Can I make my own cheques?
April 21, 2005 8:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm running low on personalised cheques, and since I don't use them very often anymore, I'm not inclined to order more. A colleague at work said 'why not make your own?' So I'm pondering working some up on the computer following one of my cheques sitting here on my desk.

And I recalled that last summer, a tenant came in with a bunch of post-dated 'cheques' for his apartment rent. He'd written one out himself, with all the information that's on a 'regular' cheque, such as account and transit numbers, branch name and address, etc., then photocopied and cut them. I was dubious, but took them to the accountant, who looked at them, and said basically, 'yep, they're valid'.

Anyone else ever do this? Found a nice template online? Had them refused? I'm in British Columbia, Canada, by the way, if anyone's referencing laws.
posted by Savannah to Work & Money (11 answers total)
You can, but the digits at the bottom are printed with a magnetic ink for automated sorting. Banks may get upset at you if this line is printed with non-magnetic ink.
posted by trevyn at 9:06 PM on April 21, 2005

Also, I believe the scanner devices at retail locations, like grocery stores, use MICR (note how most places will even give your paper cheque back to you after scanning), so you'd have trouble using them at these locations without printing with the magnetic ink.
posted by odinsdream at 9:19 PM on April 21, 2005

I've been printing my own checks with VersaCheck and a standard Epson Inkjet Printer for the last few years (here in the US). I've never had a problem with my bank or any other for that matter. Every check does come back with teh additional white strip along the bottom.

...Now that I've read this, my bank will be calling me tomorrow...
posted by stew560 at 9:51 PM on April 21, 2005

I actually did this for a few months about ten years back. About half the checks went through fine, and about half got hung up at some mysterious level between banks, necessitating lots of phone calls and sometimes payment of fines, which could be reversed with more phone calls and waiting on hold. It was a nightmare. But it may have become easier since.
posted by LarryC at 9:51 PM on April 21, 2005

I've been using Check Printing 2000 for several years now. It's free.

You can buy blank check stock in just about any office supply store.

Most modern banks use purely optical character recognition these days making magnetic ink unnecessary (I have yet to have a problem with any of my self printed checks)
posted by zerokey at 11:42 PM on April 21, 2005

Interesting! Are hand written checks also acceptable?
posted by fairmettle at 3:45 AM on April 22, 2005

Most modern banks use purely optical character recognition these days making magnetic ink unnecessary

Um, working in banking here. Um, not true. MICR is still used. You should look at your bank's terms and conditions. It will probably have some clause that says, roughly, "If you choose to use poor quality and/or homemade checks and/or deposit slips, and this screws shit up, it's your problem, dude." Some banks may be more sympathetic, but keep in mind that every un-MICR'ed check has to be removed, stripped (as stew said above), and put back through. This introduces more human beings into the process, which introduces more room for error. Every hand encoded item, IMHO, is a better chance for a $50.00 check to become a $500.00 one.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:05 AM on April 22, 2005

The straight dope says you're free to write them on any old scrap of paperas long as you can find someone willing to take them.
posted by miniape at 5:43 AM on April 22, 2005

If you have a laser printer you can get MICR toner so your checks will be just as good and machine readable as the ones you buy. The toner isn't cheap, though.
posted by zsazsa at 6:27 AM on April 22, 2005

Under the UCC, in order to be considered negotiable, an item must meet the following requirements:

1)Must be in writing
2)Must be Signed by maker
3)Must be Unconditional promise or order to pay
4) Must specify a sum certain amount in money
5) Must be payable on demand or at a definite time
6) Must be payable to order or bearer

Also, sample Terms and Conditions regarding what you may or may not use to transact against your account:

If you do not purchase your blank checks and deposit forms from an authorized vendor, you must be certain that we approve the blank checks and deposit forms you purchase. We may refuse any withdrawal or transfer request that you attempt on forms not approved by us or by any method we do not specifically permit. If we do honor a nonconforming check, we may impose and you shall pay a check-processing fee.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:09 AM on April 22, 2005

If you think the fee that your bank charges for replacement checks (via a check-printing service that they use), you can get checks printed by another company (that you pick) at a lower cost (and/or with a design or personalization that you really like). If you type "checks" into google, you'll get tons of links (and ads) for such companies.

I followed the links to check on pricing - for example, here is a fairly standard design that costs $7.99 for 150 duplicate checks (which is one thing you can't create if you print your own), plus shipping.

Given that a year or two supply of checks would cost you less than $15, it's not clear printing your own checks would be a prime do-it-yourself project, unless you like that sort of thing (or have a lot of time on your hands).
posted by WestCoaster at 12:10 PM on April 22, 2005

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