In today’s world of electronic banking, it’s common to need a bank’s routing number, such as for a direct deposit form or to set up a money transfer from one bank to another. A routing number, also called an ABA number, is nothing more than an identifier that distinguishes a particular bank from all others.
Large banks may have a different routing number for each state in which they have a branch, and some may even have routing numbers unique to specific transaction types. This can sometimes make finding the correct routing number for a particular account challenging.
Since this number is an essential part of how money moves between financial institutions and bank accounts, here’s a closer look at bank routing numbers and how to find routing numbers for your accounts.
Why Do Banks Have Routing Numbers?
The American Bankers Association routing number, or ABA routing number, uses a nine-digit code to identify U.S. federal- or state-chartered banks. This system was started in the U.S. in 1910.
Routing numbers are used to correctly identify the banks involved in any financial transaction. They’re essential because they enable the U.S. banking system to clear a financial transaction by matching up the appropriate financial institutions involved in the transaction, ensuring money is coming out of and going into the right banks.
Similarly, account numbers are required to complete transactions to ensure that money is coming and going from the correct accounts. Unlike banking information that’s more sensitive in nature, a routing number doesn’t need to be kept private for security reasons, so it can easily be looked up.
What Is the Difference Between a Routing Number, Account Number and Check Number?
A bank routing number, account number and check number play different roles in banking transactions, but they all direct money to where it’s supposed to go.
The bottom line of any kind of check — personal or business — is preprinted with a sequence of numbers and symbols below the memo and signature lines. This sequence contains the following important information which the bank uses to process the check:
- Routing number: The first nine-digit number in the sequence, starting from the left, is the routing number that matches the financial transaction with the appropriate financial institution.
- Account number: The next string of numbers is the account number. This number identifies the specific account associated with the check being issued.
- Check number: The last string of numbers is the check number. It’s used to determine which checks have been processed by the bank.
How Do I Find My Bank’s Routing Number?
While routing numbers are prominently placed on checks, they can also often be found on deposit slips. However, it’s not uncommon for people to have a checking account without paper checks or deposit slips. For those who only bank electronically, here are a few other ways to locate a bank’s routing number:
- Search the bank’s website or contact the bank.
- Check a bank statement.
- Log in to the online banking platform or mobile banking app associated with the account.
- Use the ABA’s Routing Number Lookup tool.
- Perform a Google search using the bank’s name and the term “routing number” as the keyword. Make sure to verify that the information is coming from a reliable source.
Large financial institutions often have a different routing number for each state. Some even have more than one routing number for some states. Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America account holders can find state-specific routing numbers in the following table.
Note: GOBankingRates was unable to confirm Chase routing numbers for some states.
|State||Chase Routing Number||Wells Fargo Routing Number||Bank of America Routing Number|
|District of Columbia||Unconfirmed||054001220||054001204|
|Illinois||071000013||071101307||081904808 (South and Chicago Metro)
|New York||021000021 (Downstate)
112000066 (El Paso only)
1Note for Wells Fargo California customers: If you opened your account in Southern California, you might see a routing number on your checks that’s different from the number displayed in the chart. Using either number is fine.
Routing Numbers for Specific Transaction Types
In addition to routing numbers by state, some banks have designated routing numbers for specific transaction types, such as wire transfers and ACH transactions.
Routing number look-up tools often allow users to search by state and transaction type or display routing numbers for each transaction type. Those not sure which routing number to use should check with their bank.
How Bank Routing Numbers Are Used
American banks and credit unions use ABA routing numbers for the following types of transactions:
- ACH transactions, such as direct deposit and online bill pay
- Wire transfers
- Setting up recurring automatic payments
- Transferring money between banks
- Processing checks
- Ordering checks online
Routing numbers are essential to the U.S. banking system to ensure money is moving out of and into the right banks for every transaction, whether a bill payment, direct deposit or other transaction.
Since more banking transactions are carried out electronically, it’s common to need to find a routing number. When looking up bank routing numbers, be sure to use a trusted source — such as the bank that holds the account — to ensure you’re using the correct number. This will help avoid transaction delays or errors.