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Banking

What Is a Bank Routing Number and Where Do You Find It on a Check?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

When transferring money from one account to another, financial institutions typically need a routing number to settle the transaction. A routing number identifies the location of the bank’s branch where you opened your account. This number allows financial institutions — such as banks and credit unions — to trace where the money is coming from and where it is going, so as to not confuse one bank with another. Along with your bank account number, it is part of the information required for financial institutions to process direct deposits, checks, auto payments and wire transfers.

Routing number vs. account number

Bank routing number, account number, and check number

It is important to differentiate a routing number from an account number. An account number identifies your specific account. A routing number identifies the bank that’s responsible for money going in and out of your account.

Routing numbers were developed by the American Bankers Association (ABA) in 1910. Each number is unique to one financial institution. But one bank may have multiple routing numbers, determined by factors like the region where the account is opened.

4 ways to find a routing number

Find it on the check

A routing number consists of nine digits and three components. The first four digits represent the Federal Reserve routing symbol. The next four digits identify an ABA institution. And, the last component (the ninth number) is the “check digit.” This single number is important because it’s used to verify the authenticity of the routing number.

The routing number generally appears in the bottom left-hand corner of a check. It is the first set of numbers. The next set of numbers — just to the right of the routing number — is your account number. And the account number is generally followed by the number of that specific check. These three components are usually separated by symbols, spaces or a combination of both.

Log into online banking

If you don’t have checks, you can find your routing number by signing into online banking — where it usually is listed with your other account information — or by calling your bank branch.

Find it on the bank’s website

Banks often list their routing numbers on their websites. After all, a routing number is not a secret. Below are links to pages where you can find routing numbers of the eight largest commercial banks in the United States:
Chase
Bank of America
Wells Fargo
Citibank
US Bank
PNC Bank
TD Bank
Capital One

Look it up on the ABA website

You may look up a routing number on the ABA website by inputting a bank’s name and its location. On the same website, you also may look up this number for another type of financial institution.

Different types of routing numbers

Some banks may have different routing numbers for different types of transactions. For example, the routing number for direct deposits and automated clearing house (ACH) transfers may be different from the one used for wire transfers.

ACH transfers are electronic transfers between financial institutions conducted through a third-party clearinghouse. The banking system has utilized the ACH method for more than four decades.

Wire transfers are direct transfers between banks, which do not need to be cleared by a third party. Because wire transfers are direct bank-to-bank transactions, they are faster than ACH transfers. But typically, wire transfers are also more expensive than ACH transfers, which are usually free. Wire transfer fees vary by financial institution. An average fee for sending a wire transfer ranges from $20 to $35, and for receiving one the fee ranges from $10 to $20.

It’s critical to find the right routing number for the type transaction you intend to make. If you’re not sure which number to use, you should contact your bank for help.

A note on international money transfers

If you are expecting to receive a wire transfer from overseas, you need to provide the sender with a Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) code, which is used internationally to identify specific banks. It’s the international version of a routing number; and as with a routing number, you also may find the SWIFT code on your bank’s website or by calling your bank branch.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at shenlu@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

Review of Bluebird Prepaid Debit Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Bluebird card features

The Bluebird prepaid debit card functions as a prepaid debit card and a bank — well, if neither charged fees for holding your money. Bluebird sings a different tune, with no minimum balance requirement, no inactivity or inquiry fees, no monthly or annual fees and no overdraft fees, all of which can be common in the prepaid-card world.

Developed in partnership with Walmart, the Bluebird card is a financial product offering more benefits than a traditional prepaid debit card. Users can wield Bluebird like a credit card since it works at almost any location worldwide accepting American Express. Bluebirders also receive extra traditional cardholder benefits, such as fraud protection, roadside assistance and Amex Offers, which provides deals and discounts at a variety of restaurants, shops and other merchants.

The Bluebird prepaid debit card also lowers barriers to traditional bank checking account features that make life easier, such as bill pay, direct deposit and a variety of no- or low-cost ways to add funds. It’s a hybrid financial creature, offering the ease and low expenses of an online bank and the reassurance of physical plastic and paper when it’s needed.

Among the features:

  • Direct deposit. Bluebird account holders can set up direct deposit online or with the Bluebird app, but a form must be printed out for your employer, so access to a printer is necessary. Drawing on funds before payday is available if your employer deposits funds early. But, in general, direct deposit funds are available as soon as the money arrives in the account, which could be up to two days before payday. It can take up to two payday cycles for direct deposit to kick in. Direct deposit can also be set up for federal payments, such as Social Security, a Veterans Affairs pension, a tax refund or a paycheck for a federal government employee.
  • Adding money to your account. There are a variety of ways to add money to a Bluebird account. Users can add cash via direct deposit, linking an existing debit card or bank account, adding cash or cashing a check at a Walmart register (up to $1,999) or via mobile check capture.
  • Mobile check deposit. With the Bluebird mobile app’s mobile check capture, users can deposit checks in minutes using their phone’s camera. But you won’t get the cash you’ve deposited for up to 10 days while the check clears. You can, however, pay a fee to have the money instantly available: 1% on payroll or government checks, or 5% on other checks. There’s a $5 minimum fee for this service.
  • ATM access. Bluebird encourages users to use a Walmart ATM or the MoneyPass network of ATMs found in thousands of locations for fee-free withdrawals. The Bluebird app can help users locate a nearby MoneyPass ATM.
  • Bill pay. Users can pay rent or utility bills with just a click — on the website or in the app — to be delivered within two business days. (If electronically, it takes longer to send a check by mail). Although there’s no way to set up a recurring payment, you can schedule bill reminders. Bluebird offers a Bill Pay Guarantee as long as you pay your bill six business days in advance of the payment deadline.
  • Checks. Yes, Bluebird account holders can even get 40 personalized physical checks for $19.95, plus shipping. But using these checks involves an extra step that traditional banks don’t require: Users must log on to the Bluebird system and personally pre-authorize the check, which in effect, holds the money required to cash the check. On the upside, there is no possibility of overdraft fees.
  • SetAside Account feature. This allows cardholders to save money for a specific goal (a vacation or an anniversary gift, perhaps) by essentially creating another account. Unlike a traditional savings account or money market account, no interest is paid on money saved in SetAside.
  • Family accounts. Parents of teens may be intrigued by Bluebird’s family account option, which allows you to create up to four subaccounts (and cards) for other people — age 13 and older — and set permissions on those accounts. These subaccount users can pay with their Bluebird card at any merchant accepting American Express, withdraw cash (with permission) and request money from the primary Bluebird member. But they can’t pay bills, add funds or cash checks — or create their own accounts. So there won’t be any surprising, bank-breaking Fortnite purchases.
  • Money transfer. Skip the wire expenses. The Bluebird card allows users to send cash from their account to users for pickup at a Walmart store. As well, Bluebird offers user-to-user online send-and-request cash capabilities, but both must be Bluebird users.
  • Account management tools. Bluebird allows users to set up fee-free alerts for low balance, added money, bill pay and fraud, and also has a text-enabled system to get your current balance, last few transactions and SetAside balance. The app also makes it easy to check in on current funds.
  • Other benefits include 24-hour roadside assistance dispatch, purchase protection and the Global Assist Hotline for travelers needing urgent assistance.

Bluebird fees and fine print

There can be sticking points around pre-authorizations, or the amount a merchant pre-authorizes and holds for payment — even if you didn’t actually spend as much as you were pre-authorized for. This, in turn, can lead to extra funds being held hostage (although not maliciously). For this reason, Bluebird advises cardholders to pay gas station attendants inside, not at the pump, and discuss pre-authorizations with other merchants likely to charge a bit extra, such as hotels, cruise lines and rental car agencies.

A deposit limit of $100,000 a year is set for all Bluebird accounts — for linked family members as well. Only $10,000 a month can be added by mobile check deposit. The ceiling for spending, withdrawal and other expenses (including merchants, bills and online transactions) is $15,000 a month.

Wondering about whether your cash is FDIC insured, as with a traditional bank? Money added to registered Bluebird accounts is placed into a custodial account at a FDIC-insured bank. Funds should be insured by the FDIC (up to $250,000, which is more than the Bluebird deposit-per-year limit). But it does remind users that American Express Travel Related Services Co. Inc. isn’t a bank, so there’s a risk of financial complications. As well, funds placed on temporary cards are not eligible for FDIC insurance.

Additionally, American Express isn’t accepted at merchants as widely as some other card issuers. And because Bluebird isn’t a traditional credit card (neither investigated by nor reported to credit bureaus), it will not help build credit.

Bluebird Fees
Activation fee$0 if signing up online; otherwise, $5 to purchase a starter kit at Walmart, which offers a temporary card.
Reload fee$0
Check deposit feeNo charge if you’re willing to wait 10 days;
1% or 5% of a check for “Money in Minutes”
ATM feesWithdrawal at MoneyPass ATMs, $0;
withdrawal at non-MoneyPass ATMs, $2.50
Card replacement fee$0
Money transfer to Walmart store in U.S. or Puerto RicoUp to $50: $4
$50.01-$1,000: $8
$1,000.01-$2,500: $16

Using the Bluebird mobile app

Source: iTunes

The app is available for iPhone and Android devices, and offers some of banking’s most popular features, including the ability to view your balance and detailed information about individual transactions. Users can cash checks, pay bills, add money from other debit cards, send money to family account holders (e.g., your teens) and locate MoneyPass ATMs, which don’t charge fees. Users can also transfer money to their SetAside (savings-adjacent) account.

The app has a 3.2-out-of-5 rating on iTunes and a 4.2-out-of-5 rating on Google Play. Some users complain about iPhone X compatibility. The app also lacks budgeting and savings-pattern features that select banking apps are now offering. To find the Amex Offers that come with a Bluebird card, you’ll also need to download the Amex app.

Opening a Bluebird account

Applicants can sign up for Bluebird in a number of ways. Users can go to Bluebird.com to register for an account, or download and use the Bluebird app (available for iPhone and Android from the App Store and Google Play, respectively). If a registrant needs instant access to a card, they can visit a Walmart store to purchase a Bluebird account setup kit for $5, which includes a temporary card, then register on Bluebird.com for a personalized Bluebird card imprinted with the user’s name.

Users would want to upgrade to the permanent or personalized card as the temporary card has a serious limit: You can only add up to $500. After registering and verifying your email address, Bluebird sends a personalized Bluebird card with your name on it seven to 10 days later. This card should be activated immediately upon receipt, according to Bluebird.

To be eligible for a Bluebird card, you need to have a valid Social Security number, be at least 18 years old and reside in the U.S. No credit reviews are required.

Who could benefit from the Bluebird card?

If you do not qualify for a traditional bank account due to poor credit or disinterest, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a solid, reliable alternative to check-cashing companies. The card is also an option for those pursuing debt-free living, offering the ease of plastic payment without the monthly bill.

The Bluebird card is also convenient for others:

  • Regular Walmart shoppers who want to deposit and withdraw money
  • Those who do not plan on depositing more than $100,000 a year
  • Those who are interested in helpful financial management tools, such as low balance alerts and preventive measures against check-bouncing.

This prepaid debit card may also work well for tech-savvy parents who want to offer teen kids some plastic for trips and travels — with limits.

Overall review of Bluebird

For those with simple accounting requirements, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a good alternative to a traditional bank account or prepaid debit card, providing a new, low-cost option to cost-conscious or credit-damaged consumers who still want to manage their money using features, such as bill pay, paper checks and instant online access.

While lacking some of the benefits of a traditional bank — such as interest-bearing savings accounts and brick-and-mortar service — the card offers many card benefits to those who might not otherwise qualify.

As well, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a great pick for parents of teens, with the option to reload, monitor and reduce funds available to kids.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lora Shinn |

Lora Shinn is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lora here

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Banking

MagnifyMoney’s 2019 CD Rate Forecast

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

bar graph showing money growing
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The Fed closed out 2018 with its fourth and final rate hike of the year. This further boosted the competitive rate climate, especially among online savings accounts, as some banks rose their rates in turn.

However, consumers shouldn’t expect quite as many rate hikes in 2019, said Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts.com. (Both MagnifyMoney and DepositAccounts.com are under the same parent company, LendingTree.) “The Fed faces little pressure to hike rates,” he noted, due to economic growth and low inflation. As long as inflation remains low and the economy continues to expand, it looks like rate hikes in 2019 won’t be quite as frequent nor impactful.

The Fed rate outlook in 2019

Before its Dec. 2018 rate hike, the Fed faced some opposition. For one, the Wall Street Journal pointed to signs of slowing economic growth, uncertainty in the market and low inflation as reasons to postpone a rate boost. The Fed raised rates anyway, and so we headed into the new year with increasing anxiety in the markets. In turn, according to Tumin, this economic pessimism “pulled down the odds of future Fed rate hikes” in 2019. Still, he has also noted in his own CD rate forecast that “the markets [may] have become overly pessimistic about 2019.”

So far, it looks like Tumin is right. Worries about an economic downturn quickly dissipated in the first week of 2019 when a positive December jobs report was released. This immediately boosted the outlook for future Fed rate hikes, with some hopes that the Fed could continue its streak of gradual rate boosts. And while some economists seem hesitant to call it one way or another, Tumin has predicted that if anything, the latest show of economic growth could “convince the Fed to hike rates at least once or twice more in 2019.”

CD rate forecast: What we can expect from CD rates in 2019

So what does all of that mean for CDs in 2019? Unfortunately, with the uncertainty surrounding the Fed’s future actions, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how CD rates will react. Even Tumin indicated that it’s a “difficult time for CD investors.”

Convention would tell you to lock in long-term CD rates today while rates are high. However, as of Jan. 2019, long-term CD rates weren’t performing much better than many shorter-term CD rates. That would make short- and mid-term accounts a much more reasonable option, especially if you’re optimistic about rates rising soon.

There is still some room for long-term CD rates to get a boost this year — but, Tumin cautioned, rate increases across the board are unlikely. He predicts that 5-year CD rates, averaging at 2.206% in Jan. 2019, will remain largely stagnant as the year progresses. So unless you’re confident in higher rates on the horizon, you might want to stick to convention and lock in your high-yield long-term CD now.

CDs vs. savings accounts

Even with their relatively bleak outlook for 2019, CD rates have historically increased faster than savings account rates. The average 1-year CD rate increased 0.26 percentage points from the Dec. 2015 Fed rate hike to Dec. 2018. Meanwhile, savings accounts have only seen an increase of 0.02 points. Because CDs expire at the end of a term, it forces consumers to shop around again and again every few months or so for the best rate. This keeps banks on their toes to maintain the most competitive rates.

It’s important to note that the minimal increase in savings account rates is largely due to the consistently low rates at brick-and-mortar banks. When accounted for separately, online savings accounts averaged a rate of 1.52% APY in Dec. 2018, much higher than the average 0.26% APY at brick-and-mortar banks. Savings account rates increased all throughout 2018 with each Fed rate hike; Tumin expects online savings rates to maintain this level of momentum throughout 2019, potentially reaching rates of around 3% by the end of the year.

Yet this kind of continued growth just isn’t expected for CDs, which seem to have maxed out. While there were a few CDs with 4% APY last year, they were short-lived. This was largely due to both consumers and banks realizing that was the highest CD rates could reach. So once those accounts expired, they took the maxed out rate with them.

Looking ahead into 2019, with that short-lived spike from last year in mind, Tumin has expressed feelings that 5-year CD rates may not reach “much higher than savings accounts rates.”

What’s next?

In all, we should expect one or two Fed rate hikes in 2019. That may lead to some rate increases, especially with online savings accounts. On the other hand, there’s a low chance you’ll see CD rates that are much higher than what you see now, especially on long-term accounts. This means you may want to lock in a long-term CD rate now while rates are high. If you’re worried about missing the chance of a higher rate later in the year, know that rate boosts aren’t expected to really be substantial enough to wait for.

You could also choose to wait through the next couple Fed meetings for a more concrete sign of rate increases (or not) if you’re skeptical of locking into a rate now. In the meantime, Tumin suggested keeping your money in a high-yield savings account while you keep an eye on the best CD rate deals. Rates are competitive now and are only expected to climb, so your money will be safe there no matter what. Then when you’re confident it’s time to lock in a high-yield, long-term CD, you can switch over your funds. To make this switch over as painless as possible, be sure to use a savings account with solid ACH capabilities that includes a high-balance allowance and quick turnaround.

Finally, if you’re totally on the fence about whether you should lock in rates now or not, consider a CD ladder. A CD ladder involves opening multiple CDs at the same time, ranging between short-, mid- and long-term accounts. The shorter-term accounts will allow you to take advantage of rising rates, while your long-term CDs — already earning at today’s high rates — will protect those funds from falling interest rates.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

Lauren Perez is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lauren here

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