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Published October 27, 2022

What Is a Routing Number?

Your routing number is a combination of two sets of banking numbers that can be found on your cheques: the transit number and the institution number.

If you are filling out a form for direct deposits from your workplace or setting up automatic bill payments, you need to provide a number of details to identify your bank account. One of the requirements is a routing number. 

Your routing number is a combination of two sets of banking numbers: a transit number and an institution number. Routing numbers are used to process cheques and electronic transactions, including direct deposits, automatic bill payments and wire transfers.

What is a routing number?

A routing number is a banking number that helps to identify the financial institution and branch associated with your bank account. You need to know your account routing number if you want to request a wire transfer, set up a direct deposit or establish automatic payments for items like your mortgage or bill payments. 

The routing number is a combination of two unique sets of numbers — a transit number, which is the number associated with your bank branch and a bank institution number. Together, these two numbers create an eight-digit code that serves as your routing number.  Note that the format of routing numbers can differ, based on whether the transaction is by cheque or electronic.

Routing number formats

The format of your routing number depends on how the transaction is conducted, that is whether it’s an electronic funds transfer (EFT), such as direct deposit and automatic payments, or whether it’s via paper documents encoded with magnetic ink character recognition (MICR), such as cheques. In both cases, the format is slightly different but the routing numbers are made up of the same two components — the transit number and the institution number.  

To give you an example, if YYYYY indicates the transit number and XXX is the institution number then here’s how the numbers will appear: 

  • YYYYY-XXX on a paper transaction transit number. 
  • 0XXXYYYYY on an electronic transaction routing number.

How to find a routing number on a cheque

The routing number can be found at the bottom of the cheque along with other important numerical identifiers for your bank account. 

From left to right, the first set of numbers is the cheque number, followed by a five-digit transit number and a three-digit institution number. Your routing number is the combination of the transit number and the bank institution number.

Other ways to find a routing number

Looking at your cheques is the easiest way to see your routing number. However, if you don’t have a cheque handy, you may be able to find the information by looking at your bank statements. Most banks also provide access to a void cheque via their online banking portal, which can help you find the routing number. 

If you need to verify your routing number, you can double-check with your bank to make sure you have the right number before setting up your direct deposits or automatic payments.

About the Author

Hannah Logan

Hannah Logan is a writer and blogger who specializes in personal finance and travel. You can follow her personal travel blog or find her on Instagram @hannahlogan21.

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