Routing Number vs. Account Number: What’s the Difference?

Every financial transaction linked to a bank requires two essential pieces of information to identify customers: routing number and account number, both assigned when opening an account.

You can find both of these on the bottom of paper checks, and these numbers are also needed when making electronic bank transfers or electronic transfers online. Read on to see how these numbers differ from each other and how to use them.

Key points to remember

  • Account and routing numbers work together to identify your account and ensure your money ends up in the right place.
  • Financial institution routing numbers are known as RTN (Routing Transit Numbers) or ABA (American Bankers Association) routing numbers.
  • Both numbers are needed to perform many basic banking transactions.
  • The routing number indicates in which bank your account is held.
  • The account number is your unique identifier with that bank.

Routing number vs account number: an overview

Whether you need to set up a direct depositlike your paycheck or ordering checks online, you’ll need both your bank’s routing number and your account number for these transactions.

Account numbers look a lot like a customer ID or a fingerprint specific to each account holder. Routing and account numbers are assigned to indicate precisely where the funds for a transaction are coming from and going to.

Similarly, routing numbers identify each banking institution with a unique numeric identifier. Every time you do a Electronic funds transferfor example, routing and account numbers must be provided to the relevant financial institutions.

Routing numbers are always nine digits and account numbers are usually between nine and 12 digits, although some may be longer.

Routing number

The routing number (sometimes called the ABA routing number, relating to the American Bankers Association) is a nine-digit sequence used by banks to identify specific financial institutions in the United States. This number proves that the bank is a federally or state chartered institution and maintains an account with the Federal Reserve.

In the past, ABA routing numbers were used with paper checks, and ACH routing numbers were associated with wire transfers and account withdrawals. However, most 21st century banks use a routing number for all transactions, electronic or paper.

Smaller banks usually have one routing number, while larger multinational banks may have several different ones, usually depending on the state in which you hold the account. Routing numbers are most often required when ordering checks, paying consumer bills, setting up direct deposit (like a paycheck), or paying taxes.

Routing numbers used for domestic and international flights Bank transfers are not the same as those shown on your cheques. However, they can easily be obtained online or by contacting your bank.

Account number

The account number works in conjunction with the routing number. Although the routing number identifies the name of the financial institution, the account number, usually between 8 and 12 digits, identifies your account. If you have two accounts at the same bank, the routing numbers will, in most cases, be the same, but your account numbers will be different.

Anyone can locate a bank’s routing number, but your account number is unique to you, so it’s important to protect it, just like you would your Social Security number or PIN code.

When do I need my routing number? Your account and routing numbers are required for each Bank transactionwhether within the bank where the account is held or between banking establishments.

Example Routing Number and Account Number

You should be able to find both your routing number and your account number by logging into your online banking account. You can also find them on your checks. At the bottom of each check, you’ll see three groups of numbers: the routing numbers (again, usually nine digits) appear as the first group, the account number usually comes second, and the third is the actual check number. Sometimes, however, such as on official bank checks, these numbers may appear in a different order.

This series of numbers is embedded in magnetic ink, known as your check. MICR Line (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition). Pronounced “micker”, the magnetic ink enables each bank’s processing equipment to read and process account information.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2020

If you don’t have a check handy and need to know your routing and account numbers, you can find them by logging into your bank’s website or app. When you access your account, click see full account number, and it should also show you the routing number. You can also call your bank and ask for the bank’s routing number over the phone. If you need your account number, you’ll likely need to provide them with additional information to access it.

How can I find my routing number and my account number?

You can find both sets of numbers in a few places, including on your checks, bank statements, on your mobile banking app, or on the bank’s website. All routing numbers are printed on the bottom left of your check and your checking account number will follow.

Which comes first, the account number or the routing number?

The routing number always appears first, followed by the account number. This is because a routing number is how a financial institution identifies itself, and together with your bank account number, it can be used to find your account.

What routing number do you use for direct deposit?

In order for you to receive money from a direct deposit, the person or institution making the deposit will need your bank’s routing number, as well as your account number, so that you can receive the funds .

Why do I have 2 routing numbers?

Although no bank has the same routing number, it is not uncommon for large financial institutions to have multiple routing numbers, which are specific to the state or location where your account is detained.

What is an IBAN number?

A IBAN is an international bank account number, a global standard for sending bank payments. It consists of 34 alphanumeric characters that identify the country, bank, branch and account. Countries in North America, Australia and Asia do not use IBAN for domestic money transfers and will only do so when sending a payment to a country that has adopted IBAN. ‘IBAN.

The essential

If you are ever unsure which number is which, you can contact your banking institution and remember to double check both numbers each time you provide them to another party. This will ensure a seamless transaction that avoids delays or associated Bank charges from funds ending up in the wrong account.

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