If you have a checking account, debit card, or send and receive online ACH payments, you've probably needed to use a bank transit number before. Even if you have an account with services like CashApp, you have a transit number and an account number that can be used to receive payments via direct deposit. However, another popular term used in conjunction with ACH payments is "routing number," and many people wonder if transit and routing numbers are the same thing.
A transit number, also known as a bank transit number, is a specific nine-digit number that is used to identify which exact bank branch was used to issue a particular financial document. They are used most often for direct deposits and transfers and are also known as routing numbers.
There is a lot to know about bank transit numbers or routing numbers. They have a long history and are able to be used in many different ways. We're going to take a close look at exactly what they are, how they work when you're most likely to see and use them, and how they may work when dealing with international financial transactions.
What Is Transit Number
A bank transit number is most often called a routing number, or in some cases, it may be referred to as the ABA RTN, which stands for the American Banking Association Routing Transit Number. It is a nine-digit number that identifies the exact bank and branch that funds are being sent to or withdrawn from during a financial transaction.
The bank transit number is printed on the bottom of personal and business checks and is the leftmost group of numbers at the bottom of the check. They are used to differentiate one bank from another, even different branches of the same bank so that each institution can determine where the account is located that contains the funds being sent or received.
Every single financial institution in the US has its own transit number. This includes not only commercial and community banks but also investment banks, brokerages, and even credit unions. Any financial or negotiable instrument issued by the financial institution will have that institution's transit number on it. A negotiable instrument is any document that signifies, authorizes, or guarantees a payment. Common negotiable instruments include personal checks, business checks, and promissory notes.
Each specific bank will have its own transit number that is unique to that location. This means if you and a friend both open accounts with the same parent bank but branches in different states, your transit numbers will be different. If you go to the same branch and open accounts, your bank transit numbers will be the same. These are different from your individual account numbers, which will always be unique to the individual.
Is Transit And Routing Number The Same
Transit numbers and routing numbers are the same things. They are simply different terms that refer to the same numerical code. This code can be called the routing number, ABA RTN, bank transit number, or simply the transit number. No two financial institutions will have the same transit or routing number, and it will be unique to each individual bank branch.
Bank Transit Number vs. Routing Number
There are no differences between what is commonly called a routing number and a bank transit number. They are just varying ways of referring to the nine-digit code that identifies every financial institution in the country. While they may be referred to by different terms, the function is the same. Their purpose is to identify the physical, specific bank branch where an account is located. Most larger banks will have one transit number for banks in each state. Some will even have different transit numbers for different types of financial transactions, such as electronic transfers, wire transfers, and paper checks.
Transit Code vs. Routing Number
The transit code is also known as the bank transit number, routing transit number, or RTN. Depending on who is asking for the number, it may be referred to by a number of different terms, but it all means the same thing. It is a nine-digit number assigned by the American Banking Association and numerically separates one bank branch from all others.
Your account number will only function with the bank transit number for the branch where you opened your account. For this reason, it's important to keep your banking information like your ABA RTN and account number secret. While it would be difficult to use your account number without the proper RTN or transit code, it's not impossible, and the routing transit numbers for specific bank branches can be researched in a national ABA RTN database. This is one of the reasons why you are advised to shred or otherwise physically destroy any related documents if they are returned to you after cancellation or rejection.
How Do I Find My ABA Transit Number?
The most common way to find your transit or routing number these days is to look in your banking app. The app will generally have a menu option that allows you to view your confidential routing and account number.
If you have a checkbook, you can also find your routing number on your checks. When looking at the check, there will be two strings of numbers that run along the bottom of each check. These strings of numbers will generally be separated by what appear to be square or rectangular markings. The set of numbers to the left will be the RTN or transit number, while the group on the right will be the unique account identifier.
Another option for finding your transit or routing number is to contact your bank. By calling or stopping into your local bank branch, you can personally inquire about what the routing number is, should you need it. This is also a smart way to ensure that you're getting the right transit number for your specific type of transaction since the bank personnel will ask you for more details if they are needed to provide you with the answer you need.
A final option for finding your bank transit number or routing transit number is to look it up online. The American Banking Association maintains a website with a searchable directory of all current routing numbers for banks in the US. Simply go to the ABA RTN lookup website, provide the search criteria needed to locate the bank branch whose routing transit number you're looking for, and you should be able to find what you need. There are other websites as well where routing numbers can be looked up and verified, though the website run by the issuing authority, the ABA, should be considered the most current, up-to-date, and accurate database of routing transfer numbers.
When Will I Need My Routing Number?
The most common situation where you'll need the routing number for your bank is when you're setting up electronic payments. They are commonly needed for paying bills on automatic payments and making tax payments. You'll also need your routing number when reordering physical checks, whether ordering them by mail, phone, or on the internet.
Do Other Countries Have Transit And Routing Numbers?
Actually, the US is the only country that created its own system of bank routing numbers, and many other countries in the world with a central banking system use a more standardized version called the IBAN. An IBAN is an International Bank Account Number, and it is a way to find the unique financial institution that contains the account number used in a financial transaction. IBAN numbers are most frequently used in European countries, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and North African banks.
Another similar identifier used in many other countries is the SWIFT code. SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It sets a standard set of rules for transactions across more than 10,000 banks and similar financial institutions around the world. SWIFT codes are often used in conjunction with BICs, which stands for Bank Identifier Code, and are used to identify what bank is being used and where it's located in the world.
SWIFT codes can be broken down into three groups of characters that make them up. The first four characters indicate the bank identifier code, the following two characters indicate the country the bank is located in and the next two characters classify the bank's headquarters location. Sometimes there will be an additional three characters that denote the specific bank branch code.
Understanding Transit & Routing Numbers Can Ensure Your Money Gets Where It Needs To Be
Sometimes financial transactions can be challenging, particularly when they involve paying your bills with online services that don't accept credit or debit cards. They are also incredibly important when setting up your direct deposit payment for your paycheck or other payments being made to you. Understanding how your routing number works and where to find it can help make sure your money always gets to where it needs to be.
Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author. He's been featured on Forbes, The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.