Do Credit Cards Have Routing Numbers?

Quick Answer

Credit cards don’t have routing numbers as they’re not needed for credit transactions. Instead of money being sent directly to or from your bank account, your credit card issuer processes the payment using a separate system.

A young man with beard using credit card to make online payment on smartphone.

At Experian, one of our priorities is consumer credit and finance education. This post may contain links and references to one or more of our partners, but we provide an objective view to help you make the best decisions. For more information, see our Editorial Policy.

A routing number is a unique identification code banks and credit unions use to transfer money. When you wire money, set up direct deposits or make electronic fund transfers, your bank uses your routing number to ensure the funds are sent to the right place.

However, credit cards don't have routing numbers simply because they aren't necessary for credit card transactions. Your credit card number contains the information needed to complete safe transactions, including your account number and card issuer's identification.

What Are Routing Numbers?

A routing number is a nine-digit number that identifies a specific bank or credit union, with each institution having its own unique number. Financial institutions use your bank's routing number along with your account number to communicate with other banks to accurately send and receive money.

The American Bankers Association (ABA) introduced this system in 1910, and it is only used in the United States; foreign banks use international bank account numbers (IBANs). Routing numbers were initially intended for paper checks, and you can still see your routing and account numbers displayed on the bottom of your checks or in your online banking account.

Today, banks and credit unions use ABA routing numbers to facilitate a wide range of financial transactions. Most commonly, routing numbers are used to process checks, online bill payments, direct deposits and wires. Your routing and account numbers also come in handy when filing your taxes, as they allow you to electronically pay your tax debt or receive your refund via direct deposit.

Why Don't Credit Cards Have Routing Numbers?

Clearly, routing numbers play a crucial role in ensuring that money transfers are sent to the correct accounts. So why, then, don't credit cards have routing numbers?

The answer is simple: Credit cards don't need routing numbers, since you're not using money from a bank account to make a deposit, wire money or carry out another transaction. Instead, you're borrowing funds against your credit limit—not from your bank account—with the obligation to repay it later.

But just as banks need to uniquely identify the financial institutions participating in a money transfer, credit card companies need to identify the card issuer and cardholder in order for the transaction to be completed. Credit card numbers are usually 16 digits, although some card issuers use more (or fewer) digits. These numbers contain several identifiers, including your account number, card issuer and the credit card network that authorizes payment.

Routing Number vs. Account Number

Routing and account numbers work together but have distinct functions during the electronic transfer of money. The routing number guides the funds to the right financial institution, while the account number identifies the correct individual account.

Generally, only you and any authorized users will use your account number, but every account holder at the same bank will hold the same routing number. Large nationwide banks often use dozens of routing numbers for different regions, so your specific routing number will depend on where you opened your account.

The nine-digit routing number is usually displayed in the bottom left corner of your checks, and the account number is shown immediately to its right. You can also find these numbers by logging in to your account or speaking with a customer service representative. Remember, these numbers are sensitive information, so keep them private to prevent someone from gaining access to your accounts.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Physical debit cards don't have routing numbers, but the bank account associated with the debit card does. For example, the debit card is attached to a checking account with account and routing numbers your bank uses to process checks, direct deposits and automatic payments. The routing number isn't printed on the debit card, but you can find it on your paper checks, bank statements and dashboard you use to access your checking account online.

  • Credit cards usually have 15 or 16 digits but can contain as many as 21 numbers. Typically, the first six to eight digits, known as the bank identification number (BIN) or issuer identification number (IIN), identify the credit card network and card issuer. The next string of numbers, other than the last digit, is your account number. Finally, the last number on your credit card is the checksum digit, which card issuers and payment networks rely on to catch errors and verify your credit card is valid.

Don't Forget About Your Credit Score

Routing numbers are essential to ensure banking transactions are processed accurately and efficiently. Since credit cards don't pull money directly from your bank, they don't use routing numbers. However, credit card companies do need specific information to process transactions, such as your credit card account number and the identity of your card issuer. This information is contained in the credit card number.

Another number that is critical to your overall financial health is your credit score. This three-digit number gives lenders a snapshot of your credit history and can affect your eligibility for loans and the interest rates you receive. As a general rule, the higher your credit score, the greater your odds of credit approval and favorable rates. Get access to your credit report and credit score for free with Experian to see where your credit stands. If you discover any credit issues, take the necessary steps to improve your credit before applying for new credit.