How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (2023)

Banking / Checking Account

By Erika Giovanetti March 8, 2021
  • When To Use a Check
  • Parts of a Check
  • Why Use Checks
  • Takeaways

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (2)

With the advent of Paypal, Venmo and Bitcoin, checksseem so last century,but that doesn’t mean you no longer need to knowhow to read a check for banking information.

You might be surprised that in 2018 — the most recent year for which statistics are available — there were still 14.5 billion check payments written, according to the Federal Reserve Board. At the bottom of your check, you’ll see three groups of numbers. Your routing number is in the first group, your account number is in the second, and your check number is in the third group.

More From Your Money: Choose a high-interest saving, checking, CD, or investing account from our list of top banks to start saving today.

When To Use a Check

Some online transactions require an understanding ofhow to read a checkand where to look for important information. For example, you might need information from your checks to set up direct deposit or arrange an electronic transfer straight into your account. To do either of these, you need to knowhow to decipher yourcheck account and routingnumbers.

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(Video) How to find your routing number, account number and check number on a personal check

Reading a check is simple, but to understand how to read a check and differentiating between routing and account numbers, or how to read a government check and set up direct deposits, use the following illustrated guide to learn.

What Are the Parts of a Check?

Here are the different parts of a check.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (3)

1. Personal Information

In the upper left-hand corner of the check,you’llfind the personal information of the person to whom the account belongs. This typically includes their name and address.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (4)

2. Payee Line

On the payee line, you’ll find text that reads “Pay to the order of.”This is the person or business to whom the money will be paid.If the check is made out to you, then you’re the payee. You’ll need to endorse the check by signing the back when you’re ready to cash it. Don’t endorse it until you are ready to cash or deposit it.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (5)

3. The Dollar Box

Inside the dollar box, you’ll find the amount that the check is worthwritten in numbers.Write your amount like this: $20.65.

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(Video) How To Find Your Routing Number vs. Account Number

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (6)

Begin writing as close to the left side of the box as possible with the dollar sign snug against the first number. You don’t want someone to alter the check to $2220.65.

4. The Amount of the Check

Write thedollaramountoutin words on this line, which is below the payee line. The cents, however, will still be in number format. For example, the amount line would say “Twenty dollars and 65/100” for a check that amounts to $20.65.It must match the amount in the dollar box.

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How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (7)

If there is any room left over on this line once you’ve written out thetotalamount, you can strike through the remaining space so that no one can adjustthe amountwithout your knowledge.

5. Memo Line

The memo lineis optional, but it’s good practice for keeping track of check payments.The memo line is used to signal the reason for the transaction. For example, a renter could write “March2021rent” on the memo line when writing a check to the landlord.

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How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (8)

6. Date Line

On the date line, you’ll find the date the check was written.

(Video) where is the routing and account number on a check

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (9)

Sometimes, the paying party might postdate the check to indicate when the payee should cash it. For example, you might make out a check on March 5,but write March 15 in the date line.This often is done ifaccount funds won’t be available untila specifiedfuture time.

Although the payee potentially could take this as a direction to wait before cashing a check, the check is valid from the moment it’s signed by the issuer.The payee doesn’t have to wait until the date on the date line tocash the check.If the payee attempts to cash the check before the date on this line and the check bounces, the person who wrote the check and the one who cashes it could face fees from their bank.

7. Signature Line

The issuer will sign this line to authorize the check.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (10)

8. Bank Name

If you have any questions or concerns about a check, you can contact the bank that is listedon the check.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (11)

9. Bank’s ABA Routing Number

TheABA routing numberis a nine-digit number assigned to your bank by the American Bankers Association. This indicates the bank through which the funds will be withdrawn.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (12)

You’ll also use your ABA routing number to set up direct deposit and recurring payments. Some banks will have more than one routing number depending on their size, so always make sure you’re using the correct routing number before setting up these types of payments.

10. The Account Number

Thisis the number that’s associated with the checking account from which the funds will be withdrawn. It is the second set of numbers printed at the bottom of your checks. The routing number is first, at the far left.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (13)

11. Check Number

The check number is used to identify the individual check. That set of numbers is located at the far right along the bottom of your checks.

(Video) How to Read a Check... Explained in 90 Seconds | How to | GBR

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (14)

12. Bank’s Fractional Number

The fractional number, usually placed toward the top right of your check, contains numbers that correspond with your bank, such as your routing number. Because these numbers are readily available elsewhere on the check, the fractional number isn’t widely used anymore.

How To Read a Check: Easily Find Your Account and Routing Numbers (15)

You might notice that the routing and account numbers at the bottom of the check look like symbols. It’s a special font known as magnetic ink character recognition, or MICR. This special ink can be read by check-sorting machines.

Reading a Check Is a Useful Skill To Have

If you learnhow to read check detailson a personal account, you’ll also knowhow to read a cashier’s checkandhow to read a business account check.

Why Checks Are Still Useful

  • Not everyone knows how to use cash apps, and some people don’t have a mobile phone or computer.
  • Some people just like the simplicity and time-tested reliability of writing a check.
  • When compared with cash, checks are much more secure. If your wallet is stolen, your cash is probably as good as gone. If you’re sending money as a birthday gift,you’ll risk losing that cash in the mail.

One drawback of checks is that anyonewho gets their hands on one of your checks now knows your name, address, bank information and account number.

Key Takeaways

Need to know your routing number and don’t have a check handy?You can also find your routing number by:

You also can find your bank account number on your banking statement. If all else fails, you can call or visit the bank to find out the routing and account numbers.

No matter how you prefer to do your banking, being able to read a check is a good skill to have in case you might run into a situation where checks are the best or only valid form of payment.

This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

(Video) How to Find Your Account and Routing Numbers | Chase Mobile® App

FAQs

How do you read a routing number and account number on a check? ›

Your checkbook

The routing number is the nine-digit number printed in the bottom left corner of each check. Your specific account number (usually 10 to 12 digits) is the second set of numbers printed on the bottom of your checks.

How do you read account information on a check? ›

Find the routing and account numbers on a check. What are the numbers on a check? At the bottom of a check, you will see three groups of numbers. The first group is your routing number, the second is your account number and the third is your check number.

How do I find my bank account number from a check? ›

Where is the account number on a check? You can find your account number at the bottom of your checks, the second set of numbers from the left that is between 9 and 12 digits.

How do I verify a routing number on a check? ›

Where is the ABA routing number on my checks? You can find the ABA routing number at the bottom of your checks. The ABA Routing Number is the left-most number, followed by your account number, and then by the number of the check.

How to check someones bank account number? ›

It is impossible to get personal details from a bank account number and it is also illegal for the bank to disclose its clients' information to outsiders without the knowledge and approval of their clients. Unless ordered by a court order, there is no reason a bank would divulge the personal details of a client.

Can someone get your account info from a check? ›

While someone cannot hack your account directly using only your bank's routing number, a carelessly disposed physical check can compromise your bank account because personal checks contain both your routing and account number.

How do you read a check example? ›

The value of the check is written in numbers in this box. The dollar amount is also written in words on the line below the payee line; cents appear as numbers. For example, $250.50 is written as “Two Hundred Fifty and 50/100.” The written amount must match the amount in the dollar box.

What is the most important information on a check? ›

All about the bank

Your bank's information might be printed at the bottom of your checks. This is where you'll find your bank's name and address, which can help your recipient's financial institution know which bank to request the money from.

What can I use to check account number? ›

You can find your account number on your monthly bank statement, or by visiting a branch of your bank. If you are using a checking account, the account number is also printed on your paper checks. You can find it printed between the bank's routing number and the check number, as shown below.

How can I check if a check is real online? ›

Go to the Federal Reserve Bank Services website and search the routing number of the institution issuing the check. If it exists, check the information of the bank against the name and address given to you by the Federal Reserve. If it doesn't match, you likely have a fake check.

How can I verify a check for free? ›

Yes, you can verify a check for free. To do this, you will need to speak with the bank that issued the check via phone or in person. Unfortunately, there is no free way to verify a check online.

How does bank verify a check? ›

Banks can verify checks by checking the funds of the account it was sent from. It's worth noting that a bank will not verify your check before it processes it, meaning you may face fees for trying to cash a bad check. The bank checks if there are funds in the account, and if not, the check bounces.

Can I write a check to myself to get cash? ›

Yes, writing a check to yourself is perfectly legal. You may be wondering why you would do this. Writing a check to yourself is another way to withdraw cash from your bank account or transfer money between accounts. To do this, you write your name on the payee line.

What are the 3 most important things to remember when writing a check? ›

After you write the check, remember to write the date, check number, payee, and the amount in the check register located at the front of the checkbook.

What part of a check is the least important? ›

Memo. The memo blank of a check is probably the least important field you can find on a check. The memo is an opportunity for you to make special notes about the transaction that might be helpful to yourself or to the party receiving the check.

Can you access someone's bank account? ›

You need direct permission

Generally, accessing any account that is password protected is illegal. You can't read someone's emails or check their bank balance, for instance. If you need a password to get into that account, you're breaking the law to enter it, even if you got in by correctly guessing that password.

Can someone get into your bank account with just the number? ›

And, you use it for two-factor authentication to securely login to your accounts. If someone steals your phone number, they become you — for all intents and purposes. With your phone number, a hacker can start hijacking your accounts one by one by having a password reset sent to your phone.

What can a scammer do with a check? ›

A fake cashier's check is sent, which the scammer asks the recipient to cash and then wire back the funds to cover the taxes and fees. Scammers might go to an online auction or classified listing site and offer to buy an item for sale, pay for a service in advance, or rent an apartment.

How do I cash a stolen personal check? ›

What can I do? Contact your bank or credit union right away. State law generally provides that you are not responsible for a check if someone forged the signature of the person to whom you made out the check. Tell your bank or credit union what happened and ask for the money to be restored to your account.

How do hackers get into your checking account? ›

There are several ways that scammers can gain access to your online bank account. They could use phishing attacks, malware or other cyberattacks, or buy your credentials online after a data breach. For example, the Michigan-headquartered Flagstar Bank was the recent victim of a data breach.

What is the check in Short answer? ›

A check is a written, dated, and signed instrument that directs a bank to pay a specific sum of money to the bearer. It is another way to instruct a bank to transfer funds from the payor's account to the payee or that person's account.

How do you read a fake check? ›

Any legitimate check issued by a bank has a check number. The check number appears at the top right-hand corner of the check. If the check does not have a check number, the check is fake. If it does have a check number, check the number against the number in the magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) line.

What makes a check suspicious? ›

Check Floating — When an account holder writes a check to another person or an individual, often in an attempt to buy a little time before they deposit funds into their account. Check Forgery — When someone forges an account holder's signature on a check. Check Theft — When someone steals someone else's paper check.

What information do you need to verify a check? ›

You need to tell the bank who you are, that you would like to verify the check, provide the routing and account numbers at the bottom of the check, the date of the check and the amount. If the bank does not verify by phone, ask the customer service rep how you can verify the check.

What is the most important part of a check? ›

Signature. One of the most important parts of a check is your signature, located in the bottom right-hand corner. Without it, your check generally can't be cashed or deposited.

Can I deposit check without account number? ›

No worries, you can still cash a check without a bank account and you can do this by cashing it at the issuing bank or a check cashing store. When most people receive a check, they deposit it in their bank account, cash it at their bank, or show their ID and cash it at the bank that issued the check.

What happens if you try to deposit a fake check? ›

In most cases, once a check is found to be fraudulent, the amount will be charged to your bank account. Worse, the bank may charge you an additional fee for processing a fake check. You'll lose any money you sent to the scammer.

Can a fake check go through? ›

When the funds are made available in your account, the bank may say the check has “cleared,” but that doesn't mean it's a good check. Fake checks can take weeks to be discovered and untangled. By that time, the scammer has any money you sent, and you're stuck paying the money back to the bank.

Do you include the zeros in account number? ›

Your base account number is 4-8 digits (6 is most common) and never starts with a zero. On your American 1 Direct Deposit Letter, your base account number follows the zeros and does not include the final two digits as indicated above.

Is a routing number always 9 digits? ›

Routing numbers are always 9 digits long. Account numbers may be up to 17 digits long. Some banks list the routing number first on the check, while other banks list the account number first, and still more list the routing number, check number, then account number.

How many digits is an account number? ›

How many digits is a bank account number? Bank account numbers typically consist of eight to 12 digits, but some account numbers could even contain up to 17 digits.

Why is the routing number different from the account number on a check? ›

While a routing number identifies the bank or credit union that holds your account, an account number identifies your specific account among the many others that the financial institution holds.

What makes a check invalid? ›

The main reason banks refuse to cash checks is due to insufficient funds, but checks can be rejected for other reasons, too, including unreadable or invalid account and routing numbers, improper formatting, a missing or invalid signature, or the elapse of too much time since the printed date.

Can anyone check how many bank accounts I have? ›

Anyone With Your Aadhaar Number Can See Which Bank You Have an Account In. UIDAI, the authority that issues Aadhaar, allows people to check online if their bank account has been linked to Aadhaar with its Bank Mapper website.

What can someone do with your bank account number? ›

When a scammer has your bank account and routing numbers, they could set up bill payments for services you're not using or transfer money out of your bank account. It's tough to protect these details because your account number and routing number are hiding in plain sight at the bottom of your checks.

What is truest routing number? ›

The Truist routing number is 061000104 — but before you use that number, keep in mind that Truist was formed by a merger of SunTrust Bank and BB&T Bank, so your routing number may be different.

Do all routing numbers start with a 0? ›

If you have a paper check, you can find the routing number easily. It appears in the bottom left corner of your check. It's the first set of nine numbers and begins with a 0, 1, 2 or 3.

What is an example of an account number? ›

An account number is a unique string of numbers, letters, and other characters that identify a specific financial account. Almost all financial transactions make use of account numbers. Examples of account numbers include routing numbers and credit card numbers.

What are the numbers on the bottom of a check? ›

At the bottom of your check are 3 groups of numbers: your routing number, account number and check number.

IS routing number and account number enough for direct deposit? ›

Whether you need to set up a direct deposit, such as your paycheck, or order checks online, you will need both your bank's routing number and your account number for those transactions.

What happens if I put the wire transfer routing number instead of direct deposit routing number for Chase? ›

know that banks have two separate routing numbers. One for wire transfers and one for ACH transfers. If you used your banks wire transfer number it will still go to your bank but the banks computer systems will not know where to put the money and there is a good chance they will reject it.

What is a reverse account number? ›

Some banks may reverse the order of the account and check numbers, putting the check number second and the account number third in the sequence. If the third number in a sequence is longer and more complex than the second number, the two numbers might be reversed.

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