Whether you’ve sent money to a loved one abroad or paid an online bill using a bank account in the United States, you’ve no doubt been asked for a routing number.
In a world where financial institutions have gone digital and online banking is widespread, you may find yourself looking up a routing number more often than before. This guide will help you better understand this banking term, why it’s important, and when you may need it.
What Is a Routing Number?
Whenever someone asks for your U.S. bank account information, one of the first things they request is a bank routing number. If you’ve ever written a check in the United States, you’ve seen this series of digits even if you didn’t notice it. That’s because you can find the number on the bottom of paper checks.
Also known as routing transit numbers, these digits are essentially a bank’s identification code. In 1910, the American Bankers Association created these identifiers to make sure the withdrawal and deposit of funds went to the correct bank. That’s where the longer name “ABA routing number” comes from.
How Do I Find my Bank’s Routing Number?
There are several ways you can find your own routing number. The following methods are some of the easiest:
- Look at your checks: The first set of digits at the bottom of your checks is the routing transit number. It is a nine-digit number.
- Call the bank: Unlike account numbers, routing numbers are not secret information. Your bank should provide this information over the phone.
- Check online: There are search databases that can provide this information, but check your own bank’s website to be on the safe side.
Whether you’re wiring money online or setting up your paycheck for direct deposit, accurately entering this number is important for ensuring funds get to their destination. Routing numbers are now used for electronic funds transfers, automated clearing house (ACH) transfers, wiring money, and a variety of mobile banking needs.
Keep in mind that these identifiers can vary based on your accounts and method of sending money. For instance, banks offer different numbers for their checking and savings accounts. Financial institutions may also have separate identifiers for traditional electronic transfers and wire transfers.
Routing Transit Number vs. Account Number
It’s important to remember that your checking account number and routing transit number are not the same thing. Although they’re both featured on your checks along with your check number, they serve entirely different purposes.
Simply put, routing numbers help institutions identify your bank, and account numbers help your bank identify you.
Every bank has their own routing number. In fact, large banks often have several different routing numbers. That’s why you may find distinct routing numbers on your bank website listed by state. For a multinational bank like Chase or Wells Fargo, Kentucky won’t share a number with New York, which won’t be the same as the codes for Maryland or Connecticut.
Routing Numbers in Other Countries
When sending or receiving money from other countries, traditional routing information won’t be enough. American banks use SWIFT codes for incoming payments from foreign countries. While these codes are similar to routing numbers in a variety of ways, mixing them up can cause failed transfers.
Another issue you may encounter with other countries is a difference in terminology. While routing information is widely recognized in America, other nations may call these numbers something else.
They serve the same purpose, but you may hear routing numbers referred to as the following in other countries:
- Sort Codes in the U.K.
- International Bank Account Number (IBAN) in Europe.
- Clave Bancaria Estandarizada (CLABE) in Mexico.
- Bank-State-Branch (BSB) number in Australia.
You might also see these terms used alongside each other.
Sending money from the European Union may require an IBAN, for instance, but you will also need your domestic bank’s routing number.
When and How Are Routing Numbers Used?
This guide has mentioned a few instances when your routing information is necessary, but this barely scratches the surface of the many uses of these identifiers. You may need your routing number in each of the following situations.
- Signing up for digital wallets that are connected to your checking account.
- Sending wire transfers to friends or family abroad.
- Signing up for automatic withdrawal to pay bills.
- Making payments online or over the phone.
- Setting up direct deposit for tax returns or stimulus checks.
- Online money transfer apps — though debit cards or credit cards are often all you need.
- Transferring money between separate accounts (e.g., savings and checking).
- Setting up direct deposit to prepaid debit or credit cards.
Do I Need my Bank Routing Number to Use Remitly?
Customers in the U.S. only need to enter their routing number if they’re sending from their bank account. For even faster transfers, you can use a debit card or credit card—no routing number required.
You can see all the payment methods we accept here.
Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Our reliable and easy-to-use mobile app is trusted by over 3 million people around the world.