A bank account number is a series of numbers (and sometimes letters) that’s designed to identify an individual bank account and its owner. This way, financial institutions can securely provide access to the account for sending and receiving payments.
In the past, social security numbers were used for this role. However, the frequency of their use made fraud and identity theft more common. As a result, banks have gradually moved away from this practice. While social security numbers are still in use, unique checking account numbers are now used for banking purposes.
Today, nearly every financial transaction an individual makes is attached to a bank account number in one way or another. While security measures like multi-factor identification have reduced the frequency of fraud and theft over time, bank account numbers are still at risk of being stolen and used for nefarious purposes if account holders aren’t careful enough to practice safe online banking.
To understand the difference between a routing number and an account number, think of a hotel where your money is staying. The routing number is like the address of the hotel, so it’s the same for all the guests staying at that particular hotel.
Your account number, however, is like your room number in the hotel. Yours is different from everyone else’s, and it’s a more specific way of identifying where a package that’s addressed to you is meant to go.
Your routing number, also known as ABA routing number or ABA number (American Banks Association), tells financial processing algorithms and humans which bank you come from, and your account number is the specific savings or checking account associated with you. This is all designed to ensure that both computer systems and people working at financial institutions are clear on where the money in a transaction is going or coming from.
While routing numbers and account numbers are different, they work closely together to keep your banking information secure. They also help guarantee that transactions to or from your account go exactly where they belong. This is why just about any basic banking transaction requires both a routing transit number and an account number, whether you're writing a personal check, initiating an electronic payment, or setting up a direct deposit for your paycheck from work.
It’s also important to note that anyone who wants to find the routing number for a specific bank can simply locate it online. By contrast, your account number is a unique identifier that is extremely private and should be carefully protected, just like a social security number or a debit card pin code. After all, if someone knows which bank you hold a checking account at, all they would need to initiate a funds transfer from your account into their own is your unique account number. The rest—such as the bank routing number—they could easily find with a quick web search.
If you’re trying to track down your checking account number, you can search multiple locations for it, depending on what’s most convenient for you. More specifically, you can find it on checks, bank statements, online banking account profiles, and within the bank's mobile app. You can also access it by calling your bank directly to request it—though you’ll have to provide some verification info over the phone first.
For some, the easiest place to track down a bank account number is at the bottom of a check. In particular, if you open up your checkbook and look at the bottom of your checks, the checking account number is almost always the second set of numbers from the left. The first series of numbers is the nine-digit routing number for your bank, which is the same for all people who use that bank. An account number usually has 10 to 12 digits—though it can technically have up to 17—and will usually have a pair of bracketing symbols on either side. It typically looks like this:
Your account number can also be found on your bank statements. These may be sent to you every month in the mail, or they could be saved online in your online banking account if you’ve requested paperless billing. Usually, the account number on a bank statement isn’t too difficult to find, as it most commonly appears near the very top of the statement. It’s typically labeled like this:
Account No. 0123456789
If you have a computer or mobile device handy, you can always navigate to your bank’s website and log in to your account to access your bank account information. If you have multiple accounts with the same bank (a checking account and a savings account, for example), you’ll usually find their respective account numbers by navigating to the specific account, and then looking for where the account number is listed. Sometimes, the account number will be hidden by default, and you simply need to click an option to reveal it.
Similar to using your bank’s website, you can access your account number through your mobile banking app. Simply open the mobile app, log in if necessary, and follow the same steps listed above to track down your account number for the specific account in question.
If all else fails, you can usually contact your bank directly to find out all your important account information. You’ll find the customer service number on the back of your debit card. If you don’t have access to your debit or credit card right now, you can do an online search to find your financial institution’s contact information. When you call the customer support line, you’ll need to provide some verification information before they provide you with your full account number. Usually, this includes your name, date of birth, and all or part of your Social Security number. Some banks will also ask additional security questions to make sure it’s really you on the line before providing you with your private banking information.
In the digital age, bank account numbers are some of the most highly targeted prizes for cybercriminals. Someone in possession of your account number and your password or pin number can access your account and then authorize payments or withdrawals from it.
As a result, banks have instituted a range of security measures to help prevent this. They include multi-factor authentication, which is the practice of asking for multiple forms of verification before allowing you to access your account. If you’ve ever had to enter a one-time pin number that’s been sent to your phone by your bank, you’ve used multi-factor authentication. Other measures, such as security questions and automatic logouts after long periods between uses, are designed to help keep your account information—and your money—safe.
Another way to keep your account number safe is by reducing the use of paper checks, which feature your full account number printed on each one. With Bill.com, you no longer need checks to complete routine financial transactions. Bill.com can handle those transactions easily, quickly, and with security measures that keep your funds safe. Sign up for a risk-free trial today!
The content found here is for informational purposes only, and not for the purpose of providing advice, including but not limited to, financial, legal, or tax advice. Any opinion found here does not necessarily represent those of Bill.com.