What Ink Colors are Valid for Checks? 2022

Signing your name on the check is easy. Many of us sign checks every day like it’s no big deal. But is there a color pen to use when writing checks?

A lot of people believe that there’s a specific pen color that makes the check read more clearly. People will say a red pen for checks is the only one the bank teller can read. It turns out this is not true. Here’s some information and tips on colors you should use when writing checks.

What is a Check?

A check is a written, dated, signed instrument directing a bank to pay a specific sum of money to the bearer. The person writing the check—known as the payor or drawer—is different from the person to whom it is written, known as the payee. The drawee is the bank on which the check is drawn.

A check is a financial instrument that guarantees payment of a certain amount. Checks allow two or more parties to make a monetary transaction without needing physical currency.

Ink Color Matters

For many years, no laws have specified the colors of ink you can use to fill out checks. But most banks care because certain machines they use to validate checks often cannot identify ink that is not blue or black.

Can You Write a Check in Blue Ink?

What Color Pen To Use When Writing Checks

Yes. Blue ink, much like black ink, is considered a ‘standard’ ink color, meaning it’s well-processed, and scanners are unlikely to have any trouble with it. Blue is actually considered to be the best color to write your checks in, with black being a close second if you can’t track down a blue ink pen. Blue ink is also primarily used when signing legal or financial documents for reasons having to do with scanning and copying the original documents.

Can You Write a Check in Black Ink?

Yes. Next to blue ink, black ink is the preferred way to fill out checks. It scans well and is easy for tellers to read, making it unlikely that you or anyone you’ve paid will have any problems with cashing it. If you can’t track down a blue ink pen, black is a perfectly safe and acceptable option.

Can You Write a Check in Red Ink?

We would caution you against using red ink for your checks for the reasons mentioned above. Based on their banking policies, many banks will refuse checks written in non-standard ink colors – meaning anything not black or blue. Checks may be voided or even be declared fraudulent, the latter of which can get your account closed.

While red ink is used often to mark mistakes in manuscripts, wrong answers on a test, or voided checks, its contrast when scanned is the biggest issue. Due to the relative lack of contrast between the paper and the ink, writing a check in red ink can make a scanner think the check is actually blank.

Can You Write a Check in Pink, Purple, or Green Ink?

Much like with red ink, we caution you against using ‘fashion’ ink colors for your checks. It may be very ‘on brand’ to use bright pink, but most banks still prefer blue or black ink and may even void the check if it’s not in a standard color. This is partially history, as mentioned above, and partly just current bank policy. Also, since everything is scanned, those scanned copies must be legible to be legal, and light or bright ink colors don’t often scan well.

Why are Certain Ink Colors Not Accepted?

What Color Pen To Use When Writing Checks

There are actually a couple of reasons that most banks care about the color of ink you use on checks. The primary reason for this rule is that, in the past, the machines used to validate checks could not validate any ink color that wasn’t black or blue. These days, this has largely been fixed as the machines have been upgraded, but the policy remains the same in most areas. 

There’s also the issue of scanners, which can’t easily pick up on bright or light-colored inks such as red. So, for practical reasons, many banks will refuse checks that have been written in non-standard ink colors.

Other reasons for this rule include the fact that certain ink colors, especially red, can be difficult for those who are colorblind to see and read correctly, as well as the fact that many banks use red ink to mark checks as ‘failed to cash.’ In this case, the rule against red ink makes practical sense as it wouldn’t be clear who marked the check – the bank or the individual.

Cashing a check written in ink that is not blue or black may take significantly longer, as well – if the bank doesn’t outright reject it. Even if the bank doesn’t care about the ink color, the chances are that they will still have to manually approve the check, which requires a bank manager’s approval and will take considerably longer than cashing a check written in standard ink color.

Can Checks Be Written in Pencil?

Never write a check in pencil! Writing a check in pencil makes it easy for you to be taken advantage of since it’s easy to erase what you’ve written and replace it with something else. Handing someone a check written in pencil is essentially the same as handing them a blank check with your signature.

It may also make it appear as if a check has been tampered with, which often leads to long explanations and attempting to prove that the check is legitimate – which you may or may not be successful in doing.

So, What Color Pen To Use When Writing Checks?

We hope we have conveyed to you the importance of using suitable ink pens to fill out your checks and other legal documents. Remember our advice the next time you sign a check or put your signature on a credit/debit card.

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