Subscription-based services seem to be everywhere these days. From razors to healthy snacks, you can get almost anything regularly delivered to your front door for a monthly fee. So how does HP’s ink program work and how does it differ?
What is HP Instant Ink?
The HP Instant Ink program is another monthly service jumping on the subscription bandwagon (similar to Netflix, Amazon’s Subscribe-and-Save, etc.), and with it they are reinventing the way customers buy ink. HP may be finally offering their ink for a competitive price with this program, but after years of high cartridge prices, some customers are still understandably apprehensive.
What does HP Instant Ink mean?
Simply put, it’s a subscription service where HP sends you only the amount of ink you need when you need it. No, it’s not as “instant” as the name suggests. But since it’s a subscription service, in theory, HP will eventually figure out your ordering patterns and ideally send out ink when you’re almost at the end of your current cartridge.
What does HP Instant Ink Ready mean?
You’ll see “HP Instant Ink Ready” on most HP printers out in the market today. This only means that that printer can take HP Instant Ink cartridges. Older HP models aren’t programmed to use HP Instant Ink cartridges so you can’t sign up for HP instant ink if it’s for use on older printer models.
Do HP Instant Ink cartridges look like regular HP ink cartridges?
No, HP instant ink cartridges do not look like regular HP ink cartridges. Instant Ink cartridges are visibly bigger and contain more ink than standard and even high yield HP ink cartridges. The idea is for consumers to not need to replace cartridges as often. This theory is flawed if you’re not a frequent printer user, however, as ink tends to dry up when left unused. Dangerously more so if you have a larger cartridge with more ink.
How does the HP instant ink program work?
Instead of buying and owning a cartridge outright and printing when needed, Instant Ink requires that you pay to print a predetermined amount of pages each month. The program comes in different price points so you can choose the plan that suits your printing volume best. Replacement cartridges get sent to you as your current cartridge hits empty. There is no long term contract with HP Instant ink, just a month to month commitment, so you can cancel at anytime and if your printing needs ever change, you can always upgrade or downgrade your plan.
Is HP instant ink worth it?
Instant Ink is offered at four different price points1. Regardless if you print in color or black and white, any page that comes out of your printer counts as one print. If you don’t print your allotted page amount every month, HP rolls over a select number of unused pages. As of November 4, 2019:
- The Occasional Plan is priced at $2.99 for 50 pages/month and includes up to 100 unused rollover pages.
- The Moderate Plan is priced at $4.99 for 100 pages/month and includes up to 200 unused rollover pages.
- The Frequent Plan is priced at $9.99 for 300 pages/month and includes up to 600 unused rollover pages.
- The Business Plan is priced at $19.99 for 700 pages/month and includes up to 1400 unused rollover pages.
- If you print 15 pages or less, you can enroll in their free plan but it doesn’t include any roll over pages. If you are already enrolled in a paid plan, you cannot downgrade back to the free plan.
Price-wise, a subscription-based ink service looks pretty enticing. But if you peel back the fine print, dealing with Instant Ink’s rules and regulations may outweigh the convenience of a low monthly cost.
Whether or not it’s worth it will depend largely on how often you print and the volume of documents or images you print. It’s a mixed bag when it comes to consumer feedback. Though this service works for some, there are also those who initially signed up then cancelled soon after.
8 Things You Should Know about HP’s Instant Ink Service
Here are some of the things you should be aware of before signing up for HP’s Instant Ink program.
A printed page may not be what you expect.
HP defines a printed page as “a page upon which any amount of ink is placed by your printer” 2. Meaning if you print a page with just one line of text on it, it counts towards your monthly total. By introducing a firm set of print guidelines, customers of this program may want to be mindful of every page that is sent to their printer, especially if they are on a budget. Having minor prints like mailing labels count just as much as a full color photo might put you in a bit of a pickle if you normally don’t think about monthly printing habits. Customers may also need to factor in for unexpected and unintentional prints like the extra pages that magically appear with a printed concert ticket or recipe.
Beware of overage fees.
Printing more than your subscription warrants may add up. HP charges1 $1 per 10 pages on the free plan, a $1 per 10 pages on the occasional plan, $1 per 15 pages on the moderate plan, $1 per 20 pages on the frequent plan and $1 per 20 pages on the business plan. Paying an extra dollar for a handful of desperately needed bonus pages isn’t a big deal for most. But if a major print job requires you to print far more than the allotted monthly amount, those extra dollars may add up quick. To avoid the extra fees, customers enrolled in this program might need to plan ahead and weigh their options. Investing in a set of backup cartridges makes the most sense if you have a lot more printing to do. Although it’s an added expense, you’ll be able to continue printing as much as you want without constantly worrying about overage fees.
HP monitors your activity.
HP is watching your printer. By enrolling in the Instant Ink service, you are authorizing HP2 to remotely monitor page count, ink levels, the type of documents you print, the type of device you use to print a particular document and whether the last cartridge you used was new or used. They are also allowed to share some of your information2 (name, address, email, printer model, printer serial number) with the retailer that you purchased the subscription from.
Replacement cartridges may take up to 10 days to arrive.
HP sends replacement cartridges via standard shipping, noting that it could take up to 10 days2 for a new set of cartridges to arrive. Luckily for most, the wait time probably won’t be quite that long. When tested, an order of instant ink cartridges arrived relatively quickly. HP sent an email notification stating that a new set of cartridges were being shipped out on Friday and they were received the following Wednesday. Because it keeps track of your ink, your printer can anticipate when it thinks you will run out and ship ink to you in advance. HP bases this on when your cartridges have enough ink to “print twice as much as the number of average pages in your monthly plan“6. This works pretty well for someone that prints occasionally, and shipping time probably won’t be an issue. But if a high volume print job is in the works, you might want your next cartridge waiting in the wings, not waiting in transit. Need your Instant Ink in a pinch? HP does offer expedited shipping but customers may incur an additional charge.
Unused prints rollover to the next month – up to a certain point.
Under Instant Ink, the number of rollover pages you can accrue corresponds directly with the specific tier you’ve enrolled in. The occasional plan offers a maximum of 100 rollover pages3 in your account at a time, the moderate plan allows for up 200 rollover pages per account, the frequent plan offers up to 600 rollover pages and the business plan rolls over up to 1400 pages. So if printing isn’t needed for a of couple of months, the number of rollover pages you can acquire is automatically capped.
Your printer must be connected to the internet to accurately monitor your use.
HP’s Instant Ink cartridges are designed to communicate directly with your printer to accurately track4 page usage and ink levels. The cartridges only communicate to the printer when you are connected to the internet, so if your internet connection is spotty or disconnected for a period of time, it won’t be able to properly record your page total. Any pages you print when your printer is not connected to the internet will be recorded when you reconnect and refresh the page counter included in Instant Ink’s online portal. This delay may become a problem for Instant Ink customers if they run a big print job offline, reach their monthly page limit and need a replacement cartridge right away. If the connection isn’t able to reflect how many pages you have left in real time, the program might not be able to anticipate when to ship out a new cartridge. Waiting for the service to catch up with you may put the brakes on a major project, requiring you to go out and buy regular cartridges in the interim.
Instant Ink only works with certain printers.
There are a select number of printers5 that operate under the Instant Ink program. Consumers with older model machines will need to upgrade if they want to enroll in the service. Printers can range from around $70 to $380, depending on the model and where you buy.
Forget to pay your Instant Ink bill and HP just might shut off access to the service.
Worrying about a monthly charge to use something as commonplace as a printer isn’t something we are used to. If you don’t stay current, HP has the option to temporarily shut down access2 to the service and your Instant Ink cartridges. A temporary delay in the service might be a bigger issue than anticipated if you happen to be low on ink at the time. Since Instant Ink relies on an active account to report ink levels, a delay in payment might also delay the shipping time of a badly needed replacement cartridge.
Instant Ink is making us think differently about the way we print. The low monthly rate and ability to print whatever you need within a designated page range is very enticing, especially for consumers that only print a few times a month. But for customers that are trying to stick to a strict printing budget, the extra fees that come along with unexpected prints might end up being a burden. No matter where you stand, factors like a monthly bill, connectivity concerns, and overage fees are worth keeping in mind.
Does HP instant ink really save money?
It depends on what you print. If you are able to comfortably stay within HP’s monthly preset page limit and don’t mind being tied to the whims of their subscription service, it might make sense for you (Check out our customer comments at the bottom of this article!). Keep in mind, anything you print counts as one printed page, so if your printing needs change from month to month, you’ll need to stay on top your subscription and map out your expected print volume in advance. And if you don’t print that often, paying a monthly fee for access to a seldom used service isn’t ideal. Instant ink is definitely cheaper than buying most original HP ink cartridges every few months, but if you print a lot, a laser printer or ink tank printer might be a better fit for you. Laser printers and ink tank printers can cost a bit more upfront but they print thousands of pages and you don’t have to worry about counting each page.
HP Instant Ink Alternatives
If HP Instant Ink’s terms and conditions are a concern for you, there are a few budget-friendly alternatives that can keep your printing costs low without committing to a subscription service.
Affordable Aftermarket Printer Cartridges
For decades now, aftermarket cartridges have been the best way to score low prices on ink and for thousands of customers, this is still their preferred low cost printing solution. Remanufactured and compatible cartridges are competitively priced and offer the same print quality as an original cartridge, without a long list of preconditions. Aftermarket cartridge options are available for almost every printer model on the market, so if you are happy with your current printer, you can start saving with lower cost cartridges right away. Check out this banner to see the dramatic difference in pricing.
A lot of customers have made the switch to compatible cartridge replacements and are able to freely print as much as they want at a great price.
Epson Ecotank Printers
Other major printer brands have introduced new printers with low running costs in recent years that rival HP Instant Ink. Epson’s Ecotank printers are one option – a series of refillable ink tank printers that use ink bottles instead of a cartridge to create a print. Epson designed the ink bottles to be far more cost effective than the average printer cartridge, printing thousands of pages per refill for pennies on the dollar. The Epson Ecotank ET-2720 is a solid entry level machine that produces great text and images. It works with an Epson T522 black ink bottle that prints 4,500 pages and the color bottles print 7,500 pages each. Ecotank printers are more expensive than most inkjet printers but if you print a lot, the cost savings you get with ink bottles will more than make up for that price difference.
Canon Megatank Printers
Canon developed their own ink tank printer series soon after Epson launched the Ecotank. Savings wise, they provide about the same value as the Ecotank and they are priced about the same as well. They also rely on an ink tank system to create a print and ink bottles to handle the refilling process. Which brand is better is really up to the preference of the user. Epson currently has a more robust line up, offering 15 Ecotank printers to Canon’s 6 Megatanks, but both brands offer a range of options that are suitable for homes and businesses. Canon’s PIXMA G5020 Megatank is a good option that works with the GI-20 ink bottle series. The black ink bottle prints around 6,000 pages and each color bottle prints 7,000 pages.
Brother Inkvestment Printers
Brother’s inkvestment printer line is a hybrid ink tank / inkjet printer. Rather than refilling the tank with an ink bottle, Brother created a cartridge that automatically does the refilling for you. All you have to do is install the cartridge into the printer and the ink inside the cartridge feeds directly into the tank. Currently Brother offers two printer models in their Inkvestment Ink Tank line up, the Brother MFC-J805DW and Brother MFC-J995W. XL versions of the printers are available at a slightly higher price point that include two sets of cartridges. Printing costs are more expensive than the Ecotank and Megatank due to higher priced cartridges but they are a nice middle of the road option if you are apprehensive about refilling with an ink bottle. Brother’s LC3035 super high yield cartridges print 6,000 pages and the color cartridges print 5,000 pages.
Doing your research on replacement cartridge options can save you tons of money. Now that you a have a better idea of what to expect with Instant Ink and what other options you have, the choice is up to you. A lot of customers who have used HP Instant Ink share their feedback below.
1 “How It Works.” HP.com, https://instantink.hpconnected.com/us/en?jumpID=va_nxc3gze76w. Accessed 18 February 2019.
2 “HP Instant Ink Terms of Service.” HP.com. https://instantink.hpconnected.com/us/en/terms. Accessed 18 February 2019, v.08.13.2018.
3 “HP Instant Ink – Understanding HP Instant Ink Monthly Charges.” HP.com, http://support.hp.com/us-en/document/c03917913. Accessed 18 February 2019.
4 “HP Instant Ink – Page Count Is Not the Same as Actual Pages Printed.” HP.com, http://support.hp.com/us-en/product/HP-Instant-Ink-series/5264756/model/5401249/document/c05029962/. Accessed 18 February 2019.
5 “HP Instant Ink Eligible Printers” HP.com, https://store.hp.com/us/en/SearchDisplay?client=&searchTerm=HPInstantInkPrinters&search=&charset=utf-8&storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&beginIndex=0&pageSize=50&jumpid=cp_r11549_hho_iieligible_printerselector_090117. Accessed 18 February 2019.
6 “HP Instant Ink FAQ.” HP.com, http://m.hp.com/us/en/ads/instant-ink/faqs.html. Accessed 18 February 2019.