From time to time, it happens: You need a paper check.
Your landlord lives in the Stone Age and wants you to send a check in the mail… like, with a stamp. Or you park in a garage near your office that only takes cash or checks for some inexplicable reason.
But it’s real life. Sometimes, you need a check. (And if you’re reading this, you might have already used your last one.) But when you log in to your bank account and ask for some, the bank wants to charge you $20 or $30 — and that’s before you pay for shipping and hold your horses for seven to 10 business days.
What’s a frugal infrequent check writer to do? Find a way around those bank fees, of course.
5 Cheap Ways to Order Checks Online
You don’t need to order checks from your bank. You might be surprised at how many alternative options there are if you poke around online, instead of just perusing that leaflet that came with your weekly coupons in the mail.
When researching online check printers, you should use the same discretion you’d use with any online merchant. Do a little research ahead of time, shop on a secure Wi-Fi connection, and double-check that the site is encrypted to protect your personal information.
Here are a few options we found that feature rock-bottom prices for these pesky paper slips.
Check Advantage promotes its basic checks as “our cheapest check,” so they’re easy to pick out on the site. One box of 150 checks costs $7.50, and shipping is free. Your checks will arrive in 11 to 15 days, but you can also pay for expedited shipping.
Checks.com sells a box of 100 checks starting at $5.95. Standard delivery is free and takes up to 15 business days; trackable shipping starts at $2.25 and takes seven to 11 business days.
Checks in the Mail
Checks in the Mail offers 25 checks for $4.99. Shipping without tracking is free and takes 14 business days; shipping with tracking starts at $8.95 and takes 12 business days.
Vistaprint offers personal checks starting at $4 for 25. With a coupon code (and there always seems to be a coupon code here), you’re looking at $2.99 for 25 checks.
Vistaprint has flat shipping fees based on order cost. For orders under $20, you can expect to pay $4.99 for delivery in eight business days, $6.99 for delivery in five business days, or $19.99 for express shipping in three business days.
Walmart checks start at $7.46 for a pack of 150.
Free standard shipping takes about 12 business days from the time your order is received. Two-day delivery costs $13.15.
Need a Check ASAP? Request a Counter Check
Need a check faster than expedited shipping can provide? Head to your bank.
If you only need a check or two, you can ask for a counter check. They’ll look slightly different from a regular check, but you’ll write out the details the same way you would normally. It only takes a few minutes, and if your bank charges a fee, it should only be a few bucks.
Want Free Checks? Switch to an Online Bank
Online banks typically have lower fees because they don’t have the overhead of maintaining branch locations. Those lower fees may include nominal charges to order paper or cashier’s checks — or they may be free altogether.
Ally offers free checks to customers, for example.
Simple allows you to send payments to “pretty much anyone” in three to five business days; the bank will send a check on your behalf. “We’ll never charge for this service,” the site says.
Chime has a similar option: It doesn’t offer physical checks to members, but the free Chime Checkbook feature sends checks from the mobile app to anywhere in the U.S. for free, with delivery in three to nine business days.
If You’re in It for the Long Haul, Print Your Own Checks
This option takes a little prep. You’ll have to buy check paper (look at office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot), and you’ll need access to software that can format the check details before printing.
The Balance recommends using magnetic ink to print checks. If that’s not an effort you feel like making for your check-printing needs, consider a different option.
Lisa Rowan is a senior writer at Codetic.