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Banking

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

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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 [email protected]

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Banking

Review of Cleo

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Cleo is a budgeting app that serves as a sassy Siri for your finances. The app is a “chatbot,” which you interact with via text messages. Cleo makes a budget for you, helps you build savings and talks to you about your spending habits and your financial life. It also offers a digital wallet account for saving funds, and a form of overdraft protection.

While Cleo’s chatty approach to your finances make it stand out from competitors, its digital wallet product raises some red flags for us: The wallet pays no interest, and does not carry Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insurance. If you’re serious about saving money, you need to understand the downsides to Cleo’s core features before using this app.

What is the Cleo app?

Cleo is designed to help you make a budget and stick to it. You connect your checking account to the app, which scans your transactions and analyzes your financial habits. Cleo spots spending trends and provides advice — sometimes brutally honest advice — about how you should be spending or saving your cash.

The chatbot functions of Cleo are central to how it works: You link your Facebook account to the Cleo app, which then chats with you via Facebook Messenger about your finances. You can ask Cleo for updates on your account balances, tell the app to build you a budget or have it set up reminders to reel in the spending on certain categories.

For instance, Cleo will tell you your spending by category, date or merchant. You can ask Cleo a question like, “How much did I spend on Uber this month?” or “Can I afford takeout tonight?” and the app will provide you with instant answers.

Cleo is headquartered in the U.K., and the company says it’s compatible with more than 3,000 U.S. financial institutions, including big banks like Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Capital One.

Cleo’s free features

Cleo offers two account tiers, a free account and a $5.99 per month account called Cleo Plus. The free account gives you access to Cleo’s budgeting tool and digital wallet, plus a weekly quiz with chances to earn cash rewards. The paid account adds in cashback rewards and overdraft protection.

Cleo budget tools

Cleo analyzes your finances and suggests a budget. It lets you adjust the budget plan to meet your needs. You must link Cleo to your checking account, although Cleo does not specify whether it can support more than one bank account. The app will identify recurring bills and send you reminders to pay them. The app only lets you set one budget — unlike some other budget apps that allow you to create different budgets for different categories. Cleo categorizes your spending patterns and provides regular summaries by category.

Cleo digital wallet

Cleo’s digital wallet lets you stash money in the account, but it does not pay an APY and does not offer FDIC insurance. The app prompts you set up recurring, automatic deposits into the wallet, and also lets you move money into this account on demand.

Note the company goes out of its way to remind users that this is not a savings account. Not being able to earn interest should be a deal breaker if you’re looking to seriously grow your savings — there are a number of high-yielding, online savings accounts that reward you with interest rates climbing over 2%.

The company states that in the U.K., funds stashed in Cleo’s digital wallet are held by U.K. banks Barclays and MangoPay. It is not clear which institution holds your wallet funds in the U.S.

When it comes to deposit insurance, Cleo “pledges” up to $250,000 in protection, although the terms of this pledge are not anything like the deposit insurance offered by the FDIC. Cleo says “… [the] pledge provides protection for up to $250,000 in losses to U.S. bank accounts and credit cards where the losses are attributable to sign-up and use of Cleo.”

Cleo weekly quiz

Every week, you can participate in a quiz with questions about your own recent spending and savings habits. If you get all the answers right, you’ll be entered to win a cash prize.

Cleo Plus paid features

For $5.99 per month you get Cleo Plus, an upgraded version of the app with the features above plus Cleo Cover, a form of overdraft protection, and Daily Cash, a cashback rewards program.

Cleo Cover lets you borrow up to $100 if you need a bit cash to get by or if your checking account is in danger of going into the red. No interest is charged on the loan amount, so long as you repay what you borrowed within three to 28 days later. Cleo determines your eligibility for Cleo Cover on a case-by-case basis, based on factors like your spending habits and whether you have regular income.

Cleo Cover comes with a major caveat, though: To get your Cover payment on the same day, Cleo will charge you a $3.99 fee. If you’re needing Cleo to spot you cash or cover an overdraft, chances are you need the money immediately.

Daily Cash provides cashback rewards on purchases you make from certain retailers. The app shows you the retailers you shop at most — and each time you make a purchase at one of those retailers, you’ll get up to 7% of your purchase deposited back into your Cleo Wallet. Other ways you can get cashback are shopping on the Daily Cash page in the app, and by completing challenges, like sticking to your budget or using the app frequently.

Advantages of Cleo

  • The app’s nonchalant, sometimes snarky tone makes managing your money a little less intimidating and a bit more fun.
  • Cleo provides a fast, convenient way to figure out if you can afford a certain purchase. Instead of sitting down and analyzing your budget, simply ask Cleo if you can afford it.
  • Cleo Plus’s added features — Cleo Cash and the cashback rewards program — could be useful for some users, if you understand the costs involved.

Downsides of Cleo

  • You don’t earn an APY on savings stashed in your Cleo Wallet. If you’d like to grow your money, these funds should be immediately stashed in a savings account that earns a decent APY.
  • Cleo “pledge” to protect up to $250,000 of losses “attributable to sign-up and use of Cleo” is a major red flag. This is not FDIC deposit insurance, and users should understand that if the company were to go out of business, any funds kept in the Cleo Wallet could be at risk.
  • Not being able to set different budgets for different categories — which is a feature of other budgeting apps like Mint — is a drawback.
  • It can take up to four days to transfer funds from your bank account to Cleo Wallet, and vice versa. That’s not a short amount of time.
  • The chatbot on the Cleo app is not very intuitive. After asking the chatbot several questions about how many bank accounts you’re able to link and whether Cleo Plus offers 2% interest on savings — something that is advertised on a company press release but cannot be found on its website — we received the same slew of auto-responses repeatedly. If you have questions about the app or the funds you have stashed in it, the app provides little to no direction on how to get in touch with an actual Cleo employee.
  • Facebook has had its fair share of privacy concerns. Cleo’s integration with Facebook could make you wary. If your Facebook is hacked, it could make your conversations with Cleo vulnerable.

Cleo vs. other budget apps

Cleo offers a little bit of everything that other fintech apps offer: Budgeting, saving, motivation, and cashback. However, Cleo falls short on delivering in each of these categories when compared with its competitors, proving that even if you can do everything, that doesn’t mean that you should.

Cleo vs. Mint

In terms of its budgeting component, Cleo falls short in comparison to Mint in the following ways:

  • Cleo’s budgeting tool doesn’t allow you to set up different categories for different transactions, something that Mint does feature.
  • In addition to allowing you to set up different categories, Mint lets you customize those categories by renaming them or recategorizing transactions, something that you can’t do with Cleo.
  • Mint’s budgeting tool is much more intuitive, and will automatically separate expenses like an ATM withdrawal and an ATM fee, filing those expenses under their designated categories.
  • Mint allows you to create custom alerts to notify you when certain bills are due. While Cleo gives you general budget notifications, you cannot set up custom alerts.

Cleo vs. Digit

As for Cleo’s saving money feature, the Digit app does the same thing and arguably does it better:

  • Funds in Digit are FDIC-insured, up to the legal limit. Funds in the Cleo Wallet are not insured. That’s a deal breaker when it comes to the savings you’ve worked so hard to build.
  • Digit rewards you with a 1% Savings Bonus if you save for three consecutive months.
  • Digit allows you to customize particular savings goals, something that Cleo lacks.

Cash back is something you can easily get with credit cards, which often offer cash back for spending done in entire categories, not just at specific retailers.

As for the motivating factor, Cleo does have a leg up on its competitors with its witty “roast me” or “hype me” money management feature — depending on whether you’re in the mood for some tough love or a pep talk.

Is Cleo right for you?

Cleo attempts to make money management more approachable by incorporating a chatbot with attitude and offering games — so if you’d rather get a root canal than craft a budget, it could be tempting to check out.

Your finances, though, are anything but a game. Cleo offers no interest, no FDIC insurance, potentially high costs on Cleo Cover loans and a bare-bones budgeting tool. The chatbot’s jokes can’t compete with a detailed budgeting app like Mint, high-yielding savings accounts offered by online banks and competitive credit card rewards programs. Take your money management seriously, and leave the laughs for other forms of entertainment.

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.

Sarah Berger
Sarah Berger |

Sarah Berger is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah here

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Banking

Credit Unions vs Banks: What’s the Difference?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Credit unions and banks are similar financial institutions, although there are key differences between them. Both banks and credit unions offer financial services like checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). They both offer mortgages and personal loans. But banks are for-profit companies, while credit unions are nonprofit institutions that serve their members and their communities. Read on to discover more about the differences between banks and credit unions.

What is a credit union?

A credit union is a not-for-profit financial institution that is formed by another entity, such as a corporation or community group. Ranging in size from small local operations to large nationwide networks, credit unions are owned and controlled by their members, who are also their customers.

Under the credit union business model, members buy shares in their credit union, and their deposits are used to provide loans and other financial products to each other.

A credit unions is run by a volunteer board of directors that is elected by its members. Credit unions are chartered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) or by a state or federal government.

Credit Unions are growing in popularity: The assets of the average credit union have increased from $150 million to $260 million since 2012. Average membership at credit unions nationwide have grown by more than 20% since 2012.

How is a credit union different from a bank?

One of the chief differences between banks and credit unions is their ownership structures. Credit unions are owned by their members, while banks are owned by their stockholders. These different ownership structures dictate how these institutions operate. Credit unions serve the best interest of their members, while banks have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, not their customers.

Credit unions and banks dispose of their profits differently. As for-profit institutions, banks redistribute their earnings to investors and shareholders. Credit unions use their earnings to reward their members by giving them dividends, discounted loan rates, higher interest rates on savings and investment products, and lower-cost services.

Unlike a bank, not everyone can open an account at a credit union. To join, you must meet certain criteria, which is often dependent on your employer, family, geographic location or membership in a group, such as a professional organization, school, church or labor union.

Finally, customer service can be another difference between credit unions and banks. Bank rules and policies are set by their boards of directors, who are often located in another city. Credit unions, on the other hand, are run by members, who are likely living in the community. In studies, credit unions often rank higher than most banks in terms of their quality of customer experience.

Feature

Credit Union

Bank

Management

Controlled by its members

Controlled by board of directors

Purpose

Serve its members

Make a profit

Revenue

Returned to members through dividends

Distributed to shareholders

Account holder rights

Account holders have voting rights

Account holders have no voting rights

Service

Account holders are members who can help set policies by voting

Account holders have no say in policies

Eligibility

Must meet eligibility requirements to open an account

Anyone can open an account

How to join a credit union

Finding a credit union near you is as easy as an internet search. You may be surprised at the number of credit unions in your area. The NCUA has a Credit Union Locator that can help you find a credit union near you. You can search by your address, the name of the credit union or by its charter number, which is a unique number assigned to the credit union by NCUA.

See if you are eligible

After you locate credit unions in your community, visit their website to learn about their eligibility requirements for membership. If the credit union does not include this information on its website, call or visit its physical location for more details.

In general, anyone who belongs to a certain community or organization may join the community’s credit union. Members typically share a common bond, such as

  • They work for the same employer
  • They live or work in the same geographic area
  • They have a family member who is a member of the credit union
  • They belong to the same organization, such as a religious group, school, labor union or homeowners association

Some credit unions are open to anyone and will approve membership based on charitable contributions. For example, you can join Alliant Credit Union by making a $10 donation to the Foster Care to Success Foundation.

Open an account

If you meet a credit union’s membership requirements, you can open an account by submitting proof of your identity, residence address and proof of eligibility. Then make the minimum deposit, which for credit unions will range from $5 to $25.

Is my money safe in a credit union?

In terms of safety, there really is no difference between depositing money with a credit union and depositing it with a bank, as long as the credit union is a member of the NCUA. The NCUA Insurance Fund provides members of federally-insured credit unions with a maximum up to the legal limit in insurance coverage, which is the same coverage the FDIC offers to bank account holders.

If you have more than one type of account ownership, such as individual accounts, joint accounts, revocable trust accounts and certain types of retirement accounts, it’s possible to qualify for more than the insurance limit in coverage.

Advantages of credit unions

  • Better interest rates: Because credit unions are not-for-profit organizations, they boast competitive rates and fees for their members, unlike commercial banks. Credit union members typically enjoy higher interest rates on their deposit accounts, as well as more affordable loan products.
  • Lower fees: According to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), credit union members on average can save $102 every year versus banking with commercial banks. For example, credit unions charge about $3 less on average for each non-sufficient fund in a checking account than banks do, and almost $10 less for late payments on credit card debt.
  • Decreased closing costs: In terms of mortgage closing costs, people who use credit unions for loans pay $210 less than those who take out loans from banks.
  • Capped credit card rates: Credit unions have an 18% cap on how much interest they can charge on loans including credit cards, which distinguishes them greatly from traditional bank credit card issuers. Credit unions charged an average 11.82% interest rate on credit card debt; whereas commercial banks charged 13.65%.
  • Personalized loan reviews: If you’re building your credit and want to use a personal loan to establish or improve your credit score, a credit union may be more likely to work with you than a big bank. Members of credit unions may also be able to appeal credit decisions if they’re turned down.
  • A voice and vote: Your deposit in a credit union makes you a part of the ownership of the institution. Interestingly, in this structure, one person’s loan may come from another’s deposit. It also gives you the right to vote.
  • Access to nationwide ATM networks: If you are a member with a credit union, you have access to a national network called CO-OP, which has over 28,000 ATMs across the country and allows anyone who belongs to a credit union to access funds without a charge. This is more than what Chase has (around 16,000).

Disadvantages of credit unions

  • Limited access to branches: While some credit unions work hard to offer the same conveniences as banks, their branch locations are limited compared with megabanks. And you won’t likely find your credit union branch when you travel to another country.
  • Slower to adopt new technologies: Assets of some small local credit unions are often a fraction of those of big national banks. Some don’t even have their own website. They may also struggle to afford higher costs of adopting the new mobile banking technology, which can limit the need to visit a physical branch or ATM location.
  • Fees aren’t always lower: While some fees may be lower at credit unions, that doesn’t mean you can always save money in fees with a credit union. For instance, Chicago-based Alliant Credit Union charges an outgoing wire transfer fee — $50 for international and $25 for domestic. However, Chase Bank, which is also available in Chicago, doesn’t charge an outgoing wire fee for checking account holders.

Credit union vs bank: Which should you choose?

Choosing between a bank and credit union comes down to personal preference. Identify the services and banking experience that matter most to you. Consider things like customer service, online tools, branch location, interest rates and loan requirements. Make a checklist of the features in a financial institution that are most important to you.

Ultimately, it comes down to comparing products, services, fees and convenience. Remember, you can have accounts at a bank and a credit union. In some cases, this may be the best way to determine the right fit for you, allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds.

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.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here