A bank account number is a string of numerals (and sometimes letters) that’s designed to identify an individual bank account and its owner, and to provide access to the account for sending and receiving payments.
In the past, social security numbers were used for this role, but the frequency of their use made fraud and identity theft too easy and accessible. Banks slowly moved away from this practice, and while social security numbers are still in use, unique account numbers are used for banking purposes.
Today, nearly every transaction an individual makes is attached to a bank account number in one way or another. And while security measures like multi-factor identification have reduced fraud and theft, account numbers are still at risk of being stolen and used for nefarious purposes if account holders aren’t careful and don’t practice safe online banking.
To understand the difference between a routing number and account number, think of a hotel where your money is staying. The routing number is like the address of the hotel— it’s the same for all the guests staying at that particular hotel.
Your account number, however, is like your room number. Yours is different from everyone else’s, and it’s a more specific way of identifying where a package addressed to you is meant to go.
Your routing number tells financial processing algorithms and humans which bank you come from, and your account number is the specific bank account associated with you. This is all designed to ensure that the information about where funds in a specific transaction are going to or coming from is completely clear for both computer systems and human financial workers.
While routing numbers and account numbers are different, they work closely together to keep your banking information secure and guarantee that transactions to or from your account go exactly where they belong. Almost any basic banking transaction requires both a routing number and an account number.
It’s also important to note that anyone who wants to find the routing number for a specific bank can simply locate it online, but your account number is extremely private and should be carefully protected just like a Social Security Number or debit card’s pin code. If someone knows which bank you hold an account at, all they would need to initiate transfers from your account into their own is your account number— the rest they could find with a quick web search.
Trying to track down your bank account number? There are multiple locations where it can be found, and which you choose depends on which is the most convenient for you personally. Bank account numbers can be found on checks, bank statements, online banking account profiles, and in your mobile banking app. They can also be accessed by calling your bank directly to request it— though you’ll have to provide some verification info, first.
For some, the easiest place to track down your bank account number is on a paper check. Your bank account number appears along the bottom of the check, and is almost always the second series of numbers from the left. The first number is the routing number for your bank, which is the same for all people who use that same bank. Your account number, listed second, will usually have 10-12 digits and will usually have a pair of bracketing symbols on either side. For example:
Your account number can also be found on your bank statements. These will either be sent to you each month in the mail, or saved online in your online banking account if you’ve requested paperless billing. Usually, the account number on a bank statement won’t be too difficult to find— it most commonly appears near the very top of the statement, and will be labeled as such:
Account No. 0123456789
If you have a computer or mobile device handy, you can always navigate to your bank’s website and login 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 also access your account number through your mobile banking app. Simply open the app, login 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 in order to find your account number and other information. You’ll find the customer service number on the back of your debit card, and it can also be easily found by searching online if you don’t have your card handy. When you call the customer support line, you’ll need to provide some verification information before they provide you your 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 banking information.
In the digital age, bank account numbers are some of the most highly targeted prizes for hackers and fraudsters. A criminal in possession of your account number and your password or pin number can access your account and authorize payments or withdrawals from your account.
As a result, banks have instituted a range of security measures to help prevent this. They range from 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 like security questions and automatic logouts after long periods between uses are designed to help keep your account number— and your money— safe.
Another way to keep your account number safe is by reducing the use of paper checks, which feature your account number printed on each one. With Bill.com, you no longer need checks to complete routine transactions. Bill.com can handle those transactions easily, quickly, and with security measures that keep your funds safe. Learn more.
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.