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bank transit number

A bank transit number, also known as a routing number, is a nine-digit number that helps financial institutions identify what institution issued checks or other documents financial documents. Transit numbers have been around for over 100 years, and they help to keep track of and facilitate transactions between customers at different banks. Most people encounter transit numbers when setting up direct deposit payments or when transferring money between banks.

Do you have questions about how your bank account can contribute to your long-term financial plan? Speak with a financial advisor today.

What Is a Bank Transit Number?

A bank transit number is commonly referred to as a routing number, or ABA RTN (American Banking Association routing transit number). It is a nine-digit code that identifies a specific financial institution and is used when transferring money or identifying specific bank accounts. The transit number is printed on checks so other banks can determine which bank the check was first drawn from.

Every financial institution (including commercial banks, investment banks, credit unions, and brokerage firms) has a specific transit number. That number is on all negotiable instruments that issue by the institution. A negotiable instrument is a document that guarantees the payment of an amount of money; examples include a check, a promissory note, or a bill of exchange.

The transit number is specific to the bank, not to you. So if you and a friend of yours both opened checking accounts at the same bank branch, then the routing number on both of your checks will likely be the same. The different number to the right is your account number, which is the number that is unique to your individual bank account.

How Do I Find My Bank Transit Number?

bank transit number

If you have a checkbook, the easiest way to find your bank transit number is to simply look at the bottom left corner of any check. Your transit number should be printed there. If you don’t have any checks, the transit number can still be relatively easy to find. You can find the number by heading to your bank’s website, calling your bank branch or support line, or visiting your branch in person.

Big banks like Wells Fargo or Chase typically have a different transit number for each state it has branches in. In addition to having multiple numbers for different states, some banks have different transit numbers for different types of transfers. Some banks assign one number for paper transfers, one for electronic fund transfers (EFTs), and one for wire transfers, because they handle these transactions in different ways. If you’re unsure about which routing number you need, just call your bank and they’ll be able to direct you.

Why Do We Need Bank Transit Numbers?

The primary function of bank transit numbers has changed over time. When the numbers first arrived in 1911, their purpose was to help banks send the checks they received back to the banks that first issued them. This helped banks to keep track of their transactions – a necessity in the days before computers automated such transaction tracking.

Since then, the function of transit numbers has expanded to include both wire transfers and ACH network transactions. Direct deposits, for instance, wouldn’t be possible without transit numbers. The routing number helps to determine what bank the deposit is going to. From there, your individual account number helps specify things further.

Bank transit numbers are even more necessary today than they were in 1911. With over 28,000 different financial institutions across the country, many of them with remarkably similar names, transit numbers play a crucial role in keeping them distinct.

Bottom Line

bank transit number

Bank transit numbers are essential to our banking system. With thousands upon thousands of transactions taking place every day, banks need a way to quickly identify each other. Thanks to those nine numbers, we can enjoy conveniences like direct deposit and online transfers. The next time you’re asked for a routing number or a bank transit number, you’ll know where to look and what you’re providing.

Tips for Banking Responsibly

  • Saving money isn’t always easy, so talking with a financial advisor can give you peace of mind that you’re on the right track. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you’d rather manage your money without having to worry about business hours or driving to a branch, you might be interested in online banking. Without having to travel to a traditional branch, you can conduct your business online in your own time. Plus, you’ll still be able to access a network of ATMs if you need cash.
  • When dealing with any bank, it’s crucial that you make sure you’re not paying any sneaky fees. Unnecessary fees can cut into your savings and erase the benefits of using a bank in the first place. One way to avoid this is to look for a free checking account at your preferred bank. You can easily access your money without having to worry about losing any of it.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/zoranm, ©iStock.com/Anchiy, ©iStock.com/fluxfoto

Hunter Kuffel, CEPF® Hunter Kuffel is a personal finance writer with expertise in savings, retirement and investing. Hunter is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and currently lives in New York City.
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