6 Best Online Payroll Services And How To Choose The Best One For You

Online payroll services are an invaluable tool to keep your business running smoothly. They pay your employees on time, keep track of your payroll taxes and employee benefits, and help with your HR needs. This all saves you valuable time that can be spent building your business and not dealing with upset employees or the IRS.

Here is our list of the six best online payroll services to help your business run well and give you more time to focus on your work.

QuickBooks Payroll

QuickBooks Payroll is one of the more well-known names on our list. It’s compatible with Quickbooks Online, so if you’re already using that system for your accounting, you might want to seriously consider using their payroll system too.

What We Love

Besides compatibly with their other widely-used products, we also love how comprehensive this online payroll service is. They help you transfer your data from a current payroll provider into their system. You get unlimited payroll runs along with automated tax forms and filing. QuickBooks has good ratings for customer service too.

They function in all 50 states, which is not true for all online payroll services, and very important as the workforce moves to remote working. No longer do your employees have to be in your area.

QuickBooks Payroll also has an app so you can access your payroll data from anywhere very easily. They have a wide option of reports you can create so that you’re always aware of what’s going on with your payroll.

How They Could Improve

QuickBooks Payroll falls short in the HR department when compared to others on our list. It’s not non-existent. They do help you get set up for investing in your workers’ 401(K) and providing health benefits. They also have an HR Support Center, but it’s only accessible if you purchase the top two tiers of their plan.

However, when you put them up against other services we profiled and consider that QuickBooks Payroll costs more than most others, it’s just not quite as robust as we would like.

Quickbooks Payroll Pricing

QuickBooks has three pricing tiers. If your business is small and this is your first time using an online payroll system, the Core level should be just fine for you.

If your business is established and growing, you might want to consider one of the two higher levels to keep up with your business needs.

QuickBooks pricing

Related: How To Use Timesheets In QuickBooks Online

Gusto Payroll

Gusto has more than 100,000 businesses using their online payroll services. These companies take advantage of a full array of tools and services to make sure that their payroll is always run correctly.

What We Love

Our favorite thing about Gusto is their focus on both payroll and HR. When you own your own business and you need to make sure everything’s done, it’s hugely beneficial to have all of your services in one place.

They’ll submit your payroll taxes and required filings no matter which plan you choose. You’ll also get at least basic HR services at even their lowest-tiered plan. The more you’re willing to pay per month, the more they’ll take care of. The larger your company is, the more you may want to pay Gusto to do.

How They Could Improve

There really isn’t much to improve about Gusto’s services. They have an app (Gusto Wallet), employee onboarding, and excellent customer service via phone call, email, or text.

If we have to pick something, we’d pick the cost. Gusto is more money per employee per month than almost any other plan on our list. So instead of the typical $4/employee, it’s $6/employee. That $2 doesn’t sound like much, but if you have 25 employees. Then it’s an extra $50/month or $600/year. It’s something to keep in mind, especially if you’re just starting out and watching every penny.

Gusto Payroll Pricing

Gusto has four payroll pricing plans. The Basic Plan really is basic; it has limitations you should be careful of, like it only gives you the option to do payroll in one state and doesn’t have any employee onboarding tools.

The Concierge Plan is really the cream of the crop. Similar services are not available with any other online payroll service that we profiled. It will cost you $149/month plus $12/employee/month. The additional services of HR pros is what takes that service to the next level. If you’re looking for a full-service online payroll and HR experience and are willing to pay, the concierge level is the best you can get.

Not a comprehensive list. Go to the Gusto website for a full list of features.

Square Payroll

Square Payroll integrates with Square POS, like QuickBooks Payroll integrates with QuickBooks Online. So if you’re using Square for your sales, it’s worth giving Square Payroll serious consideration. Fortunately, it’s a great online payroll service.

What We Love

Customer service is obviously a focus at Square Payroll. It’s all U.S.-based and you get live support for setup when you’re getting started with Square.

Unlike other online payroll services that make you pay more to have your tax reporting taken care of by them, Square takes care of it for their low monthly rate. They’ll mail out W2s and 1099s, and also file and submit your payroll taxes for you.

How They Could Improve

For as good as they are with everything else, Square really dropped the ball with human resources assistance. Are HR add-ons an absolute necessity when you’re talking payroll? Not necessarily. However, when there are so many other services out there that include HR as part of their standard packages, it’s hard to overlook its absence with Square.

Square Payroll Pricing

Square Payroll has two different pricing plans. The first is for general payroll needs. It’s $29/month and $5/employee/month. This easily makes it one of the more affordable online payroll services.

The second is for contractors only, and there is no monthly service fee. Instead, you just pay $5/month for each person you pay. Gusto has a similar service, but it’s $6/person for the same services. All other things being equal, go with the lower price.


Related: Square vs. QuickBooks Payments: Which Is Best For Your Small Businesses?


Payroll4Free‘s name tells you exactly what it is: a payroll that costs you nothing to run.

Impossible? No. Drawbacks? Potentially.

What We Love

We love that it’s free. That’s obviously where we’ll start. There are a lot of businesses, especially start-ups, that don’t have extra resources to spend. If you have 25 employees or less, this service won’t cost you a thing to use, allowing you to save your pennies.

It does include a fair number of features for a free product. Among other things, it offers an employee portal, tax forms for your employees and the calculations to go in those forms, and the option of direct deposit or printing checks.

You get detailed reporting with Payroll4Free. It’s helpful for businesses to have reporting they can count on as part of their package so they can easily track trends in their payroll, places they might be able to improve, etc.

How They Could Improve

When you don’t charge for something, that usually means you’ll sacrifice benefits or perks along the way. There are definitely a couple of things you’re sacrificing by using Payroll4Free.

You won’t get HR assistance with Payroll4Free. Where other online payroll services typically offer a range from minimal to extensive HR assistance with their plans, it’s noticeably absent here.

There is also no app for Payroll4Free. It is cloud-based so you can access it anywhere.

Finally, you must be running Windows in order to run Payroll4Free. It won’t run on a Mac unless you’re running Windows on that Mac. Enough people run businesses on a Mac (without the Windows Boot Camp) that this seems to be an odd thing not to offer.

Payroll4Free Pricing

The term “pricing” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Payroll4Free. The price is in the name: It won’t cost you anything to run your basic payroll every month. That remains true as long as your payroll is for 25 people or less. If you have more than that, Payroll4Free charges you an additional fee each month. Contact them if this applies to you.

Click here for Payroll4Free’s full list of free services.

There are two ways to incur a monthly fee at Payroll4Free. The first is if you want them to file all of your payroll tax forms and submit your tax payments on your behalf. That will cost you $15/month. Likewise, it will cost you $15/month if you want to use their bank to pay your employees rather than your own bank. So the most you would pay is $30 to use Payroll4Free. There are no additional per-employee charges.

Payroll4free pricing



SurePayroll has been helping companies do their online payrolls for over 20 years. They’ve perfected their customer service and their user interface to make using their online payroll service easy to both set up and use.

What We Love

SurePayroll guarantees their tax calculations and their no-fault filing. You can read more about these guarantees, but basically, as long as you have provided accurate information in a timely manner, they’ll pay any filing penalties you would incur.

Their customer service is also top-notch and U.S.-based. They’ve received high marks for taking the time to walk their clients through the online payroll process. They are knowledgeable about what they offer, can answer questions quickly and efficiently. While their support isn’t 24/7, it does go 7A – 8P CT M-F and for four hours on Saturday, 9A – 1P CT. You can text, call, or e-mail.

How They Could Improve

Extra fees are where SurePayroll takes a sure misstep.

  • Can you do tax filing in several states? Yes, for an additional $9.99/month.
  • Can you integrate your accounting software? Yes, for an additional $4.99/payroll run.
  • Can you integrate your time clock software? Yes, for an additional $4.99/month plus $3/employee/month.

Other companies incorporate these fees into their monthly charges, which are very similar to SurePayroll’s. We think SurePayroll should do the same.

SurePayroll Pricing

When you see SurePayroll pricing plans, you’ll note that it’s similarly priced to others on our list.  For $19.99 per month plus $4 per employee the software will calculate the payroll but you have to file and submit your own taxes.

If you want SurePayroll to do that paperwork for you it will cost $29.99 per month plus $5 per employee.

Surepayroll pricing


Patriot has been in business for more than 30 years. They have a reputation for a quality product and a commitment to their customers.

What We Love

This online payroll service is easy to set up, use, and customize. Their customer service gets high marks for knowledge and helpfulness.

They offer multiple state payrolls. If you have employees in different states, you can account for the differences in payroll for each state in your setup.

They update their software twice a day. It’s seamless and you’ll never notice it, so why is this important? It shows their commitment to constantly being up-to-date in what they offer, something their customers value.

How They Could Improve

Patriot doesn’t have an app. They’re cloud-based and therefore you can run it anywhere, but no app. Their argument is it saves on your phone storage. Our argument is that apps are the way things function now and make using the service on-the-go a lot easier.

Their HR assistance is definitely lacking. While there are a few HR-related things you can do with Patriot, you can’t set up or manage benefits, which might be a dealbreaker for you.

Patriot Payroll Pricing

There are two Patriot pricing plans. As with SurePayroll, the biggest difference between the two is that you’ll have to submit and file your own taxes under their Basic Payroll plan which costs $10 per month plus $4 per employee.  If you want Patriot to file your taxes on your behalf it’s $30 per month plus $4 per employee.

Other than Payroll4Free, Patriot’s Basic Plan is the least expensive on our list.

Patriot pricing
Not a comprehensive list. Go to the Patriot website for a full list of features.


Payroll ServiceBest For (Size)FeesAutomated Tax FilingApp
QuickBooksSmall to Medium-Sized Companies$22.50/mo. + $4/emp. to
$62.50/mo. + $10/emp.
GustoSmall to Medium-Sized Companies$19/mo. +$6/emp. to $149/mo. + $12/emp.YY
Square PayrollContractors$5/person if just paying contractors; otherwise $29/mo. + $5/emp.YY
Payroll4FreeCompanies With Less Than 25 PeopleFreeNN
SurePayrollBusinesses with Employees All In Same State$19.99/mo. + $4/emp. to $29.99/mo. + $5/emp.YY
PatriotSmall Companies$10/mo. + $4/emp. to $30/mo. + $4/emp.YN

What To Look For In An Online Payroll Service

Here are five things to consider as you choose the best online payroll service for your business.

Pricing: Do The Math

Most payroll services use the same formula for pricing: a set per-month cost for using their services plus an additional fee per employee per month.

Obviously, this means that the more employees you have, the more it will cost you to run payroll. Do the math to know what your true cost per month will be for each service.

It might be that two services seem like they’ll both work for you, but one charges $4/employee/month and one charges $10/employee/month. If you have 15 employees, you’ll be spending an additional $90/month for the latter’s payroll services, which is over $1,000/year. Knowing that might help you make your decision.

Filing Taxes: Yes Or No?

Some online payroll services will file your taxes for you and others won’t. They might provide the paperwork and the figures to go onto the forms, but they won’t actually file them for you.

For some business owners, that’s not a dealbreaker. For others, it’s one more thing they don’t want to keep track of. Decide how critical that service is to you.

For most business owners, it’s worth the extra cost to have this taken care of for them. Filing submitting taxes and filing forms late can mean late fees and hassle. If this can be avoided for a few bucks a month it’s totally worth it.

Related: 15 Valuable Small Business Tax Deductions

Apps: How Important Is Mobility To Your Business Model?

Some online payroll services have corresponding apps. Some don’t. That may or may not be an issue for you.

All of the ones on our list are cloud-based, so you can access your information from anywhere. However, you travel frequently, you might find that you would prefer accessing your payroll through an app rather than a website.

Setup: How Simple Is It?

It would easy to bypass this question. As long as it runs well once it’s ready to go, who cares how long it takes to set up?

As a business owner, you should care.

If it’s complicated or takes a long time, that’s time away from your business. And if it’s convoluted to get you up and running, that leaves room for error in the setup, which potentially means significant problems later.

Plus, the point of a payroll service is to simplify and streamline your payroll. If it’s difficult to set up then they are kinda missing the point.

Customer Service: Are They Available For You?

You’re likely considering an online payroll service to make things easier on yourself. Following that thinking, you should also strongly consider the customer service of the payroll service you’re considering.

If you’re deciding between two payroll services and one has a customer service department with limited hours or a reputation for long hold times, give this some weight. You want to be able to easily reach them, and you want them to quickly and efficiently solve your issues.

Final Thoughts

Figure out what you need from your online payroll service. While many on our list are similar, there are distinct differences and levels of service, so pay close attention before you commit to one.

That being said, you can’t go wrong with any of the online payroll services that we’ve outlined above. Each is good and capable of providing your payroll for your employees on a regular basis. Choosing between them depends solely on what you and your business need.

best online payroll services

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