What is the difference between ABA routing number & ach routing number?

Written by chloe lewis
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What is the difference between ABA routing number & ach routing number?
(Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Andrew Magill)

Consumers can transfer money from their banks in a variety of ways. There are paper transfers by writing checks, electronic funds transfers, direct deposit, and wire transfers, among others. Once you have selected a transfer method, it is important to locate the information necessary to ensure that your transfer is routed properly.

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Paper (check) Transfers

Paper checks are negotiable instruments directing your financial institution to transfer a specified amount in a specified currency to the payee indicated on the draft. At the bottom of the check are a series of numbers. Typically, within this series of numbers will be the number of the check, the account number at the bank, and the remaining 9-digit number is the bank's ABA (American Bankers Association) number. This number is used by the institution cashing your check to contact the institution and/or branch where your account is located to request the money from the check.

Electronic Funds Transfers

Electronic transfers, such as electronic bill pay or online money transfers, are similar to checks. For paper transfers, the bank is identified through the ABA number. For electronic transfers, the bank is identified through the ACH (Automated Clearing House) number. For most institutions, this is the same number, but it does not have to be, although both will be 9-digit numbers.

Wire Transfers

Wire transfers use a transfer service such as SWIFT or Fedwire to send funds to another financial institution. Whereas electronic transfers through the ACH system are generally at no cost to the consumer, wire transfers generally carry a cost from the sending institution. However, for the fee you will often receive same-day transfer of the funds, whereas electronic transfers can take 3-5 days to post to your account.

Direct Deposits

The same electronic routing information (ACH number) used in an electronic transfer will be the information you provide to your employer when you want to have your paycheck directly deposited, or to the government to have your social security deposited.

Where to find your routing information

For ABA numbers, just look at your checkbook. Your ABA number will be the 9-digits not already assigned to your account number and/or check number. For ACH routing information, you will want to check with your institution to confirm whether or not their ACH number matches their ABA number.

Most banks with full-service websites offer this information online. Be careful when looking up this information online; ensure that you have the correct number for your account type and location. ACH may also be listed on the website as "electronic" or "direct deposit." ABA may also be listed as "check routing number."

Finally, also feel free to contact your institution's customer service department to obtain this information. Make it clear to the representative the type of transaction you wish to complete to ensure you receive the correct information.

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