers’ comp
  • Print checks on site
  • Reimbursements and wage garnishment
  • Tax accuracy guarantee
  • Tax filings for non-profits and clergy
  • Time off tracking
  • Unlimited pay runs

3. Wave

Wave payroll dashboard

Wave is a free cloud accounting app for small business with an integrated payroll module. Apart from payroll, it offers expense management, invoice, and payment features. The accounting functionalities are free, but pricing for the payroll solution starts at $14 per month.

Wave presents a tidy dashboard that gives you fast access to payroll, banking, accounting, purchases, and sales. We rate it as one of the most empowering small business platforms as it supports double-entry accounting, and helps you monitor all your transactions like dues and collectibles.

Key features of Wave (payroll management)

  • Clear tax liabilities
  • Direct deposits
  • Integrates with Wave accounting, receipt scanning, and invoicing apps
  • iOS app
  • Payroll reminders sent to your inbox
  • Self-service pay stubs and tax forms

 Comparison of Payroll Software Features

1. Setup and ease of use

All three solutions walk you through the important task of setting up the payroll workflow for full accuracy. They utilize help prompts and demo files to ensure you get the correct template for worker data.

We give Gusto and OnPay two thumbs up for the self-onboarding feature. You can send an email from the system to ask staff to complete the setup process, which is a great time-saver. To be certain, you can cross-check their inputs anytime. Gusto also sends a bank synchronization test to ensure you start on the right note.

Like Gusto, Wave is also easy to set up as it needs only three simple steps: add employee info, give your business details, and apply for direct deposit. You are also required to provide primary currency and user permissions, and allow a period of seven days to sync your bank as well as your employees’ banks to the system. It’s simple to run payroll with Wave: create attendance timesheets, look at and approve payroll, finally submit.

OnPay enters all your wage history and employee data for free. If anything is missed, their certified payroll professionals can be contacted by phone to set things right. The vendor sends reminders for each pay run, and automates the rest of the process. Multiple pay runs and cancellations are free, so you can even afford to make mistakes without incurring extra costs.

2. Feature set

We wish to reiterate this: we like the focused simplicity of Gusto and OnPay. These two are true payroll software solutions. Wave is an accounting solution with a payroll module. That need not be bad, as after all, payroll is an operational expense that needs to be entered in the books. But if you only require a payroll platform, Gusto and OnPay can simplify your life.

  1. Interface. Gusto and OnPay have the simpler interface, which is great because this make it easy to do the math. The basic payroll features are immediately obvious in Gusto. Its intuitive navigation makes it simple to transfer high volumes of data to the platform, for example, pay stubs from previous years and current year. OnPay, too, has a simple UI and transparent navigation. The layout presents all the essential features including dashboards and reports.
  2. Payroll tools. Gusto offers the payroll feature suite that a small business needs. It provides automated payroll, multiple pay rates, tax processing, payroll reporting, flexible schedules, hourly or salary-based calculations, checks, and direct deposit. We’re also impressed with Gusto’s benefits administration, one of the best tools we’ve viewed for tight budgets. It permits you to manage different compensation packages for employees, so you can easily negotiate conditions with high-value hires. OnPay’s payroll features include unlimited pay runs, export payroll data, and custom payroll reports. So, it’s an equally good choice for small and medium-sized businesses. As for Wave, it offers its accounting features for free (payroll is charged), so there’s no reason to complain.
  3. Dashboard. Gusto keeps it neat and tight, showcasing reminders, a to-do list, and upcoming staff birthdays. It even seems oversimplified, which is the point. The app makes payroll an automated process that runs in the background, allowing you to work on important tasks. On the other hand, Wave adds a few aspects to its payroll tab. You can view the schedule of the next payroll, its entire cost, to-do list and key dates like special occasions and holidays. You also get alerts for major notices on the dashboard. Meanwhile, OnPay offers a simple and clear dashboard that you can navigate effortlessly. It allows you to easily perform essential tasks, which are selecting employees, entering hours, and reviewing and approving payroll. Thus, OnPay’s dashboard makes payroll processing a breeze.
  4. Check printing. Gusto offers “personalized with check on top” and “blank with check on bottom” printing. Check printing runs even as you process payroll, which saves a lot of time. You can also print past payroll, if required. OnPay is at par with Gusto as it allows personal check printing and printing checks on site, so you need not go anywhere. On the other hand, Wave doesn’t boast an inbuilt check printing tool. Instead, it integrates with a third-party solution, Check Print,to manage custom checks, which makes it a tad more complex app compared to the other two.

3. Integration

All three apps permit CSV importing, a handy feature when you’re shifting from spreadsheets to payroll automation. Gusto connects smoothly with popular HRM and accounting systems, including BambooHR, Nimble, QuickBooks, and more than 10 other products.

OnPay also boasts seamless integrations with a number of leading accounting and HR solutions, such as QuickBooks Online, Xero, ThinkHR, When I Work, and others. On the other hand, Wave integration depends a lot on Zapier, a third-party app integration solution which has separate pricing plans. So you’d need to shell out extra here.

4. Compliance

Compliance is standard (for US and Canada) and there are no main issues with Gusto, OnPay, and Wave. Gusto is highly convenient when it comes to payroll taxes and reports. It requests you to enter the necessary info during the initial setup, including EIN, FEIN, state requirements like SUI, business type, and the form you utilize. We think this is smoother—while as you can do this while you’re viewing employee data—than asking for similar info at a later stage.

All three products let you use the default settings or manually enter tax rates. All three accommodate state and federal tax requirements, such as: SDI, SUI, SUTA, and SUTA SC. Likewise, they possess the flexibility to manage local taxes, where applicable.

 5. Scalability

Even if Gusto looks small next to OnPay and Wave, its flexibility in integrating with other products makes it very scalable. We give Gusto and OnPay our nods from the perspective of looking only at payroll apps. That said, once you need accounting or other business systems, you can count on Gusto even as you build on your company-wide platforms, including ERP, HRM, and CRM.

OnPay’s subscription plans permit functional integration and scalability when you need them. As your business grows, you can add additional users (employees and contractors) by paying just $4 for each added user. If you want scalable accounting tools, Wave is a good option as these features are set up separately from its payroll module.


As a standalone payroll system, Gusto is more focused. The app offers basic payroll tools so it’s simple for sure, but that’s exactly what you require to process payroll quickly. Wave is also easy to set up and use. It provides more than payroll functionality though, by presenting invoice and payment tools. OnPay is the most complete in features and it’s a great application to invest in if you’re looking for lifetime accounts for staff members, unlimited pay runs, and automated tax filings. If you’d like to try out the top software on your own you can easily sign up for Gusto free trial.

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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