Understand the key differences between APR and APY, and how they affect your savings accounts, CDs, and even crypto investments.
ABA stands for American Bankers’ Association, a trade association founded in 1875 to represent the interests of various players in the US Banking industry¹.
So how does the ABA number come into all this? Stick with us as we explain what an ABA number is, what makes it similar or different from a routing number, where you can find it and how it works.
But first, a word.
An ABA – also called as a routing number – is used to identify banks in the United States.
This nine-number code helps banks in the process of transferring money domestically between accounts for different kinds of transactions, for example, direct deposit or bank transfers.
Depending on their location within the United States, a bank can have several ABA numbers.
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There are a few different ways in which you can find the ABA number you should use:
- If you need the ABA number for an institution where you have a checking account, you can find it in your checkbook. The ABA number will be in the bottom left corner of your checks. However, your ABA number may not always be the routing number in that position on checks. If it isn’t clear to you, make sure you call your bank and confirm³.
- You can also find out your ABA number by visiting your bank’s website and going to the direct deposit or ACH section.
- If you’ve registered for online banking with your bank, you can log into your account and find the ABA number.
- There are also other online platforms, such as Wise, where you can find the ABA numbers for a wide range of banks.
It is important to remember that a bank may have different ABA numbers. Your ABA number will most likely rely on the bank location where you opened your account. Some banks also have differing ABA numbers depending on the purpose⁴.
You may find that the ABA number assigned to wire transfers is different from the one used for electronic bill payments, or even direct deposits. If you need clarity on these matters, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a customer service agent from your bank.
An ABA number in a way points financial institutions to where they should find your account. Therefore, it’s no surprise that these numbers may sometimes be called check routing numbers or routing transit numbers (RTNs).
These numbers are usually printed in magnetic ink or at least in magnetic ink character recognition code (MICR) font to make them easier to detect by computers and other specialized machines. The MICR font also enables check deposit by submitting a photo of the check.
Your ABA number is usually accompanied by your account number as the information given to whoever is trying to issue a payment. The rest of the work is commonly handled by the bank, a biller or an employer.
In case a bank closes or is taken up in a merger or acquisition, you might receive new ABA numbers. Sometimes you don’t have to use them right away. You may continue using the old numbers indefinitely, or at least until request for new checks and services.
The ABA number is made up of five parts, each with its own purpose:
|First four digits||These represent the bank’s physical location.|
|Fifth and six digits||These indicate which Federal Reserve Bank the institution’s electronic and wire transfers will go through.|
|Seventh digit||This one represents the Federal Reserve Bank check processing center originally allocated to the bank.|
|Eight digit||This one shows the Federal Reserve district the bank is in.|
|Ninth digit||This represents the checksum, a complex mathematical expression of the first eight digits. The result must equal the checksum, or else the transaction will be flagged and redirected to manual processing.|
In short, it’s a yes and no. A routing number is a nine-digit code that banks use to identify financial institutions when transacting with them. On the other hand, an ABA is used to identify financial institutions within the US, with additional eligibility conditions.
The ABA number identifies US federal or state chartered financial institutions that can maintain an account at a Federal Reserve Bank².
SWIFT codes and ABA numbers are both used to identify the bank where the recipient has an account. However, while ABA numbers are used domestically, SWIFT codes are used when you transfer money internationally.
In U.S. banking terms, there is no such thing as a bank called ABA – it is rather related to ABA codes. The closest bank with the name is located in Cambodia – which is backed by the National Bank of Canada.
For many payment types, the ABA routing number found on your checkbook will be what's needed. However, as we mentioned above, it’s important to know if your bank uses a different routing number for different payment types.
In this case, your wire routing number might be different to the number found on your checks.
Some banks have a different wire routing number depending on whether the payment is being received in a foreign currency, USD, or an unknown currency.
Check directly with your bank to make sure you have all the details required to allow you to receive your wire payment safely.
|💡ABA, EFT, ACH – still not sure about what do they mean? Check out our glossary here.|
Your wire transfer number will be a 9-digit code, like the ABA number you find on your checks. It may even be the same as the number found on your checks — but some banks choose to use different routing numbers for different types of payments.
This might mean that your wire transfer ABA number is different to the one you’ll use for ACH transfers. Check directly with your bank to make sure you have the correct ABA routing number for wire transfers.
All-in-all, the ABA number is very helpful when trying to make sure that funds are sent to the right person/establishment and more specifically, the right account. They make it easier for those processing payments to pinpoint the destination in what can sometimes be a confusing web of accounts.
The ABA number also simplifies the movement of money, since these movements can be classified according to their purpose/nature. Therefore, where there are variations in rules applied in say direct deposits, electronic bill payments, etc., they can be exercised in a faster and more organized manner.
However, it is crucial to always check multiple sources and confirm with a customer support representative that you are using the right ABA number before issuing a payment.
- ABA- routing number
- Investopedia - routing number vs. account number
- ECSI - what is an ABA number/routing number?
- The Balance - what is an ABA number?
Sources checked on 28 October 2022
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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