What is a routing number?
What is a routing number?
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What is a routing number?

Of all the passwords, authentication codes, logon numbers, and PINs you have to remember, it's likely your bank or credit union's routing number might slip from your memory from time to time. (Or, more accurately, always.) Sometimes it's a feat just to remember everyday numbers like our phone number or social security number — much less your bank's code.


Don't sweat it.


Whether you're dealing with multiple routing numbers for all your accounts or just trying to set up direct deposit for work, we can help you find your routing number, your account number, and understand the difference between the two. 


What are bank routing numbers and account numbers?


Every time you use your debit card or write a check, make a deposit or receive a payment, your bank requires two numbers to identify your account to process the transaction: a routing number and an account number. 



What is the routing number? 

A routing number is a nine-digit number that banks use to locate other financial institutions.


An ABA Routing Number, also known as an ACH routing number, a routing transit number, or an ABA RTN (American Bankers Association Routing Number), is assigned to every bank qualified by the United States' Federal Reserve Bank.


That's a fancy and formal way to say that every financial institution is more than a name. It's also a number. Your routing number identifies which bank or credit union has your account.


Every account holder at the same bank shares the same routing number.


What is the account number?


While your routing number identifies which financial institution you're banking with, your account number identifies your specific banking account.


Regardless of whether you're using your checking account or your savings account, you will have the same routing number. However, you will have different account numbers for the different account types, and each individual account. 


Although bank routing numbers are always nine digits long, bank account numbers can range from five to 17 digits long. This includes account numbers assigned to your loans, certificates of deposit, even your bank's credit card account.



What's the difference between routing and account numbers?


There are plenty of times when you may need to locate your bank routing and account numbers. You may need these numbers when you're enrolling in direct deposit, using a wire transfer, or setting up automatic payments for your bills. Knowing how to find these numbers on your own is a valuable component of your personal financial literacy. 

Routing numbers

If you are planning to call a customer service line, asking for your routing number will be relatively easy and will generally not require them to confirm your identity. This is because your routing number is specific to your bank rather than to your personal account.


Routing numbers are not considered to be sensitive information since everyone at the bank or credit union uses the same number. You don't even have to log on to your online banking site to access it

Account numbers

Since your account number is solely tied to your personal account, locating your account number isn't as easy as checking your bank's generic website or contacting its customer service team. Because your account numbers are private, they are protected information and require that you log in to your online banking or mobile banking to find your account numbers.


You can have many account numbers at one financial institution, one for each account, and they will all have the same routing number. If you have multiple bank accounts and more than one bank or credit union, you also have different ABA routing numbers for each financial institution.


Where do you find the routing number on a check?


Any one of your paper checks will provide one of the easiest locations for finding your bank's routing number. Unlike account numbers, routing numbers are even included on the carbon copy check paper that some use to keep track of the checks they’ve written. (Which is great if you can only track down one of your old spent checkbooks.)


If you look at the bottom of your checks, you'll notice three sequences of numbers. The first set of numbers, which should be nine digits long, make up your bank's routing number. Done!


Where do you find the routing number when online banking?


Finding your routing number online can be a little more tricky than finding it on your check because the location of routing numbers online is not standardized. While some banks list routing numbers with individual online banking accounts, others do not. 


Because routing numbers are not a piece of your secure information and apply to all accounts at your bank or credit union, many financial institutions post their routing numbers on their websites. Many will include it near the top of the page or in the footer, or bottom, of the webpage. You might also find it listed with your bank or credit union's frequently asked questions.


If you do log on to your online banking, your routing number can be found on your e-statements, as well.


Where else can you find your bank routing number?


One of the easiest ways to find your routing number online is to type "routing number" into your bank's search field.


If you can't find your bank's search bar or your bank doesn't have a search bar, you can also search for results on any website by typing "site:url search term" into the search engine. For example, if you type "site:usaa.com routing number" into Google, the top result is the page on USAA's website that discusses routing numbers.


Other ways to find your bank's routing number include contacting your bank's customer service team. Some banks include it on their recording if you are on hold. You can also look at the most recent bank statement you've received in the mail.


Where do you find your account numbers?


As with your bank's routing number, your checks provide the easiest access to your checking account number. Just be sure that you're looking at the check or online account associated with the correct bank account since these vary for each account.

Find your account number on a check 

If you have the correct checkbook on hand, your account number will be listed at the bottom of each check. You'll find three sequences of numbers. The first set of numbers, which is nine digits long, is your bank's routing number, while the second set of numbers is your account number. 


Checks associated with your checking account will not help you locate your savings account number or your loan account.


The third set of numbers on your check will be the check number, which changes with each check.

Find your account number in online banking

 Whether you can't find your checkbook or don't have a checkbook for the specific account you're trying to locate, there are plenty of times when it makes sense to find your account number online instead.


Each bank stores account numbers in a slightly different place. However, in general, you can locate your account number by heading to the appropriate website, clicking on the bank account you need the account number for, and looking into the account details. 


Account numbers may not be displayed in full, having some numbers "masked" with asterisks instead of numbers. (This is done to help keep the number private.) Many online platforms will include the account number in the account details or account information.

Other locations to find your checking account number

If you don't have access to your checkbook or online banking account, there are other options for finding your banking account number.


One option is to look at your last bank statement for the account. You can also contact the customer service team for your bank or look at a deposit slip.


Security of your account number


Your account number is a key piece of your personal information. Your bank or credit union will take advanced steps to protect it.


For security reasons, you cannot find your full account number on non-bank communications. For example, your credit report will not display your account number. If you believe the wrong account is being used to determine your credit score, submit a dispute with the credit bureau in question.


Other account numbers are also protected, too. Your credit card number may be different from its actual account number. This allows your credit card number to be changed if your card is lost or stolen without changing your entire loan account. Banks use the same practice with debit cards to protect your checking account’s number.


Alert: if you are contacted by phone, email, or text and asked for your account number, do not reply or hang up. Your bank knows your account number and will never ask you for it! If they need to confirm your identity, your bank or credit union will ask other questions about you to be certain you are authorized to access your accounts. Being skeptical isn’t rude; it’s smart — and your actual bank won’t be offended.


Do you use the same routing number for all your bank accounts?


If you use the same financial institution for all your banking needs, then you will have the same routing number for all your bank accounts. If you exclusively use a particular bank, then you'll have the same routing number when you make an ACH transfer or a deposit to another account. 


Be aware that some financial institutions may use a second routing number just for wire transfers, so be sure to ask in that case before sending money.


You'll come across a different routing number if you work with more than one bank. For example, you might have one bank that has your checking account and savings account associated with it, but you may have chosen to go through a local credit union when obtaining your homeowner's loan. In this case, the account associated with your loan would have a different routing number from the routing number associated with your checking and savings accounts.


Routing numbers are easy to locate


Even without being able to remember your routing number off the top of your head, feel confident in your financial literacy by understanding routing and bank account numbers and where to find them


Never again will you need to wonder, "Where is the routing number located on a check?" (Especially if you never write checks.) Whether you're working with a national bank or a credit union in your community, you can use these same instructions to locate your routing and bank account numbers.

Tags: My finances, Rewards banking, Banking

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