Difference Between MICR and OCR

MICR and OCR are technologies increasingly being used in businesses these days. While OCR is Optical Character recognition, MICR stands for Magnetic Ink Character recognition. Though these techniques have similarities there are difference and specific uses that will be discussed in this article to help people differentiate between these two technologies.


MICR or My-ker as it is popularly known as is used in the banking industry in many countries of the world to ensure authenticity of a check or a demand draft using simple and inexpensive machines. The bottom line on these MICR checks is printed using a special magnetic ink. It is this ink that allows the information written on the check to be authenticated through machines. This facilitates processing of a huge number of checks in a single day which is otherwise very tedious. MICR typeface has only 14 characters in it including 0-9 and four special symbols that indicate Transit, Amount, on/us, and dash. As MICR is limited to only 14 characters, it is not possible to print an entire check using this special magnetic ink.


OCR allows a machine to automatically recognize characters using an optical mechanism. Most of the OCR systems recognize numbers only and very few of them can understand the full alphanumeric range. OCR is used to enter data automatically into a computer for processing. OCR was initially used to decipher petroleum credit card sales drafts. This application allows recognition of the purchaser with the help of the credit card account number. Any standard form or document with repetitive variable data is easily read using OCR technology.


• While MICR is mainly limited to finance industry, particularly banks to prevent frauds through use of counterfeit checks and demand drafts, OCR has much wider application and is used in many industries.

• OCR is today being used in schools, government institutions and other businesses.