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Banking terminology can be confusing and many phrases seem to be used interchangeably. While those outside the United States and Canada may not know transit numbers, they are an essential part of North American money transfers. In this guide, we describe the definition of a transit number, how it is used by various financial institutions, and in what context it may be required.

What is a transit number?
Bank Transit Number is a nine-digit series that identifies a specific financial institution. Every bank is issued a transit identification number, and like a serial number, every financial institution is issued this way. When sending and receiving money transfers between banks, a transit number will always be required to transfer money from point A to point B.
The transit number is always displayed in the same format: nine digits without spaces and dashes, not to be confused with IBAN or account number.

Each digit refers to a different identifying factor used for recognition:

  • The first 4 digits refer to the location of the bank (this may vary from state to state).
  • The next 2 digits refer to the Federal Reserve Bank sending the transaction.
  • The seventh digit refers to the bank's Federal Reserve check processing center.
  • The 8th digit refers to the Federal Reserve District where the bank is located.
  • The 9th and last digit is the security number.

Transit number and route number: what's the difference?
This is the same; transit number and route number are synonymous. Both refer to a nine-digit configuration that identifies your bank. Other names for transit numbers include:

  • Routing number
  • U.S. Bank Routing Number
  • Bank routing number
  • Control routing number
  • Local routing number
  • RTN number
  • Fedwire Number
  • ABA number
  • Routing number ABA

How do transit numbers work?
Bank transit numbers have been in use for over a century; established by the American Bankers Association as a way to facilitate and track transactions between various banks. Thanks to technological advances over the past 100 years, banking institutions now rely on computers to automate transactions. Despite the development of banking technologies, transit numbers remain an important part of many banking processes.
These processes include money transfers, such as direct deposits, which use transit numbers to determine where money is deposited, as well as ACH and wire transfers that cannot be completed without a transit number. With thousands of commercial banks, investment banks, credit unions and brokerage firms offering financial services in North America, transit numbers are still a vital way to decipher institutional information.

Where are transit numbers used?
Transit numbers are used by US and Canadian banks; however, banks in the UK use a similar numbering system known as sorting codes.
Due to the size of the United States, some institutions use different transit numbers to distinguish between the physical location of each bank. For this reason, you should check your bank transit number before sending any money transfers.

How to find your bank transit number
Transit numbers are easy to find: they will appear on your online bank account along with your bank details and will also be listed on your bank's website. You can also request information by contacting your bank by phone or in person.
If you have a checkbook, the number can also be found in the lower left corner of your checks. The transit number is printed here so that other banks can determine which bank the check was issued from.
The transport number belongs to the bank and is not tied to your account. For example, you and your partner may have active accounts with the same bank, which means that your transit number will be the same, but your account numbers will be unique.

More than 100 years later, bank transit numbers continue to provide a quick and easy system for decrypting which banks are involved in a transaction. Be aware of the differences between transit numbers and account numbers: one refers to your banking institution and the other refers to your personal bank account. Read our guide on how to find a routing number to learn more about the differences before transferring money.a