Free Vistaprint Business Cards Reviewed and Tested!

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I occasionally think it would be fun to have “business” cards that are just for fun, but I don’t usually want to pay a lot. I recently saw a VistaPrint ad for 250 free business cards, so I wondered: Is Vistaprint really free? Answer: It’s not quite “free” in the end because you pay shipping and handling, but you don’t get gouged. I haven’t seen the cards yet, but Update (Oct 2008): The cards look quite nice actually (see the “Update” section at the end) and for $6 it’s a fun thing to do, with a couple of things to watch out for.
Update #2 (Jan 2013): I now prefer to use Prints Made Easy. There’s no “free” gimmick, but overall I find it easier to use, have more options at the base price and still be very cheap. If Vista Print were the only company out there, I’d be very pleased to do business with them. No problem. I just like Prints Made Easy better. Their name is accurate: they make it easy!

When I passed my doctoral exams, I made up cards that said:

Tom Lambert
Dissertator. Slacker.
Appointments by request

This time I wasn’t doing something quite that flippant. These cards are for my position has “Hiker in Chief” at Yosemite Explorer, so I didn’t care about a unique, custom, professional product. I was fine with the 30 or so free business card templates they offer. At every step, though, you’re tempted to upgrade: more templates, custom fonts, no Vistaprint.com URL on the back ($3.99 extra). Then of course you get offered all sorts of complementary, but not complimentary, products: address labels, letterhead, pens and so on. Then when you’re all done and you’ve kept your exuberance in check and resisted ponying up for that killer premium font, you do have to pony up $5.68 for shipping and handling. That’s not really free, but it’s awfully cheap for 250 business cards.

Watch out for the $10 cash back offer.

I was also hit up for a special offer for $10 cash back. This was the only part of the process that bothered me. It sounds great: spend $5.68, give your email address and get $10.00 back. Net gain: $4.32 plus 250 business cards. Who can beat that? If you take a minute to read all the small boring text on the left instead of just the main offer box where they ask for your email, you realize that by giving your email at this stage, you are in fact authorizing a $14.95 per month charge on your credit card.. I thought all the other come-ons were more or less what I expected, very clear and up front about costs and easy to pass on, but this one struck me as deceptive.

I haven’t tried to free t-shirt offer, but apparently you can get one of those too. In general I’m kind of picky about my t-shirts and I like to design my own from scratch so I passed on this one. So anyway, click on the banners below and you’ll get 250 “free” business cards for $5.68 or a “free” t-shirt (true cost undetermined). Best of all (from my point of view anyway), if you use that banner, I’ll actually get a commission!

[UPDATE. Randy R had this to add in the comments regarding the t-shirt offer:

Beware of the T-Shirt and other offers. I ordered 4 T-Shirts because the price was supposedly $4.99 and I got what I wanted on them. What the extremely fine print says is that the price is for the first shirt only and after that the price went up significantly. It was still not too bad of a price for the subsequent shirts, but it was sort of deceptive I thought. I am unable to get off of their list too.

So I think the short of it is, like with the business cards, VistaPrint uses a strong upsell model. If you resist the upsell, you get the goods at a reasonable price. But it’s easy to get sucked into paying more than you planned. I think to get good value out of it, you need to go in there telling yourself “I will not upgrade. I will not upgrade.” If you stick to that, you can get some pretty good deals.

Update: Nice cards accompanied by email barrage

My cards arrived quickly. The quality was better than expected and people who see them are generally really impressed. My wife was impressed enough, that she made up her own business cards using Vistaprint. All in all, I’m more than satisfied.

One little niggle: once you order, the email barrage from VistaPrint begins. You can of course just unsubscribe, but if you don’t you’ll get an email just about every day from them with their latest specials and so forth. To unsubscribe from Vistaprint: just click the link at the bottom of the email. You might get a couple more before their system updates, but at least in my case, once I unsubscribed, all emails ceased.

I wouldn’t exactly call this email barrage spam. It’s more like special sales and offers, like say premium business cards at a discount and things like that. But it was just more mail than I want to get from anyone except the state lottery commission informing me that my latest check is on the way. But they’re basically an honorable company and will honor your unsubscribe. The thing is, I think they make a mistake by sending quite so much mail. If they sent an email every two weeks, I would not be annoyed and would be more likely to actually open the email before deleting it. I would think it would be a better strategy to send the occasional email with a special offer and maybe an occasional newsletter that I would select. Depending on my role in making business cards, for example, I might sign up for the graphic design newsletter, the marketing newsletter or the small business newsletter.

20 Responses to “Free Vistaprint Business Cards Reviewed and Tested!”

  1. Thanks, this was really helpful to know because I was really tempted to try it out for my music classes that I help teach, but wasn’t sure if it was legit :)

  2. I can only speak from my one experience (though I’m planning to order some more soon actually), but it seems legit as far as I can see.

    An aquaintance actually told me that he did not receive his cards and was also NOT billed for shipping and handling. I’m thinking it was more likely an error on his part where he didn’t follow through to the final confirmation screen. As I say, it’s sort of like when you book a plane ticket through Travelocity, Orbitz or Expeda these days and you have to go past several screens offering you rental cars, hotels, travel insurance and so on. Or if you register a domain at GoDaddy you have to go through many pages asking if you want private registration, web hosting, domain parking, etc etc.

    VistaPrint seems to have a similar profit model and you do need to page through all those things to actually get your order submitted.

    A bit annoying, but still legit. I must say, of all of them, GoDaddy is the most annoying in my opinion, but that’s just me. I guess they pick up a lot of extra sales that way to make it worth annoying everyone who buys a domain.

  3. I have been a Vista Print customer for almost 10 years now and have been extremely satified. The one problem I do have with the site is that everytime you go back to the site to reorder the prices seem to magically change to higher prices. I’m looking into this! I have a feeling that this may not be proper business practices. I must say that the business cards are of spectacular quality.

    Regards,

    Stephen L. La.

  4. Ha! Funny. I don’t doubt it. But as you say – ultimately you get a good card at the price the say, you just have to wade through a fair bit of marketing mumbo jumbo and pitches to upgrade.

  5. I got some stuff off vistaprit today the only problem is they mixed up the mouse pad I will ring them tonight and ask them what they can do about it….

  6. The cards are fine. The problem is I can’t get off their email list. Every time I push the unsub button and fill in my email addy, push the button to unsub and it errors out.

    I’m going to not recommend them for that reason alone.

  7. I had heard that the companies offering so called ‘free’ business cards actually print their details on the bottom or on the back, i.e. the cards are paid for by carrying a little bit of advertising for them.
    Can anyone confirm or deny this?

  8. Frank – yes, Vista Print puts their URL on the back. If you pay an extra $2 (or so??) you can have it removed. Vista Print is basically a freemium model – get you in the door with the free product and then try to upsell you. Depending on your needs, though, the freebie is just fine. If you’re a lawyer trying to look super slick, though, you will definitely be paying for some extras.

    For me, people think my free cards are awesome and I am not bothered by the Vista Print URL on the back.

  9. Yes Frank, Tom is right with this one. Indeed, it is an advertising strategy to print their url or contact info at the back of these cards. An inexpensive option would be looking for business cards template online and print them at at home.

  10. Yes Frank, Tom is right with this one. Indeed, it is an advertising strategy to print their url or contact info at the back of these cards. An inexpensive option would be looking for business cards template online and print them at at home. Saved me a lot!

  11. Beware of the T-Shirt and other offers. I ordered 4 T-Shirts because the price was supposedly $4.99 and I got what I wanted on them. What the extremely fine print says is that the price is for the first shirt only and after that the price went up significantly. It was still not too bad of a price for the subsequent shirts, but it was sort of deceptive I thought. I am unable to get off of their list too.

  12. I’ve got loads of the free offers of Vistaprint lately.
    Personalised giftbooks, photobooks, mugs, t-shirts, & calendars. Great xmas ideas.

    As long as you only get 4 free items per order you only pay £4.91 p&p.

    This is the uk site.

  13. I have used Vista Print for tons of things. Lots of freebies including business cards, post it notes, t-shirts, hats.
    I have also purchased some premium such as brochures and post cards, banners and car magnets. The quality is very good and I have no complaints on that. Also i always choose the slowest shipping which they claim can take up to 21 days……..I think the longest I ever waited was 14 days, and most of the time it arrives in less than a week.

    If you are not careful they will nickel and dime you on upgrades charges, paper, fonts, uploading a photo. Also if you order something once at a promotional price you can not get an exact reorder at that same price it is usually higher. So you end up having to recreat the whole project to order agin. Also As you increase your quantities and the price goes up it seem that the PER PIECE price seems to increase rather than decrease. For example something may be $10 for 100 but then it is $28 for 250. Which usually in any printing business it is the opposite the more you order the lower your per piece cost. If you are doing large quantities of things you will fair much better at a local quick print, commercial printer or even Office Max.

  14. TeeKay – interesting observation on the per piece price. I don’t think I had noticed that.

    But in general, it sounds like my experience. You get good stuff and if you’re disciplined, you get it at good price, but if you give in to all the upsells, it quickly becomes a less attractive deal.

  15. Thanks to everyone! Especially Tom! This has been very helpful because Vistaprint offers SO many deals it seems like it must be a scam. But I’m glad to hear that no one has been scammed so far. I still don’t appreciate how deceptive they can, but for the great deals you can get I guess it’s worth going through all the upsales and what not. Thanks again for all the help!

  16. I JUST ORDERED THE BUSINESS CARDS HOPEFULLY IT ALL TURNS OUT GOOD, I DID UPGRADE TO THE 3.SOMETHING FOR 50 MORE :) IM HOPING THEY ARE AS GOOD AS THEY LOOK.

  17. I have been using VP for my wife’s business cards for at least 3 or 4 years. She is an aspiring artist. We have also bought other items from them including products for her show booth. Just recently I took advantage of their web site program. I have NEVER built a site before but I am also somewhat computer literate . To that end I opted for the standard site, soon after upgraded and found the entire experience quite rewarding. Most of the process is intuitive. My Wife is extremely pleased and the feedback from visitors has been VERY VERY positive. During the process I had cause to call VP to cancel one site which I initiated by error and to get answers to other technical questions.

    My opinion of that call is extremely positive. Remember nothing is free but they are in business to make money. I just hope that NO surprises await me down the road. Like waiting for another shoe to drop!

  18. Thanks for that comment Jan – I didn’t even know they did websites. I’m pretty comfy creating websites, but I have been surprised at how daunting some people, even very tech savvy people, find it. Glad it’s working out for you!

  19. I have not ordered from Vistaprint in years. I got their free cards years ago when I was writing music. I had a different email address back then. Now I have a gmail address, and whenever I clear out my spam filter, there is usually something from Vistaprint in there. Because of the fact that they ARE such heavy spammers, I will never use their services again, even if it is affiliates doing it.

  20. yea I got some stuff off vistaprit today the only problem is they mixed up the mouse pad I will ring them tonight and ask them what they can do about it…. ^^

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