What is MICR Ink?

MICR ink (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) is technology for character recognition mainly used by banks to process checks faster. It enables computer systems to read a bank account number and American Bankers Association (ABA) routing number on the bottom of a check. Unlike bar codes, numbers written with MICR ink can also be read by people, not only computers.

MICR ink was developed in the United States by bankers and machine manufactures in the 1950s. In 1958, it was adopted by the American Bankers Association for accurate and fast check processing.

In order for a check to be valid it needs to have the identity of the issuing bank and the account number of the customer at that bank or financial institution. MICR ink contains iron oxide, powdered plastic, enhancers, and lubricants. To decode the text, the decoding machine magnetizes the iron oxide in the characters that are printed on the check paper and passes them over a MICR head to read them. This head is similar to the head of a tape recorder. As each magnetized number passes over the head it sends a unique wave form, or fingerprint, that is recognized by the computer system. This fingerprint should give the correct data that the reader is looking for. If it does, the reading machine can create an accurate electronic version of the data.

There are two main types of fonts for MICR transactions. The E-13B font is used in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and India. The CMC-7 font is used in parts of Europe, most of South America and Israel. This standardization within a country makes it easy for banks to read checks. Since there is virtually no possibility of human error, the accuracy of MICR is almost 100%. This means that funds are not taken from the wrong bank or bank account.

Speed is a great advantage of MICR reading. Many banks process thousands of checks a day, and it would be impossible to do this manually without a very large work force. With a MICR machine, vast numbers of checks can be sent to the proper destination quickly. MICR ink is not available to the general public. This makes it very difficult for checks to be counterfeit. It also make is almost impossible for criminals to change the E-13B or CMC-7 numbers on a legitimate check.

For businesses that need to print checks for payroll and accounts payable an MICR toner cartridge is the best choice. They need not rely on vendors for critical financial printing, but can use their own printers for high quality MICR printing that conforms to both the American National Standards Institute that sets the MICR printing standards as well as the American Bankers Association standards. Most printers were not designed to be used with MICR toner. In this case, a printer cartridge can be refilled with MICR toner and used in the printer. For cartridges that are re-manufactured for the use of MICR toner, a new drum is essential so that spots and streaks of ink do not appear on the check or financial documents. These spots may be misread by an MICR reading system as a decimal point or dash in the wrong place.

High quality MICR toner cartridges come in new or re-manufactured versions that will fit most models of printers. As well as a new drum, they should have a new wiper blade and be made with a virgin OEM cartridge. This means the printer cartridge to be refilled has only been emptied once. The cartridge should also be tested on MICR analysis equipment.

In order for a business to print their own checks with high MICR quality, they need to have the right printer, MICR toner cartridge, font and check paper. This will ensure a high level of acceptability in the process of bank clearing and sorting with no costly rejections.