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A novel binarization method for courtesy amount recognition of color Chinese checks is proposed in this paper. It includes two steps: background removal and seal removal. In the first step, two complementary binarization methods (Otsu method and Niblack method) are combined. In the second step, a multi-stage method for seal removal is proposed. All the seal-like pixels whose colors are similar to red in HSI color space are extracted first. Then the covered strokes which are extracted in the first stage are brought back to the left image by thresholding in RGB color space. Experiments show that the proposed method performs very well with little noise and can be used to remove background and seals for courtesy amount recognition of Chinese checks.