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What Is a Routing Number? How to Find Yours

What Is a Routing Number? How to Find Yours
Chris Alexis
Chris AlexisUpdated February 15, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
A routing number is a nine-digit number that identifies your bank during a financial transaction. While it’s an important number to know, it’s not always an easy one to find. Read on to learn how to find your routing number, as well as when you’ll need it and why.

What Is a Routing Number?

A routing number is a nine-digit code that serves as an address for your bank or credit union. Together with your account number, your routing number ensures that money gets deposited or withdrawn from the right account during electronic transactions, such as funds transfers, direct deposits, digital checks, and bill payments.At one time, routing numbers were used with paper checks, and Automated Clearing House (ACH) numbers were used for electronic transactions between financial institutions. These days, however, banks typically use one routing number for all transactions, electronic or paper.

Purpose of a Routing Number 

The original purpose of the bank routing number was for processing checks. These days, you need a routing number to conduct a number of banking transactions. They include:  

Setting up Direct Deposit

In order to enroll in direct deposit, you’ll need to give the routing number for your checking or savings account to your employer so they know where to route your paycheck each pay period. You’ll also need your routing number to set up direct deposit for Social Security or other government benefits.Recommended: Checking vs Savings Accounts Differences 

Making Electronic Payments

To set up a one-time or recurring online bill payment to a company or service provider, you’ll need to supply your account’s routing number. You’ll also need your routing number to set up automatic loan payments.

Filing Your Taxes

If you want to receive a tax refund electronically (rather than waiting to get a check in the mail), you can use your routing number to set up direct deposit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You’ll also need your routing number if you want to make a tax payment electronically versus sending the IRS a check.

Money Transfers

If you want to transfer money between accounts set up at two different banks, you’ll need your routing number. Say, for example, you want to transfer money from your checking account at a brick-and-mortar bank to a high-yield savings account at an online bank. To do this, you’ll need to supply the routing number for your savings account.

What Types of Bank Accounts Have Routing Numbers? 

All bank accounts are assigned routing numbers. Small banks typically have only one routing number, while larger banks may have many routing numbers, which are specific to the state or location where your account is held. If you have a checking and savings account at the same bank, they will typically have the same routing number. Recommended: How Many Bank Accounts Should You Have? 

When Might You Need Your Routing Number?

You will typically need your routing number whenever you want to move money in or out of your account electronically, such as when you’re paying bills online, making a bank-to-bank transfer, or setting up direct deposit. Other times you may need your routing include: 
  • Sending and receiving wire transfers
  • Setting up a peer-to-peer payment services such as Venmo or PayPal
  • Making payments from your bank account by telephone
  • Reordering checks
  • Linking a budgeting app to your bank account

How to Find Your Routing Number

Here are three easy ways to find your routing number.

Look at A Check 

At the bottom of a check, you typically find three groups of numbers. The first group is the routing number (a nine-digit number that typically begins with a 0, 1, 2 or 3).The account number generally comes next, followed by the actual check number.Recommended: Guide to Opening a Checking Account Online 

Log Onto Your Account

Once you log into your bank’s app or website, the routing number is typically easy to find. Often, you just need to select the account from a list of your accounts, then you click something along the lines of “Account Numbers” or “Account Details.”Some banks also post the routing number on the home page of their website or elsewhere on the site. It might be in the FAQs. 

View Your Bank Statement

You can often find your routing number printed on your monthly paper or electronic bank statement. Typically, it will be on the upper or lower right-hand corner.

Call or Visit Your Bank

You can call your bank’s customer service line to get you your routing number. Since one bank can have multiple routing numbers, be sure to get the routing number for the specific bank where you opened your account. Another option is to visit your branch and ask a teller.

The ABA’s Directory

You can also look up your routing number using the ABA’s online routing number lookup tool. The site limits you to no more than two lookups per day and 10 lookups per month.

How to Find a Bank Using the Routing Number

You can use the ABA’s routing number lookup tool (see above) in the opposite direction too. In other words, you can plug in a routing number and it will provide you with the bank’s information. 

ABA vs ACH Routing Numbers 

Technically, ABA routing numbers are for paper checks, whereas automatic cleaning house (ACH) routing numbers apply to electronic transfers and withdrawals. These days, however, most major banks use the same routing number for both. Smaller, regional banks, however, may use separate ABA and ACH routing numbers. If you’re unsure which number to use, it’s a good idea to call your bank and check. 

Routing Number vs SWIFT vs IBAN Codes

Similar to a routing number, a SWIFT (which stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) number is a code that identifies a bank during a financial transaction. The difference is that SWIFT is used for international transactions, whereas a routing number is used for transactions within the U.S.An IBAN (which stands for International Bank Account Number) serves as both a routing and an account number in an international transaction. It identifies not only the specific bank involved in a transfer, but also the individual bank account.To send funds internationally, you often need to know both the recipient’s SWIFT and IBAN number.Recommended: Guide to International Banking

The Takeaway

Your bank’s routing number is an important number to know. It allows you to pay bills online, transfer funds between accounts, sign up for direct deposit, and use payment apps.Fortunately, you don’t need to memorize this nine-digit number. The routing number for your checking account is printed on the bottom left corner of your checks. For a savings account, you can find your routing number on your bank statement or by logging into your account via computer or your bank’s mobile app.On the hunt for a new savings account? If you’re not sure where to start your savings account search, Lantern by SoF can help. With our online banking marketplace, it’s fast and easy to compare high-yield savings accounts based on annual percentage yield (APY), fees, and balance minimums. Lantern can help you compare online savings accounts and find today’s best rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find my bank's routing number with a check?
Where is the routing number located on the check?
How many digits is a routing number?
Photo credit: iStock/patpitchaya

About the Author

Chris Alexis

Chris Alexis

Chris Alexis has been putting pen to paper and fingertips to keyboard since his youth. He ultimately grew into an accomplished and award-winning writer who loves using the power of language to connect with audiences. He also strongly enjoys learning about who he is writing for so he can create something that will truly resonate with them. He has worked for a variety of companies, each of which have given him more experience and insight.
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