What Is a Routing Number?

You'll need your routing number for bank transfers.

If you ever need to set up direct deposit or automatic payments, you’ll need your correct routing number to successfully receive and send funds. The American Bankers Association Routing Number, also known as a bank routing number or ABA routing number, is a nine-digit code that identifies each individual U.S. federal- or state-chartered bank. This system of identifying financial institutions was adopted for use in the United States in 1911. Different routing numbers, known as SWIFT codes or Bank Identifier Codes (BIC), are used to send money to overseas banks.

Keep reading to find out what a routing number is and how to find it in seconds.

How Are Bank Routing Numbers Used?

A bank routing number is a unique number assigned to a specific financial institution for the accurate sending of payments and receipt of collections. These codes are essential in that they assist the U.S. banking system to “clear” your financial transaction by matching up the correct financial transactions to the appropriate financial institution. A second number, your account number, is required in addition to the bank routing number, to locate your exact bank account or checking account. American banks and credit unions use ABA Routing Numbers for the following types of transactions:

Why You Need to Know Your Bank Routing Number

It is important to understand your financial institution’s specific bank routing number because it will be unique to your specific bank location. Note that larger banks might have more than one bank routing number to signify various bank locations or even different types of financial transactions, whereas online banks might have just one routing number since they don’t have multiple bank branches.

One of the most common uses for a bank routing number is for depositing refunds or making payments on U.S. federal and state tax returns.  If you use an incorrect bank routing number in this situation, it could lead to one of the following situations:

  • Rejection of your U.S. federal or state tax return
  • Delay in receiving your refund or paying the amount you owe on taxes
  • Trigger the refund to be mailed to you instead of being automatically deposited into your bank account or checking account

Before sending or requesting payments directly from your financial accounts, including automatic payments, it’s essential you double check the bank routing number to avoid late fees, fines and other potentially costly delays.

Related: How to Wire Money Using Your Routing Number

How to Find Your Bank Routing Number

There are several ways to find the correct bank routing number. The most common way is to locate the routing number on a check.  The routing number is the first set of numbers, nine digits, located on the bottom left corner of your check followed by your personal checking account number.  If you no longer use paper checks, you can also locate your financial institution’s bank routing number by:

Taking a moment to double check the accuracy of your bank routing number is worthwhile to avoid errors, processing delays and additional fees.

Up Next: How to Set Up Direct Deposit to Your Bank