It makes sense to look for your credit card's routing number if the company that issued your card is a bank or credit union. In the United States, routing numbers identify specific financial institutions. However, credit card accounts don't use routing numbers in this way. Let us explain.
What is a routing number?
A routing number identifies a specific U.S. bank, credit union or other financial institution. The 9-digit sequence is unique to a specific institution and used most often alongside a checking or savings account number. Routing numbers are not used elsewhere in the world. Banks in most other countries have international bank account numbers (IBANs).
You might have had experience with routing numbers when you arrange direct deposit with your employer. Along with your account number, the routing number is a set of indispensable digits that is specific to your bank and helps guide the electronic delivery of your money.
The most common transactions that require a routing number are direct deposits from an employer, automatic bill payments and recurring transfers between banks. You might also use your bank's routing number when you file your taxes—again, along with your checking or savings account number. That's because many tax preparers and preparation software allow you electronic bill payments and refunds directly to or from a deposit account.
Do credit cards have routing numbers?
Routing numbers aren't associated with credit cards, but because some banks issue deposit accounts and credit cards, this common association makes sense. Instead of a routing number, a portion of your credit card number identifies the issuing company. The sequence ranges in length but usually appears after the very first digit, which is reserved for identifying the card network, like Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
Why don't credit cards use routing numbers?
Instead of routing numbers, several digits within a credit card number identify the card issuer. This sequence of digits within the card number is unique to the issuing company. All together, the digits of your card number serve as important verification for every purchase and bill paid for with your credit card.
Credit card number vs. routing number
Your credit card number identifies several things, including your account and the card issuer, while a routing number identifies one thing: a U.S. financial institution. Credit card numbers can range from 16 to 21 digits, and they are usually printed on the front or back of the physical card you carry around. Routing numbers for U.S. banks are always 9 digits, and could most commonly be found on checks, your account statement or within your online bank portal.
What accounts use routing numbers?
Routing numbers are used most often in conjunction with deposit accounts like checking and savings. Transfers, withdrawals and deposits to these accounts usually involve a movement of funds between financial institutions. Routing numbers ensure that the funds move correctly.
If you have a checking and savings account with one bank, the routing number will usually be the same because it identifies the institution, not a specific account.
How to find your routing number
You can typically find the routing number for your checking or savings account in several places:
- New account paperwork: When you open a checking account, you'll receive detailed information about your product. Your routing and account numbers usually appear in that paperwork.
- Physical checks: The first 9 digits in the bottom left corner are your bank's routing number. If you flip through multiple checks, that number won't change.
- Digital account access: Secure online portals and banking apps have made locating your routing number easier than ever. After enrolling in these services, you can usually find your institution's full routing number when you are signed in and viewing your account details.
A routing number will identify a specific U.S. bank or financial institution, usually so you can set up helpful services like direct deposit, automatic payments and transfers. If you need your checking account's routing number quickly, the best places to look are your bank's online account portal and mobile app.
You won't find routing numbers for your credit cards because they don't use routing numbers. Instead, credit card transactions require the credit card number, and several of those digits uniquely identify the specific company that issued the card.