If you have any type of Canadian bank account, you might have noticed that it has several numbers associated with it. They’re easy to ignore, but bank account numbers play an important role in keeping your account secure and allowing the bank to process various transactions. Knowing what these numbers are (or where to find them) is essential for many banking tasks, like sending a wire transfer or setting up direct deposit.
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Common bank account numbers explained
There are three types of numbers typically associated with a bank account:
- Transit numbers: Sometimes called branch numbers, these account numbers are always five digits. They represent the branch where you first opened your account.
- Bank or institution numbers: These three-digit numbers identify the bank or financial institution that hosts your account.
- Routing numbers: A combination of your transit and institution numbers, routing numbers are typically eight digits long and are used to accurately process transactions, such as cheques and direct deposits.
- Account numbers: Usually six to nine digits, depending on your financial institution, this number is unique to your account.
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Reasons to know your bank account and routing numbers
The most common reason someone would need to know their bank account, transit, institution or routing numbers is when setting up a direct deposit. With direct deposit you can allow someone, like your employer, to automatically deposit money into your account. It’s a secure and convenient way to receive your paycheque.
You may also need to know your bank account numbers when transferring money between accounts at different institutions, or when you want to arrange pre-authorized debit payments, such as to pay your credit card bill.
You’ll also need transit, institution, routing and bank account numbers to send or receive a wire transfer. Keep in mind that wire transfers are usually used to send money internationally and can cost up to $17. To send money to someone else in Canada, an e-transfer is usually the more affordable option.
» MORE: How to transfer money from a credit card to a bank account
How to find your bank account or routing number
The easiest way to verify your account numbers is to contact your bank. This is an especially good idea if you’re sending money to a bank account outside of Canada or if someone outside of Canada wants to send money to your Canadian bank account. These types of transfers may require additional bank account numbers, such as an IBAN/CLABE or a SWIFT BIC/ABA code.
If you have a chequebook, you can look at your cheques to find your bank account and routing numbers. Look at 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 numbers are your bank’s institution number. (Remember, your routing number is your five-digit transit number + your three-digit institution number). The last six to nine digits are your account number.
Many banks (especially online-only banks) make it possible to find bank account numbers online. Once logged into your account, look for links called “void cheque” or “direct deposit info.” If you’re at all unsure if you have the correct numbers, contact your bank.
Due to the risk of identity theft and financial fraud, it’s important to keep financial information like bank account numbers secure. However, if you know the party who is requesting the information, such as your employer or a family member who wants to send you money, it’s typically safe to share these numbers.
Never share your bank account information just because 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.
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Though it doesn’t happen often, it is possible that your routing number might change. This might happen if your bank closes a branch or merges with another bank, for example.
Your financial institution should notify you if your routing number changes. The bank may need to issue you new paper cheques, though your old cheques may remain connected to your old account numbers for a period of time. If you have any concerns, contact your bank to make sure you have the most up-to-date account information.
You can also confirm routing numbers via Payments Canada. Payments Canada keeps a Financial Institutions Branch Directory, which is a detailed listing of routing numbers for Canada’s banks and credit unions, and the info is updated weekly.
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