Magnetic ink character recognition code, known in short as MICR code, is a character recognition technology used mainly by the banking industry to streamline the processing and clearance of cheques and other documents. MICR encoding, called the MICR line, is at the bottom of cheques and other vouchers and typically includes the document-type indicator, bank code, bank account number, cheque number, cheque amount (usually added after a cheque is presented for payment), and a control indicator. The format for the bank code and bank account number is country-specific.
The technology allows MICR readers to scan and read the information directly into a data-collection device. Unlike barcode and similar technologies, MICR characters can be read easily by humans. MICR encoded documents can be processed much faster and more accurately than conventional OCR encoded documents.
The term magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) refers to the line of numbers that appears at the bottom of a check. The MICR line is a group of three numbers, which are the check number, account number, and bank routing number. The MICR number includes the magnetic ink character recognition line printed using technology that allows certain computers to read and process the printed information.
The magnetic ink character recognition line is used mainly by the banking industry. The American Bankers Association (ABA) established the MICR line in the late 1950s and was later recognized as an industry standard by the American National Standards Institute. The MICR number allows computers to rapidly internalize a check number, routing number, account number, and other numbers or information from printed documents, such as a personal check.
The MICR number, which is sometimes confused with just the account number, is printed with magnetic ink or toner on a check usually less than an inch above the bottom of the document. The magnetic ink allows computers to read the characters on a check even if they have been covered with signatures, cancellation marks, bank stamps, or other marks.
MICR line numbers help facilitate check clearing automatically when banks send their checks to central processing systems at the end of the day. They can also be easily read by people to verify check information.
The numbers are usually printed in one of two major MICR fonts E-13B and CMC-7. Both are used worldwide, with the E-13B used primarily in North America, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The CMC-7 font, on the other hand, is mainly used in Europe and parts of South America. Both fonts also help computers recognize the characters and limit check fraud.
E-13B has a 14 character set, comprising the 10 decimal digits, and the following symbols:
⑆ (transit: used to delimit a bank code),
⑈ (on-us: used to delimit a customer account number),
⑇ (amount: used to delimit a transaction amount),
⑉ (dash: used to delimit parts of numbers—e.g., routing numbers or account numbers).
In the check printing and banking industries the E13B MICR line is also commonly referred to as the TOAD line. This reference comes from the 4 characters: Transit, Onus, Amount, and Dash.
The E-13B repertoire can be represented in Unicode (see below). Prior to Unicode, it could be encoded according to ISO 2033:1983.
CMC-7 has a 15 character set, comprising the 10 numeric digits and 5 control characters, internal, terminator, amount, routing, and an unused character. CMC-7 has a barcode format, with every character having two distinct large gaps in different places, as well as distinct patterns in between, to minimize any chance for character confusion while reading.