Routing Number vs. Account Number: What’s the Difference?
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You may see routing and account numbers on checks written on your account and wonder what they mean. They are the two sets of numbers the bank relies on to ensure the money moves between the correct accounts when someone makes a payment.
One of these numbers represents the financial institution sending or receiving the payment. This is the routing number, a nine-digit number indicating the financial institution responsible for debiting or crediting an account. The other number is the number assigned to your checking account when you open the account.
Routing Numbers: A Closer Look
The American Bankers Association created routing numbers in 1910 as a way to streamline payment processing. At first, these numbers served as check processing endpoints. When a customer from one bank wrote a check to a customer at another bank, the routing number let everyone know which bank would pay the amount written on the check.
Today, banks use routing numbers to process several types of transactions, including automated clearing house transfers and wire transfers. Routing numbers are public information that anyone can find.
Routing numbers have a specific structure comprised of three parts: a Federal Reserve routing symbol, an ABA institution identifier and a check digit. The first four digits in the routing number indicate the type of financial institution, such as the federal government or a commercial bank, Federal Reserve bank or state government unit.
For example, the first two digits of a commercial bank’s routing number fall under the 01-12 series of numbers. Traveler’s check and electronic transaction identifiers each have their own two-digit codes that fall under the 80 series and 61-72 series, respectively.
What Is an Account Number?
Banks assign account numbers to their customers as a way to identify the type of account they have and where to credit or debit transactions. Account numbers often have between eight and 12 digits, but some account numbers can have up to 17 digits.
If you have more than one type of account at a bank, you will have a separate number for each account. The account number for your checking account is different from the account numbers for your savings account and credit card.
What Is an IBAN?
You can find your bank’s routing number and your account number on the bottom of a bank-issued check, in your account statement, and through the bank’s website or mobile app. Many banks list the routing number in the upper right corner of the monthly statement near the bank’s logo and other identifying information. However, you will likely only see the last few digits of your account number printed on the statement.
How Routing Numbers and Account Numbers Work
When you make a payment through an electronic or paper method, the receiving bank uses the routing number to identify your bank. Your bank uses your account number to identify where it pulls the funds to make the payment.
Using an account number as an identifier offers several advantages. When banks first started using account numbers, the numbers made it easier for them to sort the paper checks customers used to make payments. Today, using account numbers still simplifies processes for the bank, but it also adds a layer of protection for customers.
When Do I Need My Bank’s Routing Number?
You may need to know your bank’s routing number when you want to pay a bill online or over the phone, send money through a wire transfer, or set up a direct deposit. If you want to receive your tax refund via direct deposit, you have to provide your bank’s routing number on your tax return.
How Many Routing Numbers Do Banks Have?
All banks have a principal routing number, and they may have as many as nine more routing numbers. They also have the option to request additional routing numbers, and many national banks use routing numbers to represent different regions.
For example, Bank of America has a different routing number for each state. In Georgia, the routing number for electronic and paper payments is 061000052. In Colorado, the routing number is 123103716. The wire transfer routing number is the same for both states, though.
Does a Bank’s Routing Number Ever Change?
A bank may change its routing number if it merges with another bank. When this happens, the new bank chooses a principal location and typically adopts the routing number associated with that state or region. Sometimes the acquiring bank chooses to keep the routing number of the bank it’s taking over.
Is It Safe To Share My Routing Number and Account Number?
Since routing numbers are public information, you typically don’t need to take extra steps to protect them. Finding out a bank’s routing number is fairly easy to do since many banks list them on their websites.
Your account number is a different story because it’s a number that’s unique to you, especially when paired with your bank’s routing number. Use strong passwords for online and mobile banking, avoid accessing your bank accounts when using public internet, and don’t share your account number with someone just because they ask for it.
How Do I Find My Routing Number and Account Number?
To find the routing number in the mobile app or website, navigate to the section where your account options or information is located. Like with a printed statement, you may only see the last few digits of your account number here. You should be able to click on the account number to reveal the entire sequence of numbers.
IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number, and this number works like a routing number for international transactions. The number identifies the country where a bank is located and also contains a bank identifier and additional details, including a check number and account number. Not all banks have IBANs.
Where Are My Routing and Account Numbers on a Check?
If you look at the bottom of a bank-issued check, you’ll see a series of numbers printed along the bottom edge of the check. The first set of numbers is the nine-digit bank routing number. The second set of numbers is your account number. To the right of the account number is the check number, and this number will be different on each check.
How Do You Read the Account Number on a Check?
Your account number is the second set of numbers at the bottom of your check. Depending on the check style, you may notice a space or symbols between the sets of numbers. This can help you identify the account number.
When in doubt, remember that the routing number has nine digits. Your account number may have more or fewer numbers.
Where Is Your Routing Number on a Debit Card?
You won’t find your routing number or your account number on your debit card. The numbers you see on your debit card represent the debit card number. Although the bank connects your debit card number to your account number, they are not interchangeable.
Knowing the differences between a routing number and an account number, as well as how to locate them, is useful information for account holders. The next time you’re asked to provide these numbers when you’re setting up an automatic deposit, online bill payment or similar transaction, you can avoid delays and help ensure the money transfers to and from the correct accounts.