What is the difference between routing number vs account number?

account number

All bank-related financial transactions require two main pieces of information to identify customers: the routing number and the account number, which are assigned when you open an account. Whether you need to set up direct deposit, like your paycheck, or order checks online, you’ll need your bank routing number and personal account number for those transactions.

Account numbers, like customer identification or fingerprints, are specific to each account holder. Similarly, routing numbers identify a unique numerical ID for each banking institution. Routing and account numbers are assigned to show exactly where the funds are coming from and going to a transaction. Every time you make an electronic funds transfer, for example, account and routing numbers must be provided to the relevant financial institutions.

key takeaways

  • Account numbers and routing work together to identify your account and make sure your money ends up in the right place.
  • Both numbers require many basic banking transactions to be completed.
  • The routing number indicates which bank is on your account.
  • The account number is your unique identifier at that bank.

Route number

The routing number (sometimes called the ABA router number for the American Bankers Association) is a sequence of nine digits used by banks to identify specific financial institutions within the United States. This number proves that the bank is a state or federally chartered institution and maintains an account with the Federal Reserve. Small banks usually only have one routing number, while large multinational banks may have several different ones, usually depending on the state in which you have the account. Routing numbers are typically required when reordering checks, paying consumer bills, setting up direct deposit (such as payroll), or for tax payments. The routing numbers used for domestic and international wire transfers are not the same as those on your checks. However, they are easy to find online or by contacting your bank.

Account number

The account number works in conjunction with the routing number. While the routing number recognizes the name of the financial institution, the account number, usually between eight and 12 digits, identifies your account. If you have two accounts at the same bank, the routing numbers will be the same in most cases, but your account numbers will be different. Your account number is required for all measurable banking transactions, whether within the bank where the account is located or between banking institutions.

Anyone can find a bank routing number, but your account number is unique to you, so it’s important to protect it, just like you would your Social Security number or PIN code.

Routing Number vs. Example Account Number

You should be able to get your routing number and account number by logging into your online banking account. You can also include them on your checks. At the bottom of each check, you’ll see three groups of numbers: the routing numbers (again, usually nine digits) appear as the first group, the account number usually appears second, and the actual check number the third. Sometimes, however, like official bank checks, those numbers may appear in a different sequence.

This set of numbers is embedded with magnetic ink, known as a MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) line for a check. Called “Micker,” the magnetic ink allows each bank’s processing equipment to read and process account information. If you are never sure which number it is, you can contact your banking institution and always remember to check both numbers twice each time you give them to someone else. This will ensure a smooth transaction avoiding delays or any associated bank charges arising from funds ending up in the wrong account.

By aamritri

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