Are Check Printing Services Legal?

July 29, 2021

Are Check Printing Services Legal?

Did you know that you can write a check on a bar napkin, and a bank might still cash it? Indeed, pre-printed checks might have been the standard, but there are other ways you can write a valid check.

One of the most popular methods to manage checks these days is with specialized check printing services and software. All you have to do is sign up and print personalized checks at home.

To some, this sounds too convenient, and they might even wonder whether these services are legal. Rest assured; in the U.S., check printing services are 100% legal, as long as they follow specific guidelines.

What Is a Negotiable Instrument?

Any signed document that promises a specific payment to a person or an assignee is referred to as a negotiable instrument. It's a written "IOU" that needs to name the payee for them to receive the payment.

The negotiable instrument is a transferable document promising a future payment at a specific date or on-demand. If the definition of the negotiable instrument sounds familiar, that's because the term is primarily used in the context of checks.

To be more specific, the most evident example of a negotiable instrument is the personal check. On the other hand, a cashier check requires particular funds to be first allocated before the check can be issued. Other examples of a negotiable instrument are a promissory note, certificates of deposit, and bills of exchange.

But why is understanding the negotiable instrument important for defining the legality of check printing services? According to Uniform Consumer Court Regulations, as long as a check contains all elements of a negotiable instrument, it falls into the category of legal tender and must be accepted by financial institutions.

If you're using a check printing service that follows all the guidelines, printing checks at home or work is perfectly legal.

How Check Printing Services Work

If you've never used a check printing service before, you might be wondering if they're the time and money-saver they're supposed to be. 

Consider having to write a check by hand. It's an entire process, and there's plenty of potential to make an error and have to start over. It doesn't take that long to write one, but all those extra seconds add up if you have to write dozens regularly. Like if you run a small business that needs to pay vendors, contractors, and employees every month. 

A check printing service can streamline that process. You simply register an account, enter your banking information, customize the check's appearance, and print as many checks as you need.

Essentially, the whole process of "writing" checks becomes simplified and fast. However, there are a few aspects of check printing that you need to be aware of before getting the most out of this service.


It's impossible to talk about checks or the check printing software without highlighting the importance of the MICR line.

Have you ever noticed the set of characters in the bottom left corner of your pre-printed checks? These characters represent:

  • Check number
  • Bank account number
  • Bank routing number

The MICR line allows the computer to quickly read and record all the characters on printed documents. Every reputable check printing service must have the MICR encoding included in their services. 

Technically, a check can be valid without the MICR line if it contains readable and pertinent information. However, the presence of MICR lines has become the standard as it makes the check-clearing process automatic. It makes it easier for bank and merchant clerks to read the checks. MICR technology enables a computer to read the characters even if they are covered with ink, stamps, or cancelation marks.

No Need for Special Paper

Traditional checks are printed on special paper. This type of paper's quality is somewhat different from what you get with standard office printer paper. While you can choose to purchase the check stock paper for check printing at home, it's unnecessary. Modern check printing services and software are compatible with the standard printing paper, making this process even more convenient.

Access to a Printer

You don't need a special type of printer to have the option of printing your checks at home or the office. It can be a regular old laser-jet, ink-jet, or offset printer. 

Some brands have special check printing features such as adding watermarks. However, if you don't have a printer at home or don't want to invest in a printer for your small business, there are other options. You can find a suitable printing company that uses MICR technology and have them prepare the checks for you.

Who Benefits From Check Printing Services?

As mentioned, check printing services are perfectly legal. However, you might wonder who benefits from these services the most. The most straightforward answer is — everyone. As an individual, you can forget about carrying your checkbook around. When you need to use a check, all you have to do is print it.

But it's crucial to emphasize that check printing services are incredibly convenient for small businesses and freelancers. Business owners can rely on check printing services to manage payroll and pay vendors.

Most check printing services offer various software integrations. It allows bookkeepers, for example, to import data from other online tools and streamline their workflow.

Anyone who wants more security, convenience, and flexibility will likely appreciate check printing services. Plus, saving time on manually filling out pre-printed checks is a significant benefit worth keeping in mind.

The Future of Checks

The somewhat unique definition of a check has allowed people to have fun with the idea. You've probably seen the comically large checks issued to charity foundations and lottery winners for photo ops.

These checks won't fit in your wallet, but they're still legal. As long as the check falls under the definition of a negotiable instrument, it doesn't matter what it was written on – the banks will have to accept it. On the other hand, your landlord and vendors are not legally required to accept a check written on the back of a grocery list.

With check printing services, you bypass any confusion regarding checks and receive significantly more security and protection against check fraud. All that matters is to find the best service for your personal or business needs.


Contact ZoomChecks and receive a 14-day free trial today.