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How to Order Checks Without Getting Ripped Off

Written by Nickel - 26 Comments

Even in the age of online billpay, it’s still sometimes necessary to write a check. In our case, the check-writing ritual is most often associated with miscellaneous school expenses (PTO fund raisers, pre-paying for hot lunches, etc.) as well as things like Cub Scout expenses or sports registration. Even though we go through checks more slowly than we used to, we still run out from time to time. This begs the question of what’s the best way to re-order checks without getting ripped off?

Rule #1: Ordering checks through your bank is generally not the best way to do things. Most banks charge a premium, so you’ll end up overpaying by a huge amount.

On the flipside, you don’t want to Google your way over to a random check printing website and plug in all your banking information, as that’s a surefire way to open yourself up to the risk of identity theft. That brings us to…

Rule #2: Don’t order checks from unknown individuals/companies. This goes for both websites (no matter how slick they might look) as well as telemarketers (no matter how honest they might sound).

So if you don’t order through your bank, and you don’t order through a little known company, then what should you do? Simple, focus on reputable check printers. While I don’t have an exhaustive list of such printers, I do have some experience in this area… In the past, we have usually order checks through Current, which we originally discovered years and years ago through a circular in our Sunday paper.

A bit more digging has, however, revealed that Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart have entered the check printing business (here and here, although both sites can be accessed direct from the Wal-Mart and Sam’s homepages). Whatever your opinion of the Wal-Mart corporation, their checks are pretty darn cheap, and there’s also pretty much no chance that they’ll decide to steal your identity and drain your bank account.

Here’s a quick price comparison based on four boxes of duplicate (i.e., carbon-copy) checks:

Sam’s Club = $23.26 ($23.26 + Free Standard Shipping)
Wal-Mart = $35.44 ($27.84 + $7.60 S&H)
Current = $35.98 ($28.99 + $6.99 S&H; this is an introductory offer)
Bank of America = $63.00 ($31.50 for two boxes x 2, free S&H)

Note that Sam’s Club “Plus” members will get about 20% better pricing than they listed above.

So there you have it… You can usually save a ton by going somewhere besides your bank for your check printing needs, and you can really clean up at a place like Sam’s Club.

And while we’re on the subject of check safety, be sure to look over my check writing tips, and don’t forget to think before you write that check!

Published on October 23rd, 2006
Modified on October 31st, 2006 - 26 Comments
Filed under: Banking, Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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26 Responses to “How to Order Checks Without Getting Ripped Off”

  1. 1
    Blaine Moore Says:

    I work for a check printing company, so I get all of my checks for free.

    We also offer very competitive prices, especially if you print your checks through Microsoft Money or Quicken or a similar program.

  2. 2
    Ryan Says:

    I work as a banker for a very large bank and it makes no difference to me personally whether a customer buys checks from the bank or through a 3rd party vendor. However, I always caution the customer that there are risks to ordering from an outside vendor. I recently had a customer who ordered checks from an outside vendor and had the wrong account number on the bottom of the check in the MICR line (he was missing one digit). This created a huge headache for the customer because he had already written 7 checks with the wrong account number. I guess that’s a great reason to always verify information is correct everywhere on your checks when you receive them, instead of just skimming over them as I usually do.

  3. 3
    bluntmoney Says:

    I agree with you, but sometimes the bank can be cheaper depending on the type of account you have with them. My bank offers free checks as long as I don’t mind them being “standard” checks imprinted with their logo.

  4. 4
    kbr9619 Says:

    My bank provides free checks from Clarks. They are the least expensive, blue safety, non-carbon but who cares, they’re free!

  5. 5
    Tom Says:

    I don’t understand why people with money have to pay for checks. I too work as a banker, and I have found that most banks will give you free checks for life with a certain amount of minimum balance (usually $2-10k). WaMu even offers them on their free for any joker checking accounts. (No, I don’t work for WaMu.)

    I think that as more people transition to the online way of doing things checks will become free for everyone. Theres no way that the check printing business is sustainable over the long haul. (By long haul I mean at least 30+ years, so please take it easy on the flames ;)

  6. 6
    Matt Says:

    I’ve only ever ordered checks from the bank. But that’s because (so far) I’ve never lived in one place long enough to run out of checks, and no reputable shop (except the one affiliated with one’s bank) is going to print new checks with different information than what the old checks have.

    At historical rates of depletion, the $23.60 I just spent on my most recent batch of new checks should last me for 5 years…which is longer than I’ve ever lived in one place before. I expect to live here indefinitely though, so no more address changes. During those 5 years, however, I’ll be getting married and so my fiancee-to-be-wife’s name will be getting added. So let’s call it 7 years before the first reorder of identical checks in my life makes third-party discount printers an available option. And let’s just assume that the reorder after we’re married costs the same as this one did.

    Which means that, to cover my paper-check-writing needs for the next seven years, the total cost will be $47.20. (Actually it’ll be way more than that, because I spend more than that every year on pens to write checks with, most of which get stolen by my cow-orkers. But this thread is about the checks themselves.)

    This works out to approximately 56 cents per month. If it weren’t for the planned marriage, those two check orders would cover 10 years instead, and the cost would be 39 cents per month. And that’s the rate I pay buying them through my bank’s official preferred vendor.

    Certainly when those 7 years are over I’ll probably find the cheapest price I can. But frankly, at an actual current cost of 56 cents per month and a probable future cost of 39 cents per month, I don’t exactly get the feeling that NBD/FCNBD/BankOne/Chase/whoever-they-merge-with-and-change-their-name-to-next is seriously cheating me or cutting into my budget to any degree worth thinking about.

    What would REALLY be nice would be a discount check printer that didn’t force me to order new checks from the bank FIRST before they’d update any of my information. But I’m given to understand that such a policy would now be against the law, so I’m not exactly hunting for it strenuously.

  7. 7
    GaryP Says:

    Costco has always had the best price I have found:

    $20.30 for 4 boxes of duplicates

    Free shipping for members

    Gary

  8. 8
    WearyTraveler Says:

    I still have checks in my current check register from 2003. I use my bank’s bill pay and rarely use a paper check.

    I’ve had the same 2 checking accounts for over 12 years. Although I’ve moved numerous times, I still use my checks until I empty the box. I’m always getting those donation requests that come with address labels. I just put one of these new labels over the address portion of my old (and already paid for) checks. I have yet to have a problem with them getting accepted of cashed.

  9. 9
    Frugal Duchess Says:

    I’m writing an article (print) about ordering checks.

    Can you please email me. Sharonhr@bellsouth.net
    I would like to interview you?

  10. 10
    Elbo Cenvari Says:

    What about printing your own checks? I only need about 2 or 3 checks a year. I have a friend that prints his own checks, I think from Microsoft money.

  11. 11
    Hunter Says:

    How is the quality of the Walmart / Sam’s Club checks? Do they feel/look cheap, or ate they pretty comparable to those provided though one’s bank?

  12. 12
    nickel Says:

    Hunter: As far as I can tell, they’re indistinguishable from “name brand” checks.

  13. 13
    sandra dragon Says:

    I have encountered no problems ordering checks from sources other than banks. On the other hand my current bank sent checks (which I never ordered) to my former address which I discovered after a former neighbor called me. The bank was unapologetic. Another bank printed checks using my SAVINGS ACCOUNT NO.! So much for bank security and accuracy.

  14. 14
    Chris Says:

    I belong to PSECU credit union (the largest credit union in Pennsylvnia) and I can get a basic (nothing fancy) box of duplicate checks through them for $1.59. If I want to “go crazy” and get something with a picture on it, I can get them for $3.70 and for a little over a buck more I can get a fancy print on them. So, if I go all out, for just under $5.00 I can get a box of duplicate checks, with a picture and fancy writing. Since I don’t write many checks, paying a little over 3 cents per check is worth it.

  15. 15
    LiVi Says:

    Right now I am looking for cheap checks. My husband and I tried online bill paying and WHAT A HASSLE! Late payments, triple payments being taken out once our tax refund entered the account. Grrr! We keep our accounts separate and my husband does the most bill paying. I never stopped using checks and my hubby is going back to writing his own checks. Why should someone else write a check for us? Or transfer our money without permission. It was the gas company who took out 3 months without permission and the insurance company didn’t receive its payment because it didn’t go through. Stop the insanity is all I can say, the online bill pay is the old story of two many cooks spoil the soup or in this case too many hands steal the ingredients before you can make soup.

    One more thing, I don’t even have an atm card because I worry I might overdraw. Both my young adult daughters are the banks dream because they keep paying overdrafts which is because they just whip out the atm card and don’t have to think like you do when you write a check. I am thinking of telling them to get a credit card and use it when only when in doubt about their bank amount and pay it off monthly. I do this on occasion.

  16. 16
    Kyrazy Says:

    Just checked Costco (not a Sam’s Club member but a Costco Member.) $23.01 for 4 boxes and free shipping. 20% off of that for Executive Members. I sure wish I would have checked them before I ordered my last batch from Designerchecks.com

    Thanks for a great site!

  17. 17
    Elsie K Says:

    I do on line banking and now my payments get there ON TIME and I have had no problems! I still use checks for misc things. It is time for me to order some new checks which is how I found this site. I like pretty fancy checks so I try different companies. Recently I had a bad experience. The checks I received had very poor quality color and did not look like what was shown on the company web site. Also, I discovered that the checks had my correct account number, but the deposit slips had a completely different number. I contacted the company and told them I want my money back. I am suppose to receive a credit on my next bill. If not I will contact them again or if necessary the Attorney General’s Office.

  18. 18
    BrockO Says:

    Your sweeping generalizations about lesser known companies is troubling to say the least. Even Amazon was once little known and yet did a marvelous job.

    Sure, there are crooks out there but way, way, way fewer than the 24/7 news cycle would have you believe. Fear, fear, and more fear is the poison they sell. When it comes to controlling human beings, it is the oldest trick in the book. Seize the mind and the body will follow. Fear is also the best way to divide and conquer the masses. If you do not trust ANYONE, then you will be unable to band together and affect real change.

    You may be interested to know that Walmart and Sam’s do not print their own checks. Both are printed by ChecksInTheMail which is owned by Harland Clarke. It appears Costco uses BradfordExchangeChecks which are also printed by Harland Clarke.

    Generally speaking, you get low intro offers, ridiculously high reorder rates, impersonal customer service and slow delivery from the big boys and consistent pricing on orders/reorders, old-world service and fast delivery from the smaller companies. On average, there is little to no difference when it comes to quality and security.

  19. 19
    Elsi Says:

    I ordered checks on line through the Bradford Exchange, but I was not satisfied and asked for my money back. The checks were so pretty on the website but when they sent them the colors were awful. They did not send me the full refund back either!

  20. 20
    Joan Says:

    We got sooo ripped off from reordering @ Checks Unlimited: 4 boxes (more than we old folks will ever use) for $104 and change!!!! My husband…mentally failing….got talked into the 4 boxes, a special speed printing and I don’t know what else. The HANDLING is $12.50; Shipping additional $10…not sure if that’s per box or not. So: Here’s fair warning: BE SURE TO SHOP AROUND. There are huge differences!

  21. 21
    Kim Says:

    I JUST GOT RIPPED OFF BY HARLAND CLARKE. I got lazy and used the reorder form in the bottom of my check box without shopping around. They charged me $108.84 for 4 boxes. That’s more that $1.08 for every check! I’m putting a note in the bottom of my last box of checks to shop around the next time I’m running low.

  22. 22
    Bob Says:

    The best deals come with the Sunday paper!

  23. 23
    Amy Says:

    Thanks. I appreciated this information!

  24. 24
    Dave Casey Says:

    Does anyone remember way back in the stone age when you ordered a box of checks it was so stuffed full of books of checks and a deposit register and a vinyl cover? So stuffed the box lid didn’t go down all the way? Now, you get one book of checks and a thank you note for letting us rip you off.

  25. 25
    Suzanne Gore Says:

    I was about to order checks from Harland Clarke but saw it had bad reviews. Their login asks for my routing and bank account info up front before I see pricing. I found your info site and appreciate the input. I am going with Sams to try. Thanks again

  26. 26
    Chris Koffend Says:

    The problem with the on-line check companies is that they are simply dishonest in their pricing. Having visited numerous such sites, the most recent being Extra Value Checks, they love to show you the price all along the way. Then wham, you get to the end and your price has doubled with their plethora of endless fees. Of course, to get to this point, the “teaser” total price with free shipping is continuously shown on each screen asking for your personal information.

    Why can’t any of these sites just be upfront with their pricing? I hate any website that hides the costs and I refuse to support them.

    If anybody knows of a decent check site that is upfront with their pricing before entering in personal data, post the site. I don’t want to get to the last page only to find there is a typesetting fee, a handling fee, a packaging fee. There should be a flat typesetting fee and amount that should be made clear before even starting to “shop”. Handling fees, etc. . . should be made clear as well.

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