What is Magnetic Ink Character Recognition

Magnetic Ink Character Recognition, or MICR, is a technology used to verify the legitimacy or authenticity of paper documents, especially checks. The main characteristic of MICR is its use of special ink, which is sensitive to magnetic fields. This ink is used to print certain information on documents in a stylized, machine-readable format.

Here’s how MICR works and its key aspects:

  1. Magnetic Ink: The ink used in MICR printing contains iron oxide, which is magnetizable. This allows the characters printed with this ink to be read by machines that use magnetic technology.
  2. MICR Font: The information encoded with MICR is typically printed in a special font, most commonly E-13B or CMC-7. These fonts are designed to be easily read by machines as well as by humans.
  3. MICR Line: On checks, the MICR line is located at the bottom of the document and includes the check number, bank routing number, and account number. This line of numbers and symbols is printed in the MICR font.
  4. Reading MICR Characters: When a document such as a check is processed, a MICR reader scans the MICR line. The reader magnetizes the ink and then translates the magnetic information into characters. If the ink were non-magnetic, the reader would not be able to pick up any information.
  5. Security and Efficiency: MICR provides a secure and high-speed method of scanning and processing information. The magnetic properties of the MICR ink make it difficult to forge or alter, enhancing the security of the documents.
  6. Banking and Financial Systems: MICR is predominantly used by banks and other financial institutions to streamline the processing and clearance of checks and other documents.

The advantage of MICR over other technologies is that the characters can still be read even if they are overprinted or marked with signatures, stampings, and other marks. This resilience makes MICR very reliable and explains why it’s still in use for check processing even in the era of digital banking and transactions.

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