While many Americans live digitally and prefer being paid through direct deposit, some of your employees may prefer printed checks. And that’s okay. 

Printing paychecks is easy to do, and many payroll processors offer check printing services or can quickly integrate into your company’s printing setup. 

Small business owners can use this primer to learn exactly how to print employee checks.

What types of employees typically like physical paychecks?

There are many reasons why some employees might like physical paychecks as a preferred payment method. They might:

  • Dislike electric or online banking
  • Prefer cashing a check in exchange for physical currency
  • Not have a bank account
  • Be undocumented
  • Bank with a financial institution that charges fees for direct deposit

Whatever reason your employee has for wanting to receive net pay as a check, setting yourself up to print payroll checks requires only a few special supplies.

What you need if you want to print payroll checks

In addition to helping you calculate employee paychecks, many online payroll systems connect directly to your printing setup, so you shouldn’t need to worry about check writing by hand. 

If you want to print employee paychecks, you’ll need:

1. Software or a pay stub template

Many payroll and bookkeeping programs connect directly to your printer and can walk you through the process within the program, so there’s no need to find an outside pay stub template. 

If you do payroll manually, you can find a number of paycheck templates online. They will include areas for several key pieces of information, including but not limited to your name and address in the upper-left corner, the check number in the right-hand corner, dollar amount box , the routing and account numbers in the bottom left side of the check, along with the memo line above them.

Note: If you develop your own template, you’ll need a special type of check with a MICR font—short for magnetic ink character recognition font—printed with magnetic ink to ensure that banks’ automatic scanners can properly read the account information (i.e., the routing and account numbers must be printed with the MICR font and magnetic ink).

2. Printer

You don’t need an expensive printer to print paychecks, so don’t feel required to splurge on a fancy model if it’s not otherwise needed for your business.

3. Check stock

This is a special type of paper that helps prevent people from altering your checks or making fake checks using your business’s information. Check with your local office supply store or contact the bank you process payroll through—they may have check stock that you can use. Payroll check stock paper can print both the check and the pay stub, which ensures you’re complying with any local laws requiring you to provide a pay stub.

You also might want to consider pre-printed checks from a professional printer, which include your account information. When you order checks and receive those checkbooks for use, you don’t need to think about or get magnetic ink. All you’ll need to do is add the payee and amount.

4. Magnetic ink or toner

Bank check-readers are designed to read this special kind of ink, which can be installed in many standard laser versus inkjet printers, though you should first check if it is compatible with your printer, or if you need a MICR printer. If you use normal ink or toner, the bank may need to process the check manually—and may charge you or your employee a fee for having to do so.

5. Envelopes

A standard #9 double-window envelope will display your employee’s name and address (and yours), making it easy and convenient to mail checks.

How to print payroll checks - envelope

Choosing the right office supplies may seem simple, but your selection here really matters. 

Picking the right envelope, for example, ensures the payee’s name and address show up in the envelope window. This helps your employees’ paychecks feel more legitimate, giving your team more confidence in your business. 

Another thing that can decrease confidence: Making it difficult for banks to cash the checks. That’s why it’s vital to ensure all of your checks are printed properly.

How do I print paychecks with payroll software?

Many payroll providers will allow you to print checks directly from the check-printing software using a template. Typically, you can choose to print on either pre-personalized check stock or blank check stock.

For instance, here’s a general example of what it looks like to print a paycheck using Gusto’s payroll services.

What are the pros and cons of printing payroll checks?

Printing your own checks gives your employees privacy and control over their personal information. In fact, they may not need to open up a checking account if they don’t want. But do you get any benefits or take on any risk? 

Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of different paycheck delivery methods:

Only offering direct deposit
  • It’s easier and less risky for you
  • It could anger employees who would prefer paper checks
  • Printing on preprinted check stock
  • Checks give your employees flexibility
  • It can be cheaper than issuing checks through a bank
  • You don’t need to buy special (more expensive) ink
  • It can be dangerous if an employee loses their check
  • It requires more bookkeeping than direct deposit
  • It’s less environmentally friendly
  • You have to ensure you always have enough preprinted check stock on hand
  • Preprinted check stock can be more expensive than blank check stock
  • Printing on blank check stock
  • Checks give your employees flexibility
  • It can be cheaper than issuing checks through a bank
  • You can print checks whenever you want
  • It can be dangerous if an employee loses their check
  • It requires more bookkeeping than direct deposit
  • It’s less environmentally friendly
  • You need to buy special ink, which is usually more expensive and harder to find
  • If you don’t do it correctly, you or your employees may need to pay a fine when they cash it in
  • You'll need to use a special font for the account information if you create your own template
  • Yes, paper checks can be risky: If your employee loses their check, you’ll have to issue a stop order and replace the check amount. Over time, this can add up. And that lost business check contains a lot of valuable business and bank information, like your business’s name, address, and bank account number. 

    Paying by check also requires more bookkeeping. Not all employees endorse and cash checks immediately after a pay period, so that transaction may sit uncleared in your ledger until they get the chance to run to the bank. 

    It’s also less environmentally friendly, especially if you have a number of employees electing for paychecks. Switching to direct deposit may save quite a few trees.  

    However, there is one major pro to printing payroll checks—assuming you don’t offer direct deposit at all. Many banks charge direct deposit setup fees to employers, and may even charge per check. By printing your own checks, you can avoid these fees.

    In some situations, though, printing your own checks to run payroll can be pricier. For instance, magnetic ink can be expensive and check stock adds up, especially if you have a large team. Make sure to compare these long-term expenses to how much it would cost to pay your team with direct deposit through your payroll provider when budgeting for check writing.

    If you need to print payroll checks to pay employees who want the flexibility of that payroll solution, keep the potential risks in mind. Educate your employees about cybersecurity and the potential for fraud and make sure to keep an eye on your expenses to ensure a smooth check-printing operation.

    When using a full-service payroll service provider like Gusto, you can set up your payroll operations quickly without having to think about all the check-writing considerations covered in this article. Likewise, payroll taxes and compliance with state laws will be taken care of, so you don’t have to feel like you need to have accounting or legal knowledge to run your business. In addition, when staffing up, Gusto provides human resources support throughout the hiring process when you need to recruit, hire, and onboard new employees—collecting information like their Social Security numbers, offering background check services, pre-employment screening, and employment verification, so getting them set up on payroll is seamless.

    Back to top