Can I print my own checks?

Well, it’s time at casa rjung 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?

You absoutely can. Have fun.


My only cite is the novel Hotel, where it is alleged that you can write a check on a bannana peel if you like, and that the bank will honor it as long as it has reason to belive it to be authentic.

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.

My dad prints his own cheques for his business. I forget what software he uses, though.

Some paper companies (Avery, maybe?) now make ‘cheque’ paper for your laser & inkjet printers.

There are other stories like this too. One is the guy who wrote a check on shirt and sent it to the IRS (taking the shirt off of my back).


You can print checks from within Microsoft Money 2002 (and probably other edtions):

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.

For the bank, I’m sure you can.

If you’re talking about going shopping with them, well, most stores won’t accept them, I would imagine.

Speaking as someone who worked in Accounts Payable for a company…

You can print them yourself if you so desire. You may to get special permission from the bank, and you’re definately going to need the magnetic toner that Fritz The Cat spoke about.

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. :smiley:

You mean the special routing codes/symbols? Or the specific position of the codes themselves?

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. :wink: