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Cheap checks, cool checks

They're not as hip as plastic, and they're slower than sending online bill payments. But sometimes, you just might use them anyway.

Ye old paper checks.

The results of a survey released by the Federal Reserve Board suggest that checks are slowly losing the payment-method popularity contest, as the volume of check payments has steadily declined since 2000.
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The question becomes: Why pay a lot for checks you rarely use?

Banks don't print their own checks; they get them from a national printer. That means consumers can potentially save by buying directly from a check printer. As long as the printer abides by check-standardization guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute, such as the padlock icon and security screen, checks you purchase should be legally sound. If you've never heard of the printer, research its track record with the Better Business Bureau.

Check with your bank, then compare online
While your bank might charge steep prices for checks -- as much as $24 to $40 for a box of 150 duplicates, not all printers will. If you want to shop around for better prices -- and sometimes, more attractive checks -- flock to the Web. Find a plethora of check printers by conducting a simple Internet search for personal checks. Note: Some sites offer discounts for first-time buyers and/or returning customers, so check for additional price cuts before checking out.

The bottom line: Checks don't have to be boring to be safe to use. Maybe you want biblical quotes printed on your checks. Maybe you want everyone to know how much you like the photo artwork of Anne Geddes. Maybe you want a picture of your beloved Rover on your checks. Whatever your personality or interests, you can find checks on the Web that put the "person" in personal checks.

Here are a few sites to get you started:

Cheap checks, cool checks
SLIDESHOW:  |   
  • Check Gallery -- These checks are environmentally friendly -- printed on 24-pound recycled magnetic ink character recognition, or MICR, bond paper in soy-based ink. You can select from attractive backgrounds featuring roses, puppies, wildlife, changes of season, foliage and even scriptural quotes.
  • Show your love for your favorite organization and spread awareness by purchasing checks that feature the name of your beloved charity.

    Price: $14 for 150 singles; $18 for 150 duplicates.

  • CheckWorks -- This site houses an assortment of checks for those who love animals, scenic views, photo art, impressionist paintings, patriotic images, cartoons and simple, but colorful, designs.
  • Escape to a tropical island, the glory of the Eiffel Tower or the Rocky Mountains every time you make a paper payment by selecting one of the Vista checks.

    Price: $8 for 200 singles, $11 for 150 duplicates.

 
 
Next: "Got a penchant for personalization?"
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