What is a Bank Account Number

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An account number is a string of digits, often associated with a bank or brokerage account, that allows individuals and companies to identify you.

🤔 Understanding a Bank Account Number

Account numbers are used in many different contexts, but in the world of finance, the term typically refers to your bank account number. Regardless of what financial institution you use, your bank or credit union will assign you an account number. This number acts as an identification number for your bank account. You might use your account number to transfer money to another individual (or receive a transfer). Your bank account number appears on your checks, as well as on your online account access. Keep in mind an account number is not the same as a routing number, which identifies your bank rather than your specific account.


Suppose you’ve just landed a new job. On the first day of work, you meet with your company’s human resources department to handle your entry paperwork and benefits information. One of the pieces of information your employer may ask for is your bank account number, as well as your routing number. They’ll need this information to pay you via direct deposit. Then, when your employer sends money to your bank each pay period, the bank can tell by the account number that the money is yours.


An account number is like a street address…

Every household has a unique street address. When someone sends you mail, a postal worker looks at the address to know where to deliver it. Your address is also how organizations identify or locate you for other purposes, like if you need to register to vote or receive particular government services. Your account number is kind of like a street address for your money. Banks know the money is meant for you as long as the sender uses your account number.

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What is a bank account number?

A bank account number is a string of numbers that a bank assigns to a user’s account. In other words, the account number is how your bank identifies you. Think of it as a Social Security number for your bank account. It’s a way to identify an account that belongs to you and no others. Your bank account number is also what allows others to send money to you and receive money from you. This number appears on your checks. Typically, you might use it for online banking tasks such as electronic payments and direct deposit.

How does a bank account number work?

Your bank account number doesn’t just identify you — It also identifies your account. This means that each account you open at a bank will have a unique number. Here are some examples of financial products that typically have an account number:

  • Checking account: You may use an account number most often for your checking account. This account allows you to access your money through ATM withdrawals, checks, and electronic payments.
  • Savings account: This is an interest-earning account typically offered by a bank that is meant for saving money.
  • Money market account: A money market account is an account at your bank that earns interest. You can also make payments from it as you would from a checking account (though only a few per month). An investor could also have a money market account through their brokerage company.
  • Individual retirement account (IRA): An IRA is an account where some people can contribute to their retirement savings while taking advantage of certain tax benefits. Both banks and investment companies can offer IRAs.
  • Brokerage account: A brokerage account allows you to deposit money for investment purposes, like buying or selling stocks. Brokerage firms are typically offered by investment firms.

What is a bank account number used for?

Though the purpose of a bank account number is to identify a particular account, they have many different uses. For example, you may need an account number (along with a routing number) to complete financial transactions. Here are a few examples:

Identification: One use for your bank account number is identification. Suppose you’re heading to your local bank branch. Before they can discuss your account with you, the bank will first have to verify that the account actually belongs to you. They might do that by asking for your account number, photo identification, a debit card that goes with the account, or a combination.

Checks: Your account number appears on paper checks so that when you write a check, the bank can make sure they pull the money from the correct account.

Electronic funds transfer (EFT): EFT is a term that broadly refers to an electronic payment. There are many different types of EFTs. Here are two common ones:

  • Automated clearing house (ACH): ACH is an electronic network that facilitates credit and debit transfers. An ACH debit transfer refers to when someone pulls money out of someone else’s account. For example, if you use online bill pay (to pay vendors, etc.), the company you’re paying might use ACH to pull the funds from your account. By contrast, an ACH credit transfer is when you push money out of your own bank account. You might use this when you’re sending money to another person.
  • Direct deposit: A direct deposit is a type of ACH transaction that transfers money from one bank account to another. Employers often use direct deposit to pay employees each pay period.

Where is the bank account number on a check?

If you need your bank account number to set up a direct deposit or electronic payment, you can usually locate it on a check. Along the bottom of a personal check, you’ll notice a long string of numbers. Those digits actually represent three separate numbers. The nine-digit number on the far left is the routing number, which is a number that identifies your bank.

The long number in the middle of the check along the bottom is your account number. This number identifies your bank account. Bank account numbers are usually 10-12 digits, but the exact length will depend on the bank. The final number to the right of the account number is the check number — This is usually the same as the check number in the upper right-hand corner of the check.

It’s important to note that this information mostly applies to personal checks. If you receive a business or payroll check, the numbers might appear in different places. If you need the account, routing, or check number for a business check, it may be helpful to ask the check’s sender for that information.

Where do you find the bank account number if you don’t have a check?

Not everyone has a checkbook to go with their checking account. If that’s the case, there are still other ways to locate an account number. First, take a look at your bank statement. You may receive your bank statement by physical mail or email. One common place where the account number shows up is at the top of a monthly bank statement. However, not every institution lists the full account number on their monthly statements. They may only show the account number’s last four digits or not list your account number at all.

Another way to find your bank account number is by logging into your online banking account, either through the bank’s website or mobile app. If you have multiple accounts at your bank, each account will typically have its own number. If you don’t have checks and can’t find your account number on your monthly statement or online banking account, you may need to contact your bank by visiting a branch or calling the bank’s customer service number. Knowing information like your account number may be necessary for routine tasks, like paying bills and getting paid each month.

What is the difference between a bank account number and a routing number?

An account number is a form of identification that your financial institution assigns to your bank account. It’s specific to you. The routing number, on the other hand, is specific to your bank. The American Bankers Association (ABA) developed routing numbers in 1910 as a way of identifying what financial institution is responsible for a given payment. The ABA issues routing numbers to federal and state-chartered financial institutions that are eligible for an account at the Federal Reserve Bank.

Originally, routing numbers were only used to identify the financial institution on paper checks. The purpose of the number has expanded, and routing numbers now also identify participants in electronic funds transfers, ACH payments, and online banking. Some banks and credit unions might have one routing number that they use for all of their account holders. Others, typically larger international institutions, might have multiple routing numbers. In these cases, the bank may have a different routing number for each state or region where they do business. Like account numbers, routing numbers often appear at the bottom of paper checks or in the account’s online profile.

Bank account numbers are private information. For example, another individual wouldn’t be able to look up your account number at your local bank or credit union. Routing numbers, on the other hand, can typically be viewed publicly. You can usually find a particular bank’s routing number (or numbers) on its website or through a quick internet search.

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