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MICR code

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MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) is a technology used to verify the legitimacy of paper documents, especially cheques. A Special ink, which is sensitive to magnetic fields, is used in the printing of certain characters on the original documents. The nine-digit code is called MICR because it is printed with magnetic ink,which is usually made of iron oxide. Magnetic ink is used so that numbers are readable even if it is stamped over.


The nine-digit code comprises the city, bank and branch code. It works the same way as your home or office address, enabling your snail mail to reach you from far-flung places.
But unlike your addresses, the banking address is all numerical, where:

1.City code: The first three digits specify the city in which you have a bank account.

2.Bank code: The next three digits of MICR specify your bank in that particular city.

3.Branch code: The last three digits of MICR help in figuring out the specific branch of the specific bank.

The other constituents in the cheque are:

4.A/c with RBI: The third numeral block represents your account number maintained by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The number helps in cheque processing when it goes to RBI for clearance.

5.Transaction code: The last two digits at the bottom of the cheque help in decoding whether the cheque is current or a saving account cheque. MICR also tells whether the cheque is at par. It helps in processing an intra-city cheque as a local one with a faster turnaround time.

6.Drawee/paying bank:A bank making the payment.

7.Payee: The beneficiary to whom the drawer issues the cheque.

8.Drawer: A person writing the cheque.

How does MICR help speed up the processing of cheques?

ex cheque Unlike the manual clearing of cheques which is subject to manual error and delay, the MICR code on the cheque has a unique magnetic ink usually iron oxide has magnetic material present in it and thus assures accuracy. The MICR code will be easily recognized by the system even if there are ink or stamp marks on it. The RBI introduces MICR cheque processing centers to reduce paper-based clearing process that will process over 95 per cent of volume of cheques processed in the country.

MICR character map

The micr code consists of specific representations for each of the characters. Click here to view

character map

How does it work?

The E-13B font, which is needed for the clearing process, is printed with magnetic ink near the bottom of the check, known as the MICR Clear Band. After printing the checks are processed mechanically and electronically through a reader-sorter machine. With the ability to read the E-13B characters through a reader-sorter device at a rate less than 1/1000th-of-a-second per character, the time and cost of check processing have decreased over time. The machine reads each MICR Clear Band from right to left and recognizes each character based on the shape and unique magnetic waveform of each individual character. This unique shape creates peaks and valleys within the waveform, which result in a read of the character. The high rates of speed as well as the magnetic waveform created make it imperative that each character is precise. The slightest flaw in the character could create an inaccurate read. Each character must be free from extraneous or irregular marks. When extraneous toner exists within the MICR clear band, the reader-sorter will reject the document. It is imperative that the MICR Characters are accurately printed on each document according to specifications defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Magnetic Ink

The Iron oxide contained in the magnetic ink is capable of being magnetized by the readers/sorters. The magnetic ink contains 50%-60% iron oxide which differs from normal inks. It has higher viscosity that requires constant upheaval preferably using an ink fountain agitator. Magnetic inks take longer to dry than normal inks and extra care has to be taken in early handling of the printed forms to avoid set off. The presence of iron oxide may cause chemical changes to the physical parts and thus maintenance requires scrutiny. The outputs must be checked at regular time-outs to check the sharpness of the image and the signal level.

Recycling Micr cartridges

Iron oxide which is a super magnetic chemical, over time can eat away at toner cartridge components. If a cartridge is recycled, and the proper parts are not replaced, the risk of printer damage and print quality is high. Unfortunately, most vendors use inferior toner formulations and poor quality cartridges that could damage your printer and the quality of your MICR documents.

MICR printing technology and Code line

The MICR coding can accommodate up to 59 character positions, 1-59 from right to left. The MICR line is contained within a clear band which is 5/8 inch deep and positioned along the bottom of a document. There is a 1/4 inch clear zone at both ends of the code line. The MICR code line is grouped into six fields which are separated by a blank. The fields in order from right to left are as given below- 1.Amount2.Transaction code3.Domestic or Account Number4.BSB5.Auxiliary Domestic (Serial number/Item count)6.Extra Auxiliary Domestic (Agent Number, Auxiliary Serial Number)

MICR Quality Check
Character Dimension, Position & Spacing

The MICR specifications give the dimensions and positioning of the characters and code line. These are carried out with the Position and Layout gauge. The document should be inserted in the Position and Layout gauge between the clear plastic overlay and the opaque lining. It is to be positioned so that the bottom edge is aligned with the bottom of the pocket and the right-hand reference edge is exactly aligned with the right-hand end of the gauge. The code line and the characters are then checked with the reference grids of the gauge.

Signal Strength

The thickness of the magnetic ink film and iron-oxide volume depends on the process used in printing. MICR specification permit a wide tolerance limit for signal strength of the character derived from the reference peak of the character. The minimum is defined at 75% and maximum at 200% with respect to the ideal character. Printed documents must attune to these tolerance limits.

MICR code printing

MICR laser toners are used to print checks, but the cost of using them can be sky-high. A. Some adopt regular printers and MICR toner to print cheques, but MICR printer is a finer choice. Laser toners are magnetic, but unless we have an idea of the character language of the reader-sorter machines required to process the checks, a cheque cannot be printed. Trying to pass checks in a bank with invalid MICR codes is not a good idea since the bank clearing center will automatically reject them. Using MICR laser toners for other uses is not necessary unless your printed business material requires a higher level of security. If that's the case special equipment is also needed to read those documents so that they can perform as expected.

Necessity to print with MICR Toner

The Federal Reserve and all banks require that checks be printed with MICR toner for ease of processing. As a check travels through the check clearing system, it passes through reader-sorters which sends a magnetic charge to the check, allowing the machine to read the information contained within the MICR line. If a check or other negotiable document is printed with regular non-MICR toner, the reader/sorter will reject the check, resulting in a bank fee for the company that printed the document.

Types of fonts

E13-B Font

The E-13B character set comprises of 10 numerals and 4 special symbols. The E-13B font is a fixed range of 8 characters per inch. The characters are framed from a series of thick and thin vertical and horizontal strokes and are laid out on a 7 x 9 grid of 0.013 inch squares. A thin stroke is one square wide and thick ones are two squares wide. The inter character spacing is 0.125'' and distance between characters with a blank space is 0.250''.


CMC-7 Font

The CMC-7-character set has 41 characters, including 26 alpha characters, 10 digits, and 5 symbols. As per CMC-7 specification, there are four different CMC7 font sets (CMC7 I, CMC7 II, CMC7 III and CMC7 IV). Each CMC-7 font set has its own height, width and stroke width.


Fraud Check

2013 AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey says Payments fraud, both actual and attempted, were experienced by 61% of surveyed organizations. Of those organizations, 87% reported that checks were targeted. Payments fraud represents a $20 billion per year problem.


IFSC(Indian Financial System Code) is a 11-digit alpha numeric code issued by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India). This is a unique code provided to each bank branch for easy identification of individual bank branches in India. RBI have developed different payment system applications such as RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) and NEFT (National electronic fund transfer) and CFMS (Centralized funds management system) to make all money transactions electronic across India. The banks using electronic payment system, uses this unique code to identify each bank branch in India to make all type of electronic money transactions without any confusion.

How does MICR differ from Ifsc

In order to transfer funds, IFSC code should be known which directly credits money to the beneficiary account. Physical dispatch of cheques is avoided. IFSC enables instant money transfer. Whereas micr code ensures safety and security of negotiable instruments, to facilitate the processing of cheques.