Accountant reviewing recurring transactions in QuickBooks.

QuickBooks can do WHAT? Recurring transactions

Do you and your clients frequently recreate complex transactions from scratch, or open past transactions and copy them to create new ones? Do they invoice customers individually every month, and run their credit cards?

Recurring Transactions is a feature of QuickBooks® Online that allows you to design transaction templates and reuse them. By automating routine transactions, you will save hours of repetitive data entry, and even speed up your Accounts Receivable. Recurring Transactions is so flexible that you can get creative with it! It is also included in QuickBooks Ledger, a low-cost, cloud-based solution that gives your clients a secure landing place within QuickBooks Online and helps you reduce the time you would normally spend with higher-value clients.

What can it do?

Where do I find it?

How do I use it?

Tips and tricks

Additional resources

What can it do?

Recurring Transactions can be scheduled to run automatically, remind you when it’s time to use them, or simply be stored as templates future use.

Suggested uses include:

  • Automatic client payments. Why run all your invoices by hand?
  • Complex Journal Entry templates. Thought that pesky Payroll Journal Entry wouldn’t just create itself? Now it will!
  • Pre-created Daily Sales Z-Tapes. Point-of-Sale systems require daily sales and payment methods to be entered by journal entry or sales receipt. Don’t start from scratch every day or risk overwriting yesterday’s tapes.
  • Pre-populated detailed Estimate templates. All bathrooms and kitchens have the same functions and appliances, so contractors can design comprehensive Estimates and update the details for each job.

Because there are so many options to set for a Recurring Transaction, it is extremely versatile. Get creative!

Where do I find it?

Create new Recurring Transactions under Gear > Recurring Transactions.

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Save existing transactions as Recurring by clicking the “Make recurring” button in the black bar at the bottom of the screen.

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How do I use it?

Recurring Transactions can be created for any first-stage transaction including Estimates, Sales Receipts, Invoices, or Expenses.

Note that you can’t use Recurring Transactions for Invoice Payments or Bill Payments, because they are second stage. QuickBooks Online wouldn’t know which transactions to apply the payments against.

There are three types of recurring transactions:

  1. Scheduled transactions will be entered automatically on a specific date, without any effort from you. These are perfect for transactions with the same dollar amount each time.
  2. Reminder shows an alert on your Dashboard when it’s time to process the transaction, so that you can adjust the date, dollar amount, or description.
  3. Unscheduled just saves the transaction on the list, so you can call it up and use it as a template when needed.

I’ll demonstrate two sample uses: a Scheduled Sales Receipt and an Unscheduled Estimate.

Scheduled Sales Receipts

My own favorite use for Recurring Transactions is for my monthly client charges. My clients pay automatically at the beginning of the month, so that I never have to chase down delinquent accounts. Every client fills in an authorization form with their credit card info or ACH bank information.

I create Sales Receipts that occur automatically on the 1st of the month, run my clients’ payment, and email their receipt. Because I use QuickBooks Payments, the sales even batch deposit themselves. My monthly billing cycle for 75 clients takes me exactly 0 minutes, every month.

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Here’s how it works: Create a new Sales Receipt for the first charge. Set it up, then Save and run it for the first time so that you know the payment method is valid. After you have confidence in its performance, turn it into a Recurring Transaction by opening it again and clicking “Make recurring” at the bottom.

  1. Name the Recurring Transaction with a descriptive name so you’ll know what it is when you see it on the list.
  2. Set it to Scheduled so that it just does its thing, without waiting for you.
  3. Confirm that “Automatically send emails” is checked (unless you don’t want it to send the receipt).
  4. Set the time Interval. The Interval can be Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly, on a specific day (“the 1st of the Month”), or a time period (“the 2nd Tuesday of the Month”).
  5. Set a Start Date if desired. Specify an End Date if the payment is only for a certain length of time.
  6. If you use QuickBooks Payments merchant processing, select the credit card, or use Check for ACH. Confirm that “Process credit card” or “I have authorization and would like to process this transaction” are checked off. Note that if you create a Scheduled Sales Receipt without this checkbox, the transaction will look like it ran, but you’ll never see it hit your bank account!
  7. Save!

Unscheduled templates

Another suggested use of Recurring Transactions is to create standardized transactions to save you from repetitious data entry or recreating the wheel every time.

Design any type of transaction with Account categories or Products and Services and default descriptions. I like to include amount placeholders, especially when debits/credits and positive/negative numbers are involved. Sometimes I’ll even include instructions in the Description field!

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Call up the form as needed it by clicking the drop-down arrow and selecting “Use.” Add additional rows, delete unnecessary line items, customize the descriptions, and replace the amounts.

Every time you use a Recurring Transaction and edit it, QuickBooks Online asks if you would like to make the change this “One time only,” or “Update for all.” Be sure to choose “One time only,” unless you want to permanently change the template for the future as well.

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Under the drop-down arrow on the far right of each list item are several helpful tools.

  • Use. Choose this to use each transaction when you need it.
  • Duplicate. Create a copy of an existing Recurring Transaction and modify it.
  • Pause. Temporarily stop a Recurring Transaction until you want to start it again.
  • Skip Next Date. Stop a Scheduled Transaction or Reminder one time.
  • Delete. Deletes the Recurring Transaction. It is not Inactivated; it is really gone.
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Reminders list

Be sure to keep an eye on your Dashboard for the active Reminders alert. Click through to Recurring Transaction reminders that have come due. Click “Edit and Create” to use each transaction, or drop down the arrow to “Skip” them. If you don’t pay attention, Reminders will pile up and you’ll have to dismiss them all.

This same list of Reminders is also available inside the Recurring Transactions window. Click the Reminders List button on the upper right to filter the list to just show Reminder-type Recurring Transactions that are waiting for your action.

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Recurring template list report

Run a report showing all your Recurring Transactions. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Reminders List button, and select “Run Report.” This Report is also found in the Report Center under the For My Accountant section.

Your Recurring Template List Report is grouped by Scheduled, Reminders, and Unscheduled Template Types. You may also want to try grouping them by Transaction Type, and Sorting the list by Name.

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Tips and tricks

Recurring transactions vs. banking rules. In the “old days,” you may have used Recurring Transactions (“Memorized Transactions” in QuickBooks Desktop) to enter routine expenses like Rent or Insurance. Now that we have bank feed automation, you’re usually better off making Banking Rules instead, since they take into account variations in dollar amount and date. It’s easier than editing Reminder transactions, or fixing duplicates if the amount happened to be different.

Save backups of your complex templates. When making changes to a Recurring Transaction, it’s not hard to get used to clicking “One time only,” but mistakes happen and templates get changed. For that reason, I duplicate every complex Recurring Transaction, save it as Unscheduled, and give it a name that starts with “Backup – [Transaction Name].”

That way, if you accidentally overwrite the content, you have a second copy!

QuickBooks Payments. Scheduled Sales Receipts requires using QuickBooks Online’s built-in merchant services. If you haven’t already signed up for QuickBooks Payments, what are you waiting for? Head into your QB Payments settings (Gear > Account and Settings > Payments) and turn it on.

The merchant service fees are cheaper for ProAdvisors® than they are when business owners sign up themselves. If you’re a ProAdvisor setting up a client with QuickBooks Payments, sign in to their file through your QuickBooks Online Accountant portal and click their “Learn More” button yourself. That will give your clients wholesale rates, lower than if they click the button while logged in as themselves.

Some QuickBooks Service Providers, including Carrie Kahn’s Complete Business Group, offer referral fees or even affiliate cuts if you pass on your client to them for the registration process. Ask your favorite QSP if they offer this benefit.

Authorization forms. When you save a Scheduled Sales Receipt that has credit card or ACH payments, QuickBooks Online pops up an authorization form to gather information about the payment method, and ensure that the business owner is aware you’re going to charge them automatically. Be sure to pass these on to your clients so they understand your terms.

I have found that these forms don’t actually contain all the fields required in the Payment Method dialog box. I saved the forms to my computer, revised them to gather the correct information…and incorporated my branding! Now, I simply include both forms in my onboarding packet and instruct the client to send back their preferred payment method.

Additional resources

For more information about Recurring Transactions, please visit these help articles:

The ability to store routine transactions for automatic entry, and create templates for complex transactions, is an essential function to streamlining your workflow. Give it a try to free up your time to grow your firm – and help your clients grow their businesses!

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