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Published March 4, 2024
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What Is a Bank Account Number?

A bank account number is a string of digits that identifies a specific bank account and is used to facilitate various transactions.

Your bank account number plays an important role in keeping your account secure and allowing the bank to process different types of transactions. 

Knowing what this number is and where to find it is essential for many banking tasks, like sending a wire transfer or setting up direct deposit.

Bank account number explained

There are usually three parts to a bank account number.

  • Transit number: Sometimes called a branch number, this number is always five digits. The transit number represents the branch where you open your account.
  • Bank or institution number: The three-digit institution number identifies the bank or financial institution that hosts your chequing or savings account.
  • Account numbers: Usually six to nine digits, depending on your financial institution, this number is unique to your account.

A routing number is the combination of your transit and institution numbers. It is eight digits long and is used to accurately process transactions, such as cheques and direct deposits.

Reasons to know your bank account and routing numbers

Typically, you would need to know your bank account, transit, institution or routing numbers when you’re sending or receiving money, including:

To set up a direct deposit. With direct deposit you can allow someone, like your employer, to automatically deposit money into your chequing account. It’s a secure and convenient way to receive your paycheque.

To arrange a pre-authorized debit payment. You need to know your bank account numbers when you want to set up pre-authorized debit payments, such as to pay your credit card bill, or to transfer money between accounts at different institutions.

To facilitate a wire transfer. You’ll need transit, institution, routing and bank account numbers to send or receive a wire transfer,commonly used for international money transfers. 

To send money within Canada, an e-transfer is usually a swift and affordable option.

» MORE: How to transfer money from a credit card to a bank account

Nerdy Tip: Never share your bank account information when it’s requested via an unsolicited email or call. Even if the call or email appears to be from your bank, it’s always best to phone your bank directly to ensure the request is legitimate.

How to find your bank account number

The easiest way to verify your account number is to contact your bank. This is an especially good idea if someone outside of Canada wants to send money to your Canadian bank account. 

Additionally, when making an international money transfer, you may require other bank account numbers, such as an IBAN/CLABE or a SWIFT BIC/ABA code. These numbers can be found on your bank statement or online banking portal.

Bank account number on a cheque

If you have a chequebook, you can look at your cheques to find your bank account number. See the bottom of a cheque, usually on the left side, and you’ll notice a series of numbers. 

The first five digits are the transit number. The next three digits are your bank’s institution number. Together these numbers make your routing number. The last six to nine digits are your account number.

Bank account number online

Many banks, especially online-only banks, make it easy to find bank account numbers via your online banking. Additionally, you can log into your account and download a void cheque or a direct deposit form to get your bank account information. If you’re at all unsure if you have the correct numbers, contact your bank. You can also confirm your bank routing numbers via Payments Canada’s Financial Institutions Branch Directory, which lists routing numbers for Canada’s banks and credit unions. This information is updated weekly.

Frequently asked questions about bank account numbers

Is it safe to share bank account numbers?

If you know the party who is requesting the bank account information to send you money, such as your employer or a family member, it’s typically safe to share bank account numbers. Due to the risk of identity theft and financial fraud, such as phishing scams, it’s important to keep financial information secure and avoid sharing it with unknown people or entities.

» MORE: Scams to watch out for in Canada 

Do routing numbers ever change?

Yes, your routing number can change. This may happen if your bank closes a branch or merges with another bank, for example. However, your financial institution should notify you of a routing number change and issue you new paper cheques. If you have any concerns, contact your bank to make sure you have the most up-to-date account information.


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