Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.
You may swipe your debit card or make deposits without thinking twice, but it’s helpful to know how banks and credit unions keep track of your spending and saving. That’s where routing and account numbers come into play.
If you have any type of bank account, it’s worth knowing about these numbers—and where to find them.
What Is a Routing Number?
A routing number is a nine-digit number that identifies a financial institution. This number may be called an ABA number, ABA routing number, bank ABA number or transit ABA number. The American Bankers Association developed the ABA routing number system in 1910 as a way to tell one bank from another.
The ABA routing number system covers federally and state-chartered banks and financial institutions that process check transactions. It extends to banks that participate in other activities, such as Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments, electronic funds transfers and online banking.
If your bank or credit union maintains an account with the Federal Reserve Bank, it has an ABA routing number. Only financial institutions that meet this requirement and have a federal or state charter can apply for a routing number with the ABA.
The U.S. is the only country that uses ABA routing numbers to identify banks when sending and receiving money. Foreign banks use IBAN, which is short for International Bank Account Number.
How to Find the Routing Number
There are a variety of scenarios when you may need to provide your bank ABA number. You may need a routing number to:
- Set up direct deposit with your employer
- Receive a direct deposit of a tax refund or stimulus check
- Send or receive a wire transfer
- Receive direct deposit of government benefits
- Pay your mortgage or other bills online
- Schedule an electronic ACH payment
- Link your bank accounts to a budgeting app
- Send or receive money in transactions with friends and family
There are three ways to find your routing number: on a check, online or by contacting your financial institution.
Which Number Is the Routing Number on a Check?
If your checking account comes with paper checks, they’re the first place to search for your routing number.
When you look at the front of a check, you’ll see a row of numbers at the bottom. Specifically, you should see three groups of numbers, separated by spaces or special characters. Looking at the bottom of the check, the first group of numbers (labeled “1” in the image below) is the bank routing number.
An easy way to tell if it’s your bank routing number is to count the digits and confirm there are nine. If there are more or fewer than nine digits, odds are you’re looking at your checking account number (labeled “2” above).
How to Find Your Routing Number Online
Finding your routing number may be as simple as visiting your financial institution’s website.
Banks and credit unions often publish their ABA numbers online. Unlike a bank account number, a bank routing number is public information and doesn’t need to be secured or protected.
You may be able to find this number right on the homepage of the bank’s website. If not, log in to your account online or mobile banking app to find the routing number.
Here’s another way to find a bank routing number online: use the ABA routing number lookup tool.
The American Bankers Association’s free tool lets you search for any bank’s routing number by entering the financial institution’s name, city, state and ZIP code.
How to Find Your Bank Routing Number by Contacting the Bank
Still can’t find your routing number? Contact the bank or credit union.
A teller should be able to provide your bank’s transit ABA routing number over the phone, in person or at the drive-through window.
Find The Best Checking Accounts Of 2023
What Is an Account Number?
An account number is a set of digits used to identify a bank account, such as a checking or money market account. Banks assign account numbers to each account you own.
For example, if you open a checking and savings account at the same bank, you’d have two different account numbers and one ABA routing number. If you have checking accounts at two different banks, each account would have a unique account number and each bank would have a unique routing number.
Your account number tells the bank where to add or deduct money when transactions are posted. For that reason, keeping your bank account numbers secure is important. Otherwise, someone might be able to use your information to access your accounts fraudulently.
How to Find the Account Number
As with your routing number, you can find your account number on a check, online or by contacting the financial institution.
How to Find Your Bank Account Number on a Check
As mentioned, three sets of numbers are printed at the bottom of paper checks. The first is the check routing number used to identify your bank.
Your account number is the second set of numbers (labeled “2” in the image above). Different banks and credit unions issue account numbers of varying lengths, but in most cases, account numbers range from eight to 12 digits.
The account number should be distinct from the ABA routing number.
A check’s last set of digits represents the check number (labeled “3” in the image above). This is typically fewer digits than the bank routing or checking account number.
How to Find Your Bank Account Number Online
Getting your bank account number online can be tricky—banks and credit unions may encrypt this information to protect against fraud or identity theft. When you log in to online or mobile banking, you may only see the last four digits of your account number displayed. However, some banks and credit unions show the full bank account number online and in the mobile app.
Another possible way to find your bank account number online is by downloading a copy of your electronic or paper statement. Depending on the bank, your full account number may or may not be included there—some banks may only provide the last four digits.
How to Find Your Bank Account Number by Contacting the Bank
Ask the bank or credit union for the number if you can’t view your bank account number online and don’t have checks. You can do this by phone or in person.
Be prepared to provide proof of identity to verify your status as the account owner first. This may mean supplying your Social Security or driver’s license number or answering one or more security questions.
Routing Number vs. Account Number
A routing number is used to identify a specific bank or credit union. An account number identifies a bank account within a financial institution. Together, these two numbers ensure that money is added to or deducted from the right account.
Example: When You Might Use Your Routing Number and Account Number
Let’s say that you owe the IRS $5,000 in taxes and plan to pay using your checking account. Knowing your routing and account numbers will come in handy.
You’ll need to provide personal information, including your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and the tax year. And you’ll be prompted to provide the following information:
- Payment amount
- Payment date
- Bank ABA routing number
- Bank account number
- Type of account
You won’t be able to make a payment with your account until you enter your information and confirm the account number. The IRS will require you to verify your account number to ensure you’re paying with the correct account. Mixing up your routing number with the account number or leaving out numerals could result in your payment not being processed.
How to Manage Routing Numbers and Account Numbers
Knowing your ABA routing and account numbers is important if you need them for financial transactions. But as with any other financial information, keeping your details safe is important.
Someone could, for example, use your bank routing number and checking account number to order fraudulent checks. Or they may be able to initiate a fraudulent ACH withdrawal from your account.
Here are a few tips for managing bank ABA numbers and account numbers securely:
- Avoid writing down account numbers. Similar to your Social Security number or debit card PIN, you’re better off committing your account numbers to memory if possible.
- Destroy voided checks. If you have to void a check for any reason, be sure to destroy it rather than just tossing it in the trash.
- Don’t share account information. Giving your bank account numbers to individuals or entities you don’t know can be risky. If you’re asked to share your account information, verify that the request comes from a trusted source.
- Be selective about the apps you use. Personal finance apps can make managing your money easier. But they can be targets for hackers and scammers who may use malware or phishing attacks to steal your information. Before linking your bank accounts to an app, make sure it’s legitimate.
It’s important to ensure you correctly enter your bank ABA and account numbers. Entering an incorrect routing or account number could result in money being sent to or received by the wrong account. Double-checking each set of numbers in situations where you’re required to share them for a financial transaction can help avoid banking headaches.
Find The Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of 2023
Your financial institution’s ABA routing number is an important piece of information, as is your bank account number. Knowing how to find your ABA routing number and your account number matters for managing your daily finances.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a bank transit ABA number?
A bank transit ABA number is a nine-digit number that differentiates one financial institution from another. The American Bankers Association developed bank routing numbers to identify financial institutions.
How many digits is a routing number?
A bank ABA number or routing number is nine digits.
How many digits is an account number?
It’s common for bank account numbers to have anywhere from eight to 12 digits.
Routing vs Account NumberHow to tell the difference between routing number and account number? ›
At the bottom of a check, you will see three groups of numbers. The first group is your routing number, the second is your account number and the third is your check number.Is routing number or account number more important? ›
Both numbers are required to complete many basic banking transactions. The routing number indicates what bank your account is held in. The account number is your unique identifier at that bank.Is routing and account number enough for direct deposit? ›
When transferring money to or from your bank account, your routing number and account number are both integral in making sure the money is deposited to or withdrawn from the correct account. You'll probably need to have these numbers on hand when setting up direct deposit, bill pay and other types of bank transfers.Is account number and routing number enough? ›
A routing number is used to identify a specific bank or credit union. An account number identifies a bank account within a financial institution. Together, these two numbers ensure that money is added to or deducted from the right account.How can I verify a bank account number? ›
- The user provides a bank statement or certificate. File sending. ...
- The user connects bank accounts with your system. Open Banking. ...
- The user makes a micro-transaction and you check the data you receive. Payment initiation. ...
- You make a micropayment to your user and they verify a code.
The Difference Between Routing Number and Account Numbers
With both of these pieces of information, someone can potentially use them to withdraw money, pay their own bills, purchase items online from vendors, or set up a new account using your funds—all from your checking account.
If you made a mistake with your routing or account number, the bank may catch the problem and reject the transaction. But in some cases the bank may miss it, and the money can be deposited into the wrong account. If that happens, contact your financial institution to try to fix the problem.Is it safe to give someone your routing number? ›
Be stingy with your banking information to avoid bank scams. Know that less is best when it comes to sharing info: Avoid giving your account and routing numbers to people you don't know. Another tip to prevent fraud: Go for multi-factor authentication when banking online.Can you identify a bank by its routing number? ›
A routing number is a nine-digit code used to identify a financial institution in the United States. Banks use routing numbers to direct the exchange of funds to and from one another. You can typically find the routing number on the bottom left corner of most personal checks.
Each employee needs to provide the following information: bank name, account type, account number and routing number. Some states also require employees to sign a consent form before their employer can switch them to direct deposit.What two numbers do you need to set up direct deposit? ›
Just have your bank account information (routing and bank account numbers) handy. The second step in direct deposit enrollment is to ask your employer for direct deposit forms. These are generally very basic. It helps to have your Social Security number handy, and a blank check or account and routing numbers.What bank number is needed for direct deposit? ›
Bank's routing number. This is the nine-digit number, also known as the American Bankers Association — or ABA — number, printed on your bank statement or along the bottom left of your checks.How important is routing number? ›
The routing number identifies the financial institution responsible for the payment and ensures that funds go to the right place. Routing numbers were developed by the American Bankers Association in 1910 for processing checks. They're also known as ABA routing numbers or routing transit numbers.What is account number used for? ›
An account number is a unique string of numbers, letters, and other characters that identify a specific financial account. Almost all financial transactions make use of account numbers. Examples of account numbers include routing numbers and credit card numbers.Can anyone see my bank account balance? ›
No one can check you bank statement without your permission. Unless you give out your account number, banks do not release information regarding your bank statement to unknown third parties without your consent.How do I find my account and routing number? ›
Look at a check
Your account number is located along the bottom of your check, to the right of the routing number and to the left of the check number. Will you be using this information to receive a wire transfer? Where is the source of the incoming wire transfer?
If you made a mistake with your routing or account number, the bank may catch the problem and reject the transaction. But in some cases the bank may miss it, and the money can be deposited into the wrong account.What is the routing number 256074974? ›
Navy Federal's Routing/ABA Number (256074974) Navy Federal's address: 820 Follin Lane SE, Vienna, VA 22180.What are the first 3 digits of bank account number? ›
The first 3 digits of the account number are called the protocol number, and indicate the bank the account belongs to.