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I'm a college student, and much as I prefer doing my banking online, I often need to use paper checks for things like paying the rent, splitting bills with roommates, random university fees not included in tuition, trips, etc. I already have online automatic payment for everything that I can set it up for, but am still needing about 3-5 checks a month.

I'm wondering how I can minimize the costs for using paper checks. It costs $2/check to just show up at the bank and get one printed there (plus the relative cost of the inconvenience). It costs about $25 for me to order a new box of 100 checks, but I'd prefer not to buy quite that many at one time when I don't use them that often.

How can I continue to use paper checks while not paying large fees to get the checks themselves? Is there any service where I can get checks printed in a lower quantity at a lower per-unit cost? Are there other alternatives to checks that work well for things like housemates splitting bills/rent? Or am I just stuck with paying the price that my bank asks?

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Any reason in particular you don't want to have 100? That amount should last you a couple years and that is reasonable cost. –  MrChrister Oct 6 '11 at 5:09
    
@MrChrister I guess another question then would be "is this a normal cost for checks?" It seemed high to me, but I haven't ordered checks before, so I'm trying to educate myself on what options are out there. –  nhinkle Oct 6 '11 at 6:04
    
That is about what I paid. –  MrChrister Oct 6 '11 at 6:28
    
yeah man you can get 500 checks for 20 bucks at my bank. –  Matt Phillips Oct 6 '11 at 14:31
    
@MrChrister Well, I'm in a similar situation and I just know that I will never use up the 100 checks, so I'd be throwing some money away. –  Lagerbaer Dec 11 '11 at 17:12
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3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Several things to do:

  1. Change your bank. $2 for a check? Why??

  2. When shopping for a new bank: ask for a free checking account. College students can get free checking in almost any bank. At least the first box of checks will be free, which will give you enough checks for the next several years (I'm still not half done with the box I got from WaMu 5 years ago).

  3. Check out your neighborhood credit union. Most of them have free checking and free checks for students as well.

  4. If still no luck - check online check printing services, they'll send you a box for less than $25, that's for sure. Walmart for example (1 box - $7).

Also, you can use banks' bill-pay service for any check you write, if you know the address of the person, the amount and the sum a couple of days ahead of time. That should cover rent, and probably most of your other checks.

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Overall a great answer. nhinkle, I use checks for approximately the same things that you do and bill-pay covers most of my uses. –  Sean W. Oct 6 '11 at 15:25
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$2 to show up at a bank and get a cheque printed. That involves a teller actually doing something for every cheque, and I'm not surprised they charge that. Pre-printed chequebooks should be much cheaper. –  DJClayworth Oct 6 '11 at 19:11
    
It's useful to realize that you don't actually need to rely on your bank to print checks for you. You can order checks from a third-party service and it's perfectly legitimate. You could draw your checks by hand if you felt like it, though they might fail when put through automated processing and the party you're paying might reject it. –  fennec Dec 11 '11 at 18:33
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Here are some options:

  • Bill Pay. Free, and for personal payments, it is sent as a check
  • Paypal. Check if the payee can accept payment via PayPal
  • Most banks have member to member transfer, explore this option
  • Other free services - PopMoney and Money Messenger
  • If none work for you, join a bank where checks are free. My bank doesn't charge me a dime for checks.

Park your money in a bank that works best for you.

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I would strongly suggest you select an answer: all the above two cover everything I can possibly recommend, but perhaps my perspective as a person who was exactly in your shoes a year ago might appeal to you more.

My first bank was Chase, and they usually give out a free checking account to students that come with leaves of 100 checks. Unfortunately, I was 24 at that time, and the max possible age to qualify was 23 or 21.

Paying $25 for any number of checks was a big deal for me as I had no job, and transportation and rent was costing me $1k/month anyways.

I came here and asked questions: lots of them.

MrChrister, God bless his soul, recommended credit unions to me. I never knew they existed.

A year later, I am a proud member of 3 CUs:

  • free checking
  • free online bill pay
  • 6 box of checks, with 100+ leaves a box: I did not even have to ask for them. It was included in the starter package
  • awesome customer service

I recommend Alliant, DCU and SchoolsFirst: I am their member and very proud of it!

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