How to Print Checks at Home: Secure On-Demand MICR Printing for Remote Workers

Author: Source Technologies

Without a doubt, the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 has thrown everyone off and shaken up the business world across most industries. People who never saw themselves working from home were expected to do just that — without missing a beat or causing a disaster such as a security breach.

Changes brought on by the pandemic may be sticking around longer than many first thought. With multiple waves, staying home is one way for high-risk employees to avoid unnecessary contact. Some employees also found they were more productive and less stressed once they got into their at-home work routines.

This could mean payroll and accounts payable employees may be permanently required to print checks at home.

If you want to have the flexibility to print your business checks at home, you may be asking “Is MICR toner required to print checks?” Or, “Are there MICR check printing requirements?” You may not know about the regulatory requirements for printing checks on demand. This blog is here to help you navigate the options to print checks from home, securely.

Do You Need MICR Toner to Print From Home?

MICR stands for magnetic ink character recognition. It was developed so both humans and equipment could read the same characters.

MICR toner is a special toner formulation that includes iron oxide, which is required by the Federal Reserve on all checks that are issued. The iron oxide in the toner is magnetized so the check number, account number, and routing number at the bottom of the check can be easily read by specialized banking equipment.

Because a check cannot be duplicated on a copier with MICR toner, MICR is also a way to reduce check fraud.

As you consider printing checks in the office or from home you have two options to consider:
  1. Using a standard printer and pre-printed check stock
  2. Secure on-demand MICR printing, which involves using a secure MICR printer and blank checks

Using Pre-Printed Check Stock

Some companies choose to use a standard printer and pre-printed checks (with the MICR line already printed along the bottom) to avoid purchasing a secure MICR printer. While this solution works, there are many drawbacks to utilizing pre-printed check stock that you should consider.

Pre-printed check stock costs more than blank check stock, and pre-printed check stock should be locked in a secure location (which can be difficult at home). Many companies won’t allow employees to take pre-printed check stock home because of the risk of the stock being stolen or misused.

Furthermore, any changes to your corporate logo, colors or address require new checks to be printed, resulting in costly waste. When using pre-printed check stock, employees are required to enter the serial number of the check in the accounting system to track the check. Naturally, issues can occur if the wrong serial number is entered into the accounting system by mistake.

Security is always top-of-mind for most companies when issuing checks, and pre-printed check stock doesn’t offer the level of security features that many companies are looking for. One of the biggest challenges is that pre-printed check stock requires a signature, which can be problematic for work-from-home employees that are not authorized to sign checks.

Secure On-Demand MICR Printing

Secure on-demand MICR printing was developed to address and fix many of the challenges just detailed with pre-printed check stock issuance.

This solution uses blank check stock, which costs significantly less than pre-printed checks. Because the stock doesn’t have the pre-printed MICR line, you also don’t have to secure it in a safe place at home. Many companies are more comfortable with this method because there is no risk if the stock is stolen.

When companies change a logo design or corporate address, these changes can be updated in the accounting system versus having new check stock printed. This eliminates a company having to securely destroy outdated pre-printed check stock and write off that expense.

When printing checks on-demand, the accounting or check printing software issues the serial number at the time of printing. As a result, employees are not required to enter the serial number manually in the system. This can drastically reduce errors and check voids.

One of the most significant advantages of printing on-demand is the ability to store authorized signatures on the printer so they can be applied at the time of printing. Most accounting systems and check printing software provide detailed accounting reports for audit purposes.

What’s Required for Secure On-Demand Printing at Home?

The following will detail everything your business needs to have remote employees securely print checks from home.

Secure Laser MICR Printer

A secure MICR printer is a standard laser printer that has been modified to print checks securely on demand. This includes modifying the printer firmware and adding technology to optimize the printer for printing checks.

Security is one of the primary reasons for upgrading to a secure MICR printer. These printers are loaded with fonts and security features to protect companies from experiencing internal and external check fraud.

Common security features you should require include:
  • Microprint font
  • Secure numeric font
  • ICR numeric font
  • Set copies to one (1)
  • Front panel security lock
  • Auto jam recovery disable
  • Password protection DES encryption/decryption
  • Audit trail
  • Datastream protection

Secure MICR printers are optimized to print MICR by adjusting the printer firmware. This includes adjusting the fuser temperature and print speed so that strong adhesion occurs between the MICR toner and the paper. This is critical so criminals don’t modify the check by picking off the toner on the check.

These secure printers also have a feature that detects whether a MICR toner cartridge is installed. This prevents the accidental installation of a non-MICR toner cartridge in a secure printer. Additionally, secure printers monitor the MICR toner density and shut the printer down when the density gets to the point where it’s not readable by banking equipment.

Lastly, one of the most important features of a secure MICR printer is its guarantee to meet the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Bankers Association (ABA).

MICR Toner

As mentioned previously, MICR toner is a special formulation that includes magnetized iron oxide that meets ANSI specifications for the standards of readability. It’s critical that the MICR toner you choose is developed and formulated for the specific secure MICR printer you are using. Rigorous testing and certifications go into the development of MICR toner to ensure strong adhesion and readability.

While MICR toner is sometimes more expensive than regular laser toner, the cost is significantly less than using pre-printed check stock. To continue, most manufacturers of MICR toner offer a standard and high-yield cartridge. The high-yield cartridge will have a higher cost but will come with a significant increase in page yields.

You should always divide the cost of the cartridge by the yield to determine and compare the cost-per-page. The cost-per-page should be significantly lower on the high-yield cartridge.

Blank Check Stock

Blank check stock can sometimes include a colored screen background but will always include a perforated line to detach the check.

There are many check producers online that carry this stock in inventory in multiple colors for immediate shipment. This is another benefit because you don’t need to wait for custom pre-printed check stock to be produced.

Most secure MICR printer manufacturers offer blank check stock to their customers as well, which is always tested in their printers for added assurance.

Check Printing Software

Source Technologies’ CheckPartner™ Enterprise (CPE) allows users to print MICR checks and other negotiable documents from any location, on demand, while maintaining centralized control of the process.

CPE is scalable, allowing a virtually unlimited number of item types, which makes it the perfect solution for businesses with multiple employees who need to print checks from home. Checks can be created manually or by importing data from other sources.

CPE’s Web Interface provides end users the ability to perform all the common business processes associated with check printing:
  • Authentication: Users log into the system via username and password
  • Item Types: Supports an unlimited number of disbursement items
  • Queues: A view of checks designed for a specific purpose
  • Printing: Checks may be printed individually or in a batch
  • Voiding: Authorized users can void checks
  • Manual Entry: Data-entry screens are used to enter checks into the system
  • Exporting: CheckPartner Enterprise can export data to other systems
  • Searching: Users can search for records using any search criteria
  • Reporting: Supports reporting using the plug-in interface
  • Approving: Admin-defined approvals by check type

Conduct a review of your home network’s security to make sure it meets the expectations of your IT team. Home networks aren’t always the most secure option. A secure and reliable firewall should be used for at-home computers, especially if they are used for work purposes.

Typically, a standard operating system (OS) is going to come with a firewall, and it should be active at all times. However, you may need a specialized firewall for more advanced protection if you are dealing with valuable data for remotely printing checks.

Always keep your computer and printer fully updated so that all security holes are patched as soon as they are caught. The latest versions of firmware will help you avoid commonly known security breach issues.

Restricted Access

Your computer and secure MICR printer shouldn’t be available to just anyone in your home or office space. Establish restricted access to keep your computer and accounting applications from anyone else living in the home.

Make sure the printer isn’t accidentally used to print homework or a return printing slip unless it’s approved by your work and through the correct channels. A boss or auditing authorities may not be understanding if unauthorized use occurs.

Monitoring and Auditing Capabilities

Whoever has check printing capabilities in their home should be responsible enough to properly print the checks. While you want to only give this role to a trustworthy employee, you should also have a series of checks in place to ensure the process is beyond reproach.

All check payments should be monitored or tracked, especially if you have multiple printing and working locations. Put clear guidelines in place from the very start so your employees understand what is expected and don’t feel as if their integrity is being questioned.

Training and Employee Education

Before assigning an employee to print from home, you should establish what the requirements are going to be for that process. The employee should go into the job ready to make the changes needed to fulfill the requirements of the print-at-home role.

Part of the monitoring and auditing process is going to depend on the employee being well-versed in what it takes to securely print checks from home. It isn’t fair to the employee if you hold best practice expectations without clearly communicating them.

While a formal education or course may not be needed, the supervisor should go over all expectations with the employee planning to take on the job. Going through the printing process, guidelines, and monitoring procedures will help the employee know what is expected and do their job successfully.

Digitized and Encrypted Signatures and Logos

Rather than needing to coordinate with the right executive for signatures, you can have encrypted and digitized signatures ready to apply to your checks as you print them. Some specialized MICR printers or software will allow you to store those signatures and logos securely so they can be applied to your checks without being a security risk.

A Backup Plan

It's always smart to have everything backed up and available to your printers via the cloud. You don’t want to lose much time if something goes wrong, since a lack of timely checks can cause an understandable stir.

Work with Source Technologies to find the right secure MICR check printing solutions for your needs. Our team is happy to work with your IT department to ensure we hit all the security measures you need to meet industry protocol and regulatory expectations.

We are well-versed in multiple industries, including:
  • Banks and financial services
  • Retail stores
  • Fortune 2000
  • Government
  • Municipalities

Contact Source Technologies today to get the ball rolling. We can talk you through our available MICR printers, software, cloud-based solutions, check printing supplies and more. Our secure technology will provide you with the resources you need to get the job done from the comfort of your home. Our experienced team will go the extra mile to help.

Book your discovery call now!