I was just wondering about the paper and printer to use for secure custom designed checks, and realized that I have never seen the back of a check that doesn't look like the image in the above link. I am wondering what is required by banks on the back of the check. In that link above, there is a link to a answer to a question about custom designed checks, saying that there is no standard to check layout. But they only talk about the front of the check.

I'm wondering about the back of the check.

  • If it needs that "Original Document" watermark-looking blank section.
  • If it needs that box at the bottom (when holding vertically) saying the security features and some other stuff.
  • If it needs a line for the signature.

Or I'm wondering if I could simply have a line on the back of the check and that's it (a line for the signature). Or another design might be, put the MICR checking/routing numbers on the back instead of the bottom of the front, in addition to the signature line on the back. Oh I also read somewhere that the big blank area with the "Original Document" watermark is "reserved for financial institution / bank use", but I have no idea what that means.

Wondering if the bank is looking at the back of the check to determine security features of the check, or how secure it is, somehow, etc.

1 Answer 1


The standards for security features of a check are maintained by the Check Payment Systems Association (CPSA). They are the ones that own the padlock trademark that you see on every check, and they have standards for the minimum number of security features that need to be present in order to display the padlock icon.

The presence of the CPSA padlock icon is a quick way for anyone that receives a check to see that there are security features that can be found.

Even if you were able to produce the security features yourself, you would not legally be able to display the padlock icon on your checks without becoming a member of the CPSA.

As for the graphics and location on the back of checks, there are a series of ANSI standards that cover checks.

Remember that when you print checks, you are not printing them for yourself. The people you give them to want to know that you are giving them legitimate checks that their bank will accept, and when they take them to their banks, the bank tellers want to know that they are receiving legitimate checks. When you print checks in a cheap way, they look fake, both to the people you give them to and to the people working at their banks.

Purpose-specific check paper has the security features (and CPSA padlock icon) already printed on them. Check software ensures that the checks you print have all the standard elements in the correct locations. By using both of these products together, you can easily and inexpensively create checks that will be accepted by everyone without having to purchase and study expensive ANSI standards and join industry organizations.

  • Awesome, this was a very thorough and helpful answer, thank you so much. Thanks for the links to the standards and ANSI stuff too, that would be interesting to check out.
    – Lance
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 5:28
  • 1
    Darn, it's $60 to get access to the spec.
    – Lance
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 5:30
  • The padlock icon can be easily printed with any printer, so it should never be used by someone accepting a check as a sign of authenticity because anyone could just print it on the check real quick. So I don't see how this icon offers any benefit.
    – Lance
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 5:33
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    @LancePollard Of course, the padlock icon by itself is not a security feature, because it is easily printed. What the padlock icon does do is alert the recipient of the check that there are security features that should be present that you should look for. And if you have a check that doesn’t have any security features or padlock icon, it looks fake.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 5:45

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