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QuickBooks Online Free Offer – Pros and Cons

QuickBooks Online Free Offer – Pros and Cons

Like any other consumer I was really interested in knowing exactly what was being offered for free by QuickBooks Online. As a long-time Miami CPA providing QuickBooks Support I know there is no free lunch. I think what we have here, is a quick lunch rather than a three course meal. This article will address the pros and cons of QuickBooks Online (QBO) free version which was launched in October 2009. Like any other optimist, I’ll begin with the pros before the cons concerning the QBO free version software.

Some of the positive aspects of QuickBooks Online are as follows:

Easy set up which includes many sample chart accounts with different companies in different industries

It is web-based which provides anytime and anywhere access and includes automatic backups at the Intuit’s servers.

  •  The ability to print expense checks.
  • Basic financial statements with some other supplemental reporting capabilities
  • iPhone compatible with read-only rights and the ability to invoice customers on the fly
  • Ability for our CPA Firm to do “real time” QuickBooks Support

Some of them that negative aspects of QuickBooks Online are as follows:

  • It is only limited to five customers
  • Lacks the ability to use form 1099s
  • No statement of cash flows — this is important, because this financial statement portrays the sources and uses of your business’s cash from the beginning of the year to the end of the year
  • Only one user access and your accountant does not have free online Internet access
  • Does not export to Excel

When you’re using this software you’re actually using the bare-bones version of QuickBooks which is called QuickBooks Online Simple Start. The setup is relatively easy, however there is one aspect that deserves discussion and a word of caution. The setup begins with a simple registration, completion of a company profile which includes selecting an industry, classifying your source of revenue as a customer, client,  patient, etc… Towards the end of this process Intuit requests billing information, i.e. credit card information which they clearly state that it will not be used unless you purchase the software. To Intuit’s credit this is very clear on the website after you press the submit button and you receive a receipt indicating that the price is free. In summary, unless you have a very small business with less than five customers or it’s not important to track revenue by customer, then this version might be suited for your purposes. In addition, another use of the software would be to perform a write up of the accounting transactions which generally occurs after the fact, which means it’s not used for real-time purposes. An example of a write up, would be to prepare the year-end tax return or to prepare a financial statement long after the transactions have occurred.

Notwithstanding the above, since there is no expiration for the free use of the QuickBooks Online Simple Start, it does provide a good mechanism to test and more importantly use QuickBooks Online for more than 30 days. It should also be noted that QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus, both provide a 30 day free period to test drive the software. My experience is that 30 days may not be sufficient. So the remaining option is to either use the free 30 day period for QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus and if you need more than 30 days then purchase QBO Basic for $9.95 a month or QBO Plus for $34.95 a month. This is a viable option, since the software can be purchased on a month-to-month basis. The website clearly states “No contract, cancel anytime”.


About the Author

Gustavo VieraGustavo A Viera, CPA, is the managing partner in Gustavo A Viera, PA, CPA. His experience spans more than 25 years. His public accounting experience includes a senior audit manager at PriceWaterHouseCoopers with a focus in the healthcare industry, and Chief Financial Officer of Hewlett Packard Latin America and Telefonica of Spain. Gus also writes a blog twice a week that addresses issues his clients have at He has also taught in the SBA program in Miami FL, and is admitted to practice in the State of Florida licensed Certified Public Accountant. Gus welcomes questions and he can be reached at Gustavo A Viera, PA, CPA, One Alhambra Plaza Floor PH Coral Gables FL 33134 (786) 250-4450.View all posts by Gustavo Viera →

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