Well, it’s time at casarjung to order another batch of bank checks. Unfortunately, I’ve never really enjoyed this process, since most of the check designs available don’t do anything for me – my interests, apparently, are too kooky for the folks who do bank checks to bother with. There are a few firms who will put a photo on checks, but the prices are outrageous.
So, being a geek-kind-a-guy, I figure, why not just print them myself? I’ve got a scanner, I’ve got a printer, as long as my check numbers aren’t duplicates and I have the right bank routing information, why not?
Is there a technical or legal reason why I can’t just pop up Photoshop, whip up a bunch of checks, and get something I really like?
Problem is with the ink you use. Most banks now use magnetic ink readers, if your checks are not printed with the routing numbers in magnetic ink, they may charge a fee for each check they have to manually process. Call and check before you start printing.
J. Spencer Love, an MIT grad student, once cashed a check written on a blackboard at a Kendall Square (Cambridge, MA) bank, just to prove this point. He was saddled with a special handling fee, but the check did, indeed, clear. It was reported in the MIT Campus Daily (The Tech) and in the Boston newspapers, but I was unable to find a complete copy of any of them online. The Best I could find was a first person guest column (The Tech, Friday, Feb 6, 1981, page 4) which was used as a test fror a ‘machine reading’ system. Unfortunately, the article “continued on next page”, which was not used as test data.
I knew J. Spencer back then, and it was my impression that the event took place in the late 70s (when I encountered him more often - I left MIT in May 1980), though the article says it was Jan 1981. I accept the article’s date, because a) It was reported by Love himself; and b) I was still in the Boston area, and still sometimes read the Tech and hung out with mutual friends in Jan '81.
Fritz, I don’t think the magnetic ink is necessary any longer. That used to be a consideration however today’s technology has made magnetic ink obsolete. Banks most likely use optical reading technology now.
Rattling around in my head somewhere is an instance of a “publicity stunt” check being inked on the torso of a bikini-clad woman, attended by various ribaldries about how it would get cancelled. I wonder if anybody remembers what this one was done for.
My bank still uses magnetic. It was in the “Conditions of Use” statement sent to me at the beginning of this year, stating the additional fee for processing. Thats why I suggested calling the bank before printing.
rjung: I use an early version of a program called VersaCheck. Bought it for $12 on sale at Office Depot, I believe. It contains the software and three different colors of check-stock (for 100 checks or so…)
You can customize the checks how you please. I have an icon of a Bee on mine.
You should be able to find this software for cheap; Pricewatch has VersaCheck 2001 for $15.
The ink or toner has never been a problem for me. I find the crucial item is the alignment of the code at the bottom of the check.
It must have been done more than once. I it done on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, probably from the late 60s. They wrote the check on a model’s back. I remember she was wearing blue bikini bottoms and strapless bikini cups glued to her. I don’t remember what the check was for or any other details. Hey, at the time that was still pretty racy and I was a teenager.
The little colon-dot symbol and the routing numbers are typically the touchiest. You have to have a very reliable form-feeder with limited skew. My Epson will print reliably while my HP sometimes botches it.
In the case that the scanner spits it back out, the cashier uses his keyboard, a moderate delay.
Just don’t try it at Von’s on a Saturday afternoon unless you’re dead certain about your alignment.