Reviews

BananaPrint vs Instantprint: who does the best ultra-cheap business cards?

That David, he is a card

There are effectively two types of online business card printers: posh and cheap. On the posh side, you’ve got companies such as Moo and Vistaprint. On the cheaper side of town where police fear to tread, BananaPrint and Instantprint are two leading lights. Here, we pitch the two against one another in a ferocious card war. Who will win?

BananaPrint vs Instantprint: Price

BananaPrint offers one distinct advantage over everyone else: you can order 50 free cards. It doesn’t even try to stiff you for postage costs: these are £2.95, which leaves £1.65 of profit for the company once you take into account the £1.30 postage fee it has to pay the Royal Mail.

So why not stop reading and just order those freebies? Partially because you can’t upload your own design, but must use one of its (highly tweakable) 50 templates. But mainly because you’ll have this message printed on the rear of the cards:

“Designed Online and Printed for FREE at www.banana-print.co.uk”

Hardly the most professional thing to hand over to potential clients.

BananaPrint business cards
You can order 50 free cards from BananaPrint, but note the message on the rear

Instead, most people will want to pay the true price for cards. For BananaPrint, that’s still an eminently reasonable £4.95 for 100 single-sided cards. Which sounds amazing, but then you’re hit with a £4.95 postage fee. The £2 extra you’re paying over the free cards is partially because the packaging is posher and bigger, but also because it uses a courier to deliver – and they should arrive in 2-3 days rather than 4-5 for the freebies.

Instantprint takes a slightly different approach. You can buy “economy” business cards for £5 (100 cards), but it emphasises that this is “lighter” 350gsm stock, compared to the 450gsm £6 “premium” cards.

The key for me, though, is that you can’t upload your own design with the economy versions but must use the company’s basic templating tools*. For the sake of £1, I quickly decided to go premium. Even then, it works out cheaper for 100 cards than BananaPrint, because delivery is only £2.99.

*UPDATE 19/4/18: Instantprint has now adjusted its economy version so that you can upload your own design rather than use its templating tools.

BananaPrint vs Instantprint: Beyond the basics

For both companies, the basic price is there to lure you in, siren-like, with the hope that you upgrade to better stock, double-sided cards or fancy treatments such as rounded edges. That’s how they make their real profit.

Here’s how they compare in a few key add-on areas.

Website BananaPrint Instantprint
Single-sided, 100, basic £4.95 (£9.90 inc delivery) £5 (£8 inc delivery)
Single-sided, 100, premium £8.95 (£13.90) £6 (£9)
Single-sided, 250, premium £12.95 (£17.90) £12 (£15)
Double-sided, 250, premium £16.95 (£21.90) £17 (£20)
Lamination, 250 £22.95 (£27.90) £21 (£24)
Rounded edges, 250 £22.95 (£27.90) £21 (£24)
Spot UV, 250 N/A £32 (£35)

As you can see, Instantprint typically comes out £2 to £4 cheaper, so it’s the clear winner here. That’s a little disappointing from BananaPrint’s point of view, not least because it doesn’t even own the URL bananaprint.co.uk – surely it must have avoided a few quid by not buying that!

BananaPrint vs Instantprint: Design tools

If you haven’t already designed your business cards then I recommend you either hire someone to create a template on Fiverr or do it yourself using the far-superior online tools available at Canva.com.

If that sounds like too much hassle, then both BananaPrint and Instantprint offer respectable design tools. I found Instantprint’s more intuitive, simply because the tools are more sensibly laid out.

Instantprint review
Instantprint’s online tool makes designing cards easy

BananaPrint’s interface is also a bit cumbersome. For instance, I wanted to add a small phone icon. While BananaPrint probably does have it somewhere within its clip-art resources, I couldn’t find it. A quick search on Instantprint tool’s, however, revealed a selection of icons instantly.

Still, it is possible to design something respectable using BananaPrint. Here’s what I produced in around five minutes, although I had the headstart of a pre-made logo with its own background colour.

BananaPrint review
Here’s one I made earlier using BananaPrint’s tools

BananaPrint vs Instantprint: Quality of the cards

Instantprint has the edge for quality, for one simple reason: thickness. Its “premium” card is 450gsm to BananPrint’s 350gsm, and still costs less.

But when I say “edge” I’m not talking huge margins. No-one will take either card and think you were skimping on costs, and they’re both just as good as the much more expensive offerings from Vistaprint.

Aside from the thickness, the only differentiator between the two cards is the slight gloss to the BananaPrint’s finish. Whether that indicates quality compared to the more uncoated finish is arguable.

Business card reviews
The BananaPrint card (left) didn’t fare quite so well in our water tests

I also subjected both cards to my patented pour-water-on-the-cards-and-see-what-happens test, and again BananaPrint fared a little worse. You can see in the photo above that its edges are coming up and it’s bending, whereas it’s just made the InstantPrint look more ragged.

BananaPrint vs Instantprint: Which should you buy?

This is an easy decision. I’d go Instantprint every single time. They’re cheaper, arrive just as quickly, and they’re heavier and thus feel better quality when you hand them over.

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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