Magnetic ink character recognition

Magnetic ink character recognition code, known in short as MICR code, is a character-recognition technology used mainly by the banking industry to ease the processing and clearance of cheques and other documents. The 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, and a control indicator. The technology allows MICR readers to scan and read the information directly into a data-collection device. Unlike barcodes and similar technologies, MICR characters can be read easily by humans. The MICR E-13B font has been adopted as the international standard in ISO 1004:1995, but the CMC-7 font is widely used in Europe, Brazil, Mexico and some other countries.

Cheque sample for a fictional bank in Canada using par-crossing MICR encoding for cashing in the United States


MICR char
The 14 characters of the E-13B font. The control characters bracketing each numeral block are (from left to right) transit, on-us, amount, and dash.
An example of the CMC-7 MICR font. Shown are the 15 characters of the CMC-7 font. The control characters after the numerals are (from left to right) internal, terminator, amount, routing, and an unused character.

There are two major MICR fonts in use: E-13B and CMC-7. E-13B has a 14 character set, while CMC-7 has 15—the 10 numeric characters along with control characters.

The MICR E-13B font is the standard in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries. Besides decimal digits, it also contains 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).

Major European countries, including France and Italy, and others like Brazil and Mexico use the CMC-7 font, developed by Groupe Bull in 1957.

MICR reader

MICR characters are printed on documents in either of the MICR fonts. The ink used in the printing is magnetizable (commonly known as magnetic) ink or toner, usually containing iron oxide. The document is passed through a MICR reader. The ink is first magnetized. Then the characters are passed over a MICR reader head, a device similar to the playback head of a tape recorder. As each character passes over the head it produces a unique waveform that can be easily identified by the system.

The use of MICR allows the characters to be read reliably even if they have been overprinted or obscured by other marks, such as cancellation stamps and signature. The error rate for the magnetic scanning of a typical cheque is smaller than with optical character recognition systems. For well printed MICR documents, the "can't read" rate is usually less than 1%, while the substitution rate (misread rate) is in the order of 1 per 100,000 characters. Rejected items are 'hand-processed'.

Thus, when the cheque is inserted in the MICR reader (also called a cheque sorting machine), it can read the MICR code even if there are other marks or stamps on it. Thus, the machine easily finds out which bank to which the cheques belong and can sort them accordingly. The sorted cheques are transported to a centralized clearinghouse, for redistribution to the various banks, whereupon they do their own MICR procession to determine which customers' accounts are charged, and to which branches the cheques should go, to be returned to the customer. However, many banks no longer office this last step; the cheques are scanned digitally for storage.

Sorting of cheques is done as per the geographical coverage of banks in a nation. [1]


MICR characters were added to the Unicode Standard in June 1993 with the release of version 1.1.

The Unicode block that includes MICR characters is called Optical Character Recognition and covers U+2440–U+245F:

Optical Character Recognition[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


Before the mid-1940s, cheques were processed manually using the Sort-A-Matic or Top Tab Key method. The processing and clearance of cheques was very time consuming and was a significant cost in cheque clearance and bank operations. As the number of cheques increased, ways were sought for automating the process. Standards were developed to ensure uniformity in financial institutions. By the mid-1950s, the Stanford Research Institute and General Electric[2] Computer Laboratory had developed the first automated system to process cheques using MICR. The same team also developed the E13B MICR font. "E" refers to the font being the fifth considered, and "B" to the fact that it was the second version. The "13" refers to the 0.013 inch character grid.

In 1958, the American Bankers Association (ABA) adopted E13B font as the MICR standard for negotiable documents in the United States. By the end of 1959, the first cheques had been printed using MICR. The ABA adopted MICR as its standard because machines could read MICR accurately, and MICR could be printed using existing technology. In addition, MICR remained machine readable, even through overstamping, marking, mutilation and more.

MICR technology has been adopted in many countries, with some variations. In 1963, ANSI adopted the ABA's E13B font as the American standard for MICR printing.[3] Although compliance with MICR standards is voluntary in the United States, their use with cheques is almost universal. E13B MICR has also been standardized as ISO 1004:1995. The E13B font was adopted as the standard in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and other countries.

The CMC-7 font was developed in France by Groupe Bull in 1957. It was adopted as the MICR standard in Argentina, France, Italy, and some other European countries.

In the 1960s, the MICR fonts became a symbol of modernity or futurism, leading to the creation of lookalike "computer" typefaces that imitated the appearance of the MICR fonts, which unlike real MICR fonts, had a full character set.

MICR, or E-13B, is also used to encode information in other applications like: sales promotions, coupons, credit cards, airline tickets, insurance premium receipts, deposit tickets, and more.

E13b is the version specifically developed for Offset Litho printing. There was a subtly different version for letterpress, called E13a. Also, there was a Rival system named 'Fred' (Figure Reading Electronic Device) which used figures that looked more conventional.

See also


  1. ^ "Reserve Bank of India - Publications".
  2. ^ . 195610.pdf. "ARTICLES: Magnetic Ink Character Recognition". Computers and Automation. 5 (10): 10–16, 44 (12 - Other Sessions). Oct 1956.
  3. ^ ANSI standard X9.27-1995 and ANSI standard ANS X9.7-1990.

External links

1987 in India

Events in the year 1987 in the Republic of India.

ABA routing transit number

An ABA routing transit number (ABA RTN) is a nine-digit code, used in the United States, which appears on the bottom of negotiable instruments such as checks to identify the financial institution on which it was drawn. The ABA RTN was originally designed to facilitate the sorting, bundling, and shipment of paper checks back to the drawer's (check writer's) account. As new payment methods were developed (ACH and Wire), the system was expanded to accommodate these payment methods.

The ABA RTN is necessary for the Federal Reserve Banks to process Fedwire funds transfers, and by the ACH Network to process direct deposits, bill payments, and other such automated transfers.

The ABA RTN system was developed in 1910 by the American Bankers Association.

Check 21 Act

The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (or Check 21 Act) or “Check act 21” or “21 check act” is a United States federal law, Pub.L. 108–100, that was enacted on October 28, 2003 by the 108th U.S. Congress. The Check 21 Act took effect one year later on October 28, 2004. The law allows the recipient of the original paper check to create a digital version of the original check, a process known as check truncation, into an electronic format called a "substitute check", thereby eliminating the need for further handling of the physical document. In essence, the recipient bank no longer returns the paper check, but effectively e-mails an image of both sides of the check to the bank it is drawn upon.

Consumers are most likely to see the effects of this act when they notice that certain checks (or images thereof) are no longer being returned to them with their monthly statement, even though other checks are still being returned. Another effect of the law is that it is now legal for anyone to use a computer scanner or mobile phone to capture images of checks and deposit them electronically, a process known as remote deposit.

Check 21 is not subject to ACH rules, therefore transactions are not subject to NACHA (The Electronic Payments Association) rules, regulations, fees and fines.

Cheque Truncation System

Cheque Truncation System (CTS) or Image-based Clearing System (ICS), in India, is a project of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), commenced in 2010, for faster clearing of cheques. CTS is based on a cheque truncation or online image-based cheque clearing system where cheque images and magnetic ink character recognition

(MICR) data are captured at the collecting bank branch and transmitted electronically.

Cheque truncation means stopping the flow of the physical cheques issued by a drawer to the drawee branch. The physical instrument is truncated at some point en route to the drawee branch and an electronic image of the cheque is sent to the drawee branch along with the relevant information like the MICR fields, date of presentation, presenting banks etc. This would eliminate the need to move the physical instruments across branches, except in exceptional circumstances, resulting in an effective reduction in the time required for payment of cheques, the associated cost of transit and delays in processing, etc., thus speeding up the process of collection or realization of cheques.

Data storage

Data storage is the recording (storing) of information (data) in a storage medium. DNA and RNA, handwriting, phonographic recording, magnetic tape, and optical discs are all examples of storage media. Recording is accomplished by virtually any form of energy. Electronic data storage requires electrical power to store and retrieve data.

Data storage in a digital, machine-readable medium is sometimes called digital data. Computer data storage is one of the core functions of a general purpose computer. Electronic documents can be stored in much less space than paper documents. Barcodes and magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) are two ways of recording machine-readable data on paper.

Digital ink

Digital ink may refer to:

Digital ink and paint in animation

Electronic paper

E-ink, a technology for electronic paper common in e-books

Windows Ink, a software suite for handwritten input in Microsoft products

Forms processing

Forms processing is a process by which one can capture information entered into data fields and convert it into an electronic format. This can be done manually or automatically, but the general process is that hard copy data is filled out by humans and then "captured" from their respective fields and entered into a database or other electronic format.

Input device

In computing, an input device is a piece of computer hardware equipment used to provide data and control signals to an information processing system such as a computer or information appliance. Examples of input devices include keyboards, mouse, scanners, digital cameras and joysticks. Audio input devices may be used for purposes including speech recognition. Many companies are utilizing speech recognition to help assist users to use their device(s).

Input devices can be categorized based on:

modality of input (e.g. mechanical motion, audio, visual, etc.)

whether the input is discrete (e.g. pressing of key) or continuous (e.g. a mouse's position, though digitized into a discrete quantity, is fast enough to be considered continuous)

the number of degrees of freedom involved (e.g. two-dimensional traditional mice, or three-dimensional navigators designed for CAD applications)


JavaPOS (short for Java for Point of Sale Devices), is a standard for interfacing point of sale (POS) software, written in Java, with the specialized hardware peripherals typically used to create a point-of-sale system. The advantages are reduced POS terminal costs, platform independence, and reduced administrative costs. JavaPOS was based on a Windows POS device driver standard known as OPOS. JavaPOS and OPOS have since been folded into a common UnifiedPOS standard.


OCR-A is a font that arose in the early days of computer optical character recognition when there was a need for a font that could be recognized not only by the computers of that day, but also by humans. OCR-A uses simple, thick strokes to form recognizable characters.

The font is monospaced (fixed-width), with the printer required to place glyphs 0.254 cm (0.10 inch) apart, and the reader required to accept any spacing between 0.2286 cm (0.09 inch) and 0.4572 cm (0.18 inch).

Optical Character Recognition (Unicode block)

Optical Character Recognition is a Unicode block containing signal characters for OCR standards.

Paper data storage

Paper data storage refers to the use of paper as a data storage device. This includes writing, illustrating, and the use of data that can be interpreted by a machine or is the result of the functioning of a machine. A defining feature of paper data storage is the ability of humans to produce it with only simple tools and interpret it visually.

Though now mostly obsolete, paper was once an important form of computer data storage as both paper tape and punch cards were a common staple of working with computers before the 1980s.

Patrick J. Hanratty

Patrick J. Hanratty is an American computer scientist and businessperson who is known as the "Father of CAD/CAM"—computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. As of 2013 he is President and CEO of Manufacturing and Consulting Services (MCS) of Scottsdale, Arizona, a company he founded. According to the University of California in 2012, industry analysts think that "70 percent of all 3-D mechanical CAD/CAM systems available today trace their roots back to Hanratty’s original code".


Recognition may refer to:

Award, something given in recognition of an achievement

Routing number (Canada)

A routing number is the term for bank codes in Canada. Routing numbers consist of eight numerical digits with a dash between the fifth and sixth digit for paper financial documents encoded with magnetic ink character recognition and nine numerical digits without dashes for electronic funds transfers. Routing numbers are regulated by Payments Canada, formerly known as the Canadian Payments Association, to allow easy identification of the branch location and financial institution associated with an account.

SRI International

SRI International (SRI) is an American nonprofit scientific research institute and organization headquartered in Menlo Park, California. The trustees of Stanford University established SRI in 1946 as a center of innovation to support economic development in the region.

The organization was founded as the Stanford Research Institute. SRI formally separated from Stanford University in 1970 and became known as SRI International in 1977. SRI performs client-sponsored research and development for government agencies, commercial businesses, and private foundations. It also licenses its technologies, forms strategic partnerships, sells products, and creates spin-off companies.SRI's annual revenue in 2014 was approximately $540 million. SRI's headquarters are located near the Stanford University campus. William A. Jeffrey has served as SRI's president and CEO since September 2014.

SRI employs about 2,100 people. Sarnoff Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of SRI since 1988, was fully integrated into SRI in January 2011.SRI's focus areas include biomedical sciences, chemistry and materials, computing, Earth and space systems, economic development, education and learning, energy and environmental technology, security and national defense, as well as sensing and devices. SRI has received more than 4,000 patents and patent applications worldwide.

Security printing

Security printing is the field of the printing industry that deals with the printing of items such as banknotes, cheques, passports, tamper-evident labels, security tapes, product authentication, stock certificates, postage stamps and identity cards. The main goal of security printing is to prevent forgery, tampering, or counterfeiting. More recently many of the techniques used to protect these high-value documents have become more available to commercial printers whether they are using the more traditional offset and flexographic presses or the newer digital platforms. Businesses are protecting their lesser-value documents such as transcripts, coupons and prescription pads by incorporating some of the features listed below to ensure that they cannot be forged or that alteration of the data cannot occur undetected.

A number of technical methods are used in the security printing industry. Security printing is most often done on security paper, but it can also occur on plastic materials.

Westminster (typeface)

Westminster is a printing and display typeface inspired by the machine-readable numbers printed on cheques and designed by Leo Maggs.In the 1960s, Leo Maggs was working at the Hazell Sun Group's design studio in Covent Garden, London. At that time, he was commanded to create a futuristic style title for an article of About the House (the magazine of The Friends of Covent Garden Opera House). Maggs based the letters of that title on the MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) system, E-13B, used on bank cheques. He then continued to design the rest of the letters of the alphabet in his spare time, basing their proportions on that of the Gill Sans typeface.The MICR E-13B font was designed for automated reading by a very simple magnetic reader in the early days of automatic character recognition. The weight of strokes in the characters can be recognised as "light" or "heavy" by a simple circuit and these patterns then map directly to the bit patterns of a computer character set. This made the characters practical to read before 'smart' OCR, but limited the length of the character set. E-13B has only 14 characters: the numeric digits and a few control codes. None of the alphanumeric 'computer' typefaces like Westminster could be read magnetically.

The work was presented to Letraset, but it was Robert Norton, founder of the Photoscript Ltd photo-typesetting company, who decided to produce it. The font was named by Norton and, according to Microsoft, it received its name from the then–Westminster Bank Limited (now NatWest) from the United Kingdom, that helped fund its production. It became included with Microsoft software after Microsoft hired Norton.

Since its design, the typeface has been strongly associated with computers—especially in the late 1960s and early-to-mid-1970s. It is used frequently to indicate computer involvement in television series, films, books, and comics.

ISO standards by standard number

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.