At one point, you may have been asked by a biller or your employer to provide your bank’s routing number — usually in combination with your bank account number. And if you’re part of a shrinking group of consumers who still issue paper checks, then you’ve probably encountered this mysterious code on your checkbook or deposit slip.
The nine-digit routing number — also called the ABA RTN, or “American Bankers Association Routing Transit Number” — serves as an electronic address for bank transactions made among financial institutions within the U.S. (international transactions require different codes such as the SWIFT or IBAN).
The ABA implemented this system in 1911 to automate paper check processing, and for decades routing numbers have been printed on checks in a machine-readable format with magnetic ink. As electronic transactions grow more common, the use of routing numbers has expanded to accommodate ACH and wire transfers, as well as newer types of accounts such as prepaid cards.
Below, we identify all the ways to locate the code and explain the steps you should take if your bank changes its routing number, which commonly happens after a bank merger or acquisition.
How To Find Your Routing Number
Most banks don’t use a single routing number for all of their accounts. The routing number for your account is often determined by the state or branch where your account was opened. And at some financial institutions, the same account also can have multiple routing numbers assigned to it, depending on the type of transaction you’re trying to complete. For instance, your checking account may have a routing number specifically for ordering a box of checks, another one for setting up direct deposit and a third one for sending an ACH or wire transfer. Keep this in mind when locating your routing number.
Here’s how to find it:
- It’s printed on your personal checks and deposit slips, if you have them. Although some account numbers are also nine digits, you can easily distinguish your routing number because it’s usually the bottom left or middle set of numbers enclosed in a pair of identical symbols (⑆123456789⑆). Don’t, however, look for your routing number or your ATM/debit card or prepaid card. The numbers on those cards are assigned under a separate system.
- It’s on your bank’s website or in its online banking system. It may be displayed on your user account page. But they are sometimes published in obscure places, so you may have to search within your bank’s website.
- Contact your bank or prepaid card issuer. When in doubt, call your bank’s customer service hotline.
If you’re searching for the opposite — that is, trying to identify a bank by its routing number — you can perform a search on the ABA’s Routing Number Lookup Service.
Do Routing Numbers Change? Here’s What To Do
Yes, routing numbers (and account numbers) occasionally change, usually when banks merge, consolidate or acquire other banks. The good news is you will be given plenty of time to change over.
Here are some things to be mindful of:
- Follow Your Bank’s Instructions: Your financial institution will notify you of any routing number change months in advance. And in many cases, the old routing number will be kept active for months or years after the new one is applied to your account. You will need to follow the instructions provided by your bank, but in many cases, they will permit you to keep using your old checks (with old routing numbers printed on them) until they run out. If they ask you to stop using your old checks by a certain date, it’s OK to ask that they provide you with a free box of new checks.
- Reconfigure Automatic Transactions: Even if you are given a lot of time to change over, it’s a good idea not to delay reconfiguring automatic deposits and withdrawals with your new account information. If you continue to use an old routing number that your bank has phased out, your bank most likely will not honor a transaction bearing that code.
- Review Bank Statements: To ensure that you convert over everything, it’s a good idea to review your bank statements from the past 12 months. List all recurring automatic transactions, including direct deposits and automatic payments scheduled in (or outside of) online bill pay. For direct deposits, you may need to complete new paperwork and provide a voided check that reflects the new code. Having this list will ease the updating process and ensure that no payment or deposit is rejected by your bank.
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