A routing number is a unique number that identifies a specific banking institution. Each routing number is made up of nine digits. Routing numbers are sometimes referred to as an American Banker’s Association routing transit number or an ABA RTN.
Account numbers, on the other hand, identify your individual account and are usually 8 to 12 digits long. In many cases, such as when you set up a direct deposit for savings, you need to provide both the bank’s routing number and your account number. These two identifiers work together to make sure the money goes to the correct bank and account.
You can avoid delays and potential fees by getting your routing number right the first time. Learn how to find your routing number on a check, through your online account, or by contacting your bank.
Purpose of Routing Numbers
Routing numbers were created in 1910 to make the processing of checks easier and more secure. Because this was prior to the age of computers, the routing number helped to identify the paying bank. Someone bringing a check to another bank could verify exactly which bank the funds would come from. Rather than misreading a bank’s name and confusing it with another bank, the money went exactly where it should.
Today, routing numbers continue to make transactions between financial institutions, banks, and credit unions easy and secure. You might need to provide a routing number for automatic bill payments, wire transfers, direct deposits, and paying your taxes.
How To Find Your Routing Number
While some small banks may only have one routing number, most larger banks have multiple. Your routing number is tied to the state or branch where you opened your account. For instance, a Bank of America branch in New Jersey will have a different routing number than a branch in New York. Your account itself might also have different routing numbers based on the transaction you’re performing. For example, if you’re setting up a direct deposit, the routing number could be different than when you’re doing a wire transfer. But don’t worry, you can locate the right routing number easily in three main ways.
On your personal checks: The routing number is almost always located on the bottom left of the check, but sometimes it’s listed in the middle. Remember that you won’t get a routing number on a debit card, as your debit card uses an entirely different numbering system.
Through your online bank account: When you’re logged in to your online account, you should be able to find your routing number under your checking account information. Sometimes it’s displayed near your account number or account nickname. When in doubt, use the search or help option through your online banking portal.
By contacting your bank directly: If you’re unable to find your bank’s routing number or want to double check that you have the right one, contact your bank. Send them a message through an online chat or call customer service.
When You’ll Need Your Routing Number
You might need your routing number for a variety of different situations. Knowing how to find it will make life a little easier.
Automatic bill payment: If you pay a bill through your bank, like your electricity or cell phone, you may need to input your routing number when you link your account.
Direct deposit: When your paycheck is direct deposited into your checking account, you’ll need to provide your routing number. If you’re an independent contractor or freelancer, you may have to provide this information to every new client.
Money transfers: If you’re sending money domestically or internationally, you’ll may need your routing number. Look online or contact your bank directly to ensure you’re using the right digits.
Check processing: To deposit incoming checks, you may need to supply your routing number.
Tax payments: If you owe taxes to the state or federal government, you can often have it withdrawn directly from your bank account using your routing number and account number.
What To Do If Your Routing Number Changes
If two banks merge or if one bank acquires another, your routing number might change. It’s a rare occurrence, but if it happens, it’s helpful to know what to do. As an account holder, you’ll be given notice of the change with enough time to make adjustments.
Follow the steps issued by your bank: You’ll know months in advance if your routing number is going to change. Your bank will inform you of any necessary steps, such as changing your automatic bill payments to the new routing number.
Update your automatic transactions: Consider all of your automatic deposits, withdrawals, and money transfers. Make sure to switch each of them to the new routing number. Be sure your employer has the right direct deposit information. It’s better to make the changes earlier than later, so nothing gets stuck in limbo.
Order new checks: Your old checks might work for a while, as your bank phases out the old routing number. You’ll need new checks eventually, so it may be wise to go ahead and place your order. Check to see if your bank will give you a free box of checks for the switch.
Keep your financial records current: Update your financial documents to ensure they’re accurate. Be sure any account and routing information is kept in a secure, confidential location.
Knowing how to locate your routing number and important banking information helps you to be more in charge of your finances. From budgeting your automatic payments to socking away cash for a family vacation, you can be well on your way to financial prosperity. After all, when you’re confident about your finances, you can better enjoy all that life has to offer.