The world of smartphones has made us all a little less likely to remember important strings of numbers.
While convenient, our reliance on them for everything from a significant other’s cell number to our own email passwords has made it challenging to recall important banking numbers that we need to have on hand.
This includes your checking account number and your bank’s routing number, both important for direct deposit payments.
Why You Need Your Routing Number and Account Number
You’ll need your account number and the routing transit number for most banking transactions, including wire transfers, direct deposits, electronic transfers between banks, bill payments, other automatic payments and even money transfer apps like Venmo, PayPal and Cash App.
But what do these account and routing numbers actually mean?
What’s a Bank Account Number?
Your bank account number is a unique identifier connected just to that individual account. No one else at the institution shares this number, and you’ll have a unique account number for each account you own there.
The full account designation is usually between eight and 12 digits, which varies from institution to institution.
What’s a Routing Number?
A routing number is a nine-digit code assigned by the American Bankers Association (ABA) to identify the bank that issues a check. The ABA routing number identifies the institution, so that’s why all the accounts you (and everyone else) have with one bank use the same number.
ABA routing numbers indicate that an institution is either federally or state chartered in the United States and has an account with the Federal Reserve. It’s smart to know where to find the bank routing number so your money gets to your financial home.
Routing Numbers vs. Account Numbers
Routing numbers and account numbers work together to ensure money goes into and comes out of the right accounts.
The key difference? A routing number is your bank’s unique identifier; an account number is your unique identifier.
Because an account number is unique to you and your routing number identifies your financial institution, payees and payers alike will need both your routing number and your account number to complete transactions.
Luckily, most banks and credit unions offer mobile apps that have a secure way of providing you with both account and routing numbers. Typically, they require two-factor authentication before allowing you to sneak a peek at your numbers via the app, meaning your financial institution will either text, email or call you with a verification code.
But if you don’t have (or prefer not to use) a mobile app, or you can’t find the information there, there’s a way of finding your account number and routing number that’s been tried and true through the ages.
Just check your checks.
Don’t have checks? You might consider ordering them from either the bank or an online check-making service. For instance, you can get 125 checks from Carousel Checks for about $14. Checks for Less can get them to you overnight.
How to Find Your Routing Number and Account Number on a Check
With the advent of debit cards and mobile wallets, personal checks may seem like a thing of the past.
But in many scenarios, whether for rent or a birthday present, you may still find yourself writing paper checks. That personal check is also handy for finding important checking account information, including your routing and account numbers.
The 16-digit number on your debit card is not the same as an account number. This number is specific to your debit card so you can make purchases online or over the phone.
If you have multiple accounts with a bank, you’ll have unique account numbers for each individual account. Your checks for each checking account will display those different account numbers, but if you hold all accounts at the same financial institution, the routing number will stay the same.
Confused? Let’s dive a little deeper into the three groups of numbers running along the bottom of your check: your routing number, account number and check number
How to Find Your Routing Number on a Check
Much like you use the Big Dipper to find the North Star, you’ll use something called a routing transit number — or just “routing number” — to lead you to your account’s number.
Look at the bottom of your paper check. The first group of numbers in the bottom left is your bank routing number. This routing number will always be nine digits long.
How to Read a Bank Routing Number
Your bank’s routing number is a unique nine-digit number, but it’s not completely random. Each individual number or set of numbers carries a significance.
Let’s break down the anatomy of routing numbers:
Federal Reserve Bank
The first two digits refer to the Federal Reserve bank that covers your region. Remember, routing numbers can vary by location, even for the same financial institution.
Check Processing Center
The third number is associated with a check processing center assigned to your bank or credit union.
Federal Reserve District
The fourth digit specifies the Federal Reserve district where your financial institution is located.
The next four numbers is unique to your financial institution.
This ninth and final number is based on the sum of the eight other digits in the routing number. It’s more than simple addition, so we’ll leave that math to the accountants.
How to Find Your Account Number on a Check
Now let’s use the routing number to find your checking account info. Your account number is just to the right of the routing number.
After the nine-digit number, you’ll typically see a colon, then a second set of numbers. This is your checking account number. These can vary in length but typically max out at 12 numbers.
How to Find Your Check Number on a Check
It’s important not to confuse your account number with the check number, which is typically the third set of numbers at the bottom of the check. If you are unfamiliar with writing checks, these six easy steps will help you conquer that #adulting task.
The check number matches the actual check number, which is usually also printed at the top right of a personal check. It could be any length, depending on how your bank counts your checks, but typically check numbers are about four or five digits long.
The check number is used to identify the specific check for your reference or the recipient’s. If you’re doing analog accounting, you’d note the check number in your ledger so you can keep an eye out for it to cash and pull money out of your account.
Don’t have checks? Contact customer service for your checking account. Most banks will offer your first set of checks free, but many institutions charge a fee for each additional set of checks.
How to Find Your Routing Number and Account Number Without a Check
Checks aren’t the only way you can find your account and routing numbers.
The easiest place to find account and routing numbers is in your banking institution’s mobile app.
Even if you don’t have a mobile app, you can locate your bank routing number online by logging into your account.
But not all mobile apps and digital banking platforms are created equal. If your bank doesn’t have an easy-to-use mobile app (or you don’t like banking on your phone) and you don’t have a check on hand to reference, you have a couple of other options for finding your routing number.
Monthly Bank Statement
The next option is to find a statement from your financial institution. Your bank statement is typically sent monthly, and your account and routing numbers will be listed somewhere on the paper.
If you receive electronic statements, log into your institution’s online banking site to access your account info. You can pull electronic statements, or simply find a link for “account numbers” that usually lists your account and routing numbers.
When you open an account in person, some banks and credit unions still issue a wallet-sized card with your numbers for the account and bank handwritten on it.
If you don’t have checks and don’t do online banking, hold onto that card to find your account number and routing number when you need it.
At a Bank Location
The most obvious place to find your account info is at your bank itself.
If you can’t find your checkbook, can’t log onto a mobile app and don’t have access to paper statements, you can call or visit your bank and tap into a customer service representative. Provide proof of identity to receive your bank account info.
American Bankers Association Routing Number Lookup
You won’t ever be able to find your account number on a public website as that is private information that is unique to you.
But because ABA routing numbers apply to specific financial institutions that thousands of customers bank with, these are public.
To find yours, you can use the ABA routing number lookup. Users are limited to two searches a day and 10 a month.
Alternatively, you can google to determine your routing number. It’s fairly easy to find routing numbers for popular banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase.
A word of caution, however: Individual financial institutions have multiple routing numbers. Routing numbers at larger financial institutions can vary by state.
Timothy Moore and Dana Sitar are contributors to The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.