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Cheap Personal Checks: What Are My Options?

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, Checking Accounts
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Cheap personal checks

Out of checks? Getting more from your bank or credit union is convenient, but it’s not your only option. You can order personal checks from anywhere you like.

Some banks charge $20 or more per box, unless you’re a premium account holder. You might save more than 50% by buying from a direct-to-consumer printer or national chain.

Though paper checks are becoming less common, they’re still often necessary for paying the rent, for your kids’ activities or even for a box of Girl Scout cookies. Not every merchant accepts credit cards or electronic payments. Americans were still writing some 18 billion checks per year as of 2012, according to the Federal Reserve.

Here’s a list of what some major banks, check printers and big-box stores charge for ordering personal checks. Prices shown are for basic checking account customers.

Options for ordering personal checks

 Sample price[1]Number of checksPrice per checkShipping cost
[1]Prices vary depending on quantity and style ordered. These are representative prices for plain, single-style checks. Some banks offer free or discounted checks for premium checking customers.
[2]Check printers on this list are certified by Check Payment Systems Association to display the industry group's padlock icon.
[3]With regular membership. 5% additional for nonmembers.
[4]With membership. 10% additional for nonmembers.
[5]Military association required to hold an account.

Direct-to-consumer check printers[2]

ASAP Checks$102000.05Not included
Checks in the Mail$17.991250.14Not included
CheckAdvantage$7.501500.05Included
Checks Unlimited$18.991250.15Not included
Checkworks$9.991250.08Included

National chains

Costco Checks$14.18[3]4920.03Included
Wal-Mart Checks$7.461500.05Not included
Sam's Club Checks$8.70[4]4800.02Included

Major banks

Bank of America$221200.18Included
Wells Fargo$181200.15Included
Chase Bank$18.951000.19Included
PNC Bank$19.991200.17Included
US Bank$22.951200.19Not included
TD Bank$25.751000.26Included
USAA[5]Freen/aFreeIncluded
SunTrust Bank$27.951000.28Included
Citibank$20.951000.21Included
Citizens Bank$27.251200.23Included
Regions Bank$201200.17Included

Checks from the bank

Many consumers reorder checks from their bank simply because they trust the institution. And it’s convenient: You won’t have the hassle of entering your checking account number or looking up your bank’s routing number.

If you have a premium checking account — the type that usually requires a minimum balance or regular direct deposits — you might get free or cheap refill checks from your bank. Customers with basic checking accounts might pay a higher price.

Checks from online printers

Are checks from online printers just as good? They have to be if they want to be universally accepted, according to the Check Payment Systems Association, an industry group for check printers. “All reputable check printing companies produce checks according to industry standards to ensure that checks will be accepted by banks and merchants alike,” says Steven Antolick, executive director of the CPSA.

The association recommends that check printers incorporate security features designed to thwart counterfeiters, such as microprinted letters and nearly invisible security screens. “Many check printers in the U.S. have been certified by the CPSA for use of the padlock icon — the little lock symbol that you see on the face of many checks — and this means that the company has incorporated at least a minimum number of security features to protect against alteration and duplication of the check,” Antolick says.

Before you order checks from an unfamiliar company, look for the CPSA padlock icon on its website. Also verify that the printer has Better Business Bureau accreditation.

Checks from big-box stores

You can also get cheap personal checks at the same big-box stores where you get paper towels by the case. Costco, Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart offer inexpensive check printing. The checks are produced by Harland Clarke, which is CPSA-certified whether the checks are sold under the Harland Clarke name or that of the store, Antolick says. Just like with the paper towels, you might end up ordering a large quantity to get the discount.

How to get cheap personal checks

To spend the least on refill checks, follow these strategies.

  • Ask your bank for any available free checks. Check with your financial institution first — you might score some gratis, especially if your account has preferred status. If you just need one or two checks in a hurry, ask a teller for counter checks. Banks may supply a few of these emergency checks at no charge — though some, like Chase, now charge $2 for a sheet of three.
  • Check online for discounts. Why pay retail? If you Google “promo code for ordering checks” you may find discount codes for ordering checks at savings websites, like Coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com.
  • Choose plain designs. To pay the least per check, choose value designs such as safety blue. Skip upgrades such as duplicate checks or customized photo designs.
  • Buy in bulk. If you order several boxes you’ll probably get a volume discount.
  • Skip the add-ons. When ordering checks you’ll be asked to enter information such as your bank routing number, checking account number and other details. When you get close to checking out, you may be offered add-ons. Items such as fraud protection, expedited printing and trackable shipping will increase your final bill. For the best value, decline all such extras.

The bottom line

When you run out of checks, it’s often most convenient to order them from your bank, and if you’re a premium checking customer, you might even get them for free. Otherwise, ordering refill checks from a printer other than your bank can be a money-saving option for consumers; just be sure to stick with reputable companies. Don’t shell out more than necessary for the little slips of paper that allow you to spend your own money.

Jeanne Lee is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: jlee@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jlee_jeanne


Image via iStock.