Whats up with my MICR?

Long'ish on and off exchange with 'Super Support Man' aka Kevin M over IM this morning trying to sort out a frustrating check printing issue a customer was having. Their bank had provided a specification sheet showing the required layout for the check including the the 'where' and 'how' the MICR string should look.

A commercial font was being used and it was not rendering correctly, basically the string was too long for the space allocated by the bank. It looked like a spacing or scaling issue on BIP's part. I had been scratching my head over it for a while - too long in fact. I can fully understand the pain and misery of not being able to cut checks - they still have to be one of the most mission critical documents for an organization today.

While chatting (typing) to 'Super Kev', I was idly trying some of the other MICR fonts I have on my machine in MSWord against the customer's font. Naming no names here are the results.


Not huge differences but enough that over a 25 character MICR string they will be significantly different enough for certain banks to reject test checks because of the length of the string.

Its not a completely fair image, two of the fonts are 'free', one of those is the MICR font included with Publisher. There are a few commercial fonts in there too but just using the vanilla font flavor.

If you want to use Publisher to generate checks and you purchase a commercial font, please check out the user guides. Im not a 'user guide' type of guy - strange considering how much effort I put into the BIP docs with Leslie. Writing documentation yourself gives you a whole new appreciation for the pain and misery folks go through writing it and then no one reads it. But I digress ... again!

Typically, the commercial vendors don't just provide a single font. They provide a range of them and a test document for you to print. From that printed document, you can then match the correct font to your bank's specification requirement.

If you use Publisher's font you should be good for spacing but there is an enhancement request out there to help you to tweak the character spacing if you need it.

Hopefully, in this case, things will now be resolved quickly and the customer can at last start cutting checks. Good luck to you with check printing and don't forget, RTFM :0)


Few comments 1. Individual banks in US do not have different standards. All US banks do only magnetic verification of the MICR. The standard is much more rigid for Canadian checks. CA does optical reads along with magnetic read. Get that standard for CA Accounting standards board web site. 2. Get a true MiCR check printer. A normal printer with MICR cartridge will overheat and throw the font off. A normal laser printer will be good for few tens of checks and then you will start getting interesting outcomes. 3. Learn to use a MICR gauge before sending test checks off to banks. Expensive for a piece of plastic but it will save your career. Do NOT use photo copied checks as guides. 4. Read every page of the test result from end to end. 5. When building the MICR string, pay attention to character spacing in MS-Word. I usually ask my programmers to work in mm (millimeters) rather than inches. 6. Watch out for the "accidental" bold on all or some of the characters. We had a situation where RBC (Canada) said that we were off by 4/100 of a millimeter. After 200 test checks, 5 complete rebuilds of the template, based on the 1000x magnification that the RBC provides we figured out that out 0 (ZEROs) in the entire string were in bold font. 7. If possible, guide your customer to stay away from middle and bottom check. Top check is a lot easier to work with. 8. Work with bank IT not with the bank VPs who are nothing but techno babbling account managers with big titles. The IT guys can guide you to your issue in a matter of minutes. That is all for today.

Posted by James on September 03, 2009 at 01:29 AM MDT #

Thanks for the insight James

Posted by Tim Dexter on September 03, 2009 at 04:01 AM MDT #

Hi, I am working on a custom rtf template for the Check Writer (XML) process, and I'm trying to match up my micr line to the gauge. Can you explain how to position the micr line so that it will always print between .437" and .187" from the bottom of the page. Can you also explain how to correctly position the characters on the micr line? Thanks, Ellen

Posted by Ellen on July 01, 2010 at 06:06 AM MDT #

MICR is not rocket-science. Few basics: 1. MICR is read right-to-left and characters are right justified. 2. MICR character spacing is critical with .010" tolerance 3. vertical spacing is more critical than horizontal spacing 4. MICR print cartridges have higher iron oxide than regular print cartridges in most laser printers. A normal printer with MICR print cartridge will NOT overheat and throw the font off. 5. MICR characters should be constructed "magnetically" since there is very little variable allowance. Any "visual" reads are typically not impaired by greater imperfections of the MICR font. 6. Compare "your" check MICR line with that of the bank's MICR Specification Sheet. This is another purpose of the MICR gauge, proper sequencing and spacing in proper fields. 7. Checks at bottom are best - printer alignment, easy use of a hardback MICR gauge.

Posted by Phil on July 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM MDT #

I am trying to print the output in PDF and it is not working. Can you please confirm that the BIP output in PDF format also generates MICR.

Or is it have to be any special output format (may be .RTF).

Nitin Sharma

Posted by Nitin on July 22, 2013 at 01:20 AM MDT #

As long as your micr font is mapped correctly for BIP to find it, it will embed it inside your PDF output as a sub font.

Posted by Tim on August 06, 2013 at 03:27 PM MDT #

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