How to Find Your Routing Number and When You'll Need It

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Your routing number connects directly to your checking and savings accounts.

Banks and merchants use it to deposit and withdraw money electronically.

Even though studies show that more than half of Americans use their smartphones to make purchases, it’s still important to know your routing number.

If you want to participate in things like direct deposit and online bill pay, that nine-digit number will come in handy.

What is a Routing Number?

A routing number is an electronic address for financial institutions. Sometimes, banks have similar names. This unique number identifies your specific bank or credit union in a transaction. Using an ABA routing number helps to reduce the number of errors.

Basically, a routing code serves as a guide to ensure money is withdrawn from or deposited to the right account at the right bank.

The American Bankers Association developed it to identify endpoints for processing checks. Now, the most common uses are for automated clearinghouses (ACH), electronic funds transfers (ETFs), and online banking.

Why Would I Need a Routing Code?

With debit cards, routing codes aren’t as popular as they once were. Routing numbers on a debit card aren’t necessary since they operate on a separate payment processing network. Only a few situations in life make it essential. And when you need it, there’s no substitute.

ACH transactions

Every time you send or receive a payment from one bank to another, it uses the routing number to guide the transfer through the ACH network.

Initially, its primary purpose was to process recurring payments. But one-time payments now use the network as well. If you ever send money with PayPal or Venmo, it’s an ACH transaction that uses your routing number.

Direct deposit

If you set up direct deposit with your employer, it’s likely they’ll ask you to provide your routing number. Companies often provide direct deposit as a courtesy to their employees. Without issuing a physical check, they can send your paycheck directly to your bank account using that number.

Workers in the U.S. list direct deposit above ATM cards and checkbooks as their most important tool for managing money. It’s a reliable and safe way to get access to your wages without having to stop at the bank to deposit your check. Instead, the money goes directly to the bank using a combination of your routing code and bank account number.

Filing or paying for taxes online

If you’re expecting a tax refund from Uncle Sam, the quickest way to get it in your hands is to use your routing number. Requesting a paper check takes longer because it takes time to print the check, and the U.S. mail needs a few extra days to get it to your mailbox.

The IRS can issue most refunds in less than 21 days. Entering your routing code when filing your taxes will send it straight into your bank account. This also works if you owe money. Using IRS Direct Pay costs nothing extra. Provide your routing and account numbers, and the money will be on its way.

Paying with a credit or debit card can cost you more. If you didn’t pay enough income taxes throughout the year, paying by credit card can cost you up to 3.93% of what you owe. Owing just $1,500 to the IRS can mean nearly $60 in payment fees.

How to Find Your Bank Routing Number

Depending on the state or branch, banks might use different numbers to locate your account. A national brand such as Bank of America or Citi could have a few distinguishable routing codes for each separate branch location.

On a check

If you use paper checks or deposit tickets, your routing number is in the lower left corner. It’s the first set of nine digits along the bottom.

Your bank account number is the second string of numbers. If you’re looking at a check, the check number is the last set of numerals you’ll find.

Related: How to Cancel a Check with a Stop Payment

Where is my routing number?

The American Bankers Association

Since the American Bankers Association sets routing numbers, it makes sense to have the option to find them on their site. The ABA Routing Number Lookup Tool gives you access to search up to two times each day.

It’s easy to use. You’ll need the name of your financial institution, the city, state, and ZIP Code of the branch.

Online banking

In the age of online banking, finding your routing number is often as painless as logging into your account. You might see it on your main account page. Otherwise, it could be an option in one of the menu selections.

If you’re having trouble locating it, your financial institution may print the code on your bank statements. Often, accessing statements through your online account is possible, and it’s simple to see if you can find it.

Call your bank

Some banks will display the routing numbers on their website. But contacting your bank by phone might be the easiest and fastest way to find it. If you’re in a rush or can’t figure out where it is, call your bank’s customer service number.

With so many options to transfer money electronically, using a routing number might seem outdated. Some merchants charge a convenience fee for processing credit and debit cards. In situations like that, not knowing your routing number can cost you money.

Now and then, your routing number is essential. Once you find it, store it in a safe and secure place. You never know when you might need it.

Amy Beardsley

Amy is a freelance writer with bachelor degrees in business administration and legal studies. She has a passion for personal finance and is on a mission to help everyday families develop better money habits and escape the burden of debt. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Money Tips, and various other personal finance publications.Amy makes her home in Michigan where she serves as a Girl Scout leader and teaches work-force development training to low-skilled workers in her community. When she’s not writing about money or perfecting her budgeting spreadsheet, Amy enjoys playing board games with her family and watching Marvel movies.

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