Hands-On Review: Is HP Instant Ink Worth It For Students?

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Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Alexandra Markin

Does having printer ink automatically shipped to your home every time you’re running low sound awesome? If so, then an HP Instant Ink subscription may be worth it for you.

Depending on your discipline and how you study, you could be doing a lot of printing or hardly any. Either way, once in a while you’ll need to pay for ink, or at the very least, printing charges at Staples.

I discovered HP Instant Ink when my new HP printer came with an 8-month free subscription. I thought “Why not try it?”

If you’re considering Instant Ink, this post is for you.

*This post is not sponsored – it is my honest review after having a Canadian HP Instant Ink subscription for 20 months. HP Instant Ink is available in both Canada and the United States.

Is HP Instant Ink Worth It For Students?

The short answer is yes, HP Instant Ink is worth it – if you print at home on a regular basis.

This review is for students who print at home and are wondering if an HP Instant Ink subscription is worth it financially. My recommendation is yes, if you routinely print at home every month and are ok with some of the disadvantages outlined in this post, HP Instant Ink is worth it.

Many students who print higher volumes (up to 700 pages) for their studies will appreciate the cost savings and convenient delivery, compared to the more traditional route of running out and purchasing cartridges every time you need them.

How Does HP Instant Ink Work?

HP Instant Ink is a monthly fee subscription service for your home printer ink or toner cartridges. You pick a plan based on a maximum number of pages you think you’ll need per month.

The service includes ink or toner cartridges with prepaid delivery and recycling.

HP Instant Ink works by remotely connecting to your printer and monitoring your usage, therefore automatically shipping ink to your home before you run out.

NOTE: HP Instant Ink is a fee-based subscription service, meaning you are renting the cartridges – you don’t own them.

Overview: Pros And Cons

Don’t be alarmed that the cons outweigh the pros in the below comparison table – it doesn’t automatically mean getting a subscription is a bad idea.

For many students, the benefits are worth it. Read on carefully to decide if an HP Instant Ink subscription is worth it for your studies.

– Substantial cost savings– Need to monitor your page count
– Cartridges ship automatically– Charged to print any kind of page
– Unused pages rollover to the next month– An HP printer is required
– HP printer purchases are part of the Rakuten Canada or Rakuten USA cash back program– Cartridges stop working upon cancellation
– Full colour pages are included– Printer must always maintain an internet connection
– 5 ink plans to choose from– Missed payments can stop printer from working
– Technology or other issues may prevent or delay printing
– Customer service can be slow
– HP remotely monitors your activity
– Overage charges can be expensive

HP Instant Ink Pros

Substantial Cost Savings

Take a break from your discrete mathematics course and clear your calculator to do some real-life cost analysis.

Instant Ink plans are based solely on the number of pages you print per month. It doesn’t matter if you print full colour or only black and white.

Let’s consider the costs on a yearly basis and use Instant Ink’s occasional printing plan (50 pages per month).

First, add up the cost for one full set of ink cartridges with a standard fill*, and a page yield** of ~300***:

Cost for ONE set of cartridges:
Black Standard Fill$24.99
Colour Standard Fill (cyan, magenta and yellow)$44.99
Instant Ink Subscription$65.88
Pricing is from April 2022, excluding taxes.

Then, calculate the cost of the Instant Ink subscription for one year:

Occasional printing plan (50 pages per month) = $5.49

12 months x $5.49 = $65.88

As you can see from the table above, if you only buy ink once a year it’s still slightly cheaper to use Instant Ink. But if you buy ink more than once a year, that’s when the savings start to add up:

Cost for TWO set of cartridges:
Black Standard Fill: $24.99 x 2 =$49.98
Colour Standard Fill (cyan, magenta and yellow): $44.99 x 2 =$89.98
Instant Ink Subscription$65.88
Pricing is from April 2022, excluding taxes.

If you print more colour (colour coded notes and diagrams, for example), you probably buy more colour than black, which can add up quickly:

Cost for TWO black and THREE COLOUR cartridges:
Black Standard Fill: $24.99 x 2 =$49.98
Colour Standard Fill (cyan, magenta and yellow): $44.99 x 3 =$134.97
Instant Ink Subscription$65.88
Pricing is from April 2022, excluding taxes.

Cartridge cost also depends on the type of HP printer you have. The prices in the above table are for my current printer, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8035 All‑in‑One Printer.

*Standard fill means a regular size cartridge. HP also offers high yield cartridges (~825 pages) which cost a bit more.

**How does HP come up with their approximate page yield per cartridge? I don’t know, but it really depends on what kind of printing you’re doing, so it’s really a moot argument.

***The ~ symbol is called a tilde operator and means the value immediately following it is approximate. In this case, ~300 means “approximately 300 pages.”

HP Instant Ink Plan Pricing

It’s up to you to do the math on your own needs, but if you print on a regular basis each month at home, it’s most likely worth it to get an HP Instant Ink subscription.

Below are the monthly costs for HP Instant Ink Plans in Canada as of April 2022:

Plan NameMonthly Page LimitMonthly PriceRollover Page Maximum
Light printing10 pages / month$1.2530 pages
Occasional printing 50 pages / month$5.49150 pages
Moderate printing100 pages / month$7.49300 pages
Frequent printing300 pages / month$13.99900 pages
Business printing700 pages / month$28.992,100 pages
Monthly price excludes tax.

Instant Ink Canada – Click here for more information on pricing

Instant Ink United States – Click here for more information on pricing

NOTE: Like any other subscription service, prices can increase anytime during your subscription. This happened to me during my 20 months with HP Instant Ink.

Related content: Ways To Save Money As An Online Student In Canada

Cartridges Ship Automatically

HP Instant Ink is extremely convenient – ink cartridges ship automatically when you’re running low on ink.

Since HP remotely monitors your printing, it will sense when your cartridges are low and ship ink to your home before you run out. There is no management required from your end.

No more panic trips to the store, or waiting through long shipping times when ordering online.

Unless you’re super organized, the only time most of us buy cartridges is when we’re in the middle of a print job and our printer tells us we’re out, despite all the “running low” warnings that have flashed on our screen the past few weeks. And it alway seems to happen when you’ve left your printing until the last minute and all the stores are closed.

This is one of the main reasons the HP Instant Ink subscription was created – to eliminate this scenario and help make people’s lives easier.

Unused Pages Rollover

If you don’t use all your allotted pages per month, unused pages rollover to the next month.

Be careful though – unused pages only roll over to a maximum of 3 times your monthly service plan page amount. For example, if you’re on the 50 page per month plan, your maximum rollover is 150 pages (50 pages x 3 months).

Use them or loose them!

HP Is Part Of The Rakuten Cash Back Program

You must have an HP printer to use the Instant Ink program.

If you don’t have an HP printer, you can earn cash back on your printer purchase if you use Rakuten Canada or Rakuten USA. Rakuten is a cash back program that gives a percentage of cash back on every eligible purchase made at one of their participating stores.

For example, if you were to purchase a printer for $289.99 and get 2% cash back, you would earn $5.80. It’s not a lot of money, but every purchase adds up.

I’ve been with Rakuten Canada for years now and have happily earned extra cash from purchases I was going to make anyway.

Click here to sign up at Rakuten Canada.

Click here to sign up at Rakuten USA.

NOTE: HP Instant Ink is NOT eligible for cash back through Rakuten.

Full Colour Pages Are Included

With HP Instant Ink, you don’t have to worry about the high cost of colour printing. Each page you print is counted as one page, no matter if it’s black and white or full colour.

Need to print photographs, full colour diagrams or pictures for your vision board? No problem. There’s no extra cost, and when you run low on colour HP will automatically ship more directly to your home, all included in your plan.

HP Instant Ink Cons

Need To Monitor Your Page Count

While being able to print a certain amount of pages per month is great, you need to monitor your exact page count. HP does not send you a warning when you’re nearing your maximum page count per month.

When you register for Instant Ink, you’ll log into something called HP Smart, which is essentially the dashboard for your account that connects to your printer.

From there, you can see how many pages you’ve printed in your current billing cycle.

Screenshot of the HP Smart dashboard where you can monitor your printed page count.

You’ll have to keep track of how much you’ve already printed, and what you plan on printing for the rest of the month.

Charged To Print Any Kind Of Page

Any page that comes out of your printer with ink on it counts towards your monthly page total.

This includes:

  • Pages with literally one letter on them.
  • A page you printed by accident.
  • Printing with the wrong settings.
  • A document with the last page that has just a footer (this is common when printing Amazon invoices or phone bills).
  • You cancel a print job but it still prints a page or two before the cancellation is recognized by your printer.

Every page counts. A full-page colour photo or two words in black ink cost the same.

An HP Printer Is Required

You can’t use HP Instant Ink without a HP printer. While this may not be a con (you might just prefer the HP brand), anyone who’s interested in the Instant Ink program will have to comply with this non-negotiable requirement.

Cartridges Stop Working Upon Cancellation

On the date your subscription ends, your printer cartridges stop working. You’ll need to buy HP cartridges from the store to maintain the ability to print.

Much like Netflix or Amazon Prime Student, HP Instant Ink is a fee-based subscription service. Once you stop paying for it, your ability to use it ends. You do not own the cartridges, no matter how much ink is left in them.

There is no way to “trick” HP Instant Ink into keeping their cartridges. They will literally stop working, and your printer will alert you that you’ve cancelled.

What an HP Instant Ink subscription cancellation alert looks like on your printer. This warning only appears once so make a note of your end date.

As soon as you cancel, order new cartridges ASAP so they arrive before your subscription ends. I ordered online through HP and they took 12 days to arrive.

Make sure to sign up for Rakuten Canada or Rakuten USA to see if you’re eligible for cash back on your ink purchase!

Printer Must Always Maintain An Internet Connection

In order to accurately track your number of printed pages and automatically send you ink, your printer must maintain a connection to the internet at all times. This communication only happens when your printer is connected to the internet and plugged into power.

If you disconnect your printer from the internet (or the Wi-Fi signal drops due to changed passwords, etc.), this doesn’t mean you get to print “free” pages. Since the Instant Ink cartridges are programmed to communicate with your printer, as soon as a connection is reestablished, your page count is updated. There is no way to trick Instant Ink.

Keep in mind that your printer may come to life at random times. I assume this is HP “checking in” as none of my printers have ever done this before. Several times, I was woken up in the middle of the night in a panic, wondering why my printer had come to life!

Missed Payments Can Stop Printer From Working

HP Instant Ink requires a credit card, direct debit or PayPal account to automatically charge you every month. If you’re not properly monitoring your credit card and your monthly payment doesn’t go through, your printer could stop working until payment is received.

Technology Failures and Other Issues

If not used for a long period, there is the possibility that your ink cartridges will dry out and therefore stop working. In this event, you’ll have to call customer service to explain the issue and wait for them to ship a new one before you can print again.

NOTE: Keep in mind this subscriptions runs 100% on technology – awesome if it works. Disastrous if it doesn’t.

Customer Service Can Be Slow

Speaking of customer service, some HP Instant Ink reviews you might read on the internet complain about how slow customer service is. Personally, I’ve never had to contact customer service for any issue in the 20 months I had my subscription, so I have no complaints in this area.

Keep in mind that customer service for anything is never perfect, and often depends on the representative you get. Some are more knowledgeable than others.

HP Remotely Monitors Your Activity

When you sign up for Instant Ink, you authorize HP to remotely monitor how much you print, what type of documents you print (Word, PowerPoint, pdf, jpeg, etc.), printer model and serial number and your ink levels.

While this is necessary for HP to send you ink when you’re running low, those of you who are concerned about online privacy and security may have a problem with this.

Although HP Instant Ink will still remotely monitor your activity as described above, I have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which protects my online privacy. I don’t like to take any chances with my online data and I protect myself every way possible.

If you’re wondering what a VPN is exactly and how it works, read the post Do I Need A VPN As An Online Student?

Any law students who like reading legal jargon (or students like me that enjoy deciphering the fine print), read the official HP Instant Ink Terms or Service for more detailed information.

Overage Charges Can Be Expensive

Most plans offer an additional 10 pages for $1.00, which works out to $0.10 per page. Your payment type will be automatically charged for this cost.

Be careful with this – overage charges can add up quickly. If you need to print much more than usual in a month, it’s best to upgrade your plan and then change back the next month.

Top HP Instant Ink Complaints

During the 20 months of my subscription, my biggest complaint was that HP remotely monitors your activity. As a Computing Science student, online privacy and security is very important to me.

The other complaint I had is that you have to send back the cartridges and order new ones. It’s inconvenient, but they do give you a postage paid envelope so all you need to do is bag them up and drop them off at the post office.

Conclusion: Is HP Instant Ink Worth It?

Yes, HP Instant Ink is worth it for the cost savings and convenience if you print at home on a regular basis. This service can be a real benefit to help students save hundreds of dollars over the course of their degree.

I cancelled my subscription mainly because I didn’t print enough to make it worth it, and I also didn’t like that my printer was being remotely monitored.

For someone who doesn’t like to give up control of their printing abilities, doesn’t print on a regular basis or travels a lot, HP Instant Ink is not worth it.

Have you tried HP Instant Ink? Share you experience in the comments!

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