A Comparison of QuickBooks Online Basic to QuickBooks Online Plus

In September 2010, Intuit revamped/repackage its small business online accounting software into four online accounting choices: (1) Simple Start, (2) Online Essentials, (3) Online Plus and (4) Online Plus with Payroll.

If you are new to QuickBooks Online or need a QuickBooks Online refresher these are the key reasons to use the QuickBooks Online platform:

  • Manage your business from a PC or Mac with web access.
  • Instantly share financial data with your employees, accountant and other shareholders,partners or co-owners. You no longer a need to have a network
  • Your company data is protected with daily automated backups.
  • There’s no software to install and no network to maintain.
  • Automatic upgrades are included in the price of subscription – never upgrade again. Includes customer support – no additional support plan needed. bbm88

Before making your decision to use QuickBooks Online, you should decide between QuickBooks Online, Online Essentials or QuickBooks Online Plus. This article will discuss the differences between these QuickBooks Online options. In the end, you are responsible for ensuring that you select the correct version which should work with the business that you operate. There was a free version called Simple Start, it was repackaged with a few more options and unfortunately, it’s no longer free and not worth much as compared to the other two options. Sometimes, Intuit has it available on some remote websites, but for the most part it’s no longer free. The Online Plus with Payroll version was not considered for this analysis because of it’s basically the same as Online with Plus with the added payroll functionality. QuickBooks Online Essentials will be collectively referred to as “ONLINE ESSENTIALS ” and QuickBooks Online Plus as ” ONLINE PLUS “. Each major difference and brief comment is discussed below:

Online Simple Start – Limited to one user plus your accountant, free email support creates and manages your invoices with limitations and has over 20 business reports. This is not recommended for small businesses with accounts payable, inventory and the online banking needs. This is very elementary and has limited usefulness to a small business.


Unless otherwise mentioned these features relate to both ONLINE ESSENTIALS AND ONLINE PLUS. For the most part, ONLINE PLUS has the features that you may need, regrettably only a few of these features are available in ONLINE ESSENTIALS.

Importing – You can import your QuickBooks Basic, Pro, or Premier Edition desktop files (version 2000 and higher file(s). The import does not work with a Mac.

Estimates – Estimates can be created from ONLINE PLUS and then seamlessly imported to an invoice for billing. By using estimates misunderstandings can be avoided.

Online Banking – If you don’t use QuickBooks to enter all of your payments (I recommend using online banking) then by using this feature, your payments and receipts do not have to be entered into your cash register when you use online banking. Instead of entering then, you only have to review them. When you download from your bank, (from participating financial service providers) QuickBooks is able to compare the bank’s transactions to your transactions in QuickBooks and identifies differences. The program assists you in managing your cash flow, because you know which checks have cleared the bank, which helps you understand how much money you have in real time and makes monthly reconciliations easier and less time consuming.

Accounts Payable–Manage bills to pay later. This function is available in ONLINE PLUS. It is a very important functionality, if you want to keep and maintain your accounts payable. I believe keeping the amounts you owe vendors in QuickBooks if very important. This function allows you to always know how much you owe vendors and print reports such as the Unpaid Vendors Report. You can enter bills and make payments separately, as a two-step process. This lets you keep your money in your business as long as possible, and it lets you track and manage your outstanding bills and either pay bills when they are due or ahead of the scheduled due dates to take advantage of early payment discounts often given to businesses as an incentive to pay early. In summary, I can’t over emphasize the importance of this feature.

Exporting – You can export transactions and balances to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet only in ONLINE PLUS. This is a very important feature, since it adds greater reporting capabilities. It gives you flexibility is obtaining and analyzing different types of financial data. Unfortunately, this useful feature is not available in ESSENTIALS.Do not overlook the importance of this feature.

Class tracking – Within ONLINE PLUS, classes provide a system for categorizing transactions that goes beyond the normal ways of assigning transactions to expense or income accounts. With classes, you can categorize each detail line on a transaction. This lets you write one check to the office supply store for items bought for two different business units and still track the business unit for those purchases. For example, suppose you have a consulting business and an installation business. Class tracking is ideal for you if it is typical to have purchases and sales that include both types of work. By specifying the appropriate class on each detail line, you can run a Profit & Loss by Class report that will tell you if your consulting business is more or less profitable than the installation business.

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