Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR), a technology invented in the 1950s has allowed financial institutions to streamline their check processing. The characters are printed with special MICR Fonts and are known as MICR Characters, which must be printed with MICR Toner or MICR Ink. It is the combination of Toner and Fonts that create the machine readable MICR line. MICR Toner or MICR Ink are the elements which add the magnetic readability to each character, allowing for high-speed check clearing. Producers of MICR-encoded documents must meet ANSI document preparation standards.
For more information about the check clearing process in the United States visit the Federal Reserve site www.federalreserve.gov
MICR Fonts are the characters that appear at the bottom of checks or financial documents. There are two different fonts which are used depending on established banking standards in the country. These fonts are E-13B and CMC-7.
The E-13B Font looks like this:
Currently, this font or MICR Character set is used in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan, India, Mexico, Colombia, and Turkey.
Where did the name E13-B come from?
E: signifies that it was the 5th version of the font considered.
B: signifies that it was the second revision of that font.
13: references the fact that the MICR font is constructed on a .013” module for stroke and character width.
The CMC-7 Font looks like this:
Currently this font or MICR Character set is used in France, Spain, Israel, South America (except Colombia) and other Mediterranean Countries.
This line consists of ten specially designed numbers (0 through 9) and four special symbols (Transit, Amount, On-Us, and Dash). The combination of characters and numbers provide the check, routing, and account numbers on a check. They can also provide the check amount.
Read from right to left Positions 1 through 12 host the Amount Field; Positions 13 through 32 host the On-Us Field; Positions 33 through 43 host the Transit Field; Positions 45 up to as many digits that will fit the size of the check host the Aux On-Us Field.
Though important, MICR is only one element of the check printing process. To receive the most accurate MICR line it is encouraged that printer specific MICR fonts are used. When using a printer agnostic MICR font, the MICR line could cause issues with banks and MICR readers. More information can be fount at the following websites:
MICR Toner and MICR Ink:
MICR Toner is a specialty toner which provides the magnetic charge, allowing the MICR line to be read. MICR Toner is placed into a laser printer when you need to print checks. In many cases the MICR Toner can be used in your current laser printer, but in some cases the laser printer settings must be reconfigured in order to print MICR documents that meet banking specifications.
As inkjet printers become more popular so does the need for MICR ink. MICR ink is applied as an ink base solution. MICR ink carries similar features to MICR toner. MICR ink is a perfect MICR solution for mobile check printing. The typical inkjet printer is smaller in size when compared to a LaserJet printer. This allows for on the go check printing options for MICR ink.
OEM vs. Remanufactured MICR Toner:
MICR Toner can be found in an original or remanufactured cartridge. Cartridges are designed for a single use. Reusing can comprise the quality and output of a cartridge. Remanufactured toner cartridges can be known to cause toner streaks down the side of checks after a few prints. Take a look at some statistics provided by HP. Using OEM cartridges for MICR check printing not only provides the highest readability, but they also do not void your HP warranty. Remanufactured toner cartridges void HP's printer warranty. While you may pay a little more for OEM MICR toner, the quality and the reliability is priceless.
MICR Printers can be viewed two ways, first as a printing company who is producing personal check books, and second as a special desktop printer from which MICR documents can be produced. This definition will reference the second use of the term.
A MICR Printer is a printing device which provides the ability to print a magnetically charged set of characters on the bottom of a check, also known as MICR fonts. MICR Printers can be as simple as an off-the-shelf laser printer with an embedded MICR font, or a customized printer with numerous security features. Some MICR Printers can use both standard (non-magnetic) and MICR Toner, while others use only MICR Toner. By using a MICR printer you are eliminating the need for preprinted check stock. Not only does this save up to .10 per check, but it also eliminates the need for chain of custody around check stock. Additional features may include locking trays, toner sensing, MICR character positioning, and disable jam recovery. Visit our HP based MICR printers page for more information. To learn more about standard HP printers visit www.hp.com.
Check Stock for MICR Printing:
In the United States, ANSI paper specifications mandate a minimum basis weight of 20 lbs. (short grain documents) and a basis weight of 24 lbs. (+/- 5%) for long-grain documents. Grain long documents provide higher strength and stiffness properties for the check during printing and reading. Paper smoothness (Sheffield) should be between 50 and 200 for all laser printed checks Actual check width must be at least 6.00” and not more than 8.75”. Check height must be at least 2.75” and not more than 3.66”.
For information regarding paper recommendation and standards visit: http://x9.org/standards/standards-store/
A technology that is over 50 years old still holds value in today’s market. The MICR Technology which we utilize today was invented in the 1950’s as a way to increase productivity of check processing.
When computers started to become part of the business world; committees of bank employees, machine manufacturers, and check processors grouped together to provide suggested ways to create automation in the check processing departments. Prior to the formation of the committees, two different check processing methods were used.
The two check processing methods were Sort-A-Matic and Top Tab Key Sort. The Sort-A-Matic process was made up of 100 dividers numbered 0 through 99 and each divider was composed of either metal or leather. The Sort-A-Matic process sorted checks through a stepped or phased process. After reviewing the first two numbers of the account, the checks were placed into a divider. Then they were grouped by the second two numbers of the account and so forth, until the checks were in numerical order by account number.
The Top Tab Key Sort was a slightly different process. This system used a technology which required holes to be punched in the top of each check indicating the ones, tens and hundreds digits. When it was time to sort the checks a metal key was inserted into the checks separating them by the corresponding holes until they were put into numerical order by account number.
Each of these systems was time consuming and became outdated as the number of checks began to increase. When the opportunity to utilize computers evolved, it was an obvious choice to further automate the process; that solution evolved into MICR printing technology utilizing the E-13B font and CMC-7 fonts.
Today’s MICR Technology provides banks with the ability to use computer technology to process checks at a rate faster than the previous methods. It also includes guidelines to ensure production of consistently readable MICR characters.
Some key components of the MICR line are as follows:
MICR Clear Band: Only MICR characters are allowed in this area. No extraneous toner or other magnetic material is allowed on the front or back.
MICR Character Skew: Less than 1.5 degrees
Character Print Quality: Good, with no voids or breaks and no visual fading across the page
Correct Data: Numbers and symbols should be correct and in correct positions
Symbols which include the transit, amount, on us and dash tell the machine what the numbers symbolize. For more information regarding positioning of the MICR line visit