9 things to look for when choosing payroll software

9 things to look for when choosing payroll software

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Payroll software is an investment that will affect your entire business every single week (at minimum). Finding a payroll software product that works for you can save you hours per week and increase your reliability as an employer. But you may not want to choose the first payroll software you discover.

There are a variety of payroll options, each with their own merits, and finding the one that best suits your unique business needs can be a total game-changer. We’re outlining the nine things you need to look for when evaluating a payroll software for your company.

9 things to look for when choosing payroll software

1. Do you have salaried or hourly employees?

Your employee types and needs are the best place to begin. Employees are classified differently depending on the hours they work, the benefits they receive, and the type of work they’re doing. Your payroll software should reflect the needs of your employee base.

There are options for payroll that focus on contract employees or on full-time employees, and payroll options with flexible employee categories. Some payroll services will also feature employee portals where employees can submit their tax status and check their own hours and pay periods. Make sure any payroll solution you’re considering can meet the needs of your organization.

2. Are taxes calculated and withheld?

The biggest pain point of payroll services is applying, calculating, withholding, and submitting payroll taxes. It’s a complicated process that can create adverse consequences if bungled. A good payroll system can help you quickly and effectively manage your payroll taxes so you don’t even have to think about them.

Beyond just withholding the appropriate amounts, you can even choose a payroll provider which will submit your payroll taxes on your behalf each month. Online payroll software can keep your payroll taxes up-to-date with current changes so you’re always in compliance.

3. Do they offer direct deposit?

As our society becomes increasingly digital, banking does too. More than 93% of American workers use direct deposit for their pay. Not only does it cut down on the time and expense of running payroll and printing physical checks, but employees may now expect (or demand) pay via direct deposit. It’s a good idea to make sure your payroll system features direct deposit and the pay schedule that works best for your company.  

4. Will it integrate with our other software?

A payroll software that integrates with other tools in your arsenal can be a small business owner’s dream. If your payroll management syncs with HR software, accounting software, and even expense management software, you can speed up the process of running payroll, onboarding new hires, and closing your books each month.

Talk with your accounting and HR teams to determine which software you use for those purposes, and if you’d like to stick with them. If your accountant is ride-or-die for Quickbooks Online, then be sure you’re considering payroll software that will integrate seamlessly.

BILL Spend & Expense syncs seamlessly between card, app, and accounting. Learn more about our integrations.

5. How much will payroll cost me?

Price point matters when it comes to payroll processing. Most smart business owners are willing to pay for payroll services that save them hours each week, but not if it’s costing an arm and a leg. Determine your price range when it comes to payroll services, and keep in mind—it might bring you a handful of working hours that you can funnel back into business operations.

Generally payroll is a paid software service that starts around $20/month, but can increase to several hundred dollars per month. Here’s how payroll pricing usually works:

  • Base price: a monthly subscription fee to access the basic payroll functions
  • Employee fee: a small fee per employee (or sometimes per pay period)
  • User fee: some payroll services charge extra per authorized user running payroll
  • Tax support: a fee for tax and compliance consulting
  • Additional features: add-on fees for premium features like direct deposit, paper checks, etc.

You may find an affordable payroll add-on through your accounting software (QuickBooks payroll starts at $45/month, ZohoBooks for $19/month/3 employees and $2 per additional employee, and FreshBooks has a Gusto add on for $19/month + $6 per employee). These add-ons might not be as hefty as standalone payroll solutions but can make up for it with convenience of integration and mitigated price.

6. Does it provide mobile access?

How does your business run payroll? Is it twice a month in the same office, by the same people, for the same people? Or do you manage multiple locations, a flexible employee base, and frequent changes? A mobile option might be necessary for your payroll processing.

We always recommend cloud-based online payroll software for the most current updates to payroll tax requirements. Mobile access to payroll might not be a priority for all businesses, but for on-the-go small businesses could be critical.

7. How secure is it?

Anytime you’re dealing with personal information and financial accounts it’s crucial that you can rely on your software to be secure. Be sure that any payroll service you’re considering offers the following security measures:

  • PCI compliance
  • MFA (multi-factor authentication)
  • Data encryption
  • Password protections
  • Limited access permissions

8. Does it offer a free trial?

Before making the leap to a new payroll provider, you may want to try it out. Many payroll providers offer a free trial so you can play around with the software and features before committing. It may be worth your while to try a few different payroll services with free trials before you make your final decision. Even if you know one is out of your price range or doesn’t have the feature you need, testing it out can demonstrate exactly what you’re looking for (or trying to avoid).

9. How are the reviews & customer support?

The actual user experience is important for a piece of software that you’ll rely on regularly. Ask around for reviews and recommendations from other business owners you know and respect. Consult reviews on sites like G2, Capterra, and TrustRadius to see what customers are saying about the payroll systems you’re considering.

Be particularly mindful of the support ratings of various payroll processors, as well. Eventually you’ll run into an issue or new question regarding your payroll software, and having strong customer support can help you manage any problems with ease. Look for reviews citing good customer service, and check the payroll provider’s site for a knowledge base, help articles, customer support numbers, and chat functionality.

Payroll options to consider

The best payroll software choice is the one that will meet your unique needs. You’ll want something that saves you time, rather than makes running payroll an even more complex process. Paying more for convenience might be the right choice, and choosing payroll add-ons from your accounting or HR software might be worth the limited features if it saves you from double-entry.

We recommend checking with your accounting software for add-ons to start your search for payroll software solutions, then branch out to see which payroll services can offer more. Here’s a few payroll options to get you started:


Price: $39 + $6 per employee/month

Benefits: Tons of integrations and tax filing


Price: $29 + $5 per employee/month

Benefits: Excellent for contract employees and mobile access


Price: Custom pricing (usually around $11/employee/month)

Benefits: Good for large companies needing HR capabilities


Price: $6 per employee/month add-on

Benefits: Very user friendly

Armed with our list of 9 things to consider, you should be able to evaluate these (and more) payroll software solutions to help you find the best match for your business.

A better way to pay

We know making big decisions for your business can be complicated, especially when it involves payments and direct impact on your employees. We hope this list helps you consider what your business needs to manage the complex process of payroll, including payroll tax compliance, so that you can make the right choice and get back to what matters—running your business.

Seamless integration for smarter spending is exactly what your business needs. Sign up for BILL Spend & Expense and see what you’ve been missing.

The information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. The content is provided "as-is"; no representations are made that the content is error free.