MICR stands for: Magnetic Ink Character Recognition and is used primarily by the banking industry to facilitate the processing of checks and makes up the routing number, account number and check number with special font characters that run along the bottom of your check. The special characters at the bottom of your check are called a MICR Font and there are several types of these fonts that are used in various countries. To enable the MICR Font to easily be read by bank sorters the ink or toner has to have a higher concentration of iron ore added so that when the check passes through the reader the ink or toner will give off a magnetic signal that can be read by the reader. The reader will transfer that information into a central computer system and then route the check to the appropriate issuing bank for the financial transaction.
The use of magnetic printing allows the characters to be read reliably even if they have been overprinted or obscured by other marks, such as cancellation stamps and signature. MICR toner vs Regular toner - What most people fail to realize is that if you use regular toner to print your checks and the bank readers and sorters can't read these checks then the checks will have to be pulled from the machine and someone will have to manually enter your checks into the bank computer system, if this happens you can be assessed a bank service fee just like a bounced check fee and these fees can cost as much as $35.00 per check.
Why do you call it MICR Toner when MICR stands for Magnetic Ink? When MICR was first invented the application of printing checks was done by large commercial printing presses. This is also still a standard practice today for large quantities of pre-printed checks for larger institutions. These types of printing presses used a form of ink that was applied to the rollers as the press was running. It actually was more like a paste in a can but was referred to as ink. The ink was specially formulated with an iron ore so that when the ink dried it would have a high signal strength for the bank readers and sorters to have the ability to decode the numbers into a main computer system. Over the years desktop laser printers became more affordable to the general public and made printing your own checks easier and affordable. Laser printers use a toner cartridge to fuse the print at high temperatures and roller pressure to the paper hence MICR Toner. MICR Toner is not much different than the regular toner that you use everyday with one exception, it contains a much higher amount of iron ore in the toner to enable it to give off a magnetic signal for the readers.
Can I print my checks using my inkjet printer? There are a few companies that claim they have cartridges to print MICR Ink in inkjet printers. But to this date this type of printing isn't reliable because iron ore is a granular type of substance that won't dissolve in ink. The application of using an inkjet printer dispenses ink through microscopic holes called jets through a print head on the cartridge. When the cartridge dispenses the ink the iron ore can't pass through the smaller holes in the print head and become trapped and the end result is no magnetic signal or at best very little. The use of ink cartridges as an alternative for printing your checks can get expensive very quickly. When the checks can't be read by the readers the check's have to be pulled from the automated reader/sorter and be entered manually and this process can result in bank service fees. No matter what the problem the bank will view a non-readable check the same as an insufficient check and apply the same fee.
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