MICR : Java Glossary

MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition). If you look at the bottom of a cheque in Canada or the USA, the bank, branch and account number are written in a strange font MICR E-13B with magnetic ink.


transit Transit symbols surround the bank number.
amount Amount symbols surround the cheque amount (printed after the cheque as deposited).
on us On-us symbols surround the cheque sequence number. An on-us is also used after, but, oddly, not before the account number.
dash Dashes just break the fields up to make them more human-readable.

Canadian Cheque Numbering American Check Numbering
Canadian cheque American check
First comes the optional on us sequence number, then the transit  bank transit number, then the dash institution number, then the branch/account, then the amount amount (printed after the cheque as deposited). Sometimes the on us cheque sequence number comes at the end. Another variant is an on us auxiliary cheque sequence number tacked on the end. It is not part of the account number. First comes the transit routing number, then the sequence number, then the account number, then the amount amount (printed after the cheque as deposited).

Often you will see another pattern:
transit routing number  transit account number  on us sequence number

Looking at a blank cheque, you know the cheque sequence number and your account number. What is left over in the bank transit/routing information. The one complication is your MICR account number often has some high order account digits you do not usually bother to specify, which often encode the branch.

There is no standard check-digit scheme. One misread or tampered digit takes money from some completely unrelated person’s account. I suppose it is a miracle that banks were able to agree on any rules for a common cheque format at all, but I am still appalled at the lack of standardisation and orthogonality. The banks don’t even agree on the date format, so you can’t tell if 01-10-2010 means January 10 or October 1. That is absurd! The current lack of standardisation makes it unusual for someone to transmit his electronic banking information for direct deposit accurately on the first try.

You can buy magnetic ink for ink-jet printers and software to print cheques from G7 Productivity. You can buy magnetic ink for laser printers from many suppliers.

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