The American Bankers Association made MICR the standard because it could be printed using existing technology, and while it is possible to print using a standard laser printer with a MICR toner cartridge, only with a MICR printer and MICR toner will a user be ensured of the quality that will meet ANSI standards and that the MICR line will be acceptable to a financial institution’s readers.
Only a MICR laser printer can guarantee compliance with the six ANSI X.9 standards for MICR printing. Manufacturers of standard laser printers cannot guarantee that the MICR line will be readable or usable.
In addition, MICR printers can also offer a host of security features—including paper-tray or printer locks—that prevent unauthorized users from printing checks. A special security cartridge, which can be removed and stored in a secure area after use, can ensure that authorized signatures, company logos, and font information remains protected.
MICR toner is similar to standard laser printer toner, but includes an iron oxide additive, which allows for electronic processing and ensures compliance with ANSI specifications for readability standards. So while it is possible to physically print checks with “regular,” non-MICR toner instead of MICR toner, there are several important issues to consider before doing so.
The first is that financial institutions read checks optically and magnetically, using MICR, and there is no guarantee that a check printed using non-MICR toner will be handled by a bank that uses optical technology. This means that a check printed using non-MICR toner may need to be processed manually or may be returned as unreadable. In either case, processing time will be increased and additional processing fees may be charged.
Finally, using MICR ensures that an organization has done its due diligence to prevent fraud. An organization that does not exercise due diligence risks their own security and may be ultimately responsible for any losses that result from the fraud.