They may not be numbers you can rattle off the top of your head, but your routing and account number are the keys to your banking kingdom.
Your account’s routing number identifies your financial institution, while your account number is unique to your checking or savings account. You need both of these numbers for nearly every bank-related financial transaction you make, from paying bills online to signing up for direct deposit at work.
Learn the difference between these numbers, where to find them, and how to use them safely.
Recommended: How to Transfer Money From One Bank to Another
What is a Routing Number?
A routing number is a sequence of nine digits that identifies a bank or credit union, and each banking institution has a unique number.
A routing number is also sometimes referred to as an ABA number, in reference to the American Bankers Association, which assigns them. Routing numbers are only issued to a federal or state-chartered financial institution that is eligible to maintain an account at a Federal Reserve Bank.
A small bank may only have one routing number, while a larger financial institution may have several (they typically vary by region or state).
Routing numbers are generally required when reordering checks, paying bills, establishing a direct deposit, or making tax payments. The routing number required for making a wire transfer is not the same as the routing number that is printed on your checks, however. That number can be found online or by calling your bank.
What is an Account Number?
While the routing number identifies the name of the financial institution, the account number identifies your account. While anyone can find your bank’s routing number, your account number is private.
Typically between 10 and 12 digits, your account number acts as a road map of sorts to the bank, letting them know where to deposit or withdraw money.
If you have two different accounts at the same financial institution, you will have two different account numbers. The routing number for these accounts, however, will be the same.
Because your account number effectively provides access to the funds in your account, it’s critical that you keep it safe.
When Will I Need A Routing Number or Account Number?
You’ll need to know your account number and, in many cases, also your routing number for a variety of everyday financial transactions. These may include:
• Setting up direct deposit of your paycheck
• Making a withdrawal
• Depositing cash or checks into your account
• Filling out a rental application
• Filling out a loan application
• Scheduling payments from vendors you do business with
• Sending or receiving a wire transfer
• Paying a bill online
How to Find Your Bank Routing and Account Number
You can find your routing number and account number printed on the bottom of your checks.
You’ll see three groups of numbers. Typically, the first number (usually nine digits) is the routing number. The next group of numbers (usually 10 to 12 digits) is generally the account number. The third is usually the actual check number.
Don’t have any checks? No problem. You can typically find these two important numbers by going online and logging into your account.
Your financial institution’s routing number is public information and should be easy to find. If your account number is encrypted (and you can only see the last four digits), you may be able to get the full number by downloading a recent bank statement. Another way to get your account number is to go into your bank (you’ll likely need to show ID).
When you are ready to input your routing and account numbers for a financial transaction, it’s a good idea to check your numbers at least twice to make sure you get them exactly right. This will ensure a seamless transaction that avoids delays or any associated bank charges stemming from the funds ending up in an incorrect account.
Protecting Your Routing and Account Number
Although anyone can locate your bank’s routing number, your account number is not public information. Just like you are mindful about who sees your Social Security number, the same goes for your bank account number.
To avoid potential fraud, it’s wise not to share your account number with any person or business unless you absolutely need to, and also to keep your checkbook in a safe place. Any old checks should be shredded before they get discarded. Also wise: not sharing pictures of checks you’ve written on social media.
You’ll also want to make sure your bank account password is secure. You can do this by using a mix of numbers, letters, symbols, upper and lower case letters, and not using any personal information someone could find on social media.
Your account and routing numbers work together to identify your account and ensure that your money gets removed from the right place, or gets put into the right place.
The routing number indicates what bank your account is held, while the account number is your unique ID number at that bank. Both of these numbers are required to complete many everyday financial transactions.
While your financial institution’s routing number is public information, your account number is private and should be kept safe and secure.
Knowing the difference between these numbers and being able to locate them when you need them is key to making your financial transactions, from setting up autopay to sending people money, go off without a hitch.
Another way to make money transfers–and other everyday money moves–go quickly and smoothly is to sign up for a SoFi Money® cash management account.
With SoFi Money, members can quickly transfer money straight from their phones using the mobile app, making everything from paying bills to splitting the dinner bill fast and simple.
Photo credit: iStock/SeventyFour
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.