General Question

KrystaElyse's avatar

Have you ever heard of banks not cashing checks written in red ink?

Asked by KrystaElyse (3591 points ) March 10th, 2009

I am going on a cruise at the end of April and I wrote my friend a check so she can make the reservations. I wrote her a check with a red ink pen because it was the only one I had on hand and I didn’t think it made a difference. She just informed me that the bank will not cash it because it is in red ink. Has this ever happened to anyone before?

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25 Answers

sandystrachan's avatar

i have heard of something like this before.
something to do with ink other than the black and blue you are supposed to use can be forged more easily.

battlemarz's avatar

It may also have something to do with how they scan and save the checks. If it won’t scan well enough for their records they may not accept it.

robmandu's avatar

I looked around a bit. Sounds like there are some banks that do this. Others not. It might be a per-branch issue. So, try a different location.

Red ink photocopies just as well as anything else.

Can’t find a consistent, logical rationale. It’s one of those things that snopes.com should post an article about.

casheroo's avatar

I’ve always been told it has to be in black or blue. I’ve had to sign checks at the grocery store and they hand me green pens, if it’s all I have then I use it. I don’t think banks should be particular on that sort of thing. But, sorry, I don’t know the official rule.
Did she try to cash it already? Did the bank tell her this information?

KrystaElyse's avatar

It just seems odd. I’ve cashed checks written in colors other than black and blue before. I guess i’ll just have to write her another check! :P

@casheroo – Yeah, she just tried to cash it at her bank (i’m not sure which bank she uses) and they informed her that they can’t accept it because it is written in red ink. She also found this to be pretty odd!

Mr_M's avatar

For what it’s worth (and, admittedly, it might be absolutely NOTHING), I used to work in a place where time sheets could NOT be filled in with red ink, because the scanners they used to read it would not read red ink. Maybe it’s related to that.

AND, in the hospital’s I’ve worked in, the patient’s medical record had to be written in blue or black ink, in case it had to be copied for legal purposes.

marinelife's avatar

From Money Central on MSN

“It doesn’t help that rooted in many myths is the tiniest grain of reality, she adds. The trick is extracting that truth. Check out this collection of legends:

* Myth No. 1: You can float a check longer if you write in red ink. The theory is that a bank’s equipment can’t scan red ink, so it takes longer to process the check.

Poppycock, says Williams. The color of the ink makes no difference.

“However, gel ink doesn’t image well, which makes it difficult to verify the signature and the check,” says Tracey Mills, of the American Bankers Association. “As a result, the paying bank cannot authorize the transaction, and chances are the check will be returned to the creditor or merchant.”

Then, instead of getting some extra time on the float, you are socked with a returned-check fee.”

KrystaElyse's avatar

@Marina – Well i’m glad she found out and I don’t have to pay a returned-check fee, or else I would be absolutely furious.

Dog's avatar

@Marina GA!

On a side note I went to cash checks last month and two were denied as expired. 90 days and the bank (or at least MY BANK) will not cash them.

dynamicduo's avatar

It explicitly states on my chequebook to write using black or blue pen. I presume this has to do with the color red not appearing well when the cheque is automatically scanned and processed through the bank’s system. Obviously there is technology to fix this problem, but I guess some banks still do things the old way or with older equipment.

Mr_M's avatar

@dynamicduo then once they upgrade the technology to read red, people will start using yellow.

galileogirl's avatar

These days when you make a deposit at an ATM the scanner “reads” the check and asks you to verify it. A few weeks ago I deposited a check with poor handwriting and the ATM said it couldn’t verify the amount so the funds would not be immediately available. It didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t withdrawing that money, When you deposit inside the bank, they run it through machines and maybe that’s where the problem arose. The teller might have said the scan was illegible (scanners don’t always have copier quality) so the funds will not be available for X number of days. Or the bank may not accept scanner illegible instruments.

Banks have always been able to reject some forms of payment. I have heard of checks written on non-standard material, checks with obscene remarks written on them, checks written in pencil and the ever popular mortgage payment in coins. The bank can set any reasonable standard and the branch manager can make an interpretation.

KrystaElyse's avatar

@galileogirl – Mortgage payment IN COINS?! Wow, that’s just a tad ridiculous! Hahahaha.

robmandu's avatar

From @Marina‘s quip:

“However, gel ink doesn’t image well, which makes it difficult to verify the signature and the check,” says Tracey Mills, of the American Bankers Association.

What’s wrong with gel ink? After it’s dried, who can even tell the difference upon casual observation? Where’s the grain of reality that that myth is based on?

btko's avatar

If its not in blue or black ink its not cpnsidered a legal document

marinelife's avatar

@robmandu Apparently, it is how the scanner machines are calibrated. Here is an instance in which it messed up an election:

” The problem occurred with optical scan machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems, which failed to record voters’ marks off of paper ballots. The county used the company’s Optech system for processing paper absentee ballots.

Specifically, the machine was calibrated to detect carbon-based ink, but not dye-based ink commonly used in gel pens, Charles said. Prior to the election, a Sequoia technician ran test ballots through the machine to calibrate its reading sensitivity, but failed to test for gel ink.”

robmandu's avatar

Huh… that’s interesting.

Now, for scanners like those used for ballots, or what we in school lovingly called scamtron, I can see where those have specific ink/graphite requirement in order to read the answers correctly.

But a check is not a regular grid with fill-in-the-bubbles. I would normally think that would either require a necessarily more complex OCR capability (if that’s what it’s doing) – or – just regular old copier technology. In short, if the Post Office can scan thousands of hand-written addresses a minute, I’d like to think check scanning technology would easily be on par, if not better to help prevent forgery.

Oh well… so… we can use what?
– ballpoint pens
– rollerball pens
– fountain pens
– ink ball pens
– fine-point felt tip pens

…but not?
– highlighter pens
– pencils
– gel-ink pens
– blood
– red- or any other vanity-colored ink pens
– etc.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Krystal
Yes. Often it’s only blue or black and no other colors. Always use black if in doubt.

Snoopy's avatar

@Dog Not cashing a check > 90 days old is the standard, but not the rule….I recently had a check that I had written cashed after almost a year. What a pain to reconcile my checkbook each month

La_chica_gomela's avatar

My roommate tried to pay her half of our deposit with a check written in pink ink, and they wouldn’t take that either.

Personally, when I was a kid, my grandma taught me how to write a check, and she said to always use black or dark blue, so that’s what I’ve always done.

KrystaElyse's avatar

I usually write my checks in blue or black ink, but it was the only thing I had besides a pencil, so I figured it would have been okay. I ended up just writing her another check. I guess I learned my lesson.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

You live and learn. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

SeventhSense's avatar

Do them online and then you don’t need paper.

tedibear's avatar

@dog – it may depend on your state law as to how old the check can be for it to be considered negotiable. In Ohio it’s 6 months unless the check states otherwise on the face of that check.

@robmandu – Check scanning technology does vary from bank to bank. However, as the Federal Reserve is changing how they will accept items for processing, banks are having to upgrade their systems.

@galileogirlI really want to see one of these new ATM’s. They look so cool!

debbyinfl78's avatar

I work for a bank in the check processing department. My bank does currently take checks written in any ink. Many red pens, gel pens of multiple colors and fine tipped blue pens do not image well. We receive images that look completely blank. These physical documents then have to be sent for processing instead of the image. This increases the cost of processing, the chance for fraud and the time for processing. That is probably why the bank refused to take the item. I would imagine the larger banks decided it was too great of a cost and risk.The blank image you receive of your check will also make it difficult to prove to someone that you paid them.

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