Editor's note: We have updated our review and changed the product rating to reflect significant changes made to this product since our original review. (11/18/05)
PayCycle is an inexpensive, Web-based payroll system for small businesses with a handful of workers on the payroll. Its interface is nicely structured and simple to learn, even for payroll beginners. Helpful advice is embedded throughout the program, often in the form of pop-up windows that explain an arcane term or guide you through a specific task. PayCycle gives employers plenty of control over how and when to set aside cash for payroll taxes. The interface is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of businesses, from professional offices with salaried workers to restaurants that need a tip-allocation system. PayCycle recently improved its security to ensure that once you've logged out, you stay logged out. The company also added an employee login feature that lets workers view their personal data. Overall, we recommend PayCycle for its simplicity and affordability. This service can support a company with up to 50 employees, but it makes better sense for a staff of up to 5 people; the security features in SurePayroll make it a better choice for businesses of up to 100 workers. The great thing about online payroll services such as PayCycle is that you don't have to fuss with downloads or installs; simply sign up at the company Web site and enter your employee and company data. You'll have to manually key in employee names, hire dates, addresses, and social security numbers--tedious work--but PayCycle's Add Employee guide makes it fairly simple. Unfortunately, like competitor SurePayroll, PayCycle can't input employee data directly from or other third-party accounting programs.
PayCycle's interface is very good, slightly better than that of SurePayroll. Both systems place tabs along the top of the page, so you can jump, say, from Employees to Taxes & Forms with a single click. One of PayCycle's key strengths is its help system, which embeds advice throughout the layout. The Hiring Information screen, for instance, displays several question-mark icons; simply click one for a pop-up description or extra advice. SurePayroll's look and feel is also clean, but its advice is harder to find.
Another PayCycle plus is its To Do list, which displays pending tasks when you log in, such as paying taxes, entering an employee's social security number, and so on. By comparison, SurePayroll's Account Center provides similar details but is cluttered with extraneous information (including a Referral Program pitch).For small businesses, PayCycle costs less than SurePayroll. A five-employee shop would pay $40 per month for PayCycle with tax-filing and direct deposit charges included; SurePayroll charges about $70 for a comparable service. PayCycle's advantages include giving employers more control over tax impounding and the collection of payroll taxes, which are due quarterly. SurePayroll also impounds taxes from each employee paycheck and immediately withdraws the money from the employer's bank account for quarterly taxes. But PayCycle withdraws payroll taxes only upon an OK from the employer, typically a few days before the taxes are due.
PayCycle is flexible in other ways, too. For instance, it can handle non-white-collar payrolls. Unlike SurePayroll, PayCycle offers a tax allocation system for restaurants, as well as a time and attendance interface for multiple pay rates, often needed to pay overtime rates to hourly workers.
PayCycle uses 128-bit encryption, and this summer it improved its log out procedure to prevent people from viewing private information by clicking the browser's Back button. Another new addition to PayCycle is its individual employee login feature, which SurePayroll also offers. And PayCycle now allows you to send pay stubs to employees via e-mail.We were impressed with PayCycle's free phone and e-mail support. The company accurately answered our phone questions right away without wait time and responded to our e-mails within 48 hours. You can reach phone support Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. PT. Self-help fans will appreciate the extensive Help Index on PayCycle's keyword-searchable Web site, which includes links to dozens of payroll and tax topics in its Help Library.