What Is an ACH Routing Number? And Where Can I Find It?

Guide to ACH Routing Numbers

You’ve probably seen the phrase “ACH routing number” on your bank statement, and wondered what exactly it is anyway. It shouldn’t be as hard to figure out as Wordle, so let us explain: An ACH number is a nine-digit number sequence that banks and credit unions use to move funds electronically within their financial network.
Since ACH numbers play a vital role in banking, let’s take a closer look. Here, we’ll share more detail about these important digits:

•   What an ACH routing number is

•   Where to find an ACH number

•   How an ACH number differs from an ABA number

•   When to use an ACH number.

What is an ACH Routing Number?

An ACH number is an ID code that banks use. It’s an important bit of data that directs funds being sent electronically between financial institutions. You might think of it as akin to GPS coordinates that get money where it needs to go.

The acronym ACH stands for the Automated Clearing House network and enables money to move across a network of thousands of institutions, quickly and securely. ACH numbers were developed in the 1970s, when the volume of checks threatened to slow down the banking system. This was the beginning of a big shift towards electronic banking. Today, the ACH network is a major financial hub, akin to the Grand Central Station or LAX of money transfers.

Note the word “clearing” in “automated clearing house.” An ACH routing number helps clear funds for quicker transfer. How fast is an ACH transfer? It often happens the same or the next business day. That tops paper checks, which can take longer to mail, deposit, and clear.

Here are a couple of examples of how ACH numbers ease your daily life: A bank uses an ACH routing number when you authorize autopay for a loan or service provider; that’s an ACH debit. When your employer puts your pay directly into your bank, that’s an ACH credit. Both of these can be seamless, speedy transactions.

Recommended: What is ACH and How Does it Work?

How to Find Your ACH Routing Number

Let’s say you want to sign up to pay your homeowner’s insurance automatically every month, or you need to enroll in a P2P app to send the money. You may not be certain about what those required ACH digits are. To find your bank’s ACH number, you have a couple of options, which we’ll share with you here. It’s actually quite easy to find them once you know where to look.

Checkbook

Banks typically print the ACH routing number right on your check. You may be used to simply calling it your bank’s routing number. It’s the nine-digit number sequence at the bottom, next to your account number.

Bank Phone App or Bank Website

Many banks provide account details, including routing numbers, right on their phone apps and websites. Log in with your user ID and password, click on your bank account, and search for details. (But please, don’t do this at, say, a bustling coffee shop, where your connection may be public.)

Internet

Another simple way to find your ACH routing number is to use your search skills. Put “ACH number” and the name of your bank into a search engine, and you should be able to find it. Keep in mind that some large banks may have multiple regional ACH numbers; make sure you are snagging the one associated with your location.

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What is an ABA Routing Number?

An ABA (American Bankers Association) routing number is the first number sequence that appears on the bottom left of your paper checks. It identifies your bank, which likely holds very many accounts, while your account number indicates your personal financial product. ABA numbers have been around for over 100 years, facilitating check processing.

Given that your ABA routing number identifies your bank, you may find that it’s the same if you have both checking and savings accounts at a single financial institution. Your account numbers will differ, but that routing number is constant.

ABA vs. ACH Routing Numbers: The Differences

So, you may ask, how are ABA and ACH routing numbers different? The truth is they are likely the very same number. Strictly speaking, the ABA number is used in processing transactions with paper checks, while ACH digits are used in electronic funds transfers. It’s a vital code as money is moved electronically (often in batches) among financial institutions. But today, by and large, ABA and ACH numbers are one and the same.

Use Cases

Let’s look at how the ABA vs ACH routing number might be used in your typical banking life. Yes, they are probably the same string of digits, but here’s how it may help to think of them:

•   To set up a payroll direct deposit or, for instance, a monthly automatic debit of your mortgage payment, you will need to provide the ACH number, because these are electronic transactions.

•   If you were making a one-time payment to, say, a doctor’s office, and they asked you the account and routing number of the check, you would look at the bottom of your paper check and read them off those digits.

History

ABA numbers have been in use since 1910, which was quite a different era. These digits allow for checks to draw funds from one account and deposit them in another. More than a half century later, in the late 1960s, a group of California banks banded together to find a speedier alternative to check payments. They launched the first ACH in the U.S. in 1972; that was a key milestone in the evolution of electronic banking.

Numerical Differences

In the past, ABA and ACH numbers were slightly different, with the first two digits varying. Today, they are typically identical. Your bank’s ABA routing number and ACH routing number are likely to be the same.

The Takeaway

An ACH (automated clearing house) number is a routing code: nine digits a bank uses to transfer funds electronically in a fast-paced web of banks. The ACH system has been used for decades and makes life easier by keeping transactions safe and speedy. While ACH numbers used to be different from ABA routing codes (the kind traditionally used on checks), today these two strings of digits are usually exactly the same. To find your ACH number, just look at your checks, your bank’s app or website, or use a search engine. It’s that easy!

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FAQ

Which routing number do I use to transfer money?

To transfer funds domestically, you’ll use the ACH routing number and your account number. International wire transfers, however, may require different codes.

What is the difference between ACH and direct deposit?

ACH is a system of moving funds electronically between banks. Direct deposit is a specific kind of transaction that uses this ACH network. It allows your employer to send your paycheck directly into your bank account.

Should I use ACH or the wire routing number?

Which routing number you use will depend on the kind of transaction you are conducting. If you are moving money around domestically, the ACH and wire routing number may be the same; check with your bank. If, however, you are wiring money to a foreign account, you will probably need to use SWIFT codes instead to complete the money transfer.

Do I use my ACH number for direct deposit?

Yes, you need to provide your employer with your ACH number as well as your bank account number to set up direct deposit.

What is ABA on a wire transfer?

When you arrange a wire transfer, the banks involved will need to use a routing number. If this is a domestic transfer of money, your ABA/ACH routing number may or may not be used; check with your bank to be sure. A different wire routing number might be required. If you are sending or receiving money internationally, a SWIFT code will be used instead. These codes help ensure the funds get to the right account.

What does ABA stand for?

ABA stands for the American Bankers Association, an industry organization.

What is the difference between the ABA and wire routing number?

These may be the same nine-digit number. The ABA code is the series of numerals on your check, next to your account number. You can check with your bank representative or with its app to see if the wire routing number is the same or if you need a different series of numbers. A wire routing number will usually be different when you are sending funds internationally; in that instance, you’ll need your bank’s SWIFT code.


Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

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