What the Routing Number on a Check Means


A routing number is a key element in all sorts of banking transactions. It tells banks where the money should go or come from during a transaction.

Learn all about bank routing numbers, where to find them and how to use them.

Key Takeaways

  • Routing numbers are found on a check. You may also find them by signing into your account online and in mobile apps.
  • Routing numbers are different from account numbers.
  • A routing number is needed for transactions involving checks, automated payments and direct deposits.
  • There are a few places you can go to find your routing number, including checkbooks or online accounts.

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What Is a Routing Number?

A routing number is a nine-digit string of numbers that functions as a bank’s identifier or ID number. The American Banking Association created the system in 1910 and assigns the numbers to financial institutions. Routing numbers are only used in the U.S., but other countries might have number systems of their own that serve the same purpose.

Routing numbers are issued to state-chartered or federal financial institutions that have accounts with the Federal Reserve Bank, and they’re public information. 

Some banks may have separate routing numbers for electronic transactions. These are known as Automated Clearing House (ACH) routing numbers, or electronic routing numbers. 

Larger, national financial institutions may have different routing numbers in different states.

Where Is the Routing Number on a Check?

The routing number is the first of three groups of numbers in the bottom left-hand corner of a check. The second set of numbers is the checking account number, and the third set of numbers is the check number.

There are a few ways you can find your routing number if you don’t have checks:

  • Visit your bank’s website.
  • Check online or through your mobile banking app—you may be able to find it under your account information.
  • Look at your bank statement.
  • Contact your bank.

To locate the routing number for your Capital One account, you can sign in online, click on the account you need the routing number for and hit “View Details.”

Why Routing Numbers Are Important

Routing numbers are critical for ensuring funds go to or come from the right financial institution during a transaction. You may need to use your routing number for:

  • Direct deposits
  • Wire transfers
  • Paying bills over the phone or online
  • Setting up automatic payments or scheduling electronic payments
  • Making or receiving payments via payment apps
  • Transferring funds between accounts at different banks
  • Retirement account deposits
  • Ordering checks

Routing Numbers in a Nutshell

Routing numbers are nine-digit numerical codes that identify banks and other financial institutions. Routing numbers are needed for many different types of banking transactions, so it’s a good idea to make sure your routing number is correct. If it’s incorrect, it can prevent the transaction from going through.

If you’re searching for your account routing number, you can find it on the paper checks that come with your checking account. And if you’re new to banking, you can learn how to write a check to help you get started.


We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information, or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.

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