June 30, 2019

What is a Routing Number on a Check

If you're looking to transfer money using a bank, you'll likely need a routing number. So what is a routing number and how can you find yours? Read on for the answers.

What Is a Routing Number?

A routing number is a 9-digit "electronic address" for transactions between financial institutions in the U.S. It identifies the location of the bank where you opened your account.

In other words, a routing number, along with your bank account number, ensures the money you send or receive ends up in the right place.

You may also see them referred to as an ABA RTN, which stands for American Bankers Association Routing Transit Number.

When Do I Need a Routing Number?

You'll need your routing number to send or receive money directly from your checking account. Here are some common examples:

  • Direct deposit from employer

  • Automatic billing

  • Sending money to family member or friend

  • Depositing your money from a third-party payment app into your bank account (like Venmo or PayPal)

  • Transferring money between two of your bank accounts

  • Transferring money between a savings account and a retirement or investment account

  • Wire transfer

Always make sure you have sufficient account funds BEFORE sending money. Otherwise, you'll be charged an overdraft fee.

Where Can I Find a Routing Number?

On Your Checks
For checking accounts, the routing number is located on the bottom left of a check. Be sure not to confuse it with your account number, which is located on the bottom right of the check.

Your routing number may also be printed on your monthly statement.

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Log in and search for the term "routing number." Many banks also list their routing numbers right on the bank's website.

Find your bank's routing number by using the links below.

The numbers listed on most bank websites refer to checking accounts. When sending or receiving money with a savings account or IRA, check with your bank to locate the correct routing number.

On the ABA website
The American Bankers Association also provides bank routing information. Search by inputting your bank's name, city, state, and zip code.

Types of Routing Numbers

The routing number you use depends whether you are transferring money via an Automated Clearing House transfer, domestic wire transfer, or international wire transfer.

Automated Clearing House (ACH)
ACH transfers are money transfers made between financial institutions through third-party clearinghouses. They are the most common types of money transfers.

Banks and third-party payment apps like Venmo, Square, and PayPal use the ACH system to send money to other people or businesses.

ACH transfers typically are free, but take several business days to complete. Any transfers initiated after business hours won't be processed until the next business day.

Bank of America and TD Bank charge $3 for ACH transfers to external accounts.

Domestic Wire Transfers
Domestic wire transfers are direct bank-to-bank transfers that require no third-party clearinghouse. If you send money between two of your bank accounts, this could be done via wire transfer.

Some banks use different routing numbers for wire transfers. For example, PNC bank uses a routing number for incoming wire transfers that differs from the one displayed on your account. Before completing a wire transfer, check with your bank for the correct wire transfer routing number.

Wire transfers are great for time-sensitive transactions, as they are processed in real-time. However, they typically cost between $20 and 30, as opposed to a free ACH transfer.

If you're unsure what kind of transfer to make, the default is an ACH transfer. Wire transfers are less common than ACH transfers. Wire transfers are generally used only for large amounts or time-sensitive transfers.

International Wire Transfers
SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) codes are routing numbers for international transactions between banks. They have eight to eleven digits with letters and numbers, unlike the 9-digit routing number.

For example, if you work overseas and want to send money from your international account to a US account, you'll need a SWIFT code. Call your bank or visit its website to find the SWIFT code for an international wire transfer.

The Bottom Line

Routing numbers are 9-digit codes that enable banks to identify the location of your bank account and make sure your money doesn't get lost. ACH transfers and domestic wire transfers use routing numbers.

If you plan to send money internationally, you'll need a SWIFT code, which is how banks locate each other internationally.

You can find your routing number on a check, on your online account portal, or at your bank's website.

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