Printing your own personal checks at home can save you time and money, as well as allowing you to give your checks more personality. Contrary to popular belief, a check does not have to come from your bank to be valid.
Get the Right Equipment
Buy a printer. Most recent models of ink-jet and laser printers will work well, but make sure that your printer can handle magnetic ink and can print on check stock. The vast majority of brand-name printers are able to handle both, but to control costs, you may want to look into how much magnetic ink replacement cartridges cost for your particular model.
Buy magnetic ink. This step isn't essential, though it is highly recommended. To process your check quickly, banks use a machine to read the MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) line, which contains your account number and the bank's routing number. Without magnetic ink, banks aren't able to process your check automatically and have to do so manually, which sometimes results in a fee. The only reason to forgo magnetic ink is to save money, but considering the additional processing time and possible fees you may incur, it's hardly worth it.
Buy check stock. This is also not essential but is recommended for two main reasons. First, paper specifically designed for checks is more difficult to alter and is thus more secure. Second, heavier stock gives your checks a more "professional feel." Think of the impression you would get of someone who handed you a business card printed on regular printer paper. The principle is the same for checks.
Download or buy check-design software. Although designing your own checks from scratch is feasible, it is not exactly efficient. By using a template, you can ensure that the ideal dimensions and required elements are included on your checks. Prices for check-design software range from inexpensive to free. Many personal-finance and bookkeeping software suites include check-printing features. Check-design software also comes with MICR fonts, which are needed to print the MICR line.
Create Your Check
Enter the contact information, which includes the name and address of the account owner or "drawer" and the name and address of the bank or "drawee." The account owner's name and address usually appear in the top-left corner of the check; the bank's name and address are usually found near the lower-left corner.
Input the routing number. This is a nine-digit number that identifies your bank and appears at the bottom left of the check on the MICR line. Ask a bank employee if you aren't sure of what your bank's routing number is.
Input your account number with your bank, which appears to the right of the routing number on the MICR line at the bottom of the check. You can usually find this number on your bank statement.
Look at an existing check from your bank to find a fractional number (usually in small print in the top-right corner). Include this on your check as well, since it will help in identifying your bank if the MICR line cannot be read.
Number your checks. Pick an arbitrary starting number for your checks and keep track from there. Make sure you aren't duplicating numbers from other checks you've written on your account.
Fill out the payee, amount and memo lines. If you are making out a check at this time, go ahead and fill out the payee's name and the amount of your check. Or if you are simply designing a blank check, you are done.
Load up your printer with magnetic ink and check stock, and print your check, filled out and ready for your signature.
The recommended paper for checks is 24-lb. secure check stock.
Print a test page on normal stock to ensure that your design is aligned correctly.
The only line that requires magnetic ink is the MICR line. You can print out templates with the MICR ink and then use regular ink for the rest of the information.
MICR toner is preferable to ink, as magnetic particles in the ink cartridge tend to settle, resulting in unreliable checks that may not stand up to repeated scans.
Placement of the MICR is key. If it is not lined up properly, your check may be rejected. Check-design software eliminates this issue.
Printing your own checks involves a high start-up cost. Make sure you are printing enough checks to justify this.
- check book image by Rob Hill from Fotolia.com