DEFINITION of 'Check Routing Symbol'

Check Routing Symbol  is a set of numbers appearing as the denominator of a fraction that is printed in the upper right corner of any check that is paid through the Federal Reserve system. The check routing symbol contains three or four digits and provides three pieces of information: the district of the paying bank, the facility that processed the check and the funds' availability status assigned by the Fed. The upper number in the numerical fraction is the ABA transit number.

BREAKING DOWN 'Check Routing Symbol'

Any check that the Fed deems immediately available is given a check routing number that ends in 0. They are payable the same day as they are presented at any federal reserve bank. A check with a routing symbol that ends in any other number is referred to as a deferred availability check.

Decoding Checks

While check writing is decreasing every year, millions of people still use checks to pay bills. Commercial checks written daily dropped from 72 million in 1989 to 20 million in 2017, and that number is expected to continue to decline indefinitely.

But checks can still be a useful no- or low-cost way to make payments, and most monthly rent payments are still made by check in the U.S., plus many utility company payments.

Checks have the following information embedded on them: At the bottom of personal checks usually the routing number appears first, followed by the account number, then the check number. The routing number is 9 digits long, preceded and followed with a symbol that appears to be a bold vertical dash and colon symbol. Routing numbers are assigned by the American Bankers Association and identify the bank with a unique routing number.

It's a good idea not to pass checks to people or businesses you may not have a reason to trust. The account number on the check can be used to pull money out of your account. In addition, never write additional personal information on the check, such as your drivers license number or Social Security number. With these, an identity thief can more easily open an account in your name.

If you are still writing a lot of checks, look into using a debit card instead. Most businesses that accept checks will also take a debit card, which deducts money directly from your account. Memorize your pin number - never write it on the card. Don't agree to give out your checking account number or debit card number over the phone unless the merchant is known to you, and even then it's not a good idea.

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