MICR Line Format Explained

It is the character-recognition technology invented in the 1950s that has allowed financial institutions to streamline or ease their check processing and clearance of cheques and other documents. The characters are printed with special MICR Fonts and are known as MICR Characters, which must be printed with MICR Toner or MICR Ink. It is important as once a check is deposited into the bank, it is sent to a central location for processing, where high-speed readers/sorters read the MICR line information by sending a magnetic charge to the paper and reads the routing number and the account numbers there. The checks are then sorted based on the MICR line information. Checks are usually sorted multiple times and then sent to internal holding, clearing houses, the Federal Reserve, or other destinations. Misread or unreadable MICR lines are repaired at this stage and the repair process adds costs and delays for the financial institutions. These costs are often passed to the company that printed the check.

MICR format requirements:

The MICR line has an established format that can cause rejects if the format conventions are not followed. The MICR line is composed of four fields. The fields are, from right to left: 1.Amount field, Positions 1-12 The amount field is fixed by convention as follows:
  • Position 1 contains the amount symbol.
  • Positions 2 and 3 contain the cents amount.
  • Positions 4 to 11 contain the dollar amount. An added zero fills each position to the left the dollar amount, up to and including position 11.
  • Position 12 contains the amount symbol.
2. On-us field, positions 14-31 The arrangement of characters and symbols in the on-us field is determined by the bank the checks are drawn on. These characters must be reproduced exactly as the bank has specified. Consultation with the bank is highly recommended. 3. Transit field, positions 33-43 The transit field identifies the institution upon which the check is drawn. The field is fixed by convention as follows:
  • Position 33 contains the transit symbol.
  • Position 34 contains the check digit.
  • Positions 35 to 38 contain the ABA bank number (numerator)*.
4. External process control field, position 44 (optional) 5. Auxiliary On-Us field, positions 45-65 (optional) Example:

*Note: In Canada a dash symbol is required in position 37. Positions 39 to 42 contain the routing number (denominator). Position 43 contains the transit symbol.


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