Routing Number vs Account Number - Finli (2024)

What Is a Routing Number?

A routing number is a 9-digit code used to identify banks and financial institutions in the United States. It ensures the accurate routing of funds during transactions like checks, wire transfers, and direct deposits.

Each bank has its unique routing number, which helps facilitate smooth and precise money transfers between accounts.

You can typically find this number on the bottom left corner of checks or through your bank’s online services.

What Is an Account Number?

An account number is a unique identifier assigned to your bank account, enabling precise tracking of transactions.

Found on checks and bank statements, it ensures your funds are correctly deposited or withdrawn.

Combined with a routing number, it facilitates various banking activities, including transfers, direct deposits, and payments.

Safeguard your account number to protect against unauthorized access and fraud.

Routing Number vs. Account Number

Routing Number: A routing number, also known as an ABA number, is a nine-digit code used to identify a specific financial institution within the United States. This number is necessary for various transactions, including setting up direct deposits, paying bills, and processing checks. Each bank has at least one unique routing number that helps other banks and institutions locate where your account was opened.

Account Number: Your account number is unique to you. It identifies your individual account within a bank. This number can vary in length and is used alongside the routing number to authorize deposits, withdrawals, and transfers, ensuring the money moves to or from the correct account.

Key Differences:

  1. Purpose: The routing number identifies the bank, while the account number identifies your specific account at that bank.
  2. Usage: Routing numbers are used broadly to identify banks during transactions. Account numbers are used to identify individual accounts during transactions.
  3. Length: Routing numbers are always nine digits, whereas account numbers can vary in length, generally between 10 to 12 digits.

Example of Routing Number vs. Account Number

Here’s an example to illustrate the difference between a routing number and an account number, using a hypothetical situation:

Scenario: Imagine you’re setting up a direct deposit for your paycheck. You’ll need to provide your employer with both your routing number and your account number.


  • Routing Number: 123456789 (This is a made-up number used to identify your bank. It’s always nine digits long.)
  • Account Number: 9876543210 (This is also a fabricated number specific to your personal account within the bank. Its length can vary, but it’s generally between 10 to 12 digits.)

In this example:

  • Bank: Suppose this routing number corresponds to Big Bank USA, which operates nationally. This number helps any financial transaction identify Big Bank USA as the institution where your account is held.
  • Your Account: The account number directly ties any deposits, withdrawals, or transfers to your specific account under your name at Big Bank USA.

When setting up your direct deposit, you would provide both numbers to your employer. They use the routing number to identify and communicate with your bank, and the account number to ensure the funds reach your specific account.

Importance of Routing and Account Numbers

Routing and account numbers securely direct financial transactions.

The routing number identifies the specific bank involved in a transaction so that funds are sent to the correct financial institution.

Meanwhile, the account number pinpoints the individual’s account within that bank, directing the incoming or outgoing funds to the right account holder.

This dual-number system prevents errors and fraud, facilitating accurate and efficient financial operations, from payroll deposits to bill payments.

How to Find Your Routing and Account Numbers

You can find your routing and account numbers through several methods:

  • Checkbook: Look at the bottom of your checks. The first set of numbers is the routing number, followed by the account number, and then the check number.
  • Bank Statements: Your account number is usually listed on your bank statements. The routing number might also be shown.
  • Online Banking: Log into your online banking portal. Typically, both numbers can be found under account details or account information.
  • Bank App: Use your bank’s mobile app. Like online banking, these details are usually found in the section detailing your account information.

When to Provide a Routing Number and Account Number

Here are common situations when you’ll need to provide your routing and account numbers:

  • Setting Up Direct Deposit: To receive your paycheck or benefits directly in your bank account.
  • Automatic Bill Payments: To set up recurring payments for utilities, rent, or other regular expenses.
  • Transferring Money: For both domestic and international wire transfers.
  • Linking Bank Accounts: When connecting two different bank accounts for transferring funds.
  • Tax Refunds: To receive your state or federal tax refunds electronically.

Where is the routing number located on a check?

On a check, the routing number is located at the bottom left corner. It is the first set of nine digits printed on the lower edge of the check. This number is typically followed by your account number and then by the individual check number.

Why Do I Have Two Routing Numbers?

Having two routing numbers is not uncommon and can be due to several reasons:

  • Geographic Location: Some banks have different routing numbers for different states or regions to help manage transactions and accounts more effectively.
  • Transaction Type: You might have one routing number for electronic transactions (like direct deposits and automatic payments) and another for paper transactions (like checks).
  • Bank Mergers: If your bank merged with another or acquired other banks, different routing numbers from pre-existing entities might still be in use for existing customers.
  • Account Types: Occasionally, banks use different routing numbers for different types of accounts, such as personal vs. business accounts.

Which Comes First, Account Number or Routing Number?

The routing number typically comes first on a check, located at the bottom left corner. The account number follows it. This standard format helps ensure consistency and accuracy in financial transactions.

What Is an IBAN Number?

An IBAN (International Bank Account Number) is a standardized international code that identifies bank accounts across national borders. The IBAN helps process of cross-border transactions by making it easier to check and reduce errors in transnational payments.

It typically includes a country code, two check digits, and a long and detailed bank account number that includes the domestic bank account number, branch identifier, and potential routing information. The structure of the IBAN varies by country, but its primary purpose is to ensure that international transactions are swift and error-free.

Routing Number vs Account Number - Finli (2024)


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