Cheque printing for the first time – understanding the importance of MICR

Most businesses aren’t aware that they can print cheques and instead think they can only use cheques that are provided to them by their bank.

If you’ve decided that you want to invest in cheque printing, for added security or for branding reasons, there are several things you need to consider and probably the most important is MICR.

What is MICR?

MICR stands for Magnetic Ink Character Recognition. It is the line of numbers, letters and symbols that appears at the bottom of cheques. This sequence contains important information such as the bank’s routing number, your account number and the cheque number.

How MICR works in cheque printing

The MICR line is printed using magnetic ink, which can be encrypted with characters that can be read by specialised readers. MICR has been around for a long time and it was originally introduced to speed up the time it takes to process a cheque, meaning banks and other financial institutions can efficiently process more cheques in a shorter time.

MICR is used over other computer-readable data such as barcodes because it can also be read by humans. Internationally, two MICR fonts are used:

E-13B – is made up of 14 characters; 10 numbers and 4 symbols and is the international standard in ISO 1004:1995. It is used in the UK, America, Canada, Australia, Central America and some parts of Asia.

CMC -7 – contains 15 characters; 10 numbers and 5 symbols. It is commonly used in Europe including France and Italy as well as South America in places such as Argentina and Brazil.

As well as enabling cheques to be processed quickly, MICR is highly effective in combating cheque fraud as the magnetic ink is very difficult to alter. Even though the issuing of cheques has diminished in the last decade due to online and mobile banking, figures by UK Finance show that in 2018 there was a staggering 500% leap in counterfeit cheques.

So, if you’re thinking about printing your own cheques, it’s vital that you either use a template or cheque printing software which correctly formats the MICR line. Alternatively, you can outsource your cheque printing to a professional print management firm.

Hague has a long history of secure cheque printing, and we work with leading banks and private institutions to manage their cheque printing. If you’re interested in finding out further details on MICR and cheque printing, please complete our online enquiry form, leaving your name, contact details and a brief description of your requirements and an experienced member of our print team will be in touch.