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Is it okay to write checks in red ink?

Writing checks is a common practice for making payments and transferring funds. While most checks are written in standard black or blue ink, some people prefer using other colors like red, green, or purple. But is it acceptable to write checks in red ink? Let’s take a look at some of the pros, cons, legalities, and best practices around check ink color.

The Purpose of Check Ink

First, it helps to understand why check ink matters in the first place. The color of ink used to write a check has a few key purposes:

  • Legibility – The ink needs to be clearly readable and stand out on the check.
  • Security – Colored ink makes some types of check fraud more difficult.
  • Identification – The ink color can help identify the check writer.
  • Acceptance – Checks need to be written in ink colors that banks will process.

For these reasons, the ink color choice does have some importance when it comes to writing valid, secure checks. Financial institutions recommend certain ink colors to optimize legibility, security, and acceptance.

Pros of Writing Checks in Red Ink

There are some potential benefits to writing checks in vivid red ink:

  • Legibility – Red ink stands out sharply on a check and is easy to read.
  • Distinction – The unique color makes the check easier to locate in records.
  • Security – Red ink does not photocopy or scan well, helping prevent fraud.
  • Style – Some people just think red ink looks cool and expresses their personality.

The high visibility of red ink on a check background helps make it more readable. And the uncommon ink color makes the check stand out for recordkeeping purposes. Red ink’s poor duplicability offers modest anti-fraud benefits as well. So people choosing red may also simply enjoy its look and the ability to customize their checks.

Cons of Writing Checks in Red Ink

However, there are also some downsides associated with red check ink:

  • Customary – Black or blue ink is standard, and red may look unconventional.
  • Professionalism – Some view brightly colored ink as less professional.
  • Processing issues – A small percentage of banks may not process red ink checks.
  • Alteration concerns – Red can theoretically be changed to other dark colors without detection.

Checks in standard blue or black ink match what account holders are accustomed to seeing. Unnaturally colored ink like red may be perceived as less professional or businesslike by some banks and recipients. The biggest issue is that a small number of financial institutions may have scanners that don’t properly detect red ink, leading them to reject or delay processing of the check. And despite the anti-fraud benefits, red ink can actually be chemically modified into other dark colors, raising alteration concerns.

Legality of Writing Checks in Red Ink

There are no laws in the United States prohibiting writing checks in red ink. The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) sets guidelines for negotiable instruments like checks. But the UCC does not specify what color of ink checks must be written in, simply stating that they “contain an unconditional promise or order to pay a sum certain in money.” Essentially, checks can legally be written in any readable ink color, though issues may occur if a bank cannot process them.

Bank Acceptance of Red Ink Checks

Bank Accepts Red Ink Checks?
Bank of America Yes
Wells Fargo Yes
Chase Yes
Citibank Yes
Capital One Yes
TD Bank Yes

Most major banks in the United States confirm that they can process and accept checks written in red ink, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Citi, HSBC, Capital One, TD Bank, and PNC. The ability for their systems and scanners to read red ink allows them to handle red checks. However, it’s possible that some smaller regional or local banks may face issues with red ink.

Professional Opinions on Red Ink Checks

Here are the stances of some finance and accounting experts on using red ink for checks:

  • IRS – The IRS does not prohibit checks written in red ink, but notes they may cause delays or non-acceptance.
  • AICPA – The American Institute of CPAs suggests avoiding red due to potential processing problems.
  • AGA – The Association of Government Accountants recommends against red over legibility and alteration concerns.

While not banning red ink, the IRS, AICPA, and AGA point out it is an abnormal ink color for checks and can lead to problems. Overall, professional accounting and finance groups view brightly colored inks like red as riskier than standard blacks and blues.

Our Recommendation on Red Ink Checks

Based on the considerations around acceptance, legality, security, and professional perceptions, our recommendation is to avoid using red ink if possible when writing checks. The standard black or blue ink colors are universally recognized and processed. Though many major banks allow red ink, issues are more likely to occur compared to checks written in typical darkened colors. And red ink on checks may look less professional to some recipients. For occasional personal checks to individuals it may be fine, but use caution with red ink for important or large business or commercial checks. Overall, sticking to black or blue ballpoint pen ink remains the safest and most accepted option for check writing.


Writing checks in red ink is not explicitly illegal, but does come with some potential downsides related to bank acceptance rates, security risks, alteration concerns, and perceptions of professionalism. While the high visibility of red ink can aid legibility and identification, the unconventional color may delay processing or cause rejection by some financial institutions’ systems. Experts recommend avoiding red dyes due to the potential problems. For trouble-free check writing and deposits, standard black or blue ballpoint pen ink remains the best choice.