Top 8 Best Online Payroll Services Reviewed in 2019

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Wes R. Kasik

Updated Feb 13, 2019

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Best User Interface

Gusto

Best for Easy Payroll

Justworks

Best Name Recognition

ADP

Best for Small Business Benefits

TriNet

8 Considered 7 Top Picks
Name Price Rating Levels of Service Business Size
Gusto Check Site Concierge
Complete
Core
Small to mid-size
Justworks Check Site 2-4 employees
5-24 employees
25-99 employees
>100 employees
Small to corporate
ADP Check Site Run: 1-50 employees
Workforce Now: 50-999 employees
ADP Enterprise: >999 employees
Small to enterprise
TriNet Check Site 5-9 employees
10-19 employees
20-29 employees
30-49 employees
Small to mid-size
Paychex Check Site Express
Paychex Flex Select
Paychex Flex Pro
Paychex Flex Enterprise
Mid-size to corporate
Intuit Check Site Simple Start
Essentials
Plus
Self-employed
Freelancer to small
SurePayroll Check Site Unlisted Small
Zenefits Check Site Standard
Payroll
Benefits
Time & Attendance
HR Advisor
Payroll Advisor
Ultimate Advisor
Performance Management
Small to corporate

Intro

The purchase and utilization of enterprise software is now the standard operating procedure for businesses of all sizes— on par with the need for a well-stocked supply room and trustworthy Keurig machine. Companies, especially those operating in digital spaces, can't run without proper internal management systems in place. In the now-mature age of the internet, these tools are infinitely more intuitive and accessible than traditional paper bookkeeping and spreadsheet tracking.

A colorful assortment of competitors has filled each and every gap, wide and niche, providing smart business solutions for every aspect of twenty-first-century commerce. In particular, online payment processing is a widely adopted feature, marketed and sold in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes. In this post, we've gathered seven of our favorite payroll services, breaking down how and why each is successful in this sphere and how that specific online payroll software can benefit your business.

Best User Interface

Gusto

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With a recently redesigned user interface, Gusto boats the most visually appealing full-service platform on our list. They’ve made running payroll feel less like a chore by utilizing friendly pastel color palettes and cute animal iconography. The experience is similar to that which users are accustomed to when navigating their own web activity, forgoing stuffy data-entry pages and fine print for clean negative space and customized service. Directives are clearly labeled to avoid confusion. Batch data transfer makes it easy when you switch over from your old payroll service.

At the top level, businesses unlock valuable HR concierge for all users. This can be a good option for growing mid-size operations with data and people to manage but lacking the budgetary allocation for full-fledged HR and internal system support departments. Far-reaching businesses may look elsewhere, as Gusto does not support international payroll and lacks benefits coverage in many states.

Additional functions:

  • Payroll
  • Benefits
  • HR Tools
  • HR Services
  • Time and Attendance

Pros

  • Enjoyable to use
  • HR Services
  • Automatic tax filing
  • Free W-2s and 1099s
  • Full-service platform
  • Free direct deposit
  • Workers’ compensation management

Cons

  • US operations only
  • Limited to twice monthly payroll
  • No weekend support
  • Lacks stock options
  • Benefits coverage limited to nineteen states

Best for Easy Payroll

Justworks

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Justworks is a fresh internet-born brand in the payroll industry. Like Gusto, it nails current best practices in usability and aesthetic. More conservative in their breadth of service, Justworks focuses on providing clean payroll processing and best-in-class 24/7 support to their growing customer list. That round-the-clock support is their calling card, with a modern live chat to secure immediate assistance as long as there’s an internet connection available. Justworks, too, offers a variety of supporting services, although more limited in scope than those packaged by competitors. Pricing structures are transparent and easily understood. It’s not too fancy; it just works.

Additional functions:

  • Time and Attendance
  • Benefits Enrollment
  • HR Support

Pros

  • Compliant in all fifty states
  • 24/7 support
  • Strong live chat feature
  • Simple pricing
  • Easy to switch

Cons

  • Start-up may experience growing pains
  • No mobile usability
  • Lacking risk management
  • No training offered

Best Name Recognition

The three-letter moniker has always been a popular choice in the service and utility industry. Thus, ADP is a commonly recognized name, even if some would struggle to pinpoint their exact offering. No electricity, water, or gas, here— ADP’s specialty is payroll. They’ve earned distinction on our list as the most commonly used platform, a benefit that facilitates growth and enables a smooth transition of back-end responsibilities.

Each service plan breaks down into specific packages for optimal fit and function. Available in-depth enterprise services include background checks, job postings, talent management, and insurance administration. Pricing is based on addressed needs, the number of employees, and frequency of payroll— on top of a flat monthly fee for arranged ongoing services.

Available functions:

  • Payroll
  • HR Tools
  • Time and Attendance
  • Benefits Administration
  • Retirement
  • Insurance
  • Talent Management

Pros

  • Dynamic mobile app
  • Automatic tax filing
  • Free W-2s and 1099s
  • Full-service platform
  • Widely used and recognized

Cons

  • Layered services can become convoluted
  • General support can be impersonal
  • Pricing determined per payroll run
  • Not a great fit for hyper-local small businesses

Best for Small Business Benefits

TriNet

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TriNet’s services are specially designed for small to midsize businesses in need of robust internal processes to support their growth and attract talent. Payroll capability, though, is merely a side note in their marketing literature. They’ve elected to put the spotlight on people management, a piece of the puzzle they value greatly. For example, a trusted team of human resources professionals is made available to address any variety of talent-related inquiry, be it benefits or behavioral. Users also enjoy risk mitigation services to ensure compliance, expensing, and PTO functionality.

All of TriNet’s services are managed in the same digital ecosystem, making access and navigation easy on users. It’s also mobile-ready, with apps equipped to run on both Apple and Android devices.

Available functions:

  • HR Expertise
  • Payroll + HR Processes
  • Access to Benefits
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Real-Time HR

Pros

  • Focus on HR
  • Scalable
  • Secure
  • Rich benefits features

Cons

  • Weak website
  • Limited info available
  • Reports of inconsistent support quality
  • Expensive

Best for Small Business Payroll

Intuit

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Intuit is built for small businesses. Its nimble platform, available in four customizable packages, can be built to support an in-house finance operation or handle payroll tasks automatically. The key differentiator between each package is the level of involvement Intuit has in your bookkeeping. Intuit’s flexibility helps small businesses stay agile and focus on what they’re best at.

Smooth integration with Quickbooks accounting software ensures banking data remains accurate across systems, saving headaches along the way. It also supports W2s and 1099s, with the capability to easily add contractors and freelancers, as is common among upstart small businesses. A specially designed mini-reporting package is available for utilization by sole-proprietorship contractors themselves, an option not seen in any other payroll service we surveyed for this list.

Available functions:

  • Payroll
  • Accounting
  • Time and Attendance

Pros

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Easy to use and flexible
  • Affordable
  • No contracts
  • Quickbooks integration

Cons

  • Doesn’t scale well to larger operations
  • Limited supporting services
  • Inconsistent live chat support tool
  • Integration limited to Quickbooks

Best for Specialty Small Business

SurePayroll

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SurePayroll is another reputable payroll service aimed at the massive, and always growing, pool of American small businesses. It’s unique in that its service is broken down into specific types of business operation, from home contractors like babysitters and nannies to non-profits, churches, and restaurants, complete with requisite tip calculating tools. It’s a fantastically flexible product. They’re also known for strong US-based telephone support, available six days a week. Web-based support is available twenty-four hours a day.

Pricing, again, is not listed online, but reports and estimates show SurePayroll may be too heavy an investment for small businesses limited in capital. With this in mind, it still makes a powerful solution for users that fall into any of their specially-tailored business packages.

Available functions:

  • Payroll
  • Benefits and HR
  • Nanny Payroll
  • 401(K)
  • Worker’s Comp
  • Health Insurance
  • Pre-employment Screening

Pros

  • Free direct deposit
  • Industry-specific service packages
  • Home contractor settings
  • Compliant in all fifty states
  • Useful integrations

Cons

  • Extra charge for year-end W-2s and 1099
  • Can be expensive
  • Laborsome set-up
  • Prices unlisted

Best for Modular HR

Zenefits

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Zenefits is a polished post-2000 enterprise software start-up growing quickly thanks to a company-wide focus on people. They’re another provider that puts most of their marketing energy toward HR platforms, from benefits down to financial and educational advisory services. These apps, paid for per active employee, can be selectively added in any account, giving management, or staff, a conscious choice as to who uses what. This highly-customizable approach is unique in the industry, and saves businesses from spending on features they don’t need for employees that won’t use them.

The versatility of Zenefits’ offering is further displayed in their diverse listing of current and former customers, including schools, healthcare providers, sports organizations, and many others in function-specific industries. The platform expectedly earns high marks for design and usability. It’s recognized as a beneficial ingredient to the overall efficiency of business management processes, saving time and money from slipping through the cracks.

Available functions:

  • Payroll
  • HR
  • Benefits
  • Compliance
  • Time
  • Mobile
  • App Connect
  • Performance Management

Pros

  • Highly customizable service
  • Paperless options reduce cost
  • Comprehensive list of support apps
  • Known for great customer service
  • Site is attractive and easy to use

Cons

  • Add-on prices can be heavy
  • No international support
  • Frequent changes and updates
  • Reports of integration hang-ups

Buying Guide

Supporting services

You'll be afforded many options for ancillary service while identifying the right payroll platform for your business. Most will include time and attendance tracking, for example, as core functionality. Don't be fooled by bells and whistles, though. Your current employment roster helps to determine which services to chose, but plans for expansion, both immediate and long term, should be mindfully considered. In the same breath, if your business does not and will not require top-shelf services like 401k and benefits tracking, aim for a more reasonable service to complement your in-house payroll operation.

Tax compliance

The federal government is not an entity you want to be involved in your business's finances. Tax law compliance is a baseline service for most online payroll software, but you'd be best served to review written material on the subject set forth by all competing payroll services to ensure compliance in every state you do business.

Oversight

Another important aspect of this process is general oversight. It's easy to select a payroll service, set-up payments, and leave the rest to professionals. But, don't forget it's your money being moved. Stories of exploitation are littered throughout American history, crippling businesses small and large. It's best to assign an internal associate to oversee payroll activities, even if your designated service handles most, or all, of the fine print. Run your own audits and be vigilant to suspect activity.

About the Author

Wes R. Kasik

Wes is a creator and consumer living in Southern California. He knows that the best things in life are free, but accepts that they're often better enjoyed with things that aren't. He can be found hiking a trail or lost in an Amazon cart near you.

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About the Author

Wes R. Kasik

Wes is a creator and consumer living in Southern California. He knows that the best things in life are free, but accepts that they're often better enjoyed with things that aren't. He can be found hiking a trail or lost in an Amazon cart near you.

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share this

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