What is a Bank’s Routing Number?

If you’re like most American adults, then you probably have a checking account. If you’ve got a checking account then you’ve got checks, and on those checks you’ve probably noticed a long sequence of numbers along the bottom that don’t indicate what they pertain to. The first sequence of numbers is your bank’s routing number, which you will only need to know or use in very few instances.

A bank’s routing number is it’s specific, technical, financial “address,” in a manner of speaking. Your bank’s routing number is used in all kinds of financial transactions involving your bank, and it’s how other banks know where to send money and to get money, depending on the nature of the transaction. Routing numbers are regulated by the American Banking Association (ABA), and are nine digits in length.

Probably the most common reason for needing to know your bank’s routing number is when you link your credit card to your checking account or savings account in order to pay the credit card electronically. Your credit card needs your bank’s routing number first, to identify the bank it’s going to be taking the money from, and then it needs your specific account number, so that it knows which account to take the money from. This also applies to wiring money from a checking account or savings account at one bank to another.

The ABA and the Federal Reserve have perfected the routing number system since it was implemented in the beginning of the 20th century. The numbers involved in your bank’s routing number all signify something: the Federal Reserve Bank which is directly linked to your bank, by geography; the identifying routing number for the specific bank; and sometimes the branch number.

To learn more about a bank’s routing number, checking accounts, savings accounts, wiring or transferring money from a checking account to another, or any other banking question, be sure to consult with a representative at your bank.