Bank Routing and Checking Account Numbers

Learn how to identify the numbers on your personal checks

If you are looking to set up a direct deposit, receive wired funds or complete an automated money transfer, you will be asked you to provide a bank routing number and a checking account number. This may leave you staring at the bottom of your checks trying to decode the series of symbols and numbers printed across the bottom. Getting them right ensures that money ends up in the right checking account.


So, how can you tell which is which?


This overview is designed to teach you how to identify the numbers at the bottom of your check with confidence.

Know which numbers are printed on each check

There are two sets of nine digit numbers printed across the bottom of every check. They are followed by a four digit number slightly set off from the others. The first two sets of numbers are your bank routing and checking account numbers; these remain the same from one check to the next. The last set of numbers is the check number and will be different depending on the actual paper check.

Understanding and locating the checking routing number

Your bank routing number is the first nine-digit number on the bottom of each check. This number, often referred to as a routing transit number, identifies the financial institution that you bank with. The American Bankers Association assigns each financial institution in the United States one of these codes. Within each code is a series of identifiers that can pinpoint your account right down to the specific branch it was created with. The number can be broken down into three parts.

  1. The first four digits of the code narrow down the geographic location of you bank in accordance with the Federal Reserve Bank it is associated with.
  2. The second set of four digits identifies your specific financial institution by branch.
  3. The final digit within the series serves as a safety check point during electronic check routing, reducing the number of checks routed to the wrong institution.

Finding your bank account number

Your checking account number is the second nine digit number printed at the bottom left hand corner of your check. This number is used to identify your personal checking account at your financial institution. This number may look familiar as it is repeated on your statements and be used whenever you are making any manual deposits into your account.

Locating your check number

You are most likely already familiar with your check number. You'll typically see a check number printed twice on each check, once in the upper right hand corner and then again as the last four digit series at the bottom left side of the check. Your check number helps you to sequentially keep track of your checks and to ensure that each manual check is only processed once.

Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) of bank account and checking routing numbers

Financial institutions make use of Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) for printing and reading numbers at the bottom of each check. MICR is different than many other coding systems because, although computers can read it, people can too. Because of MICR, no matter what bank you use the numbers on your check are printed in the same, standardized font. This ensures that computers are able to recognize them regardless of where they are printed or ordered.


Due to MICR, you'll also notice that both your bank routing number and checking account number are aligned with symbols either bracketing or following the numbers. These symbols assist in the recognition of characters by the technology.

Open a checking account with Citizens Bank

If you have any additional questions about how to identify the numbers at the bottom of your check or want to compare bank accounts and options, contact a customer care representative at 1-877-360-2472. Once you are ready, we invite you to apply for a checking account online.