Your checking account and bank routing numbers are the most important pieces of information printed on the front of your checks. The routing number identifies your bank. The routing and the account numbers are necessary for your checks to be processed for payment and for funds to be withdrawn from your account.
The American Bankers Association developed bank routing numbers in 1910. The numbers identify the specific financial institution responsible for payment of a negotiable instrument, such as a personal check.
Routing numbers, sometimes referred to as "check routing numbers" or "routing transit numbers,” are the nine numbers from the left at the bottom of your check. Banks may have more than one routing number. The number can depend on where you opened your account. For example, a customer who opened an account in Texas may have a different routing number than someone who opened an account in California, even though they are customers of the same bank.
The checking account and routing numbers also are used to process electronic payments through the Automated Clearing House. ACH transactions can be scheduled in advance and often are used to make payments to creditors. Creditors who advertise that they can accept checks by phone usually are referring to ACH transactions.
Routing numbers are issued only to federal- or state-chartered financial institutions that are eligible to maintain accounts at a Federal Reserve Bank.
You need to protect your routing and account numbers. The information could be the target of identity thieves who may use several methods to steal even more of your personal information, such as your Social Security number and driver's license number. Once the thieves have enough information about you, they may attempt to hack into your bank account or open credit cards in your name.
Robert Lee has been an entrepreneur and writer with a background in starting small businesses since 1974. He has written for various websites and for several daily and community newspapers on a wide variety of topics, including business, the Internet economy and more. He studied English in college and earned a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Governor's State University.