HSBC Just Assumes You Want The $90 Check-Printing Service

Adam never received checks for his new HSBC account, so he stopped by his branch to order some. He must have struck bank employees as the kind of guy who demands nothing but the best, since branch employees handed him the order form for the most expensive checks. The ones that cost $90.

I opened an account, never received checks for it. Went to my branch to ask for them, filled out a request form. (Nothing about cost or money was ever mentioned, I assumed it would be nominal or free.) A few days later I see a “check printing charge” of $90.88(!?) in my account

I called and apparently they have different check printing options, with the one they sent me being their most disgustingly expensive, how convenient to assume your customers only want the best…


This seems particularly over-the-top in an era when a hundred checks lasts the typical consumer a decade or so.


Edit Your Comment

  1. anarkie says:

    But they have kittens!!

    • twiggr says:

      Buy online from Checks In The Mail. Good price, good product. Accepted by all banks.

      • Opdelt says:

        Or open an account at a bank that gives you free checks.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I got my Special Edition Batman checks from Checks Unlimited. They’re more expensive and you get half the amount of them, but I had a new customer discount that was pretty sweet. They do spam you with coupons, so I might order again if any of them are any good. I haven’t looked because I have a ton of checks left still.

      • BBBB says:

        Be careful if you try to order checks a second time from _Checks In The Mail_, _Check Gallery_, or most of the check printing companies with ads in the paper. If you read the fine print it states that it is only for first time customers. If you order again they will send your order and a bill for the difference between the promotion price and the “list” price. If you tell them you are sending the order back under the “satisfaction guarantee,” they will offer to split the difference.

        If you refuse to pay they are quick to send you to collections (I don’t know if this is in house or outside.)

        Another thing to watch out for is that these companies operate under many names and you are a considered a repeat customer if you have ordered from any of the other entities.

        Other consumer sites have covered this, but Consumerist hasn’t yet.

    • tooluser says:

      I have monkey checks. I love monkeys. The checks were cheap and I got almost a lifetime supply and they were not from the bank.

  2. ReaperRob says:

    BB&T caught my grandmother with something similar recently.

  3. sj_user1 says:

    Gotta pay for executive perks.

  4. beachmouse says:

    My credit union’s default checks are the ones with their thoroughly hideous soaring eagle/American flag logo that only John Ashcroft could love. (No slam on patriotism intended; the graphic design is just really terrible) But they’re also like $15 for a big giant box that will last me for 20 years given current check usage patterns.

  5. wrjohnston91283 says:

    Sovereign bank did the same thing to me a few years ago, but only for $30. It was sent USPS Express, and I wasn’t home to sign so I drove all over town trying to hunt down the package (I wasn’t expecting anything and wanted to know who sent me something express). I ended up getting the fee refunded a month later, and the bank let me keep the checks, which have the carbon copy).

  6. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I use checks for rent (even though I could pay it online I don’t want my leasing agents, who seem to change every other month, to have any of my bank or card info), to send money in a card, to pay my housekeeper when I have forgotten to grab cash (she is fine with it), to… um, I think I paid my piano tuner once before he took cards… well, I got my last book (that’s book of 25 checks) around this time last year, and I still have a check left.

    When I need checks I hit up VistaPrint for a “free” book. If I run out of checks I think I can get my credit union to print me a sheet of five, with my name and address and everything (i.e. not counter checks, they’re real checks). I haven’t used that in years. USAA sent me a box of checks that should last as long as the check paper physically does.

    What’s the cheapest, safest way to score a book of checks if your bank doesn’t supply them or charges an arm and a leg for them?

    • EdK says:

      If you don’t want the leasing agents to have your bank info, you certainly don’t want to be paying by check.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Perhaps you are using a different bank only for rent, but doesn’t a check give your rental agent all of your bank info?

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        What’s most important to me is that they don’t have the authority to initiate a random charge on my account and pretend it’s because there was some issue with my rent payment or some additional “fee”. I like dangerp’s idea above.

    • sven.kirk says:

      They still have your info. Your routing number and account info is on the check.
      Only way to prevent this is to use money orders.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        Yeah, but they have to be smart to figure that out. Given the leasing agents we’ve had come through here lately, I’m as safe as Fort Knox.

        • Greg Ohio says:

          Every grifter on the planet knows that the routing and account numbers are on the bottom of your check.

    • ChuckECheese says:
      • ChuckECheese says: = $6 + shipping per box for safety checks. charges $14 + shipping for the same checks.

    • dangerp says:

      Most banks’ online bill pay systems allow you to enter an individual person as a payee. When you pay the bill online, the payee receives a check, but I believe it is usually a different account number, and with no signature (says something about “account holder’s signature on file at xxxx bank). Definitely more secure, and convenient. Not to mention you won’t have to use any of your own precious checks.

      Been paying this way for years. I even paid rent to my roomate this way. Yup, I set up online bill pay to mail a check to my own house addressed to my roomate. She liked it because it was always on time, unlike if I had to remember to write a check.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        Good idea, I’ll definitely look into that.

        Consumerist moderator, give dangerp a cookie. :)

      • stormbird says:

        That makes a ton of sense. I noticed recently that my debit card lets me create a one-time account number in case I’m buying something online from a vendor that might be dodgy (like the time I ordered a mail-order bride but they didn’t include shipping/handling).

  7. damageinc says:

    Not that I think this is fair or right, but he did do the thing that usually the beginning of stories like this: ” I assumed…”

  8. jiarby says:

    I haven’t written even 5 checks in the last decade. The last check I wrote was to our pest control guy. It bounced because the bank routing numbers changed three years earlier and I never ordered checks with the new routing number.

    I still haven’t ordered them.

  9. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Checks from the bank are a notoriously bad dela, even when you get the cheaper checks. There are several shops that will print you a couple boxes of their most expensive checks for about $20 or less. That’s pretty much a lifetime supply these days.

    And you could also print your own, but some places have a problem with computer – printed checks.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      “DEAL” I meant “DEAL”

      Apologies to the spelling and grammer nazis.

    • Southern says:

      Not to mention their missing the special magnetic ink in the MICR codes, which just screams *FORGERY!!!!* at the top of its lungs in regards to self-printed checks..

    • cvt2010 says:

      Checks from my bank are only about $5. So not a bad deal. My only complaint is that the smallest number you can get is 200, which I will NEVER work my way through.

    • Supes says:

      Just checked my checking accounts, the only one that currently offers free checks is my Schwab Checking. Singles or duplicate-style, both free (including shipping).

      That plus ATM fee reimbursements is reason enough to love that account, even if they have gutted the interest rate in the last 2 years.

      • Cat_In_A_Hat says:

        Agreed. Despite the drop in the teaser rate that lured me in last year, my Schwab account still pays a higher rate than my B of A checking and came with free checks. I think I’ve used one to date. The ATM reimbursements (great for when on vacation) and good customer service have kept me around and by the end of the year with mega banks charging monthly fees I may make Schwab my primary account.

    • webweazel says:

      I used to get paid on one of my jobs by computer printed checks. They had one specific printer to do only checks. I asked about it once, and this is what they said:
      If you print checks from your computer, you need to buy a special ink cartridge. The routing numbers and such at the bottom uses a slightly MAGNETIC ink which the machines that the checks are fed into can read. If the ink is not magnetic, this can gum up the works.

      • Whtthfgg says:

        The Magnetic ink is Called MICR. Banks use scanning machines to send your checks through. The Image is scanned as a Jpg and saved but any account/routing info is picked up by a magnetic reader, NOT the scanner. If you send a non MICR check these areas will show as empty. These fields CAN be overridden by someone in the back office if the bank allows it.

        Also, you can buy MICR toner, its just a bit more expensive

        • webweazel says:

          I remember quite a few years back, when banks would actually mail your canceled checks back to you along with your statement. Maybe one out of every 50 checks I wrote would come back with a glued-on strip of paper at the bottom with the routing numbers reprinted on them. I assumed that the machine couldn’t read it and spit it out for review. Never figured out if a person did it or a different machine. Pretty neat, anyway.

  10. Derigiberble says:

    I used to get free checks from Wachovia as one of the many perks for keeping a higher minimum balance. Even so, they would try everything in their power to try up-sell you to the non-free checks. Tick the wrong box on the order form and you’d end up paying for the whole order. The best strategy was to order the checks online so you could instantly see your subtotal jump when you made the wrong selection, and then undo it before placing the order.

    Then Wells Fargo a year ago gutted all the perks in a notice printed on the back of a middle page of one of my statements, and I didn’t find out until I got hit with an out of network ATM charge (Wachovia had none, and used to even refund the $2.50 that the other bank’s ATM would charge me, which was a very nice feature to have). I’m almost out of checks now and annoyed. $4k min balance and now I get out of network ATM charges and have to pay for checks? When I move it will be credit union time.

  11. colpuck says:

    I currently work for a large regional bank, in the community banking LOB. The price the OP paid is on cheap side for a business, if ordered from a bank. Without a doubt the bank teller, (or whoever took the order) should have disclosed the price to the client, but the price as described is not outrageous.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      BUSINESS checks. OH.

      Thanks very much for pointing that out, I totally missed it.

  12. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    One of the many things I miss from my former WAMU “Totally Free Checking” account was totally free checks.

    I miss you, WAMU.

  13. tky says:

    Yes, the fee is disgustingly high (are they gold plated? monogrammed? self-writing?) however…OP walks in a bank and assumes they would be “nominal or free” — there’s the error. One would think after the last decade or so of banks profiteering in any way possible, everyone would have received the memo that nothing is free.

  14. u1itn0w2day says:

    Sounds like a Kardashian debit card.

  15. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    You always order checks from a check printing company. Going through your bank or credit union is only a good idea if you have a premium account with free checks…

  16. MEoip says:

    I found my old check book from senior year of high school, college, and the first three years of real life. I’d used 11 checks in 8 years. Here is how my check usage broke down; 3 checks to employers for direct deposit, 2 checks to financial institutions (Roth IRA, and life insurance) to set up auto withdraw. 1 check for deposit on an apartment (I was actually handed this back after 2 years). I bought eye glasses, at the POS the check was scanned and turned into an E-check and handed back to me. 1 check for earnest payment on a house I bid on (I got this check back since they didn’t accept my bid). I wrote another for the house I succeeded in buying. My sister bought my parent’s Christmas presents one year so I wrote her a check. I wrote my last check to close out the account.

  17. RedOryx says:

    “I assumed it would be nominal or free”

    Pretty sure that’s the problem right there.

    • EllenRose says:

      There are assumptions, and then there are assumptions. When Norwest (now Wells Fargo) ate my savings and loan quite a few years back, they said my new account would be just the same as the old account. I assumed, for some reason, that the checks would be free, just like they’d been before. This was far from the case. Did they lie? I think so. Did I misread them? I’m sure that’s what they’d tell me.

      I still have an account there, but I just use it for the ATMs, which are everywhere. My real money is kept in a small local bank. And I get Checks in the Mail when I need new checks. Checks are dangerous, debit cards are dangerous, credit cards are dangerous, and the clerks look at me funny when I try to give them more cash than a twenty-dollar-bill.

      So what’s a bear to do? You can’t live without assumptions — I’m not going to investigate everything with great suspicion. All you can do is go somewhere else when the assumption leads to being screwed.

      • RedOryx says:

        It was a new account, so he had nothing to compare it to. With any sort of new account, why would just assume a certain service would be free?

        The fact that nothing about the cost of the checks does fall on the bank, as I’m sure they “forgot” to mention it on purpose, but the OP also should have asked.

  18. Scurvythepirate says:

    USAA gives me my checks for free…

  19. oldwiz65 says:

    The smart thing to do is tell them to either take the checks back or you will close your account. If they refuse, simply find another bank. That is the only kind of response they understand.

    About 6 years ago, our local bank was taken over by TD. It used to be a friendly local bank and they were always helpful. I went in after the takeover to find lots of new people working there (apparently all the previous workers had been fired) and wanted to get new checks. I argued with the rep, who was adamant that I did not need new checks. I knew this perfectly well, but wanted new checks anyway. It was only after I said “Either you order new checks for me or I close my account” that he grudgingly allowed me to buy new checks. A month later I opened an account at a local savings bank and when I went in I spoke to the manager (also a new guy) and told him I didn’t feel that TD was really interested in my business (I had over $60,000 in CDs and cash in the bank), told him about the check incident, and closed my checking accounts and told them that when the CDs came due they were leaving. The manager’s response? “You didn’t need new checks.” No wonder they were losing customers.

  20. buzz86us says:

    this is why I have an ING direct account.

  21. buzz86us says:

    and this is why I use ING Direct.

    • Powerlurker says:

      In all fairness though, ING Direct doesn’t give you a checkbook at all, you need to go through their online bill pay.

  22. Supes says:

    I have two checking accounts that each gave me free checks upon opening. One set of checks is two addresses ago, one set is one address ago.

    Still work fine, haven’t seen the need get new ones, since I haven’t used even half the checks I received initially. And I write two checks monthly, rent and extra student loan payments. 400 checks last a long time!

  23. AdamAGB says:

    I know I should have expected the worst, but I didn’t think the worst could be $90+ :) – by nominal fee I thought maybe $15-$30

    It’s also worth noting that I never received checks for my account in the first place, so this wasn’t even a refill. Previous accounts I’ve had always came with the first set of checks for free.

    Needless to say I’m investigating options for where to take my banking business. Everytime I’ve asked HSBC to do something for me it’s taken them three tries to get right.

    • RandomMutterings says:

      For what it’s worth, I have had excellent service from PNC for both business and personal banking. They do not seem to play the ‘ripoff’ game. A basic business checking account is free. One that is set up for use with Quickbooks (including writing ‘electronic’ checks) is $2 / month in the DC/MD/VA market. YMMV.

  24. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    The only reason I won’t close my Sovereign Bank account is that I have over 500 checks that I got for free due to a error on the part of the check making place. Sadly, they aren’t as cool as the free Star Wars checks I got with my account initially, but can any check beat one that has “It’s not wise to upset a Wookie” over the memo field?

  25. Opdelt says:

    Wait a sec, this was a business account. I’d be willing to bet he ended up with desk checks and a fancy leather binder.

  26. Mr. Pottersquash says:

    i once got 4 boxes from for 3 bucks. not sure if they still do that couple years ago.

    can we get a picture of the 90 dollar check? must be some awesome freaking checks.

  27. Jfielder says:

    I have a Chase checking account and had a similar issue… I assumed that a checking account would come with some checks… I had to pay 30 dollars for them I think. I wanted to buy them from some other company, but all of them want a voided check from your last book of checks to print you new ones! It seemed impossible to avoid paying chase for the checks.

  28. Mpowered says:

    Anyone notice that Adam has a business checking account?

  29. AllanG54 says:

    I still use checks because it’s easier for me. Especially on my business account. Bank of America does not charge me for printing on either one of my accounts.

  30. jim says:

    no due diligence?
    U MAD?

  31. Jeff says: "WTF could you have been thinking?" says:

    We always order from the little ad in Parade magazine in the Sunday paper. 300 checks for like 10.00 or 12 if you want the special ones with logos or puppies or whatever on them. Our bank charges way more than that.

  32. Silverhawk says:

    I recently had to reorder checks after being convinced that the last batch of 150 would last us oh, just about forever. The initial batch of checks I ordered 3 years ago (I wanted duplicates, which aren’t free) was $12, shipped, from the same printer as the OP. Very basic design, no upcharges. When I went to reorder the EXACT SAME checks recently, they’re suddenly $33. WTF?

    I looked into basic checks from other printers, and the pricing seemed reasonable until I got to the checkout, and shipping from pretty much all of them is somehow north of $7, putting the total right back to only slightly less than Harland, and for a pretty crappy looking check with cheesy graphics like in beachmouse’s example.

  33. dourdan says:

    did they arrive sooner then normal checks? my bank charges 25.00

  34. Garbanzo says:

    I actually write more checks than I did a few years ago, after I became a Consumerist regular and started hearing about the nightmares that people have with autopayments. I’ve switched telephone, credit card, mortgage, and water bills all over to pay-by-check.

    • MikeVx says:

      You don’t need to switch to checks, just don’t let the places you owe money to pull from their end. Use your banks bill pay system (I don’t think there are any banks left that don’t offer one) to push payments out.

      I have a legacy CheckFree account (you can’t get this type any more) that I use, but all my various financial institutions offer bill pay. You push the payments out from there.

      I still have checks that have the 19 pre-printed on them in the year space. I expect that I will need 3 more years to run out, it was going to be a year and a half, but I got transferred and don’t need to pay for parking now.

  35. DovS says:

    I think that the fact that this is an era when a hundred checks lasts the typical consumer a decade is the reason they would do something like this. They want the same amount of money as before so they have to charge more per check to make up the difference.

  36. stevied says:

    typical crap.

    Would have taken the clerk all of 30 seconds to ask a simple question that would have prevented this whole BS.

  37. MountainCop says:

    I make my own checks at home.

  38. kujospam says:

    “This seems particularly over-the-top in an era when a hundred checks lasts the typical consumer a decade or so.”

    Well, if a 100 checks really do last a decade, that is less then 10 dollars a year. Congrats :)