In addition to the account number, these two pieces of information are used to identify individual bank accounts across the United States. A routing number does not correspond to a specific type of account but to a bank institution.
Routing numbers are used for several purposes in addition to check-writing, such as setting up direct deposit or transferring money between banks — both of which are common practices in savings accounts.
What is a Routing Number?
A routing number — its technical name is an ABA routing transit number. It is a nine-digit code that identifies the financial institution where a bank account is held.
Along with your account number, a routing number is used to identify your individual U.S.-based bank account.
Routing numbers came into existence in 1910 in an effort to make transactions faster and more efficient. Every U.S. bank has at least one specific routing number assigned to it, as this helps to accurately distinguish between banks — especially those with similar-sounding names.
There are tens of thousands of routing numbers in the United States, so you can see why using them can be easier as a quick identifier than trying to manually look up a bank’s information.
What Each Digit Means
A routing number consists of nine digits. The digits indicate different things about the bank.
For example, a routing number that starts with 01 indicates a bank under the jurisdiction of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The third digit indicates the check processing center assigned to the bank.
The fourth digit indicates which state of the Federal Reserve district that the bank is in.
The fifth through eighth digits makes up the bank’s unique identifier. The final digit is a “checksum.” Checksums are calculated by plugging the other eight digits into a complex mathematical formula.
If the checksum digit doesn’t match with the other characters, whatever system is looking at the routing number can know an error was made.
How to Find Your Savings Account’s Routing Number
If you have a book of personalized savings deposit slips, your routing number is likely on them. Look for a nine-digit code towards the bottom left of one of the slips.
If you don’t have any deposit slips handy, you can also typically find your routing number on your account statement or on your bank’s website.
If you’re still having difficulty, or if you aren’t 100% sure that the number you’re looking at is the correct routing number, call your bank to find out.
What Savings Routing Numbers are used for
So, if a routing number is just used by banks, why do you need to know it?
There are a variety of reasons that you should know your bank’s routing number, as well as your savings account’s account number. Routing and account numbers have been adapted to modern technology.
These days, more of our financial lives moving to the digital realm.
As that has happened, we’ve become responsible for linking our bank accounts to different financial systems.
Linking Financial Accounts
One common situation where you’ll need to know your routing number is linking accounts online.
Any bank will let you transfer money between your accounts, including sending money to an account at another bank. If you have accounts at multiple banks, you’ll need to know the routing and account number of both banks.
That will let you link the accounts to both bank’s websites, making it easy to send cash back and forth. For your savings account, you’ll mostly be transferring money into the account.
This is especially true f you’ve decided to use an online savings account to earn more interest.
Knowing your account’s routing number will make it easy to send cash from your local bank to your online account.
You’ll also need to know your routing number to link your account to a credit card account, Paypal account, or the like. While you probably won’t use your savings account to make payments on loans, it is an option.
Things to Know About Routing Numbers
Since the routing number system is over a century old, it has some quirks that you should be aware of:
Can my Routing Number Change?
Yes, routing numbers can change, but very rarely. While this is less likely to happen with an online bank, it could happen if you have an account at a branch of a national bank.
Routing numbers are partially based on the physical location of the bank. If you move across the country, or even to a different state, your account’s routing number could change.
The routing number can also change if the bank merges with another bank. In this situation, you’ll wind up with a new routing number as merged institution divides up their existing routing numbers.
Your account’s account number is less likely to change, but it is still possible. The most likely scenario for an account number to change is when your bank merges with another bank.
When a Routing Number Changes
If your savings account’s routing number changes, you’ll need to stay on top of things to avoid mishaps. The last thing you want is to try to transfer cash into your account, only for it to be sent into the ether.
The good news is that your bank will notify you of any changes months in advance.
However, our old routing number will also stay active for a while after the change is made. You could have months or years where you have two valid routing numbers for your account. That gives you a lot of time to update your other accounts.
When your bank warns you of upcoming changes, it will also provide instructions on how to handle them. Follow these instructions to the letter. Reading them carefully can help you avoid potential mistakes.
Once you’ve been informed of a routing number change, take the time to inventory your financial life. You might be surprised by the number of places you’ve entered your account’s routing number.
You might have provided it to a few banks, your employer’s payroll system, and countless other accounts. Make a list of institutions that interact with your savings account. Then, set aside time to go through the list and update the routing numbers those institutions have.
Also, take the time to go over account statements from the past year. That will help you catch monthly quarterly or annual recurring transactions.
How to Secure Your Account
The downside to the routing number system: It has the potential to leave your account open to misuse.
With just two pieces of information: your account number and routing number, anyone can access your account. In a perfect world, you would provide your account number and routing number only to people who want to transfer money into your account.
Unfortunately, you also have to provide the number to people who want to withdraw money. Think of Paypal as an example. When you link a bank account, all you have to do is provide the routing and account numbers.
Then, you can use Paypal to send money to anyone instantly.
Keep Routing and Account Numbers Safe
If someone else gets their hands on your routing and account numbers, they could take money out of your account. ACH fraud, where criminals steal account and routing numbers, is surprisingly common.
The good news is that these crimes tend to target large, commercial bank accounts. The potential payout is higher, and the odds of it being noticed is lower. Some companies that ask for your routing number implement some additional security.
One example of this is the company making a few small deposits to your account. Then, you have to enter the amount of those transactions to verify your ownership of the account.
This prevents anyone who has your routing and account numbers, but who cannot view transactions on the account, from taking money out of it.
Protect yourself from potential fraud. you should only give your account and routing numbers to trustworthy people and institutions. Don’t enter the information on unknown websites.
Consumer protection laws give you 60 days to detect and dispute fraudulent transactions. Since your bank statement closes each month, you should check every statement closely.
Look for any transactions that are out of place. If you see one that you did not authorize, contact your bank. If you report the fraud in time, you’ll get all of your money returned to you.
The routing number system was designed to help manage the massive American financial system. Every deposit account has a routing number, but you might not need it with every account.
It is a number that is key to making transactions and transfers, which is why it is most associated with checking accounts. Savings accounts still have them, though.
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