Zoho Books VS Wave

ZohoBooks-vs-Wave

Zoho Books VS Wave

Accounting

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Hardware & Software Requirements

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Users & Permissions

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Mobile Apps

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Customer Service & Support

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Negative Reviews & Complaints

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Positive Reviews & Testimonials

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Integrations

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Security

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Final Verdict

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When you think of accounting software, you usually think of big names like Xero or QuickBooks. But what about the programs that are designed specifically with the small business owner in mind? In this post, we’re going to put two of the top small business accounting software programs face to face: Zoho Books and Wave.

Redesigned in 2014, Zoho Books is a scalable, full-featured accounting software that even gives QuickBooks Online a run for its money. The software has only improved over the years. It features beautiful invoicing, strong mobile apps, excellent customer support, and decent integrations. It also gives users the unique ability to send invoices in over 10 different languages.

Wave is free accounting software that has only gotten better as time goes on. The software has grown to support over 3.5 million users and offers a robust feature set with unique additions like lending, scheduling recurring invoices by timezone, and a brand-new light ecommerce tool. The software also offers professional bookkeeping services and supports personal and business accounting.

But which service comes out on top? And more importantly, which is right for your business?

Read on to find out.

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 compare Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online (QBO) based on 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.

Accounting

Winner: Wave

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong accounting features. Each software uses double-entry accounting and offers both cash-basis and accrual accounting. Both support accounting reports, a customizable chart of accounts, journal entries, bank reconciliation, and fixed asset management.

The two are almost neck and neck in this area, although Wave sets itself apart by having recently added an additional bookkeeping service called Wave+ where users can purchase additional accounting help from professional bookkeepers. Wave also has built-in personal accounting tools.

Features

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books Features Wave

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Invoicing

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Multiple Invoice Languages

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Estimates

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Expense Tracking

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Bank Reconciliation

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Chart Of Accounts

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Fixed Asset Management

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Contact Management

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Accounts Payable

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Time Tracking

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Project Management

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Inventory

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Reports

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eCommerce Checkouts

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Tracking Categories

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Multi-Currency Support

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Sales Tax

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Tax Support

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Importing & Exporting

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Lending

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Zoho Books and Wave have a lot of similar features. Both offer expense tracking, invoicing, contact management, and more. The difference is the depth and functionality of these features.

While Wave has a strong feature set and unique additions like a lightweight ecommerce tool and lending, Zoho Books’ features are far more advanced. Zoho Books offers some of the best invoicing on the market with 15 different templates and international invoicing. The software also offers project management (which Wave lacks entirely), better inventory, better time tracking, and better reporting, making it the clear winner here.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

Zoho Books offers three scalable pricing plans ranging from $9 – $29/month. Wave is completely free. The only additional costs are payroll, payment processing, and Wave+.

When it comes to pricing, you can’t beat free. And unlike most free software, Wave doesn’t put artificial limits on features like invoicing and estimates. You get complete access to fully-functioning features for $0/month. Another point in favor of Wave is that the software actually offers payroll. The service may cost extra, but in contrast, Zoho Books doesn’t have any payroll support or payroll integrations.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, both Zoho Books and Wave work with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Zoho Books

Depending on your plan, Zoho Books supports between 1 and 10 users, although you can purchase additional users for an extra cost. The software offers very basic user permissions. Wave is designed for the small business owner, meaning there are no additional users. You can technically invite “collaborators” who can have “view-only” or “view & edit” access to your Wave account, but the features they are able to access are limited, making Zoho Books the winner here.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Wave

Both Wave and Zoho Books are easy to use. They each have a modern UI that is well-organized, and setup is quick. However, because of Zoho Books’ sheer number of features, the software is a bit harder to navigate and get used to. Wave, on the other hand, is easy enough for anyone to use, no matter what their accounting background (or lack thereof) looks like.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

It’s no question that Zoho Books is the winner here. Zoho Books has always been known for strong, fully-featured mobile apps. Their Android and iPhone apps receive high ratings across the board, and the company supports smartwatch, Microsoft, and Kindle apps as well.

Wave’s mobile apps could stand improvement. Right now, there are two separate apps, one for invoices and one for receipts. Existing Wave users complain that they want one, full-featured app.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books offers the most excellent customer support by far. Zoho Books’ phone support has hardly any wait times, and in my experience, representatives are friendly and helpful. The company also has an expansive help center, email, live chat, videos, and more.

While Wave does offer good resources like a well-developed help center and strong blog, you can only contact Wave support by email (unless you purchase payroll or credit card processing, in which case you get phone and chat support). Wave’s email response times often take over a day.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave receive mostly positive customer reviews from satisfied customers. They have a similar ratio of negative to positive reviews, resulting in a tie for this section.

The few complaints Zoho Books users have are about the lack of payroll and limited integrations. Complaints about Wave revolve around poor mobile apps, limited integrations, and limited features.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave have many satisfied customers and high customer ratings. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd, while Wave receives 4.4/5 stars on G2Crowd and 9/10 stars on TrustRadius.

Zoho Books users appreciate the software’s ease of use, strong mobile apps, affordable price plans, and constant updates. Wave users praise the software for its ease of use, free price, personal accounting, and feature selection.

Integrations

Winner: Tie

Zoho Books offers 33 integrations while Wave only has 3 integrations. However, both Zoho Books users and Wave users complain about a lack of integrations. Each software’s saving grace is that they both connect with Zapier, an integration that connects them to 1000+ other third-party apps.

Security

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong security. Each uses 256-bit SSL encryption, regular data backups, and 24/7 data monitoring. We gave Zoho Books the victory in this section because Zoho Books is far more forthcoming about their security information so users can be 100% confident that their data is protected.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS Wave

Wave is powerful software that puts up quite the fight, but it just doesn’t have the features and capabilities of Zoho Books — at least not yet. A more robust feature set, strong mobile apps, more integrations, forthright security, and excellent customer service give Zoho Books the advantage.

Zoho Books is ideal for small to medium businesses in need of strong accounting that want the capabilities of QuickBooks Online without having to pay the price. Zoho Books is an affordable QBO alternative with a robust feature set and some of the best invoicing on the market, which is why we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Invoicing. Zoho Books’ invoicing features make it ideal for business in need of international invoicing. The only drawback is the lack of payroll, which could be a deal-breaker for some businesses.

If your business does need payroll or if you’re looking for free accounting software, Wave might be the better choice for your business. Wave is ideal for small business owners looking for easy bookkeeping software to manage their businesses with. There’s a reason we’ve named it the Best Free Accounting Software. Wave has an impressive features set — particularly for a free app — and offers a few key additions that Zoho Books lacks(payroll, lending, and the brand new eCommerce checkouts tool). It also has a strong Etsy integration, making it ideal for Etsy sellers.

Maybe after reading about Zoho Books and Wave, neither option seems like the perfect fit for your business. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you find the best software for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and Wave reviews for more information. Take advantage of Zoho Books’ free trial or start a free account with Wave to get a feel for each software, and feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

The post Zoho Books VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Long-Term Business Loans: Eligibility And How To Find The Best

You’re a business owner, and you’ve encountered a financial hurdle in the form of a large business expense. This expense could be completely unexpected, such as the sudden breakdown of equipment, or it could be planned, like a business expansion through the improvement of facilities or the purchase of commercial real estate.

No matter what it is, a big expense can be difficult to pay up front. When it’s an unexpected or emergency expense, the situation can be even worse. However, many smart business owners have found a solution for these large expenses: long-term business loans.

If spreading out the cost of a large expense over a longer period of time sounds appealing to you, this financing option may be the right choice for your business. However, you don’t want to rush to fill out an application with a lender just yet. Instead, do your research and boost your knowledge. Read on to learn more about the rates, terms, benefits, and drawbacks of long-term business loans.

How Do Long-Term Business Loans Work?

A long-term business loan is a type of loan that is paid back over a longer period of time. The lender loans the borrower a set amount of money for business expenses, such as purchasing a commercial vehicle or real estate, buying equipment, or hiring new employees.

With the help of a long-term loan, the business does not have to pay a large sum out-of-pocket. Instead, a lender will provide the needed funding, which the business will pay back in fixed amounts over several years, along with interest and fees.

What Term Lengths Can I Get With A Long-Term Loan?

The term lengths of a long-term loan vary based on a number of factors, including the amount of the loan, the policies of the lender, and how the funds will be used. In general, most long-term business loans have terms between three and 10 years. However, some long-term loans, such as those used to purchase commercial real estate, may have repayment terms of 20 years or more.

What Kind of Interest Rates Can I Expect From A Long-Term Loan?

Like other business loans, long-term loans do not come with set interest rates. Interest rates vary by lender, the creditworthiness of the borrower, and the amount of the loan. The most qualified borrowers with the best credit histories can often receive interest rates below 5% from a conventional lender like a bank. Startup businesses or businesses with a poor credit history may receive interest rates of 30% or more from alternative lenders.

Who Qualifies For Long-Term Business Loans?

project management software

Requirements to qualify for a long-term business loan vary by lender. However, there are a few general requirements set by most lenders.

Anyone applying for a long-term business loan must have a legitimate business expense that will be paid using the loan proceeds. The borrower must own at least 20% of the business. All borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 600, although higher scores are required to receive the best terms and interest rates. Most conventional lenders also require a business to be in operations for a minimum of 2 years.

There are also annual revenue requirements that must be met. For most larger loans exceeding $100,000, collateral is typically required. Even when specific collateral is not required, a personal guarantee or blanket lien will usually be part of the loan contract.

Can I Qualify For A Long-Term Business Loan If I Have Bad Credit?

Banks and other conventional lenders often have high credit score requirements, lending only to borrowers with scores in the high 600s or above.

Many lenders will also look at credit history and not just the credit score. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, or defaults on past loans can all disqualify borrowers from receiving long-term loans.

For borrowers with bad credit, alternative lenders may be an option. These lenders will approve borrowers with scores as low as 600. However, interest rates will often be much higher for these borrowers. Borrowers with scores below 600, or who want to lock in the best rates and terms, should pull their free credit report and score, work to pay off current debt, and take additional steps to boost their scores before applying for a long-term business loan.

Looking for a lender that works with bad credit?

Lender Borrowing Amount Min Credit Score Time To Funding Next Steps

$2K – $5M 550 1-2 Days Apply Now

$5K – $500K 550 1-3 Days Apply Now

$5K – $500K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

$5K – $250K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

Are Startups Eligible For Long-Term Loans?

Most conventional lenders want to work with businesses that have been in operations for more than two years. For startups and new businesses, getting long-term funding can be a challenge but isn’t impossible.

While new businesses may not qualify for traditional bank loans, there are other options. Small Business Administration programs, for example, provide funding opportunities for startups. Alternative lenders are also less stringent with their time in business requirements.

Applicants should be prepared to show that the business will be able to pay back the loan. Instead of providing traditional documentation (like income tax returns), business plans and future projections may be required by the lender during the application process.

When Would A Business Need A Long-Term Loan?

business line of credit loan

There are many situations where a business might need a long-term loan. In fact, just about any large business expense could be covered via a long-term loan, including:

  • Business expansion
  • Improvement or remodel of existing facilities
  • Purchase of commercial real estate
  • Business acquisition
  • Purchase of commercial vehicle or vehicles
  • Purchase of expensive equipment
  • Purchase of inventory or supplies
  • Hire new employees
  • Refinance existing debt 

The important thing to remember here is that long-term business loans can be used for just about any business purpose. However, the overall cost of the loan (including fees and interest) should always be taken into consideration. The return on investment should always outweigh the cost of the loan, and a long-term loan should only be accepted if the extra funding will help the business grow and be successful.

Pros & Cons of Long-Term Business Loans

When there’s a need for a loan, it’s easy to get blinded by the prospect of money without really thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of borrowing. Smart borrowers look at the long-term pros and cons of taking out the loan to determine if it will truly benefit the business.

Pros

  • Small Monthly Payments: Large expenses can be broken down into affordable monthly payments by taking out a long-term business loan.
  • Low Interest Rates: Borrowers with the highest credit scores can take advantage of interest rates of less than 5%, making this one of the most affordable loan options.
  • Debt Consolidation: Borrowers that use long-term loans to consolidate or pay off high-interest debt can save thousands of dollars over the course of the loan.

Cons

  • Variable Interest Rates: Some long-term loans come with variable interest rates, so be cautious. While a variable rate may help you save money when market rates fall, there is always the possibility that rates could increase, leading to a more expensive loan.
  • Overall Costs: The overall cost of a loan over its lifetime can be quite expensive, especially for any borrower without a stellar credit rating. Even for the most qualified buyers, fees and interest can really tack on extra money to the loan, so it’s important to fully understand the total cost of the loan before signing the contract.
  • Collateral Requirements: For most long-term loans, collateral is required. In some cases, the collateral will be the item being purchased with the loan proceeds, such as equipment, a vehicle, or real estate. In other instances, borrowers will need to put up business assets, personal assets, sign a personal guarantee, or agree to a blanket lien before the loan is disbursed.
  • High Credit Score Requirements: A long-term loan can be one of the most difficult loans to obtain. To get the most affordable funding, a great credit score (with no negative items on the credit history) is required. While some lenders may work with borrowers with lower scores, interest may be much higher and terms not as favorable.
  • Documentation Requirements: Because long-term loans are often for very large amounts of money, lenders want to ensure that all borrowers are able to pay back the loan. This means that there is a lot of paperwork involved in the application process. Borrowers must come prepared to take the time needed to provide the lender with all documentation to qualify for the loan.
  • Long Approval Process: Depending on the lender, getting an approval for a long-term business loan could take months — not ideal for a business that needs funding immediately.

Where To Find Long-Term Business Loans

Once a business decides to take the leap to obtain a long-term loan, the next step is to apply with a lender. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to find a lender that specializes in long-term business loans. Most business owners turn to three main sources for their long-term financing needs: the Small Business Administration, banks and credit unions, and alternative lenders.

The Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Small Business Administration provides lending programs that are a hit with business owners. The SBA sets guidelines that keep interest rates low for borrowers, while also providing a guarantee to lenders. Because of this guarantee, SBA-approved lenders, or intermediaries, are more willing to loan money to small businesses.

The SBA offers several long-term loan programs. The most popular is the 7(a) program, which offers up to $5 million for almost any purpose with a maximum repayment term of 10 years. Falling under the 7(a) umbrella is the Community Advantage Loan that offers the same competitive rates and terms for businesses in underserved communities, while the Veterans Advantage program offers long-term loan options for military veterans and service members.

The SBA Microloans program is another option for smaller financing needs. These loans provide up to $50,000 that can be repaid over a maximum term of 6 years.

For businesses that want to improve their facilities or purchase real estate, 504 loans provide 40% of funding toward these projects. A maximum of $5 million can be distributed through this program, with repayment terms set at a maximum of 25 years.

SBA loans can be obtained from intermediary lenders including SBA-approved banks, credit unions, non-profit agencies, and Commercial Development Companies. Learn more about the rates, terms, and requirements of SBA loan programs.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

Review

Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

Review

CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

Review

Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

Review

Banks & Credit Unions

Banks are a very popular source for obtaining long-term business loans because of low interest rates and favorable terms. However, qualifying for these loans can be difficult. Credit scores must be very high, the application and approval process can be lengthy, and banks often have strict requirements in terms of time in business and annual revenues. Businesses that do qualify, however, will find bank loans are easily one of the most affordable loans on the market.

Credit unions also offer very competitive rates and terms, and many businesses prefer to work with these lenders because of the more personalized service they receive. Credit unions may have a bit of flexibility in terms of their requirements, but all borrowers should come to the table with a high credit score and a stable business history.

Businesses pursuing these types of loans can start with the financial institutions where they have already established accounts. Businesses that would rather shop around for the best rates and terms can check out our top banks for business loans to get started.

Alternative Lenders

Alternative lenders offer some benefits that banks, credit unions, and SBA intermediaries do not, including fast approval and funding and lower credit score requirements. However, there are also several drawbacks to working with alternative lenders. Higher interest rates are one of the biggest drawbacks. Lower maximum loan amounts are another. Learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of alternative loans.

Most alternative lenders set their maximum repayment terms at just 5 years. Depending on the amount borrowed, this could mean higher monthly payments, especially with higher interest rates that can even exceed 30% in some cases.

However, the return on investment may be enough for a business to move forward with one of these loans. These loans are best for businesses that don’t meet the qualifications of other lenders, including but not limited to credit score, time in business, or annual revenue.

Long-Term Business Loan Calculator

It is absolutely critical to understand the full cost of a long-term business loan prior to signing your loan contract. Before borrowing, use our long-term business loan calculator to get an overview of what to expect from your loan. This calculator provides estimates of monthly payments, the total amount of interest that will be paid, and the total cost of the loan. Knowing the numbers before applying for a loan is a key step for any financially-savvy business owner.

Learn more about the loan calculator and how to best use it before you apply for a long-term business loan.

Final Thoughts

A long-term business loan can be a smart and affordable way to fund large expenses. However, to get the most out of this type of financing, it’s important to do your research to find the lowest interest rates and best terms. Evaluate why you need the money and the return on investment, then find the lender that offers a loan that best fits your needs.

Looking for an online lender that provides long-term business loans? We recommend starting with the following:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

smartbiz logo

$30K – $350K 10 – 25 years 2 years 650 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies 6 months 550 Apply Now

$25K – $500K 6 months – 5 years 2 years 620 Compare

lending club logo

$5K – $300K 1 – 5 years 12 months 600 Compare

The post Long-Term Business Loans: Eligibility And How To Find The Best appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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FreshBooks VS Wave

Freshbooks-vs-Wave

FreshBooks VS Wave

Accounting

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Features

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Pricing

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Hardware & Software Requirements

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Users & Permissions

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Ease of Use

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Mobile Apps

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Customer Service & Support

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Negative Reviews & Complaints

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Positive Reviews & Testimonials

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Integrations

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Security

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Final Verdict

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ReviewVisit

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Choosing the right software for your business isn’t easy, especially when you have two great choices to pick from like FreshBooks and Wave.

FreshBooks has been helping small business owners with their invoices and expenses since 2003. The software offers strong mobile apps, excellent customer service, and good customer reviews. A recent redesign has made the software easier to use than ever.

Wave is completely free accounting software that has grown to support over 3 million users. The app offers strong accounting with ample features including project management, invoicing, and a basic ecommerce tool. Wave is also the only accounting software besides QuickBooks Online to offer lending services.

But which software is better? 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. So to make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll put FreshBooks and Wave head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to. Read on to see which software is best for your business.

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.

Accounting

Winner: Wave

This one’s easy. Wave wins by default because FreshBooks is not accounting software. While FreshBooks does offer a few basic bookkeeping tools, it does not use double-entry accounting. It also has no bank reconciliation features, no accounts payable, and no customizable chart of accounts.

Wave, on the other hand, uses double-entry accounting and offers both accrual and cash-basis accounting. The software offers bank reconciliation, journal entries, a detailed chart of accounts, and basic reporting,

Features

Winner: Wave 

FreshBooks Features Wave

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Invoicing

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Expense Tracking

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Bank Reconciliation

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Chart of Accounts

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Accounts Payable

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Inventory

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Time Tracking

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Project Management

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Reports

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Sales Tax

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Multi-Currency

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The two programs are pretty on par in terms of invoice template choices, time tracking, importing/exporting, and multi-currency support. However, Wave’s features are more developed than those of FreshBooks. Wave offers 5 more reports than FreshBooks, better project management, and better inventory. Wave also offers key features that FreshBooks is missing like bank reconciliation, vendor management, accounts payable, and a brand new ecommerce tool called Checkouts.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

You can’t beat free. Wave costs $0/month — no gimmicks, no tricks, no limitations. The only thing you have to pay for is adding payroll, payment processing, or bookkeeping help from a professional Wave advisor. FreshBooks costs $15/month – $50/month. FreshBooks is more expensive and offers fewer features, so businesses get a lot more bang for their buck with Wave.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

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

Users & Permissions

Winner: Tie

Neither FreshBooks nor Wave shines in the “additional users” department. With FreshBooks, each pricing plan only comes with one user. You can add additional users for $10/month each, but you can’t set any user permissions. Wave was designed for the small business owner, meaning it’s not possible to have additional users. You can add “collaborators” who can view or view and edit your Wave account, but there are no permissions available here either.

If you’re looking for multiple users and strong users permissions, take a look at Zoho Books, QuickBooks Online, or Xero instead.

Ease Of Use

Winner: FreshBooks

Both Wave and FreshBooks have attractive interfaces that are well-organized and easy to use. However, FreshBooks has better customer support which helps you learn to navigate the software faster.

Mobile Apps

Winner: FreshBooks

FreshBooks is well-known for its strong, full-featured mobile apps. Wave, on the other hand, has separated its apps into Receipts by Wave and Invoices by Wave. Neither app is full-featured and many users complain that they want a single, all-encompassing Wave app instead.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: FreshBooks

When it comes to customer support, FreshBooks can’t be beaten. FreshBooks offers great phone support with hardly any wait times. Representatives are generally friendly, helpful, and well-informed. In addition, FreshBooks offers a detailed help center, email support, and a comprehensive blog. Wave only offers phone support for payroll and payment processing users, leaving regular users a well-developed help center and email support. Most emails are responded to within a day, but it’s harder to get a quick response than with FreshBooks.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both FreshBooks and Wave are loved by customers. Each software receives mostly positive reviews, with a few negative complaints thrown in. For FreshBooks, users call for more features, better invoice templates, and true accounting. Wave users complain of limited mobile apps, lack of integrations, and occasionally slow servers.

Positive Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

FreshBooks and Wave have a similar ration of positive to negative complaints. Most users seemed thrilled with both programs and each software receives high marks across popular review sites. FreshBooks users love that the software is easy to use, offers professional invoicing, and has great customer service. Wave users love the software’s features, ease of use, and, of course, its price.

Integrations

Winner: FreshBooks

FreshBooks offers 70+ integrations as opposed to Wave’s four, so if add-ons are important to your business, FreshBooks is clearly the way to go.

Security

Winner: Tie

Both FreshBooks and Wave offer strong security. They each use 256-bit SSL encryption, redundancy, and regular backups, and they each host their servers with trusted security providers.

And The Winner Is…

While FreshBooks reputation for ease of use is well-earned, the software doesn’t always live up to these high expectations. First of all, despite its advertising, FreshBooks isn’t true cloud accounting software.

Wave, on the other hand, offers true accounting software and an incredible number of features for $0/month. In addition to the basic tools you’d expect from an accounting software, features like lending and Checkouts set the software apart and allow Wave to give even QuickBooks Online a run for its money. For small businesses looking to save money, you can’t beat Wave. The software is also ideal for Etsy users and ecommerce businesses.

That being said, businesses that don’t need the accounting capabilities or a large number of features may find FreshBooks to be a good choice. The software has better mobile apps and customer service than Wave. However, FreshBooks is far more expensive than Wave and your money only goes a short way with the software.

Perhaps, after reading this, neither option seems like the right choice for you. Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you explore all of your options so you can choose the perfect software for your business.

Check out our full FreshBooks and Wave reviews for more information.

The post FreshBooks VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Credit Union Small Business Loans: Types Of Loans And How To Qualify

For many business owners, a bank is the first stop when it’s time to take out a business loan. After all, with the ready availability of business bank accounts, credit cards, and loan options, a bank is a one-stop shop for financial services.

However, more business owners are moving away from traditional banks and are turning to credit unions for their business financing needs. In fact, nearly 6,000 credit unions across the United States have over 100 million members. Offering many of the same services as traditional banks, credit unions are becoming the go-to resources for smart business owners.

Why should you consider applying for a business loan with a credit union? Read on to find out more about the benefits and drawbacks, how to apply, and the loans offered by these financial cooperatives.

What Are Credit Unions?

Before taking out a business loan from a credit union, it’s important to understand how credit unions work. Although they appear to work in similar ways as banks, there are big differences between the two. Unlike banks, which operate for profit, credit unions are non-profit cooperatives.

Because the account holders at a credit union are also technically the owners, they are members, not customers. Any profit that is made by a credit union is reinvested or given as a dividend to its members. As non-profit organizations, credit unions do not have to pay taxes, so they are able to offer extremely competitive interest rates to members.

Credit unions offer many of the same financial services as banks, including business and personal checking and savings accounts, vehicle loans, personal and business credit cards, mortgages, and business loans.

How Do I Qualify For A Loan From A Credit Union?

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Another way credit unions differ from banks is in how to join. With a bank, most people can simply supply personal information, deposit money into the account, and become a customer. Remember, though, account holders at credit unions are members, not customers. In order to become a member, certain membership requirements must be met.

This sounds difficult, but it’s usually surprisingly easy to join a credit union. Consumers and business owners can be eligible to join a credit union through:

  • Employers or industries
  • Military affiliation
  • Alumni associations
  • Religious institutions
  • Geographic location
  • Family members
  • Other group memberships, including labor unions and homeowners associations

When a suitable credit union has been found, an application must be filled out to open a checking and/or savings account. This application process is very similar to the process for opening a bank account. Once the application has been submitted and approved, a deposit is usually required in order to open the accounts.

After the applicant becomes a member of the credit union, they are then eligible to apply for additional financial services, including personal and business loans.

Types Of Business Loans Offered By Credit Unions

Like banks and other lenders, credit unions offer a variety of different loan options targeted at businesses. Since each loan comes with its own set of requirements, terms, and limitations, having an understanding of the available financing options out there will be beneficial for business owners seeking a loan that fits their own unique needs.

Installment Loans

An installment loan is one of the most common types of loans, and one that most business owners have probably had experience with in the past. With an installment loan, sometimes called a term loan, the credit union loans a specific lump sum of money. Regular payments, or installments, are made by the borrower on a scheduled basis, which is typically every month on the same day. This payment will be applied to the principal amount (or the amount that was borrowed), as well as to interest charged by the credit union. Mortgages and car loans are just two examples of installment loans.

Rates and terms vary on installment loans. Smaller installment loans may be paid off within a few months, while larger loans may be paid over a lengthier term, such as 20 years or longer. Interest rates on these loans vary and are primarily determined by creditworthiness. Installment loans are available in various amounts, with some limits at credit unions reaching $50,000 or higher, depending on the institution’s lending policies. Installment loans are best used for larger purchases, such as long-term equipment, that will allow a business to purchase the asset without paying the full sum up front.

For larger installment loans, collateral from the borrower is typically required. This could include business assets such as equipment or personal assets like real estate. Collateral policies vary by lender.

Lines Of Credit

A business line of credit from a credit union is very similar to a credit card. With a line of credit, a borrower is given a credit limit. Multiple draws can be made on the account by the borrower up to and including this amount. This differs slightly from installment loans and other types of loans, which are distributed as one lump sum payment.

Lines of credit for businesses can be used in multiple ways, from covering emergency expenses to resolving cash flow issues during slow seasons. A line of credit can also be used to purchase supplies, inventory, or pay for other business expenses.

Interest rates for lines of credit are typically higher than for other financial products such as installment loans, since they are considered a bigger risk. Interest will only be applied to the portion of the credit line that has been used by the borrower. Learn more about how lines of credit can give a financial boost to businesses.

The application process for a line of credit is usually much easier than the process for a term loan, and credit requirements may not be as strict. For many businesses, collateral for a line of credit is not required. However, borrowers with lower credit scores or that are otherwise seen as “high risk” by lenders may be required to pay a security deposit or put up assets or property as collateral to use the line of credit.

SBA Loans

Small business owners with a strong credit history and an established business can turn to credit unions for Small Business Administration loans. These loans have become popular throughout the small business world for their low rates and extremely favorable terms. The SBA does not lend directly to business owners. Instead, intermediary lenders — like credit unions — provide the loans. A large percentage of each loan (up to 85%) is guaranteed by the government, making it less risky for credit unions and other lenders to loan money to small businesses.

The application process for obtaining an SBA loan is notoriously long and difficult, but it’s not impossible. Small businesses that are lucky enough to get these loans will enjoy some of the most competitive interest rates on the market through a number of programs designed to help small businesses succeed. Since SBA loans are so competitive, businesses with strong business and personal credit histories have the best odds of approval.

There are several programs to choose from when applying for an SBA loan. This includes the standard 7(a) program, which provides up to $5 million for almost any business expense, as well as the 504 program that provides up to 40% of funding for commercial real estate improvements or purchases. Types of loans and requirements vary by credit union. Learn more about the rates, terms, requirements, and how to apply for SBA loans.

Startup Loans

Business loans are difficult for any business to obtain, but new businesses and startups face a greater challenge. Most businesses are already viewed as risky by lenders, but a business without a history of solid financial documentation presents an even higher risk.

Whether you’ve been operating for a just few months or haven’t actually opened your doors yet, there are options available. Startup loans are available through credit unions. Some institutions have their own programs, while others offer SBA loans to qualified startups. You may also consider getting a personal loan through your credit union and use the money to fund startup projects and business expenses.

Because new businesses won’t have much of the documentation typically required by credit unions to receive a loan, other documentation will be required, which we’ll discuss a little later in this article.

Business Credit Cards

Many credit unions offer business credit cards to qualified business owners. A business credit card works just like a personal credit card, but can be used by business owners and other named cardholders for business expenses.

Business credit cards come with a maximum credit limit. Borrowers can spend up to this limit at any location where major credit cards are accepted. Interest rates are applied against the balance of current charges, not against the entire line of credit. Monthly payments are used to pay off the balance, plus the interest. As the balance is paid down, the funds again become available for use by the borrower.

Credit card interest rates through credit unions are competitive with those of other lenders. However, rates may be higher for credit cards than you’ll see with other financing options (like installment loans or traditional lines of credit).

Commercial Mortgages

Businesses that need a loan to purchase land or commercial real estate, add on to their existing building(s), or even refinance an existing commercial mortgage can often do so through a credit union. Many credit unions offer commercial mortgages that can be used to purchase real estate or fund improvements to expand a business.

These loans have competitive down payment requirements and interest rates. In addition to offering their own programs, credit unions may also offer 504 or 7(a) SBA loans that can be used toward commercial real estate. Rates, terms, and requirements vary by lender.

Pros & Cons Of Getting A Business Loan From A Credit Union

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The choice to take out a business loan should always be carefully weighed-out by a business owner. You should consider the return on investment, or ROI, of the loan. In other words, will borrowing money help your business prosper in the long run, or will it drag the company into a cycle of debt?

In addition to deciding how much to borrow, how the funds will be used, and what type of loan to pursue, smart business owners also need to decide what lender to work with. Credit unions are often at the top of the list, but before diving into the application process, businesses should have a full understanding of the pros and cons of getting a business loan from a credit union.

Pros

One of the biggest benefits of getting a loan from a credit union is the very low interest rates for qualified borrowers. Because credit unions are non-profit organizations, they do not have to pay state and federal taxes. This allows these financial institutions to offer extremely competitive interest rates to their members, often beating out the rates offered by banks.

Another benefit is that credit union account holders are seen as members and not just as customers. Because of this, there’s usually better customer service, and the institution may be more flexible and willing to accommodate its members when it comes to lending policies. Working with a credit union to receive a loan can be easier and more effective for new businesses or for members who have made mistakes on prior credit reports.

Cons

One of the biggest drawbacks of getting a loan from a credit union is actually finding one that offers the lending services that are needed. Credit unions are often very small and do not have multiple branches all throughout the country. Not only does a business owner have to qualify for membership, they also need to make sure that the credit union offers the lending service they seek, such as a commercial mortgage or SBA loan. Not all credit unions are the same and each have their own lending programs and policies in place.

Another potential drawback is the requirements set by some credit unions before a member can apply for a loan. This could include building up a savings account or being a member for a set period of time. A credit union may also offer loans that don’t quite fit the needs of the borrower. For example, a business owner seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing will be out of luck if the credit union offers maximum loans of $50,000. This is why it’s important to shop around for a credit union that offers many lending services for businesses, in addition to competitive interest rates and great terms.

Working with a credit union may be easier than getting a loan from a bank, but some loans still have limitations. Borrowers with very low or limited credit or low revenues may encounter challenges when applying for credit union loans. If this occurs, you can consider other options through the credit union, or explore additional small business loan options from alternative lenders.

What Interest Rates Can I Expect From A Credit Union?

Like banks and other lenders, credit unions offer different interest rates to their members based on a number of factors, including, not limited to, the type of loan, the loan amount, and the borrower’s creditworthiness.

In general, credit union members should expect to pay interest rates that are competitive with banks, and in many cases, even lower. For the most qualified, low-risk borrowers, interest rates below 5% are available for installment loans. For SBA loans, credit unions base their interest rates on the standards set by the SBA, which are extremely competitive.

Interest rates also vary by the type of loan selected. For instance, installment loans will almost always have lower rates than other types of financing like lines of credit or credit cards.

How To Apply For A Business Loan From A Credit Union

The application process varies from lender to lender, but there is some documentation that is required by all lenders when applying for a business loan.

The business owner will need to prove that they own the business and can do that with documents including business licenses and articles of incorporation. The business will also need to state how much money they are seeking and how the funds will be used.

The credit reports of the business and any owner of at least 20% of the company will be required to determine loan eligibility and interest rates. Documentation will also need to be provided to prove that revenue is high enough to pay back the loan plus interest, taking into account the company’s current debt obligations. Common documentation needed for a loan application include profit and loss statements, personal and business financial statements, balance sheets, and income tax returns.

Depending on the loan selected and the borrower’s credit history, collateral may be required. If the business is seeking a loan to purchase real estate or improve existing facilities, items including vendor and contractor quotes and purchase agreements may also need to be provided.

For most loans, a personal guarantee by all owners with at least a 20% stake in the company is required. This simply means that if the loan goes into default, the owners of the business will be held personally liable for the debt.

For new businesses and startups, some business documentation may not be available. For these businesses, a solid business plan will need to be submitted with the application. The borrower should also be prepared to prove that he or she has sufficient industry experience. Financial projections for at least one year may also be required.

After submitting all documentation and an application, the credit union will make an approval decision. If approved, the underwriting process will begin and the loan will be funded. The length of the entire process depends on the type of loan selected. For example, a line of credit or credit card may be approved and used within days, while an installment loan, commercial mortgage, or SBA loan may take several weeks or months from start to finish.

Final Thoughts

In addition to offering checking and savings accounts for business owners, credit unions can provide many affordable loan options for business expenses. With more personalized customer service and a wide range of financial services available, credit unions should always be a consideration for any business owner seeking a competitive loan.

The post Credit Union Small Business Loans: Types Of Loans And How To Qualify appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Invoice VS Zoho Books

Zoho Invoice VS Zoho Books

Accounting

✓

Features

✓

Pricing

✓

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

Tie

Users & Permissions

Tie

✓

Ease of Use

Tie

Mobile Apps

Tie

Tie

Customer Service & Support

Tie

Tie

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Tie

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

Integrations

✓

Tie

Security

Tie

?

Winner

?

Review Visit

Review Visit

Zoho offers a suite of over 40 products including Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books. But when two sibling products from the same family tree go head to head, which comes out on top? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books both offer incredible invoicing and international business features for small businesses, as well as strong mobile apps, excellent customer service, and positive customer reviews.

Zoho Invoice was created in 2008 and today has grown to offer over 16 invoice templates, multi-lingual invoicing, and tons of invoicing automations. Top that with a beautiful client portal, project management, expense tracking, and ten different payment gateway options and it’s easy to see why Zoho Invoice is our top 5-star invoicing software.

The Zoho Books software we know today was redesigned and launched in 2014. The software offers the same great invoicing features as Zoho Invoice but adds accounting features like journal entries, bank reconciliation, and accounts payable. The software also offers inventory, tracking categories, and a few more third-party integrations, which has earned it the Merchant Maverick title of Best Accounting Software For Invoicing.

But which bookkeeping software app is better, and which is more suited for your small business? Let’s find out.

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

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.

Accounting

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books is the clear winner here because Zoho Invoice isn’t accounting software — it’s simply straightforward invoicing software.

Zoho Invoice does provide a few basic bookkeeping tools like expense tracking and mileage deductions which might be enough for some smaller businesses. However, if you want true accounting, Zoho Books is the way to go.

Zoho Books provides the full accounting package, so much so that it gives QuickBooks Online a run for its money. Zoho Books features bank reconciliation, journal entries, ample reports, fixed asset management, and a customizable chart of accounts.

Features

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Invoice VS Zoho Books

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✘

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✘

Chart of Accounts

✓

✘

Fixed Asset Management

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✘

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✓

✘

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✘

Tracking Categories

✓

✘

Print Checks

✓

✓

Mileage Deductions

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✘

Tax Support

✓

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

The chart makes it easy to see which app takes the cake in this category.

Both Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books have some of the best invoicing features and automations on the market. The features that the programs do share are nigh identical; the main difference is that Zoho Books takes the UI and feature set of Zoho Invoice and ups the ante with more features.

While Zoho Invoice is incredibly full-featured for an invoicing software, Zoho Books add accounts payable, inventory, tracking categories, and tax support in addition to the accounting features mentioned earlier.

Pricing

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books have very similar pricing structures. Zoho Invoice offers a forever free plan as well as three paid plans ranging from $9 – $29/month. Zoho Books’ three pricing plans also range from $9-$29/month.

While Zoho Invoice seems like it has the edge by offering a free plan, the plan itself is severely limited and impractical for most businesses. We give this category to Zoho Books because you get much more bang for your buck in terms of features for the same exact price as Zoho Invoice.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

As cloud-based software programs, both Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books are compatible with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection. Both also offer an incredible number of mobile apps for Apple products, Androids, Microsoft phones, Smartwatches, and even Kindles.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Tie

Zoho Invoice’s largest plan allows 10 users. Similarly, Zoho Books’ largest plan allows nine users and one accountant. Additional users can be added to each software. Both programs also offer decent user permissions and the ability to approve transactions for added control, putting them on the same footing as far as user permissions go.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Zoho Invoice

Both Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books are generally easy to use. Each software can be difficult to navigate at times, but luckily there are ample support options to help you find what you’re looking for. The UI and user experience are almost identical with each program, but we gave Zoho Invoice the win here based on the sheer fact that there are fewer features to have to learn and navigate.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books offer strong, full-featured mobile apps that receive much praise from customers.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books have excellent customer support (are you catching the theme yet?). Since Zoho is in charge of both products, it’s not surprising that their customer support options are similar. In my experience, phone wait times are short, email responses are generally quick, and representatives are usually friendly and helpful for both products. The best part is that Zoho Invoice’s and Zoho Books’ knowledgebases can be accessed directly from within the respective programs to make your life a bit easier.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books receive predominately positive customer reviews. The products have such a similar number of negative reviews that we had to give them a tie.

The complaints that do exist regarding Zoho Invoice mostly revolve around lack of integrations, a few poor customer support experiences, and occasional navigational difficulties. Complaints about Zoho Books center around a similar lack of integrations, the lack of payroll, and the desire for more features (mostly more reporting and user permissions).

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Again, Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books tie in the number of positive customer reviews they receive. Both receive high ratings across the board from sites like G2Crowd and GetApp, as well as iTunes and the Google Play Store.

Zoho Invoice customers love how easy the software is to use, how professional the invoices look, and the ability to run their business on the go. Zoho Books users also love how easy the software is to use and appreciate how affordable it is, especially considering the robust feature set.

Integrations

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Invoice has 25 integrations as opposed to Zoho Books’ 33, which gives Zoho Books the edge here.

Security

Winner: Tie

Zoho uses the same security measures to protect both Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books, including SSL encryption, two-factor authentication, and regular virus detection and prevention to protect customer data. The company also performs regular data backups onto multiple servers in undisclosed locations, which are guarded by a number of physical security measures. Visit Zoho’s website to learn more.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Invoice VS Zoho Books

While both products are similar and are tied in a number of categories, Zoho Books is undeniably a step up from Zoho Invoice. I almost always recommend using full accounting software over solely invoicing software. When it comes to running your small business, you need a way to balance the books and keep strong accounting records for tax season.

This is why Zoho Books was the clear winner from the start. Not only do you get more bang for your buck with Zoho Books in terms of features, you also can rest assured that your books are balanced correctly. Key features like bank reconciliation, accounts payable, inventory, and tax support make Zoho Books a more practical small business solution. Plus, you get the same great mobile apps and customer service but with more integrations.

However, this doesn’t mean that Zoho Books is necessarily the right choice for everyone. If you are looking for invoicing software and don’t want the extra accounting features, Zoho Invoice is one of best — if not the best — invoicing software out there. It offers great invoice templates and customizations, expense tracking, a client portal, and project management — all at a relatively affordable price.

Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books each boast strong mobile apps, excellent customer support, almost identical pricing structures, and tons of positive customer reviews, so you really can’t go wrong with either choice (unless your small business needs payroll, in which case you’ll need a more advanced accounting software). The decision ultimately comes down to what features your business needs.

If you want to explore all of your options, check out our other accounting software reviews and/or view our full invoicing software reviews.

The post Zoho Invoice VS Zoho Books appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Government Business Loans: What Small Businesses Need To Know

Not all small businesses are the same, but they all have one thing in common: the need for capital to grow, expand, and be successful. Unfortunately, small businesses don’t have unlimited funds available, so they often need a helping hand in the form of a business loan. Getting funding from a bank, credit union, or another traditional route isn’t always possible. Small businesses – especially those that have not been in business for long – are intrinsically risky prospects, and many lenders don’t want to take that gamble.

However, there is an alternative to traditional loans: government-backed business loans. These loans offer benefits to borrowers and lenders alike, creating a win-win situation for everyone involved. How does the process work? Is a government loan right for your business?

Read on to learn everything you need to know about government business loans.

What Are Government Business Loans?

Government business loan programs offer opportunities for small businesses to obtain funding. Small businesses and startups are often unable to obtain traditional bank loans since they’re viewed as riskier ventures by lenders. That’s precisely why the Small Business Administration has stepped up to provide funding options that benefit both the lender and the borrower.

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, was established in 1953 to provide resources for small businesses. In addition to offering training programs and other tools to help small business owners succeed, the SBA has also established several funding programs designed specifically to aid small businesses.

The SBA itself does not provide loans to small business owners. Instead, partner lenders known as intermediaries are used to provide funding. The SBA has established guidelines under each program, keeping interest rates low and offering longer terms to make loans more affordable for the small business owner. The SBA guarantees a percentage of the loan — usually anywhere from 50-85% of the funding. In other words, the Small Business Administration agrees to repay the guaranteed portion of the loan if the borrower defaults. This mitigates much of the risk for the lenders, giving them more incentive to lend to small business owners.

Who Are Government Business Loans For?

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Government business loans are available to every for-profit small business in the United States, providing the business meets the qualification guidelines. To obtain an SBA loan, each business must officially qualify as a small business based on its number of employees, net worth, and annual revenue.

The SBA offers multiple programs to fit the needs of just about any small business. Established businesses can use SBA-backed loans to expand with new or updated facilities, purchase equipment, or obtain working capital. Startups can also qualify to receive funding for their next big project. The purchase of businesses and franchises can be funded through SBA loan programs as well.

The SBA offers funding opportunities for military veterans and service members through the Veterans Advantage program. Businesses run by women, minorities, and veterans, or those in underserved communities — including low-income areas — can request funding through the Community Advantage program.

SBA Loans For Immigrants

Although SBA loans are for businesses based in the United States, loan opportunities are available for immigrant small business owners. Permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and refugees or asylees with lawful permanent resident status can apply for government-backed loans. Lawful non-permanent citizens can also qualify provided they have up-to-date work visas. There are no special requirements for immigrants when applying for this funding. However, all immigration paperwork and documentation – in addition to the standard loan paperwork – will be required.

SBA Loans For Felons

Small business owners with felony records may still be able to obtain SBA-backed loans. The SBA’s rules state that funding will not be available for anyone with a record containing crimes of moral turpitude. This includes violent crimes such as homicide or aggravated kidnapping, as well as crimes of dishonesty such as theft, embezzlement, or fraud.

Felonies that do not involve moral turpitude may also disqualify an applicant from receiving funding based on the policies of the intermediary. Some lenders may opt to not loan to anyone with a felony record; therefore, any applicant convicted of a felony may have to shop around to find a lender willing to work with their criminal background.

Types Of Small Business Loans Offered By The Government

The SBA has multiple loan programs in place to meet the needs of small business owners. Potential borrowers should understand the interest rates, terms, repayment plans, and how each loan’s proceeds can be used before applying for a government loan.

General SBA 7(a) Business Loans

When most people think of government business loans, the SBA 7(a) program is typically what comes to mind. This program is the most popular because of its high maximum loan amounts, long repayment terms, and flexibility regarding how funds can be used.

SBA 7(a) loans can be used for just about anything. Funding is available to acquire a business or franchise. Existing businesses can purchase equipment, real estate, or use the money as working capital. Existing debt can also be refinanced using 7(a) loan proceeds. The possibilities are virtually endless with the SBA 7(a) loan, which is why it’s such a popular choice among small business owners.

Loans of up to $5 million can be taken out through the SBA 7(a) program. Interest rates are extremely competitive and are capped at a maximum of 4.75% over the base rate.

Loan Amount Less Than Seven Years More Than 7 Years

Up to $25,000

Base rate + 4.25%

Base rate + 4.75%

$25,000 – $50,000

Base rate + 3.25%

Base rate + 3.75%

$50,000 or More

Base rate + 2.25%

Base rate + 2.75%

Repayment terms are set at 10 years for most purposes and 25 years for real estate. Ready to get started? Learn everything you need to know about SBA 7(a) loans.

SBA Express Loans

The SBA Express program is very similar to the 7(a) program in terms of how money can be employed. These funds can be used for just about any business-related expense. However, there are a few key differences between the Express program and the 7(a) program.

One of the biggest differences is that applicants for an Express loan will receive an approval response within 36 hours, compared to weeks through the 7(a) program. A major drawback with this program, however, is that the maximum loan amount is capped at $350,000.

Maximum repayment terms are the same as for 7(a) loans: up to 10 years for working capital and 25 years for commercial real estate. Interest rates are slightly higher for Express loans at 4.5% to 6.5% over the base rate.

SBA 7(a) Loans SBA Express Loans

Time to Approval

2 – 4 weeks

36 hours

Max. Loan Amount

$5 million

$350,000

Interest Rates

Base rate + 2.25% – 4.75%

Base rate + 4.5% – 6.5%

Max. Repayment Terms

  • 10 years for working capital
  • 25 years for commercial real estate
  • 10 years for working capital
  • 25 years for commercial real estate

SBA Lines of Credit (CAPLines)

The SBA offers lines of credit known as CAPLines. There are four different CAPLines programs that designate how funds can be used.

CAPLine Type Loan Use

Working Capital CAPLines

Lines of credit that can be used for short-term needs such as working capital or operating expenses. 

Seasonal CAPLines

Lines of credit used by seasonal businesses to cover the costs of seasonal increases in accounts receivable or inventory. Seasonal CAPLines can not be used to cover costs during the off-season. 

Contract CAPLine

Lines of credit available for contractors to cover the costs of specific contracts. Credit lines can be used for overhead and general / administrative expenses. 

Builder’s CAPLine

Lines of credit used for expenses related to the construction and renovation of a residential or commercial buildings for resale. This line can be used for costs such as labor, supplies, materials, landscaping, or other substantial costs during the construction and renovation process. 

  • Contract CAPLines are used for financing costs related to specific contracts. These proceeds can be used toward overhead costs, administrative expenses, and general expenses. These loans cannot be used for purchasing assets, refinancing debt, or paying back taxes.
  • Seasonal CAPLines provide funding for inventory and accounts receivable during a busy seasonal period. In some instances, it can be used to fund increased labor costs.
  • Builder’s CAPLines are used to pay for expenses related to the construction or renovation of residential and commercial buildings that will be resold. Proceeds can be used toward labor, materials, landscaping, utility connections, and fees such as building permits.
  • Working Capital CAPLines provide short-term working capital for businesses. Fixed assets may be acquired using this credit line, but it must be refinanced within 90 days.

Loans of up to $5 million are distributed through all CAPLines programs. The maximum repayment term is 10 years, with the exception of Builder’s CAPLines, which have maximum terms of 5 years. The interest rate will never exceed 4.75% over the base rate.

Term Rates/Fees

Maximum Borrowing Amount

$5 million

Maximum Term Length

  • 5 years for Builder’s CAPLines
  • 10 years for Seasonal, Working Capital, and Contract CAPLines

Percentage Guaranteed By The SBA

  • 85% for loans below $150,000
  • 75% for loans above $150,000

Interest Rates

Base rate + 2.75% to base rate + 4.75%

Fees

  • Guarantee fee of 0.25% – 3.75% of the portion of the loan guaranteed by the SBA
  • Other possible fees charged by the bank / partner lender

SBA CDC/504 Loans

The SBA CDC/504 program is a government business loan program that provides financing for business expansion. Loan proceeds can be used to purchase buildings or land, build new facilities, renovate existing facilities, or purchase long-term machinery. Loan funds can also be used toward consolidating existing debt related to the purchase or renovation of facilities or equipment.

Through the SBA CDC/504 program, a borrower receives up to 40% of the project costs through an SBA-approved Certified Development Company, or CDC. Fifty-percent of the project cost is obtained by the borrower through a bank, credit union, or other lenders. The remaining 10% is paid by the borrower.

The maximum funding amount through the CDC/504 loan program is $5 million. Repayment terms are set at 10 years and 20 years, while the interest rate is based upon the 5-year and 10-year Treasure issues rate.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

No maximum, but the SBA will only fund up to $5 million

Term Lengths

10 or 20 years

Interest Rates

Fixed rate based on US Treasury rates

Borrowing Fees

  • CDC servicing fee, CSA fee, guarantee fee, third party fees (however, most of these fees are rolled into the interest rate or cost of the loan)
  • Possible prepayment penalty

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral required; usually the real estate/equipment financed

Down Payment

10% – 30%

Find out more about the terms, rates, and requirements for SBA 504 loans.

How Does The CDC/504 Program Differ From The SBA 7(a) Program?

CDC / 504 Loans SBA 7(a) Loans

Loan Size

The CDC portion of the loan has a size limit, but the overall loan can be used to finance larger projects.

Offers flexibility for size projects, but are generally used for smaller sized projects.

Interest Rates

504 loans offer fixed-rate financing, which locks in low rates for the full length of the loan.

Usually has lower fees, but are variable, not fixed, and are adjusted quarterly. Rates typically rise over time.

Prepayment Penalty

High prepayment penalties

Prepayment penalties vary depending on loan

Loan Structure

  • 50% Bank Loan
  • 40% CDC Loan
  • 10% Borrower Down Payment

Varies depending on risk. Minimum 10% down payment for the borrower.

Loan Fees

Fees are negotiated per the 50% bank loan. Can be financed within the 504 loan.

Fees are based on the size of the loan. Can be financed within the 7(a) loan. An extra .25% of fees can be charged on portions of a 7(a) loan exceeding $1 million.

SBA Microloans

The SBA Microloan program provides loans to all small businesses that meet the basic requirements of the SBA. Non-profit childcare centers are also eligible to apply. Microloans can be used as working capital or to purchase inventory, supplies, fixtures, or equipment. Microloan proceeds cannot be used for the purchase of real estate or to refinance debt.

The maximum amount that can be borrowed through the Microloan program is $50,000. Interest rates for microloans vary by lender and are dependent upon their cost of funds. The typical interest rates for these government-backed loans are between 8% and 13%. The maximum repayment term for microloans is 6 years.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

  • No down payment for most businesses
  • Possible 20% down payment for startups
  • Possible 10% down payment for business acquisition loan

Learn more about microloans and if these loans are right for your business.

SBA Disaster Loans

A disaster or unexpected event can cripple a business, even leading to its closure. SBA Disaster Loans are available to provide small business owners with the aid they need to keep their businesses alive.

  • Business Physical Disaster Loans provide up to $2 million to businesses and non-profit organizations to rebuild or replace property including buildings, equipment, and inventory following a disaster. Interest rates for these loans are set at 4% and 8%, with repayment terms up to 30 years.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, non-profits, and agricultural co-ops that are significantly affected by economic injury. Funding up to $2 million is available to help cover operating expenses and debts. Interest rates for these loans are 4% with repayment terms up to 30 years. Businesses may obtain a Business Physical Disaster Loan in addition to an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, but proceeds between both loans may not exceed $2 million.
  • Military Reservists Economic Injury Loans are available to reservists who are put on active military duty. These funds can be used to cover operating expenses but do not apply to refinancing debt, business expansion, or to cover profit or income loss. A maximum of $2 million may be borrowed based on the SBA’s calculation of the actual economic injury. Interest rates are 4% with maximum repayment terms of 30 years.
Term Rate/fee

Borrowing Amount

Maximum $2 million

Term Lengths

  • Max 30 years if no credit available elsewhere
  • Max 7 years if credit available elsewhere

Interest Rates

  • Maximum 4% if no credit available elsewhere
  • Maximum 8% if credit available elsewhere

Fees

None from the SBA; possible fees from outside agencies

Qualifying For A Government Business Loan

personal loans used for business

 

To qualify for a government business loan, a business must be based and operated in the United States. Unless otherwise specified, businesses should be for-profit. All businesses should meet the definition of a small business under the SBA’s guidelines, which limits the number of employees, annual revenues, and company net worth.

Applicants must have a good credit score, with a minimum recommended score of 680. Business and personal credit reports will be considered when applying for an SBA loan.

For many government loans, collateral is required. If there is not adequate business collateral, personal collateral in the form of real estate may be accepted. All borrowers must also sign a personal guarantee to be held liable in the event that the loan goes into default.

Down payments and fees will also be required and will vary based on the type of loan taken, the amount borrowed, and the lender’s policies.

To qualify for the Community Advantage program, the business must operate in an underserved area. To qualify for the Veterans Advantage program, the business must be at least 51% owned and operated by a military veteran, service member, reservist, National Guard member, or qualifying spouses or widows.

Can I get a government business loan if I have bad credit?

Credit is an important factor in qualifying for a government business loan. A minimum score of 680 is typically required to qualify for most SBA loan programs.

In addition to the credit score, intermediary lenders will also evaluate a credit report. Previous defaults on government-backed loans, bankruptcies, and foreclosures will be likely to disqualify the loan applicant. Additional negative items, such as collections and missed payments, will need to be explained by the applicant.

Any potential borrower that does not have a good credit score should work on raising their score before applying for government-backed loans. This can be done by obtaining a free credit report and score, paying off existing debt, and disputing any erroneous credit report items. Learn more about ways to boost your credit score.

I’m not qualified for a government business loan. What are my other business loan options?

Whether your credit score misses the mark or you just don’t meet the standard requirements need for government business loans, there are other options available. These options include working with your bank or credit union, borrowing from non-profit lenders, or seeking financing through online lenders.

How To Apply For A Government Business Loan

You know what government business loans are out there. You’ve selected a loan that fits your needs. The next step is to apply for your loan. Though the process can be time-consuming, it’s not much different from applying for a traditional loan from your bank.

To begin, the first step is to find an intermediary lender. You can find a lender through the SBA’s Lender Match tool, by a referral through your existing financial institution, or through an online loan broker.

In order to apply for a government business loan through an intermediary, required paperwork will need to be gathered. This includes business balance sheets, income statements, personal and business income tax returns for at least 3 years, and personal financial statements.

If loan proceeds are to be used toward the purchase of a business or franchise, documentation including real estate purchase agreements and business/stock/asset purchase agreements will be required. For debt refinancing, copies of notes, leases, and payment transcripts will need to be submitted with the loan application.

Startup businesses that don’t have all the required documentation must provide proof of industry experience, a detailed business plan, and financial projections with their applications.

Once the loan application is submitted, approval can take several weeks. However, with Express loans, approvals are given within 36 hours, although underwriting and funding can add additional weeks to the overall timeline. When going the traditional route with an intermediary lender, the entire loan process will take approximately 30 to 90 days.

To expedite the process, some borrowers opt to work with Smart Biz. This online marketplace simplifies and shortens the government loan application process and even provides non-SBA loan options when applicants fail to qualify.

Learn more about the process of applying for an SBA small business loan.

Alternatives To Government Business Loans

Even though government business loans are preferred by many entrepreneurs due to their long repayment terms and low interest rates, not every small business qualifies. Whether your business doesn’t qualify, your credit score isn’t yet high enough, or you need funding immediately, there are alternatives to consider.

Online Business Loans

Applying for a loan online is a great choice for many small business owners because these loans can be funded fast and requirements are much less stringent. Loans are available for business owners with credit scores as low as 500, although it’s important to note that terms and interest rates won’t be as favorable.

Through online lenders, small business owners can obtain installment loans, short-term loans, a business line of credit, equipment financing, or invoice financing. The required time in business and revenues vary, but requirements are typically lower than those required to obtain a government-backed loan. Depending on the type of loan requested, there may not be as much paperwork required as when applying for a government business loan.

Interest rates are based on the loan selected and creditworthiness. Repayment terms also vary and can range from a few months to several years. Daily, weekly, and monthly payment options are available depending on the lender and loan selected.

This is a great option for business owners with a low credit score or who don’t meet the requirements needed to get a government business loan. Interested in an online business loan? Narrow down your lender search by easily comparing lenders.

Banks & Credit Unions

Another business loan option is to go the traditional route with a bank or credit union. This option is best for a business owner that has collateral and a good credit score.

To apply, start with your existing financial institution. Speak with a loan specialist at your local branch, online, or over the phone to find out the types of loans available. This could include term loans, unsecured lines of credit, or other types of financing. Terms and interest rates vary by institution, creditworthiness of the borrower, and financing option selected.

It’s also important to learn about the requirements for obtaining one of these loans. Generally, collateral is needed as well as a credit score in the high 600s. However, requirements vary by institution. For loans, the funding process can take several months. If a faster option is needed, business credit cards for qualifying borrowers can typically be approved and sent out within days.

Non-Profit Business Lenders

Working with a non-profit business lender is another way to obtain small business loans. Typically, the loan amounts available through these lenders are much lower than government loans, usually maxing out at $50,000.

Because non-profit lenders are more limited in how much they can lend, they may be more selective with approvals. Applicants should expect to gather much of the same paperwork as required with government loans, while attending training or workshops may be required as a condition of the loan.

Loans from non-profit lenders often come with low interest rates. A good credit score is typically required, although qualifications vary by lender. Proof of sufficient cash flow, no bankruptcy filings, and other factors may be considered for loan approval.

Final Thoughts

Getting funding is often a critical step for taking a small business to the next level. For those who qualify, government business loans offer some of the best rates and terms on the market, helping to grow a business without adding a heavy debt burden. Though the process can be a bit difficult to navigate, knowing what to expect and the steps needed to qualify will pay off in the end for many small business owners.

The post Government Business Loans: What Small Businesses Need To Know appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Tie

Accounting

Tie

Features

✓

✓

Pricing

✓

Hardware & Software Requirements

User Permissions

✓

✓

Ease of Use

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Negative Reviews & Complaints

✓

✓

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Integrations

✓

Tie

Security

Tie

?

Final Verdict

?

Review Visit

Review Visit

We all love a good underdog story. But when underdog Zoho Books takes on one of the biggest names in accounting, QuickBooks Online, can this lesser-known software give QBO a run for its money? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

Redesigned and relaunched in 2014, Zoho Books continues to only get better. The software offers ample features, the most beautiful invoicing out there (including the ability to send invoices in multiple languages), excellent customer service, and strong mobile apps.

QuickBooks Online has been around since 2004. With advanced accounting, an impressive feature set, almost 280 integrations, and a brand new lending feature, it’s easy to see why QuickBooks Online is so popular.

But which accounting software is better, Zoho Books or QuickBooks?

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 compare Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online (QBO) based on 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.

Accounting

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks offer strong accounting. Each uses double-entry accounting and supports both accrual and cash-basis accounting. In terms of accounting features, both offer a customizable chart of accounts, ample reports, journal entries, and bank reconciliation.

Features

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Multiple Invoice Languages

✘

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart Of Accounts

✓

✓

Fixed Asset Management

✓

✘

Depreciation

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✓

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✓

✓

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✓

Tracking Categories

✓

✘

Budgeting

✓

✓

Print Checks

✓

✓

Multi-Currency Support

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Tax Support

✓

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

✘

Lending

✓

Note: Feature availability varies by pricing plan.

Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are mostly on par in terms of features. Each offers beautiful invoicing templates and invoicing automation, as well as inventory, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and project management. While Zoho Books puts up a great effort, QuickBooks Online edges out the competition — but just barely.

QuickBooks Online offers several features that Zoho doesn’t, including budgeting and small business lending. In addition, QuickBooks Online has a much more developed time tracking feature and more tax support. QuickBooks Online gives users the option to add payroll to their software (for an extra cost), whereas Zoho Books has no payroll support.

One place where Zoho Books actually trumps QuickBooks is international invoicing. QuickBooks doesn’t allow you to send invoices in multiple languages whereas Zoho Books does. However, this unique touch isn’t enough to make up for the lack of budgeting and limited time tracking.

Pricing

Winner: Zoho Books

QuickBooks Online offers three pricing plans ranging from $15 – $50/month, with payroll support costing an extra $39 – $99/month (plus $2/month per employee). Zoho Books offers three pricing plans as well ranging from $9 – $29/month.

Zoho Books takes the cake as far a pricing goes, especially considering that you get nearly all of the same features as QuickBooks Online for almost half the cost.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online works with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection and are using one of the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Internet Explorer 10+
  • Safari 6.1+

Similarly, Zoho Books is also cloud-based and compatible with nearly any device and works with these browsers:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera

Both also offer mobile apps available for Apple products and Androids, although Zoho takes it up a level by offering mobile apps for Microsoft phones and Kindles as well. This, along with supporting Opera, is why Zoho Books wins in terms of hardware and software requirements.

Users & Permissions

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books’ largest plan offers 9 users plus one accountant; QuickBooks Online’s largest plan offers 5 users plus two accountants. Additional users can be added to each plan.

Zoho Books offers very limited users permissions, making QuickBooks Online the clear winner here. With QuickBooks Online you can set multiple user roles and control each user’s access to certain features. Because of this important distinction, QBO wins this category despite offering few users.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are relatively easy to use. Both have modern UIs that are well-organized and easy to learn. However, each software suffers from the occasional navigational difficulty. That being said, Zoho Books has far better customer support and fewer bugs and glitches making it easier to learn and navigate.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online offer strong mobile apps. Zoho Books receives 4.8/5 stars on iTunes and 4.5/5 stars on the Google Play Store. QuickBooks Online receives 4.7/5 stars on iTunes and 4.3/5 stars on the Google Play Store.

While both company’s apps are fairly close in ratings, Zoho Books’ mobile apps are full-featured and compatible with Microsoft phones and Kindles in addition to iPhone and Androids, making it the winner here.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books has the better customer support by far. In my experience, representatives respond quickly to emails and I have hardly ever been put on hold when calling their support team. Representatives are generally kind and informative. Additionally, Zoho Books has a well-developed knowledge base with tons of articles, videos, guides, and more — and it all can be accessed directly from within the software to boot.

In the past, QuickBooks Online had notoriously poor customer support and extremely long phone wait times. While the company has been remedying this over the last year or so, QBO still has a ways to go if they want to top Zoho Books in the customer service arena.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: QuickBooks Online

This is one category QuickBooks Online should not want to win. QuickBooks Online has received many complaints. Most complaints revolve around poor customer service experiences, bugs, limited apps, and even a few unauthorized charges.

Zoho Books, on the other hand, has received far fewer customer complaints (granted Zoho Books has far fewer customer reviews in general, but the ratio of negative to positive reviews is smaller). The complaints that do exist revolve around the lack of payroll and limited integrations.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Zoho Books

While QuickBooks Online has a higher number of positive reviews overall, Zoho Books has a higher percentage of positive reviews, which is why it wins this category. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd. Users love that the software is easy to use, affordable, and updated frequently. They also like the mobile apps.

Integrations

Winner: QuickBooks Online

There’s no question here. QuickBooks Online offers around 280 integrations as opposed to Zoho Books’ 33.

Security

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online implement strong security measures. Each uses data encryption, redundancy, routing testing, and physical security measures to protect their data centers.

To learn more about cloud security read our posts Is My Accounting Safe In The Cloud? and What Is SSL? A First Look At Online Security.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books definitely gives QBO a run for its money. However, there a few areas where QuickBooks Online beats out its opponent. QuickBooks Online offers more integrations, more advanced features, better tax support, and payroll. The lack of payroll, or any payroll integrations, seriously rules Zoho Books as an option for many businesses, solidifying QuickBooks Online’s place as the winner.

QuickBooks Online is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses in need of strong accounting, so much so that we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses. The software offers strong accounting, decent mobile apps, ample integrations, and beautiful invoicing. QuickBooks Online also has a unique new lending feature, QuickBooks Capital, so you can potentially have your small business accounting and financing all in one place.

However, just because we named QuickBooks Online the winner, doesn’t mean that Zoho Books isn’t the better choice for your business. Zoho Books is ideal for small businesses looking for an easy-to-use accounting software with strong mobile apps and plenty of features. It’s also a great choice if you need international invoicing. If you don’t require payroll or budgeting, you could save a chunk of change by going with Zoho Books instead of QuickBooks — plus, you’ll get much better customer support.

Or, maybe after reading this post, neither option seems right for you. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting software reviews can help you find the perfect bookkeeping solution for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online reviews for more information. Be sure to take advantage of the free trials each software provides and feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

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Box.com Cloud Storage Review

There is no shortage of options when it comes to selecting the optimal cloud storage platform for your business. Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and more compete as solo options, while innumerable other services offer their own native storage options. Into this mix comes Box, an app with an unfortunately generic name attempting to offer non-generic features and services. Do they really manage to set themselves apart from the competition? Is this service worth a subscription? To find out, read on! We’ll review Box’s pricing, available features, and ease of use.

Pricing

Box Cloud Storage offers three separate pricing plans, each targeted at a different set of users. These are:

Starter

  • $5/user/month
  • 100 GB storage

This option is designed for small teams with minimal storage requirements. Really, you probably don’t want to subscribe at this level, though the price tag may seem tempting.

Business

  • $15/user/month
  • Unlimited storage
  • Data loss prevention
  • User and security reporting

The business subscription is almost certainly the option you will end up with, and though it is three times more expensive than the starter plan, you get unlimited storage and data loss prevention. These two major perks are almost enough for me to recommend it on the spot, but this tier also comes with admin features like user and security reporting, as well as a number of others, that make it an even better deal. Still, if you want the ultimate Box experience, you can take it one level higher.

Business Plus

  • $25/user/month
  • Unlimited Storage
  • Unlimited external Collaborators
  • Admin role delegation

This tier is primarily intended for graphic designers and other professionals that interact regularly with clients. By adding customers as external collaborators, you can bring them into the creative process and grant access to the files you create for them. The business plus tier also steps up the level of admin control you have, including allowing you access to all user activity.

Features

A Box subscription comes with a heap of features, all designed to increase the effectiveness of your document management. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Management: Box gives you control over who uses your data, then gives you information about how they use it. This includes reporting geographic location of access points, as well as timestamps and more. Basically, you get to choose who sees what, then know when and where they saw it.
  • Workflow Management: With this feature, box delivers a sort of “project management lite.” Using Box relay, you can set up workflows, assign tasks and due dates, and generally keep your team on the same page. If you need a basic task management app, you might find that the feature alone meets all your needs, without having to look for a third-party service.
  • Data Security: It wouldn’t be much of a cloud-based storage service if it was not secure. Box takes security seriously, using AES 256-bit encryption, and maintaining numerous redundant servers around the world. On that point, some subscription tiers gain access to Box Zones, which allows you to select which geographic regions you want your data in.
  • Machine Learning: Using Box Skills, you can put AI to work for your businesses. You start by creating smart labels and workflows, and over time the AI will learn your systems and find new ways of making your business more efficient. It is pretty impressive, and Box seems convinced it is the way of the future. This feature is in Beta currently but undergoes constant improvement.
  • Integrations: One of the best things about Box in my book is the sheer number of third-party apps it integrates with. This is one versatile platform and the fact that you can pretty much count on your other business services playing nicely with it means your experience is that much more likely to be comfortable and confident.

Ease Of Use

I am of two minds about Box’s ease of use. At basic levels, this is a pretty run-of-the-mill cloud storage service. It is easy to get signed up, easy to start storing documents. So far, so simple. However, when we start getting into the higher subscriptions, things get a little more difficult. While I wouldn’t say any feature is exactly hard to use, they definitely take more forethought and planning, where the more basic capabilities can be operated intuitively. It definitely feels like the kind of thing that would take a considerable amount of time to set up, but once that setup process is complete, your work is done.

Final Thoughts

From one perspective, it doesn’t really matter if you use Box or some other cloud storage service. If that is, you only plan to use it for cloud storage. If that is you, just looking for a place to dump your files in the cloud, then my recommendation is to take a look at several storage services and pick the one you like best from a visual and mechanical design standpoint.

But if you are looking for a cloud storage service that does a bit more, then Box takes a step into the limelight. In another post, I compared Box with similarly-named Dropbox, and I will stick to what I said there. If you are in a position where you need limitless storage and lots of customer interaction, Box becomes your best bet. Add to that basic task management features and lots of admin tools to keep on top of access to your files, and you have what is now an extremely desirable option.

As always, I do recommend test it out before committing completely, and fortunately, Box offers a two-week trial to give you the chance to try before you buy. Go try it out, then make your decision from there.

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Box VS Dropbox: Storage Wars

Cloud storage. It is the kind of thing you don’t want to think about when setting up your business; you want to focus on the exciting things like prototyping products, hiring employees, and making sales. But, as with so many other parts of life, the fundamentals can often make the biggest difference. In the world of cloud storage and file sharing, that means figuring out which provider offers the best value for money, the best supplemental features, and the one that best suits the style of your team.

While there are plenty of options out there if you want to store your files and other documents online, two apps, in particular, seem to have the most brand recognition at the moment: Dropbox and Box. They share frustratingly similar names (seriously, whose idea was that?), and they aim to achieve similar goals: secure storage of files and folders. To learn which is best, we need to go in for a closer look. This is storage wars: Box vs. Dropbox.

Pricing

Right off the bat, Box jumps into the lead with a $5 pricing option. Described as a small-team subscription, this comes with just 100 GB of storage, so for some businesses, particularly those with lots of files, this will not be enough. The next steps up for Box are their Business and Business Plus plans, which cost $15 and $25 respectively. The difference between these plans is not in the amount of storage available, since both offer unlimited data, but rather in the supplemental features that accompany them. The Business Plus plan has more admin features and allows for unlimited external users and collaborators. If you work in graphic design or closely with clients in any field, this might be the subscription for you.

In the other corner, Dropbox begins their business subscriptions with the “standard” level at $12.50/user/month. For that price, you get two TB storage, as well as Dropbox Paper and a number of other snazzy features. As starting subscriptions go, this one isn’t too bad, though you’ll note it is significantly more expensive than the basic Box subscription. Having said that, though, I feel that the “standard” Dropbox account subscription is better compared with Box’s Business level. Both come with plenty of storage space for files, and both include basic admin tools.  With that as our premise, I think Dropbox might squeak by with the win. Two terabytes will be sufficient for most teams, and Dropbox Paper is pretty interesting (more on that later). If the “standard” level is not enough, you might opt for the “advanced” subscription. This comes with “as much space as your team needs,” which, I’ll note, is not the same as claiming unlimited storage. The advanced plan also comes with an array of security features all designed to keep your precious data safe.

Verdict: This is pretty much a tie. Box starts out cheaper, but with much less storage available. In terms of value for money, Box and Dropbox are basically even.

Features

Obviously, both Box and Dropbox offer cloud-based document storage. Within that broad umbrella, each offers slightly different approaches to the general goal of allowing remote collaboration on a variety of file and document formats. Both boast seamless integrations with Microsoft office and both claim they are designed to allow keep everyone connected across all devices. To pick which is best for you, though, we need to understand what makes them different. Let’s start with Box.

The team at Box would rather you refer to their product not as “cloud storage,” but as “content management.” Sure, you can store your pdfs and Microsoft Word documents here, but Box is also optimized to view 3D files as well. Box’s website is filled with case studies and testimonials from multiple industries sharing how Box allowed them to consolidate and streamline their process. In particular, though, I found that Box seems to have two major strengths in comparison with Dropbox. First, this app allows users to have greater collaboration on files with non-account holders. Basically, you can create guest accounts to allow clients to join in on the collaborative process. Dropbox also has this capability, but with Box, you are not limited in the number of external users. Second, Box seems better suited for integrations and customization. If your team includes people comfortable with coding, or if you use a particular their-party app, Box is well situated to fit in well with your needs.

Dropbox, on the other hand, brings an important feature to the battlefield: Dropbox Paper. Paper is a collaborative tool allowing you and your team members to clearly track and process your work. Basically, Paper is a timeline with a record of your projects and tasks. That’s right; Dropbox business plans come with light project management tools. For me, that is the biggest strength of Dropbox for business. You can assign various documents to different team members and monitor their progress in completing their task. Dropbox also has more admin tools that can restrict or grant access to users as situations demand.

Verdict: It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are looking for a flexible platform to work on and view all sorts of documents, pick Box. If you want a more focused approach to getting work done, a Dropbox folder may be the better choice for you.

Final Thoughts

Some wars are fought with decisive victories that bring the conflict to a conclusive end. Others drag on for years, decades, even centuries (hey, they didn’t call it the 100 years war for nothing, right?). The conflict between Box and Dropbox is one of those, where both sides trade blows without any clear end in sight.

The problem is these apps basically accomplish the same thing. Though they are priced differently and seem to have different strengths when compared directly, the reality of the matter is that both Dropbox and Box allow you to store your files in the cloud and access them from any of your devices. From that macro perspective, there is very little difference between the two. In their marketing materials, they both even use the same example of collaborating on a slide show! From a micro perspective, I would say that Dropbox offers tighter control over your documents, especially if you opt for the “advanced” subscription. Box, though, seems more flexible and allows for greater customer interaction.

Fortunately, both offer free trials, which will allow you to try them out and see which one you prefer for yourself. My recommendation: use this comparison to pick the one you think will be a better fit for your business. If you aren’t satisfied, opt out and try the other option. Happy storing! Stay safe out there.

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