Wave is primarily an accounting software, but it also offers free invoicing, recurring billing, and online payments processing tools. It does not charge monthly fees and offers a simple flat rate to accept credit card, digital wallet, and direct-to-bank (ACH/echeck) payments.
We took a closer look at Wave’s payment processing features and evaluated the software based on our criteria for online payment services. It earned an overall score of 3.41 out of 5, with tools ideal for freelancers, serial entrepreneurs with multiple small businesses, and solo professionals looking for free invoicing and subscription-based payment methods.
This review explores the potential of Wave as a payment processor for small merchants. For more information on its accounting features, see our review of Wave Accounting.
When to Use Wave Payments
- For online solopreneurs: Wave works best for solo professionals that require simple sales management tools. It includes a free accounting software to handle tax and personal finances.
- For occasional online sellers: Wave comes with the option for creating multiple profiles, so you can create more if you dabble on several seasonal businesses. The personal profile can also integrate with Wave’s partner POS and CRM platforms.
- Small professional services that use invoicing: Wave offers free use of its invoicing and recurring billing tools, as well as free access to its virtual terminal.
When to Use an Alternative
- Busy retailers: Businesses that regularly sell a wide range of products are better off with top alternatives like Square with more advanced inventory management for tracking stock levels and products with variants. Find more options in our guide to the best POS inventory systems for more options.
- Businesses requiring in-person payments: Wave does not support in-person payment processing. If this is something you’ll need, a mobile payment processor will be an affordable alternative—check our guide to the best mobile credit card processors for options.
- Larger businesses: Wave’s free payments services use a flat rate processing fee that’s ideal for small merchants. Larger businesses should consider alternatives with cheaper processing fees. Our compilation of the cheapest credit card processing companies can help you find a viable option.
Wave Payments Overview
Before anything else, we need to establish that Wave’s payment processing features are purely remote. Any business looking for a provider that accepts in-person payments should check out alternative merchant account solutions instead.
That said, Wave stands out for a couple of reasons. First, it offers a completely free use of its invoicing and recurring billing tools—and these are not basic features. Wave’s invoicing and recurring billing platform, combined with its free accounting tools, is comparable to Square’s Plus plans, Stripe, and even Stax—all of which charge extra in the form of a monthly fee or a percentage per transaction.
Second, Wave supports multiple profiles. You can create one for each business and also maintain a personal profile where you can track your finances. And because there is no monthly fee, this makes Wave great for small, serial entrepreneurs and those who run more than one seasonal business.
There are, however, a few caveats. Wave’s transaction fees for American Express card payments are 0.5% higher than its fees for other card brands. It also charges one of the highest fixed per-transaction fees of 60 cents (PayPal charges 49 cents for US merchants and 30 cents per online transaction with Square). So while it lets you process unlimited payments, merchants with a regularly high number of transactions should consider a more affordable alternative.
Overall, Wave is a small business-friendly payment processor. Although you can find better transaction rates elsewhere, its free use of invoicing, recurring billing, and accounting functionalities can be ideal for running small professional services and subscription-based businesses.
Wave Payments Calculator
Enter your monthly sales volume information to get an estimate of Wave’s payment processing fees.
Wave is a pay-as-you-go payment processor, so it scored well for contract and monthly fees. However, it does not provide volume discounts and imposes a reversible $15 chargeback fee. Wave also lost some points for charging additional processing fees for AmEx cards.
Wave Payment Processing
Wave charges a flat rate fee for online payment processing with an additional 0.5% for AmEx transactions. It can also accept ACH payments at 1% per transaction. Chargebacks are at $15.
Here is a list of Wave payment processing fees:
- Monthly account fee: $0
- Online credit card fees (Visa, Mastercard, Discover): 2.9% + 60 cents
- Online credit card fees (American Express): 3.4% + 60 cents
- ACH: 1% ($1 minimum fee)
- Chargeback fee: $15 (refundable)
- Instant payout: Not disclosed (typically 1%–1.5%)
Another interesting feature of Wave is that it offers unlimited sales processing volume, but note that merchants will be required to enter into a special agreement with the card network or acquiring bank (Worldpay) if their annual sales volume exceeds $1 million.
Contract & Merchant Agreement
Wave’s terms of service are pretty straightforward. The agreement cites who is eligible to sign up for a Wave Payments service and the responsibilities of both parties. As a pay-as-you-go software, it is available to most small businesses so long as it is located within the United States, is not high-risk, and the representative signing up for the Wave account is of legal age.
Some sections worth noting within the contract are:
- The business owner information being collected
- Additional documentation Wave may request to verify the business owner’s identity
- Stipulation on fees for charitable organizations
- American Express rules and fees
- Sales volume limit and rules by card networks and acquiring banks
- Reserve funding and chargebacks
What’s interesting about the document is that it includes a side panel where the sections are summarized in simple terms so it’s easier to read.
Setup & Application
As a payment processor (facilitator), Wave does not have an application process, but merchants still need to provide their business information to set up an account. You will also need to provide your business banking information to set up the payment methods. Once this is done, you can start sending invoices and accepting payments.
Wave is an invoicing platform, so payment methods available are those that can be processed remotely, such as credit card payments and ACH, including international payments. It also has a virtual terminal and recently launched website integrations for ecommerce merchants. However, aside from the lack of in-person payment methods, Wave also does not process B2B payments processing.
The invoicing solution is Wave’s primary sales method—and what’s great about this feature is that it’s completely free. It allows users to create fully customized invoices, from the design to the reminder settings.
Merchants can design a branded invoice with a professional-looking template and an easy drop-and-drag function in the settings function. It also allows users to create estimates which can be sent to customers and converted into an invoice once approved. The invoice comes with a “Pay Now” button where customers can choose to pay by credit card, bank transfers (ACH), and Apple Pay.
Wave’s recurring billing/ recurring payments feature is also free. Like its one-time invoices, this can be fully customized and sent to customers with a payment button embedded in the statement. Merchants can assign customized collection schedules for each customer, as well as automated receipts for each payment made.
With this feature, Wave also provides merchants with the ability to securely store customer payment information. And because it is primarily an accounting software, transactions are automatically tracked and recorded for easy tax reporting.
Once you have your payments set up, Wave gives you access to its virtual terminal. Click on the “Accept Payments” button at the bottom of the left-hand menu panel to access this feature. It will display a list of outstanding invoices and options to process payments via credit card and bank method. Users can send a digital receipt to its customers once payment is completed.
Wave can process invoice payments with bank transfers (ACH payments). It charges a standard 1% fee with a $1 minimum, as with most top payment processors. The processing speed is also standard at 2–7 business days. This payment method is available directly from the invoice via a payment button and from the virtual terminal. Wave automatically tracks and records all payments for reporting and tax purposes.
Wave Payments online checkout feature is still in Beta, but it makes for an easy-to-use tool for adding a checkout on merchant websites. Note that you will need to complete your payment setup before getting access to this functionality.
It is compatible with popular ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify and Square. It also integrates with WordPress. To start, click Checkouts > Create Checkout from the navigation menu and enter the name of the product and cost.
Wave can also process multi-currency transactions both for credit card and ACH payments. Merchants can specify the customer’s local currency when creating an invoice. Wave also displays currency conversion rates.
As an accounting platform, Wave can automatically track the difference in currency exchange rate, from the time that the payment was received, to the time the amount was deposited to the merchant’s bank. It then automatically records the difference as gain or loss for easy tax reporting.
Wave did not do so well in this criteria. While it offers decent customer management and developer tools, it does not support same-day deposits and in-app chargeback management, and its customer support is only available during business hours. Also, while the mobile app can be used to manage invoices, it does not include a POS function.
The customer management feature allows merchants to add, edit, remove, and manage customer records. The customer list can be added in bulk or individually from the Add a Customer function or directly while creating a new invoice. Each customer profile includes complete customer contact information and will track every outstanding and paid invoice.
Wave’s mobile app (for Android and iOS) helps merchants manage their invoices from their mobile devices. It also comes with a banking feature, similar to PayPal. Wave Money (like PayPal balance) allows users instant access to their funds for purchasing or transferring their linked business bank account. The July 2023 update for this software incorporated the receipt image capturing feature so merchants no longer need two separate apps.
Note, however, that Wave’s mobile receipt feature costs $8 per month. Wave also does not support in-person transactions, so the mobile app does not have POS tools.
Wave allows users to reconcile outstanding invoices with payments received on the mobile app. (Source: Wave Accounting)
Wave comes with a basic inventory management feature that allows merchants to create a list of products or services. For accounting purposes, users will have to tick the “Sell this” box and choose the proper income category. These items then become available when creating a customer invoice.
One downside is that the system does not allow for images to be added. However, it lets businesses safely edit/update any of the services (like pricing, for example) without affecting any specifics in a past invoice.
It takes at least two business days for any form of payment to be credited to a merchant’s bank account, which significantly affected Wave’s score in this category. Wave, however, does offer instant payouts for an undisclosed fee. Merchants can also access their funds immediately from their mobile device, similar to PayPal Balance.
Wave’s fraud protection system is a combination of internal risk assessment tools and several third-party security and fraud detection service providers. However, unlike other payment processors, it is not customizable, nor is it accessible from the menu.
Similarly, chargeback management also lacks platform access. Wave will contact its merchants via email for any chargeback claim and will assist its users to submit documents to counter the claim. One upside is that Wave’s chargeback fee ($15) is refundable for merchants who successfully defend the chargeback.
Compared to most payment processors, Wave’s integration list is somewhat limited. Its single direct integration is with Google Sheets, while partner integration is limited to BlueCamroo for CRM. However, if you use Zapier, you should be able to integrate Wave with more merchant-useful software, such as Shopify, Square, and Stripe for ecommerce, Acuity and Calendly for scheduling, and more.
Wave reports are more accounting-oriented than simple sales reporting. Report types are either accrual or cash basis, and invoice sales are categorized as receivables. This makes it less user-friendly for merchants with a limited bookkeeping background as opposed to straightforward sales records. There are also no analytics, and customization is very limited.
Wave is first and foremost an accounting software, so it offers a wide range of features for users to manage their financials, including taxes and payroll. Note that while the accounting features are free, using Wave’s payroll tools comes with a monthly fee. Merchants can still use the platform for payment processing without using these tools.
Learn more in our Wave Accounting review.
Wave as a payment processor is an attractive alternative to top online payment processors like Stripe if you run a low-volume business, accepting payments solely through invoicing and recurring billing. The biggest advantage, of which, is the fact that Wave’s invoice and recurring billing tools are free to use. There are no monthly fees, no paid plans for advanced features (as with Square and Stripe), nor are users required to subscribe for an accounting plan (like QuickBooks).
As for ease of use, Wave’s platform is overall clean and well-organized so it’s easy to navigate. It also provides a detailed, step-by-step guide for setting up your payments and business profile. And if you’re not yet ready, you can pause the setup process, and Wave will save your progress for you.
That said, Wave lost points in our evaluation for business hours-only customer support and a reporting function that would be difficult to understand without bookkeeping knowledge.
Integrations are also limited compared to other popular online payment processors but can be expanded with a Zapier integration. We also docked points for charging higher fees with AmEx transactions.
Wave Payments User Reviews
Unlike Square, most review sites have no separate user reviews for Wave payments processing. This seems unfortunate because merchants don’t even need to subscribe to the paid accounting tools in order to accept payments on the platform. However, most of the positive feedback on the platform regularly mentions the free invoicing tools and payment processing tools.
- Capterra: Wave Accounting received an overall score of 4.4 out of 5 from nearly 1,500 user reviews.
- G2: Offers Wave invoicing review, scoring 4.6 out of 5 from around 20 user reviews
|Users Don’t Like
|User-friendly cloud invoicing software
|Fees for payroll management
|Free advanced invoicing features
|Requires some bookkeeping knowledge
|Easy to set up
|Most features limited to US merchants
Methodology—How We Evaluated Wave Payments
We test each merchant account service provider ourselves to ensure an extensive review of the products. We then compare pricing methods and identify providers that offer zero monthly fees, pay-as-you-go terms, and low transaction rates. Finally, we evaluate each according to a range of payment processing features, scalability, and ease of use.
The result is our list of the best online payment processors. However, we adjust the criteria when looking at specific use cases, such as for different business types and merchant categories. This is why every merchant and payment services provider has multiple scores across our site depending on the use case you are looking for.
Click through the tabs below for our overall merchant services evaluation criteria:
20% of Overall Score
We graded based on monthly fees, online rates, chargebacks, and whether or not you could get volume discounts.
30% of Overall Score
Online payments are more than website checkouts. We looked for invoices, recurring billing, and virtual terminals. We also gave points for stored payments and Level 2 and 3 processing for B2B sales. Stripe had a clear lead with 4.63.
25% of Overall Score
This score took into account sales tools like customer management features, BNPL, fraud prevention, and developer tools for customizations. We also considered deposit speed, giving the most points for same-day processing, and customer service. Stripe again took the lead with 4.63 out of 5.
25% of Overall Score
Here, we scored based on our own experience of ease of use, plus research into account stability. The number and ease of integrations contributed to this score. Finally, we gave some weight to the input of real-world users as recorded in third-party user review sites like Capterra. Square also did well in this category.
Wave Payments Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Wave is a Pay-as-you-go payment platform, so there are no monthly fees associated with accepting payments on Wave. You only need to pay for the processing fees per transaction.
For all other card brands except American Express, Wave charges 2.9% + 60 cents per transaction. Payments received with an American Express card are charged 3.4% + 60 cents. Merchants accepting payments through ACH/ bank transfers are charged 1% with a $1 minimum fee.
Please note that these are all online rates via invoicing. Wave does not support in-person transactions.
Yes, Wave is PCI DSS Level 1, which means all transaction data is encrypted, including credit card information saved for recurring payments. It also comes with a combination of built-in and third-party fraud detection/ fraud prevention tools and analytics to protect merchants from fraudulent transactions.
By default, Wave transfers funds to a merchant’s bank account after two business days, while ACH transfers are completed between two to seven days. However, an instant funding option is available for a fee. Wave also provides merchants instant access to their funds via the Wave mobile app through Wave Money, which acts like a digital wallet similar to a PayPal balance.
Yes, like all other transactions, the transfer of funds to and from a merchant’s bank account is fully encrypted, so data is not locally stored or susceptible to hackers.
While there are some limitations, Wave Accounting is very popular as a payment platform. Not only is it free, but the invoicing and recurring payments tools are full-featured—something merchants will have to pay for with Stripe or Square. And with the pay-as-you-go plan, Wave offers some of the best value-for-money online payment services for small merchants, freelancers, occasional sellers, and even serial entrepreneurs running multiple small businesses.