I'm managing the utility of the house and I'm sharing with another person. He asks me to provide my bank account number, so that he can transfer his money to my account when paying the utility.

  1. I wonder if it is safe to give out my bank account number?

    For example, if I'm correct, many online payments just need the account number to draw money out of it.

  2. Is giving out the bank account number safer than handing a check to another person, since there is also the account number printed on the check?

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    >many online payment just needs the account number to draw money out of it. Well, you do need to "sign" a piece of paper that says something to the effect that you have authorized John Doe to make withdrawals from your bank account before a bank will let John Doe withdraw any money from your account. But if you believe that an account number is all that is needed, you should not be writing checks to anybody at all since all that someone needs is your account number which is printed on all your checks. For online stuff, the authorization might be hidden in the fine print you Accept ed. Commented May 27, 2012 at 19:56
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    This is something I found very different in north america compared to (central?) europe. Maybe your house-mate comes from another country where the banking works differently and handing over account numbers is perfectly normal - see my answer about an example.
    – cbeleites
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 14:23
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    I don't understand why banks have not taken steps to improve security in this respect. Surely it isn't difficult to request the bank to generate a one-time-use code that expires by a fixed date and has a capped transaction. The code can then be used to receive funds but not send funds.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 8:56
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    I don't see much difference in giving your bank account number to someone and giving someone a check. A check contains the routing number and full account number anyway. I don't understand why the account number on a check can't be hidden partially at least.
    – Rich
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 17:21
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    @DilipSarwate Donald Knuth certainly believes that... and this is a pretty old page too: www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/news08.html
    – user12515
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


Technically, no. There is very little security in the US for bank drafts. With your bank account routing number it is very easy for people to draw funds without your authorization. Another thing people can do is buy stuff online with "demand drafts". Essentially it works like a credit card number where the create an electronic version of a check to purchase things. There is generally no password, PIN or signature requirement.

That said, it is printed on every check you write so keeping it private isn't really practical. I'd make sure you trust anyone you give it to and watch your account statements closely.

An important thing to know is that a routing number isn't a one-way deal. If you give out the number for someone to wire you money, they can just as easily draft on the account.

  • 1
    Thanks! I wonder how to understand the last paragraph: "a routing number isn't a one-way deal. If you give out the number for someone to wire you money, they can just as easily draft on the account."? (1) Specifically, what do "wire your money" and "draft on the account" mean? (2) By "one-way deal", what did you try to mean? (3) "Routing number" is for the bank, and is public. "Account number" is for me, and is private. So do you really mean "routing number" instead of "account number"?
    – Tim
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 2:10
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    1) "Wire you money" means sending money to you, draft means withdrawing money from your account. 2) Given an account number, someone could just as easily withdraw money from your account as they could send money to you. 3) I think by "routing number", he meant the combination of routing and account numbers that uniquely identify your account.
    – bhamby
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 14:34
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    Your account number is not private. It is printed on every check you write.
    – JohnFx
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 16:52
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    It is true that it's not private, but it's also not completely public as you generally know who you give checks to and you aren't giving it to just anybody. That said, you're taking a small risk each time you give out a check. That's why I always prefer something like Paypal when possible, credit card next preference since you see charges on CC before they are actually paid so you have more time to protest if something's wrong.
    – StasM
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 0:18
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    I am stunned that this is the case.
    – algal
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 6:01

I think the answer depends very much on where you are.

I believe the other answer covers north america.

On contrast, in (continental) Europe, giving the account and bank number (IBAN and BIC) is a (the most) common way to enable someone to send money to you.

E.g. in Germany, you need much more than account number and bank number to withdraw money:

To "push" money to another account (wire transfer from your account to someone who gave you the other account + bank numbers), you either have to hand-sign a certain form, or (online) certain credentials (e.g. login & password / PIN + TAN) are needed. I.e. for defrauding you, the other would need to get your online credentials (for mTAN also your mobile phone, for chipTAN a TAN generator of your bank [easy] and your bank card, for (i)TAN your TAN list) or fake your signature.

There are also ways to allow someone to pull money from your account, see e.g. direct debit

For that you sign that the other side is allowed to withdraw specified amounts of money (at specified dates). This is either

  1. between you and the other (i.e. your bank cannot check and doesn't reject withdrawals that are not authorized). However, the other side needs to have signed a contract with their bank that they'll only try to withdraw money they're entitled to.

  2. or you sign such a thing with your bank (then they do know whether the other side is allowed to withdraw money, and you can tell the bank that you won't accept any further withdrawals from XYZ).

In the first case, the withdrawal technically still needs your approval. In order not to create a huge risk of fraud, the rejecting here is really easy: If you tell your bank that you reject the payment,

  • the bank will immediately roll back the transaction.
  • You need not give a reason for rejecting such a payment,
  • the bank is not allowed to charge you anything for the rejection, and
  • has to give you the interest you'd have gotten if the money had stayed on your account.
  • However, the bank can charge fees to the other side who tried to withdraw money from your account without approval.
  • And of course, it's criminal to try defrauding someone.
  • As the banks are much interested that this procedure is accepted as a safe way of payments, they're much after persons who try to defraud by this procedure.
  • But even if the one who tried to withdraw money was entitled to the money (and you just say "I don't pay"), the bank rolls back the transaction. In that case the other has to go to a civil court to get his money.

The practical rule is that the payment is approved if you didn't reject within the first 6 weeks after the bank sent the account statement. In other words, until 4 1/2 months after the withdrawal (in case you have a bank that does only quarterly account statements), the one to get the money cannot be really sure that he actually has the money.

I think (but I'm not completely sure, maybe someone else can comment/edit) that these two possibilities are also what is used with debit card payments (EC/Maestro card - these are much more common here than real credit card payments).

-- end of Germany specific example --

  • 1
    I live in Poland, and it's a lot like that here, too. You would need login + password + a one-time password to transfer money into a random account. And account number would not likely help you: once you log in into the online banking system, you can see all the accounts and balances anyway. I'm not sure about those possibilities of withdrawing money from another's account, but when it comes to credit/debit cards, you can, afaik, chargeback just about any transaction and the burden of proof lies (mostly) with the party responsible for charging.
    – tomasz
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 19:23
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    I live in South Africa and here it is also very similar. We just call it "Debit Orders" (but the term direct debit, is familiar with IT systems). In SA you can also reverse any suspicious charges (with the online bank portals). And you can dispute any debit older than 30 days. In SA they are also implementing a system where you receive an SMS when a debit is requested on your account and you need to reply to authorise it. Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 7:27
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    In fact, in Germany many businesses have their bank account number (IBAN and BIC) on their letterhead or website. "Here's my account number! Send me money!"
    – Fab
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 17:10
  • Agreed (+1). A special case could be Direct Debit
    – WoJ
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:43

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