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How to Print Payroll Checks

Max Freedman
Max Freedman
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Updated Dec 06, 2021

Some employees may prefer that you print paychecks for them instead of using direct deposit. Here's how to do it.

  • Printed paychecks are any wages you pay with a paper check you hand or mail to employees.
  • Employees may prefer paper checks if they lack bank account access, use banks that charge for direct deposit, or are concerned about their privacy.
  • You can print paychecks manually, but automating the process via payroll software saves you incalculable time and minimizes errors.
  • This article is for business owners and HR professionals who need to print payroll checks instead of paying via direct deposit.

When was the last time you received a paper paycheck for your work? Certainly, it was before you were a small business owner. In all likelihood, it was years before that given how ubiquitous direct deposit is now. Ubiquity, though, doesn’t make something perfect. In fact, plenty of employees still receive their wages via paper paycheck. Some of your employees might actually prefer that you print paychecks for them. Here’s how to do so.

What are printed paychecks?

Printed paychecks are employee wages that you deliver tangibly through physical paper checks rather than electronically via direct deposit. Printed paychecks also include a paper pay stub detailing the employee’s withholdings for the pay period. Digital wage payments, on the other hand, include these pay stubs as separate documents with no check attached. In fact, digital payments typically lack anything resembling a check; they’re often just pay stubs.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right payroll software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Why would some employees prefer printed checks?

According to the 2019 Getting Paid in America survey by the American Payroll Association, 93% of U.S. employees receive their wages via direct deposit. The remaining 7% receive their wages via printed paychecks. Often, these employees have actively chosen to receive their wages via paper rather than electronically. Here are some reasons these employees might prefer printed paychecks to direct deposit:

  • They are uncomfortable with electronic banking. Direct deposit and electronic wages are relatively new innovations. Some employees accustomed to printed paychecks may balk at these newer technologies. Other employees might not feel that transferring money electronically is secure or reliable. These employees will likely choose paper paychecks even if they are seemingly less convenient.

  • They have privacy concerns. An employer that pays via direct deposit stores its employees’ banking information in its payroll platform. This data storage may concern certain employees and may feel like a breach of privacy or a threat to one’s data security. Opting for paper paychecks eliminates this concern.

  • They don’t have a bank account. Approximately 14.1 million American adults don’t have a banking account. These unbanked employees literally can’t accept direct deposits. They’ll instead need printed paychecks, which they can convert into cash at your issuing bank, a big-box store or a cash-checking business. [Read related article: What You Need to Open a Business Bank Account]

  • They’re undocumented immigrants. Many banks require that account holders have a Social Security number. Undocumented immigrants lack this identifier, thus posing obstacles between them and traditional checking account access. As such, if any of your employees are undocumented, they might need printed paychecks. They can then convert these checks to cash as described above.

  • They use a bank with direct deposit fees. Some banks charge their account holders fees every time they receive a direct deposit. If your employees’ banks indeed do so, your employees will likely prefer printed paychecks to electronic wage payments. 

Did you know?Did you know? Employees may prefer printed paychecks if they lack traditional banking access, distrust online banking, or use banks that charge direct deposit fees.

Why would some employers prefer printed checks?

Direct deposit has become substantially more prevalent than printing paychecks because it largely benefits employers. However, its two primary disadvantages can make it a no-go for employers in very specific situations. 

For example, let’s say you’ve just launched a very small business on a shoestring budget. Maybe your budget is so small that you can hire only one employee, and even that is cutting it close. You probably don’t want to pay the fees associated with setting up direct deposit. In that case, printing checks may be the smarter option, especially if you and your employee work together in person. In that case, you can forgo mail and give the employee their checks directly.

Additionally, the time-sensitivity of direct deposit may make it less preferable than printed paychecks for some employees. You’ll typically execute direct deposit through your payroll service, which means you’ll need to submit employee timesheets and run payroll by a deadline. If you miss this deadline, you’ll have to issue your paychecks late, potentially angering your employees. Printing paychecks eliminates this deadline and all of its attendant concerns.

What options exist to print paychecks?

You have two primary options for printing paychecks. You can do so entirely manually, or you can let your payroll software do most of the work. Either way, you’ll largely need the same physical materials to get the job done. Below, we’ll walk you through both options and how they overlap – and how they don’t.

Completely manual paycheck printing

If you print your paychecks manually, you’ll need a paycheck and pay stub template. You should choose from templates available online rather than creating your own. That’s because if you do use your own, you’ll need to use a special MICR font so that banks can process your checks. Templates you find online should already come with these fonts.

Once your templates are in place, you’ll need to add your employees’ information to each template every time you pay them. That means adding names, paycheck amounts and deductions for each and every employee. Naturally, this process, when done manually, is quite prone to human error. But for some employers looking to cut back on monthly expenses, forgoing payroll software for template-based paychecks could be worthwhile (though risky).

After you completely fill in all the fields on your paychecks, you’ll need a printer.  You’ll then need to print your checks on check stock instead of ordinary paper. Likewise, you’ll need magnetic ink or toner to print fonts that banks can process. You’ll then need envelopes and stamps if you’re mailing your checks rather than handing them out in person.

Payroll software

Employers often assume that using payroll software means you have to pay your employees via direct deposit. That’s not quite the case. In fact, several popular payroll services offer printed paychecks. These services will automatically generate paychecks and pay stubs for you based on your wage rate information and time and attendance records. In doing so, they save you invaluable time on manual paycheck creation and minimize human error.

Once your payroll software has created your printable checks, you’ll take the same steps as above to print them. You’ll load your printer with magnetic toner or ink and card stock, print your checks and pay stubs, and mail them if needed. The printing and mailing process isn’t what payroll software expedites; it’s the check creation process. But since that process is the primary source of excess time spent and human errors made, automating it is priceless.

TipTip: You can print paychecks either manually or with payroll software, but the latter is far more efficient and less prone to errors.

Given the above reasons why some employees and employers may prefer printed paychecks, several payroll companies have stepped in to provide these services. The below payroll service providers both offer printed paychecks and rank among our payroll service best picks.

  • Paychex: With Paychex, you can either print checks onsite or have Paychex do it for you and mail the checks to your team. Read our review of Paychex to learn more.
  • OnPay: You can print checks at your office without any extra software if you use OnPay for payroll processing. Learn more in our OnPay review.
  • Gusto: Although Gusto is perhaps best known for its advanced HR options, it also offers the basic ability to print paychecks. Learn about its other payroll features in our Gusto review.
  • Intuit QuickBooks: The desktop version of QuickBooks enables instant paycheck printing for W-2 employees. Learn more in our review of QuickBooks Payroll.
  • Square Payroll: To print paychecks with Square Payroll, you’ll simply need to access your payroll run history and choose a run for which to print checks.

As you can see, printing paper checks doesn’t mean avoiding technology entirely. Payroll software can streamline the process of getting your employees the wages they earned – whatever their preferred payment method.

Image Credit:

AndreyPopov / Getty Images

Max Freedman
Max Freedman
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Max Freedman is a content writer who has written hundreds of articles about small business strategy and operations, with a focus on finance and HR topics. He's also published articles on payroll, small business funding, and content marketing. In addition to covering these business fundamentals, Max also writes about improving company culture, optimizing business social media pages, and choosing appropriate organizational structures for small businesses.