This article is part of a larger series on Accounting Software.
Sunrise and Wave both offer a good set of accounting features for free, but Sunrise has far better customer service options while Wave is free for unlimited users and companies. In this article, we compare Sunrise and Wave to see which of these two free accounting software programs is best for your business. We incorporate the results of our internally developed case study throughout this article to provide you with a more detailed comparison of these two applications.
When to Use Sunrise
Based on the results of our case study, Sunrise performs better than Wave in terms of general features, accounts receivable (A/R), customer service, and mobile app. This means that it’s generally good for managing unpaid bills and accepting payments. However, Sunrise’s biggest advantages over Wave are customer support and mobile accounting, which are important factors to consider when choosing accounting software. Sunrise is our best free accounting software for mobile application users because of the large array of accounting functions contained in its app.
Sunrise Is Better For
- Businesses that need reliable customer service: Sunrise allows you to talk to a real agent through live chat for instant support, which isn’t possible with Wave.
- Businesses that need mobile accounting: Compared to Wave, Sunrise’s mobile accounting app can perform a wider range of functions like invoicing, entering bill payments, and categorizing expenses from the bank feed.
- Businesses looking for more advanced A/R and A/P functions: Sunrise offers credit memo functions in both their A/R and A/P processes, which can save considerable frustration if you often return merchandise to vendors, or accept returns from customers.
When to Use Wave
If you’re a freelancer or a small business looking for comprehensive free software, you should choose Wave, our overall best free accounting software. While Sunrise has a free package, it only includes basic features, one user, and one company.
Wave Is Better For
- Sending recurring invoices for free: The free Wave accounting software lets you create and customize invoices and send them on a recurring basis, whereas with Sunrise, you have to sign up for the Plus plan first.
- Businesses with multiple users: There’s no limitation to the number of users you can add in Wave.
- Multicompanies: If your business has multiple subsidiaries in different locations, you can use Wave to maintain each company individually within a single account.
When to Use an Alternative
Sunrise and Wave are both great free software programs, but they lack some important features that you’ll find in other accounting software.
You’ll need an alternative if you require any of the following:
- Inventory accounting: Neither Wave nor Sunrise can track inventory items. If inventory accounting is essential to your business, we recommend more powerful software like Xero.
- Project accounting: Project-based businesses should use FreshBooks as it allows you to manage and track project-related costs, including materials, labor, and equipment.
- Comprehensive bank reconciliation: QuickBooks Online, our overall best small business accounting software, lets you reconcile your bank accounts within the software so you don’t have to do it by hand or sign up for a paid bookkeeping service.
Fit Small Business Case Study
Our case study evaluates Sunrise and Wave across the same set of categories to see which one stands out. The detailed results of our case study for each software can be found in our Sunrise review and Wave review. Below is the summary of our case study.
Sunrise vs Wave at a Glance
Who It’s Best For
Small businesses that need strong customer support
Small businesses with multiple users
Plus: $19.99 per month
Number of Users
Connect to Bank Account
Enter New Bills & Track Unpaid BIlls
Send Invoices & Track Collections
Capture & Organize Receipts
Track 1099 Payments
Import Chart of Accounts
Short-pay an Invoice
Which Online Bookkeeping Software is Right for you?
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Sunrise vs Wave: Pricing
Wave and Sunrise are both free, but Sunrise has a paid plan if you need more than one user or company. You can use Wave for invoicing and accounting for free, and you’ll be charged only when you process credit card and payroll transactions.
Sunrise has a freebasic plan and a paid subscription (Sunrise Plus) that costs $19.99 per month. Sunrise Plus contains advanced features, such as recurring invoices, in-depth cash flow analysis and alerts, and automated expense tracking, as well as additional perks like lower payment processing fees:
- Basic: $0
- Sunrise Plus: $19.99 per month
- Payment processing fee:
3.55% + 30 cents per credit card transaction and 1.5% + 30 cents per automated clearing house (ACH) transaction for Free users
2.55% + 30 cents per credit card transaction and 0.5% + 30 cents per ACH transaction for Plus users
- Payroll with Gusto: Starts at $39 per month plus $6 per month per additional employee or contractor
Wave’s accounting, invoicing, and receipt scanning features are free. See below for the detailed pricing details for credit card and payment processing:
- Accounting, invoicing, and receipt scanning: $0
- Credit card processing: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction for most cards, 3.4% plus 30 cents per transaction for American Express
- Bank payments: $1 per transaction
- Payroll :
$35 per month plus $6 per employee or independent contractor for users living in tax-service states―Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin―$20 per month plus $6 per employee or independent contractor for users living in the remaining 36 states
Takeaway: While both programs are free, Sunrise’s free plan is limited. Wave has all the features found in Sunrise’s paid plan, so it’s the clear winner in this category.
Sunrise vs Wave: Features
Features Comparison Table by Plan
$19.99 per month
Connect Bank Accounts
Enter Bills & Track Unpaid Bills
Create, Send & Track Invoices
Auto Categorize Bank Transactions
Create Recurring Invoices
Track 1099 Payments
Track Sales Tax Collections & Payments
Sunrise vs Wave: Banking and Cash Management
Both Sunrise and Wave have automatic reconciliation features to help you ensure that your books and bank account match. However, the problem with both programs is that you can’t reconcile transactions with timing differences. If you made some deposits that aren’t yet recorded by the bank or issued checks not yet presented to the bank, then you have to reconcile your accounts by hand.
Another alternative is to use an assisted bookkeeping service from Wave or Sunrise. An important feature missing in both software programs is the ability to print a check. Finally, you can’t also combine multiple checks into a single deposit transaction, which makes tracing deposits from your books to your bank statement very difficult. If you need a more powerful bank reconciliation feature, you should consider QuickBooks Online.
Sunrise vs Wave: A/R
Our case study shows that Sunrise’s strongest feature is A/R. Sunrise and Wave almost have the same functionality in terms of invoicing with only minor differences, such as the inability to preview an invoice in Wave. Both software applications let you accept short payment of an invoice, view outstanding invoices, and view balance by customer. You can print an invoice in both programs, but Wave discards the customized format when trying to print the invoice. Another major difference is that Sunrise can issue a credit memo to customers whereas Wave cannot.
Sunrise vs Wave: Accounts Payable
Sunrise is slightly ahead of Wave in terms of managing unpaid bills. As expected from accounting software, both programs allow you to add vendors, record new bills, and track unpaid bills. You can also upload a copy of your expense receipt through their respective apps. Both allow you to record an expense without paying, but there’s no option to create recurring bills in either program. Wave lets you short-pay a bill, which isn’t possible in Sunrise. Another important feature missing in both programs is the ability to designate expenses as billable to customers.
Takeaway: The features of Sunrise and Wave are very similar, as are a few glaring weaknesses, such as the inability to print checks or reconcile a checking account if any checks are outstanding. Also, neither program can track the cost of inventory, billable time and expenses, or net income by project. If you need any of these features, a paid program like QuickBooks Online is well worth the money.
Sunrise vs Wave: Ease of Use
Wave and QuickBooks are both easy to use and require minimal setup, unlike sophisticated tools like QuickBooks Online. You can easily enter your company details, and you can access quick links to easily create new transactions, such as connecting your bank accounts, creating an invoice, and entering a new bill. Each program has its own user-friendly navigation features which make it easy for users to get started.
Sunrise Ease of Use
It’s a breeze to set up a company in Sunrise. It takes a few steps to enter your company information, and the interface includes dropdown lists and toggle buttons for easy navigation. When you log into your account, you’ll see your dashboard, which gives you a brief overview of your financial health, along with quick links to customize your invoices, connect your bank accounts, and invite your accountant or team members.
You can use its default chart of accounts or upload your previous COA from your old accounting software. During setup, you can directly enter beginning balances for each account. From the dashboard, there’s a + Create button that lets you quickly create an invoice, expense, estimate, and other transactions.
Wave Ease of Use
What’s unique about Wave is that it has a cool starting point, called Launchpad. Based on the option you select, this is where you start to customize your setup process. Just like Sunrise’s dashboard, the Wave dashboard displays an overview of your business performance, plus a direct link to connect your bank or credit card account.
The dashboard also includes a Create a new button that makes it easy for you to add a new transaction.
Takeaway: Wave and Sunrise are both easy to set up and use. An advantage of Sunrise over Wave is the ability to import your chart of accounts from your old program and then input beginning balances. With Wave, you’ll need to manually customize your chart of accounts and then create the beginning balances with a journal entry.
Sunrise vs Wave: Integrations
You can set up both Sunrise and Wave to connect with other programs for more enhanced workflows. Both accounting programs have a good range of integration, but Wave has a larger collection of integrated apps. The Integration tab in Wave is very helpful, as it allows you to effortlessly connect the program to the other apps you use.
Sunrise integrates with tools like Gusto, Stripe, PayPal, ProviderSuite, GetMyInvoices, and Square POS. Sunrise has also added an integration with Zapier, which connects it to thousands of popular apps on the market.
Wave has a wider range of integration than Sunrise, connecting with plenty of third-party apps and tools, such as PayPal, Shopify, Square, Stripe, HubSpot, Mailchimp, Google Sheets, Pipedrive, and Slack. It also connects with thousands of apps through Zapier.
Takeaway: If you want to automate different business processes through integration with other apps, Wave is a better choice. Its Integration tab is a nice bonus.
Sunrise vs Wave Mobile App
Both Sunrise and Wave have a mobile application that allows you to manage your accounting and finances wherever you are, using any device. Both mobile apps can perform basic tasks like invoicing and expense receipt tracking, but Sunrise’s app can do more. The downside to both apps is that there’s no option to view reports.
Sunrise Mobile App
Besides mobile invoicing, the Sunrise app also enables you to record new bills, capture expense receipts, accept payments, enter bill payments, and categorize expenses on the bank feed. The app is available on Google Play and the App Store.
Wave Mobile App
Wave has two separate apps for invoicing and receipt scanning, which isn’t that great. Aside from sending invoices, capturing receipts, and receiving payments through Wave Money, there’s nothing else the apps can do.
Takeaway: Sunrise is the clear choice for mobile accounting because it does more than basic invoicing and expense tracking.
Sunrise vs Wave: Assisted Bookkeeping
While Wave offers assisted bookkeeping services through its Wave ProAdvisor program, Sunrise no longer offers assisted bookkeeping to new customers after May 12, 2022.
Wave Assisted Bookkeeping
If you don’t want to reconcile your books by hand, then you may need to hire a Wave ProAdvisor. Wave ProAdvisors are certified accounting and tax professionals whose job is to help you complete your bookkeeping duties.
See pricing details below for Wave ProAdvisor service:
- Bookkeeping: Starts at $149 per month—your Wave Advisor will help you with bookkeeping tasks like account setup, bank reconciliation, and reporting
- Tax Service: Starts at $149 per month—includes year-round support for federal and state filing
- Accounting Coaching: $229 for one session (one-hour package)—includes a 60-minute coaching session through video call, access to video recording, access to live chat support, and unlimited email support
- $329 for two sessions (two hours)—split into two one-hour sessions
Takeaway: Wave offers assisted bookkeeping services starting at $149 per month as well as an accounting coaching session, which is practical if you simply need answers to urgent questions and expert help with account setup and syncing.
Sunrise vs Wave: Customer Support
Wave doesn’t even come close to Sunrise in terms of customer service. Wave users can only use a chatbot to seek support, while Sunrise offers more help options for their customers.
Sunrise Customer Support
While you can’t talk to a Sunrise representative over the phone, you can talk to an agent through a live chat. You can also use the self-help chatbot or send a message through email. Sunrise also has a good collection of helpful resources, including accounting blogs and basic bookkeeping guidelines.
Wave Customer Support
Wave’s customer service is very limited. You can only seek help using the Wave Help Center or the self-service chatbot unless you hire a Wave ProAdvisor. Wave offers 60-day live chat support after purchase, so you should get the most out of it before it expires.
Takeaway: If you encounter complicated problems, it’s a relief to have the option to chat with a live agent. Sunrise is the clear winner in this category.
The difference between Sunrise and Wave in terms of their features and capability isn’t that huge. Both are ideal options for businesses looking for a low-cost accounting solution, but there are deciding factors that influence your final choice. If you have multiple users or manage multiple clients, then you’ll appreciate Wave for having no limitations despite being free software. If customer service is your priority, go with Sunrise.