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Banking

How to Get Cheap Personal Checks

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

You probably don’t write nearly as many personal checks as you once did. And if this is true, you’re far from alone. The 2016 Federal Reserve Payments Study found that in 2015, checks accounted for 13.4% of all non-cash payments in the United States. However in 2000, checks accounted for 57.8 percent of such payments. The same study found that in 2015, U.S. households wrote an average of 7.1 checks per month. But in 2000, check writing in U.S. households averaged 19.3 checks per month.

It’s clear, then, that check writing is on the decline; more consumers are choosing to pay for everything from groceries to their monthly bills with credit or debit cards, direct deposit or mobile wallets.

This doesn’t mean, though, that you won’t ever write a check again. Maybe you owe a friend money and that friend prefers paper checks, for example. Or, maybe you find it easier to pay your dogsitter with a personal check rather than a lump of cash. Sometimes it’s easier and more convenient to give a check as a wedding gift than to buy a registry item.

And when you do need to pay for checks? Many people probably would think that it’s best to pay as little as possible for them. Many consumers order checks from their personal banks and then re-order when they run out. This, though, might not be the most cost-effective approach. Instead, you might save money by hunting for cheap personal checks.

Where to get cheap personal checks

You do have options when searching for cheap personal checks. Today, you can purchase checks online, order them from a national chain or buy them from your own bank or credit union.

Getting cheap personal checks online

Plenty of companies offer cheap personal checks online. When ordering checks from these retailers, though, make sure that the checks they offer meet all the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which Checks.com states on its Frequently Asked Questions page.

Checks.com: This online retailer sells books of 100 checks starting at $4.95, although the price varies depending on which checks you order. For example, one box of 100 Savvy checks, with duplicates costs $5.95.

Checks Unlimited: Ordering a box of 100 checks decorated with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle will cost you $21.99 at Checks Unlimited. And a box of 100 blue side-tear checks will run you $20.99.

The Bradford Exchange: The Bradford Exchange also offers plenty of options for consumers. A box of top-tear or side-tear checks contains 120 checks if you order single checks, or 100 checks if you order duplicates. A box of single parchment paper checks costs $19.95, and a box of duplicate parchment paper checks costs $22.95.

TechChecks: You may order 150 Blue Safety single checks from TechChecks for $12.95.

When ordering cheap personal checks online, you will need to provide these companies with your bank information, including its routing number and your bank account number. How long it takes your checks to arrive depends on the company. TechChecks’ website indicates that it typically ships basic checks within 48 business hours; and Checks Unlimited’s site says it takes from two-to-five business days to print and ship its checks.

Getting cheap personal checks from national chains

You also may order cheap personal checks from national chains such as Walmart and Costco, whose prices tend to be fairly cheap.

Walmart checks: You can find plenty of cheap checks at Walmart. For instance, the company offers its Pink Ribbon personal checks at $9.46 for a box of 150, with duplicates. If you want to reduce that price even more, you can get the same amount of checks for just $8.46 if you order single instead of duplicate checks.

Costco checks: Costco automatically directs its customers to the website for Harland Clarke Check Printing, the company that prints the checks for Costco. But the prices still reflect Costco’s inexpensive costs. The Costco high-security checks cost $34.90 for Costco Gold Star/Business Members for two boxes (348 checks), with duplicates; or $32.40 for the same amount of single checks.

Getting checks from your bank

Many consumers still re-order their personal checks directly from their banks. Why? Because they believe that this is the simplest solution.

Centier Bank is a good example: This bank lets customers order checks either online or by phone. When ordering by phone, customers need to provide their account numbers; and when ordering online, they need to provide their account numbers and their bank’s routing numbers.

Citizens Bank also lets customers order checks either online, phone or in person. Or, they may order new checks directly from Deluxe, the check-printing company that works with Citizens Bank.

U.S. Bank says that its customers can order replacement checks online, by phone, or at U.S. Bank ATMs or bank branches.

Some banks even offer automatic reordering so you won’t need to remember to reorder your checks. PNC Bank’s Automatic Check Reorder program tracks the number of checks that you’ve written that have cleared your account since you last reordered. Then, about three months before they expect you to run out of checks, the bank will notify you that it’s about to order your new checks. PNC Bank will mail you the checks and deduct the cost from your checking account.

Security

Security is key no matter where you get your personal checks. Fortunately, checks today come with enhanced security features.

The Check Payment Systems Association (CPSA) explains on its website that checks with enhanced security features have a small padlock symbol printed on their fronts and backs. This symbol indicates that the check is embedded with certain security features — such as micro-printed data and security screen prints — that make it more difficult to reproduce or counterfeit.

When you are ordering cheap personal checks, whether you get them online or from your bank, make sure they include these security features.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter |

Dan Rafter is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dan here

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking

The Best Ways to Send Money Online

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Sending money online is no longer exotic. It’s actually a simple and hassle-free way to send dollars to that friend who bought you lunch yesterday, pay a freelance artist for designing your small business logo or purchase that robot-themed necklace on Etsy. And today, consumers have more options when they want to send money online, from well-known services, such as a PayPal and Google Pay Send, to newer options, such as Venmo and Zelle.

These services let you send money to friends, family members, businesses, contractors and freelancers — basically anyone who’s waiting for a payment from you. By sending money online, you eliminate the need to provide recipients with your credit card information, you don’t have to worry about writing checks and you won’t have to scramble to find an ATM to withdraw cash.

The big question: Which service should you use to send money online?

Not surprisingly, the answer varies depending on whom you are paying and what you are buying. Here’s a quick look at some of the more popular ways to send money online and the pros of each service.

Best to send money online to friends and family

Venmo

Send money online via Venmo
Image source: iTunes

You can use Venmo on your mobile device to pay for items on your own, or split up payments among your friends and family members. You can also use Venmo to deposit money in your bank account, make purchases through several apps and pay for items in physical stores.

To use the service, you’ll need to create an account with Venmo first, either through the Venmo’s app or on its website. You can then link your Venmo account with your bank account, and debit or credit cards. This way, you won’t have to add any money to your Venmo account to make purchases.

Features: Venmo’s biggest advantage is its flexibility. You can send money to people through Venmo by using the recipient’s email address or phone number. If these people already have Venmo accounts, the money will be transferred automatically. If a recipient does not have an account, they’ll first need to create a Venmo account to accept your payment.

Downside: It’s usually free to send money through Venmo. But if you use your credit card to send money to a recipient, you will pay a fee equal to 3% of the amount you send.

There are limits to how much money you can send through the service, too. Before Venmo verifies your identity, you can spend and send as much as $299.99 per week. Once Venmo verifies your identity, you can send a maximum of $2,999.99 each week in payments to recipients.

Zelle

Image source: iTunes

Zelle works much like Venmo, allowing you to send money to anyone whose email or phone number you know. However, you don’t have to download a separate app to use Zelle. Instead, many of the biggest banks across the country embed Zelle within their online banking platforms as a service to their consumers.

Some of the banks that already use Zelle include Associated Bank, Chase, Citi, Fifth Third Bank, Bank of America and SunTrust. If you bank with Chase, for example, then you simply send money through your Chase app. But if your bank does not offer Zelle, you still can use the service by downloading the Zelle app.

Features: If your bank or credit union offers Zelle, you can use the service to send money to anyone who has a bank account in the United States. If your bank does not offer Zelle, and you are using the Zelle app on your own, then the people you send money to must have Zelle through their bank or credit union.

Fees are a positive feature. Zelle does not charge consumers anything to send money. Zelle, though, does recommend that users check with their personal bank or credit union to make sure that these institutions don’t charge any fees.

Zelle is fast, too. If you send money to someone who already has access to Zelle, the money should show up in that person’s bank account in minutes. If you send money to someone who is not yet enrolled in Zelle, it will take from one to three business days for the money to show up.

Downside: You might be limited with Zelle according to your bank’s policies. As Zelle says, to determine how much money you can send each week through the service, you’ll need to check with your bank or credit union. If your financial institution doesn’t offer Zelle, you can send a maximum of just $500 a week with the service.

Zelle also doesn’t let you use a credit card to send money. You will need to connect the service with a bank account or debit card.

Google Pay Send

Image source: Google App Store

 

Like its competitors, Google Pay lets you send money to people by using their name, email address or phone number. You might remember this service as Google Pay. Last year, though, Google added the “Send” part of the name to signify that the service now combines the features of Google Wallet and Android Pay.

To send money online, you’ll need to link Google Pay Send to your bank account or debit card. Then, when you make a payment, the money is taken from these linked accounts. To get started with the service, you can sign in to pay.google.com on your computer or you can download the mobile app.

Features: Google Pay Send is completely free to use. The service is fast, too. Google says that linking Google Pay to a debit card results in the fastest transactions, usually within minutes. However, linking to a bank account can result in slower transactions. Google says it can take as long as five business days for the funds to be withdrawn from your account.

Downside: You are somewhat limited in how you can send money with Google Pay Send. You can use your debit card and bank account to send money through the service. You cannot, however, use credit cards or PayPal to send money through Google Pay Send.

There are limits, too, on how much you can send with Google Pay Send. You can send a maximum of only $10,000 in a single transaction, and as much as $10,000 altogether in a seven-day period. In addition, if you want to send someone more than $2,500 in a single transaction, then the recipient must add a bank account in order to receive the funds.

Cash App

Image source: iTunes

The Cash App is offered through Square. To use it, download the app onto your phone. To send money through the service, you’ll have to link it to either a debit card, credit card or the funds already available in your Cash App.

When you send the money, you’ll enter the recipient’s name or mobile phone number. The recipients receive an email or text telling them that they’ve received cash.

Features: It’s easy to send money through this app at no charge. You just can’t use a credit card. Sending money with your debit card or Cash App balance is always free. Sending money through a credit card, though, costs 3% of the amount of money you are sending.

Downside: There are limits to how much you can send through Cash App. If you send more than $250 in one week, Cash App will ask you to verify your name, date of birth and Social Security number. If you provide this information, you can then send as much as $2,500 in a week.

Best for business transactions or purchasing items online

PayPal

Image source: iTunes

PayPal might be the best known of all the platforms to send money online. And it’s easy to use via your computer or phone. You create a free account and then link it to your bank account, credit card or debit card. To send money online, you enter your recipient’s email address or mobile phone number.

PayPal then notifies recipients that they have received money. This money is directly deposited into their own PayPal accounts. If recipients don’t have an account, they are prompted to open one.

Features: You won’t have to pay to send money with PayPal as long the money is coming from your PayPal balance or bank account. However, you will be charged if your payment is funded by a credit card or debit card. PayPal has a particularly far reach, too. You can use PayPal to send money to recipients across the globe.

Downside: The biggest downside to using PayPal to send money online? It comes down to fees. If you fund your payment with a debit card or credit card, you’ll be charged a fee equal to 2.9% of the amount you are sending. You might also be charged a separate fixed fee depending on the currency of the transaction. If you are sending U.S. dollars, you’ll be charged an additional fee of $0.30.

The recipients of your funds also might need to pay fees. But, recipients won’t pay any fees when you send them money through PayPal’s friends or family option. However, if you send someone money for goods or services provided — which PayPal considers a commercial transaction — then that person must pay 3.4% plus $0.30 if you are making a domestic payment with PayPal’s standard rates. If you are sending an international payment, recipients from most countries must pay 3.9% plus $0.30 to receive the funds if you are sending in U.S. dollars.

Best for sending money abroad

TransferWise

TransferWise allows you to send international payments online, after you set up an account. To do this, you must first set up an actual payment through your account. When you do this, you enter how much you want to send and the recipient’s bank details. When it’s time to send your payment, you have the option of specifying how you want to pay.

Features: TransferWise allows you to pay in several ways. You can pay directly from your bank account, with a debit card or a credit card, or through an Automated Clearing House (ACH) service. Sending money internationally can get complicated when it comes to fees and exchange rates. But TransferWise will tell you the fees upfront when you set up your payment.

When it comes to exchange rates, TransferWise always charges the mid-market rate. It will also tell you the exchange rate it is charging when you set up your payment.

Downside: It’s not especially cheap to send money through TransferWise. TransferWise charges a fee of 0.6% of the amount you send plus $1.

Western Union

Western Union allows you to send money to more than 200 countries and territories. You can send this money online or by visiting a physical Western Union location. You can send money to recipients’ bank accounts directly online by using your credit card or debit card. You can also do this by transferring money from your bank account.

How long it takes for your money to arrive will vary according to your destination. Western Union says that you’ll be able to see these various arrival times as you enter your payment details.

Features: Western Union does make it easy to pay. You may download the Western Union app to start the payment process, or visit the company online to send payments. However, if you would like an agent to handle the transaction for you, then you can send money from more than 500,000 Western Union locations across the globe, and 43,000 in the U.S. alone.

Downside: You will have to pay to send money through Western Union. For instance, Western Union says it costs $5 to send a maximum of $500. You will, though, have to check what the fees might be for sending specific amounts to specific locations.

There are also limits on how much you can send through Western Union. When sending online, you can send a maximum of $2,999 per money transfer. If you are sending a transfer through Western Union’s mobile app, you can send as much as $500 per transfer.

MoneyGram

MoneyGram is another big player in the transfer business. This service also allows you to send money to overseas recipients either online or by visiting a MoneyGram location. With MoneyGram, you can send money directly to a recipient’s bank account or mobile wallet.

To send money online, you may pay with a credit card, debit card or directly from your bank account. You will need to tell MoneyGram to whom you are sending money and how this person wants to receive the funds.

Features: The biggest plus of MoneyGram is its flexibility. You can find in-person locations if you prefer to speak with a representative by visiting this page. MoneyGram offers you as many options to send money internationally as it does domestically.

Downside: You will have to pay fees to send funds through MoneyGram. How much depends on the amount you send and where you are sending it. For instance, if you want to send $1,000 to a recipient in Australia, it will cost you $32. If you want to send $500 directly to the bank account of someone in Great Britain, it will cost you $7.

You can estimate your fees before you send money here.

As with some of the other services, there are limits as to how much you can send online. MoneyGram says that you can send a maximum of $6,000 in most countries for every single online transfer. You can also send a maximum of $6,000 in most countries every 30 days.

How to send money online safely

Sending money online is convenient. But you do have to be careful. There are opportunities for scammers. The most common scams are when criminals try to trick you into sending them money online. Be sure to carefully read the fraud protection programs offered by these services. They do vary by provider.

MoneyGram provides a useful list of some of the most common scams criminals use to trick people into sending them money online. For example, scammers might call you, saying that they are from the Internal Revenue Service, and asking that you send them money to pay taxes that you owe. Others might say that they are from the Federal Trade Commission and they need you to send a payment so that they can refund you money from a legal settlement.

The bottom line? Don’t ever send money online to someone who calls you. And never send money online to someone you don’t know or trust adequately.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter |

Dan Rafter is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dan here

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking

AccountNow Gold Prepaid Debit Card Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Source: iStock

The AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card targets customers that either cannot or do not wish to use regular checking accounts. This card’s main features are that it is prepaid, it’s a debit (not credit) card — you may make purchases and withdraw cash only for the amount that is on deposit and available — and it offers access to more than one million ATMs. Although the AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card can provide a necessary bridge to funds until a customer can use traditional banking privileges, its extraordinarily high fees make this a card of last resort for most customers.

AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card features

The AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card is an alternative to a traditional checking account. And in many ways, a fully funded AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card is similar to a checking account. When you sign up for the account, you get a debit card that you may use anywhere in the United States that accepts Visa debit cards, as with many checking accounts. In addition, you can make direct deposits to your AccountNow Prepaid card free of charge. When it comes to direct deposits, the AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card goes the extra mile: In many cases, it even allows direct deposits to arrive in your account early, two days before your scheduled pay date.

The prepaid visa card works like any standard prepaid card. To activate the card, you just deposit cash into the account, for a limit of $10,000. This amount becomes your available balance. Unlike a credit card account, there are no interest charges with the AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card because it immediately funds transactions from your available balance. And unlike many checking and savings accounts, you don’t need to worry about overdrafts because charges are not approved unless you have the cash to cover them.

Because it’s prepaid and not a credit card, you won’t need to undergo a credit or background check. And, different from many nontraditional checking alternatives, there’s no fee or minimum deposit requirement to open an AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card.

You also have the option to set up free online bill paying. Currently, the card offers a $15 direct deposit promotion if you receive at least $500 in recurring direct deposits two months in a row within six months of opening your account. To redeem the bonus, you do need to take the extra step of calling the direct deposit bonus redemption number, 877-553-3767.

AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card fees and fine print

On the surface, this prepaid card seems quite attractive. But a plethora of fees makes this card a tough sell. All things considered, the product likely would be too expensive for the average consumer. Take a look at the card’s stated fees below.

AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card Fees
Monthly Service Charge$9.95
Reload feeVaries by retailer; up to $4.95
ATM feesU.S. withdrawal - $2.50
Non-U.S. withdrawal - $4.95
Balance inquiry at ATMs$1.50
Additional card$10
Expedited shipment of replacement card$25
Teller cash withdrawal3% of the amount withdrawn
ACH debit fee$2.50 per transaction
Monthly paper statements$1
Bill pay expedited service$9.95 for funds delivery 1-4 days before regular processing
Foreign currency conversion3% of the total transaction amount

For a card that touts its ability to avoid fees like credit card interest charges, the AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card more than makes up for it in other ways. The monthly $9.95 fee amounts to $119.40 per year just to have the card. Added to that is the fact that this prepaid card charges to perform most of the actions that you normally would take with a debit card, such as making ATM withdrawals and sending or receiving any electronic Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments. The bottom line is that although you may avoid interest charges and overdraft fees with this card, just having and using the card likely would cost you hundreds of dollars per year.

Opening an AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card account

Image source: Screenshot/accountnow.com

It’s easy to sign up for the AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card. You can complete the online application in about a minute with some basic personal information. You’ll need to provide your name and address, phone number, email address, Social Security number and date of birth. You can set up direct deposit from your employer or benefits provider at the same time you sign up.

Although you do not need to go through a credit check, if you elect other features, like mobile deposit, you may be subject to further credit verification. According to the company’s website, even if you were to show up on ChexSystems for having a troubled banking history, you would still get approved for this account.

Who could benefit from the AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card?

The benefits of the AccountNow Gold Prepaid Card are basically the same as with a checking account. So, anyone who needs a debit card to make purchases or to get cash from an ATM might be interested in the card. But in reality, most people who use these features can open a traditional checking account without the high fee structure; meaning that this card would not be appealing to the vast majority of customers.

However, individuals who have had financial trouble in the past, or who do not qualify for regular checking accounts or credit cards for whatever reason, may have no other option than to use a prepaid card for their basic financial services. So for these customers, an account like this prepaid card might indeed be beneficial. They may be well advised, though, to find a debit card with similar features that would not trigger fees nearly every time they use it.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

John Csiszar
John Csiszar |

John Csiszar is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here