How to pay your bills using ACH transfers, so you can avoid processing fees and ditch checks forever

10’000 Hours/Getty ImagesLearn how to withdraw money using your account and routing numbers.
  • Learning how to withdraw money with account and routing numbers is easy, and setting up ACH withdrawals could help you avoid card transaction fees and kick paper checks out of your life for good.
  • You’ll need to provide your bank account number and routing number in order to set up ACH payments.
  • ACH withdrawals usually take three to five days to process but can be made instantly with Zelle or other payment services.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Have you ever seen an “ACH” payment option on your bills? If so, you’ve probably also noticed that you need to provide your account number and routing numbers in order to set up ACH payments. That’s because an ACH payment is transferred directly from one bank to another via the Automated Clearing House network.

If you’re wondering how ACH transfers work, this guide should answer your questions. But first, let’s talk about why you’d want to use your account and routing numbers to withdraw money in the first place.

Why would you want to withdraw money with your account and routing numbers?

There are a few reasons why you may want to consider setting up ACH payments for your bills.

1. It could help you avoid debit and credit card transaction fees

Some service providers charge a small transaction fee whenever you pay online via debit card or credit card.

Companies usually do this because they are charged a transaction fee themselves from the card issuers. Utility companies are especially notorious for slapping an extra fee on payments made with cards.

But because ACH transfers don’t have these expensive transaction fees, most companies will allow customers to make ACH payments for free.

2. It could help you cut paper checks out of your life once and for all

For many of us, if we still have checks at all, it’s only because we have one or two monthly bills that can’t be paid with cards. But if you hate writing checks, you may be able to kick them out of your life for good by switching to ACH withdrawals.

Ask the companies that you write checks to if you can provide your account and routing numbers for online transfers. If so, then that’s one less trip you have to make each month to drop off a check (or one less envelope to mail out).

If you’re worried about your bank information getting hacked, don’t forget that your name, account number, and routing number are already on every check that you write.

3. It can help you automate your monthly bill payments

This is another advantage over paper checks. Once you’ve provided your account and routing number for ACH withdrawals, you’ll usually have the option to set up recurring payments.

If you have to remind yourself each and every month to drop off the check for your water bill by the due date, ACH payments could simplify your life and relieve stress.

How to withdraw money with your account and routing numbers and initiate ACH transfers

Initiating ACH transfers with your account and routing numbers is usually pretty straightforward. These are the steps that you’ll need to take.

1. Locate your account number and routing numbers

If you still use paper checks, that’s one of the easiest places to find your account and routing numbers.

Your routing number will be the nine-digit code on the far left-hand side of the check. Your account number will typically be 10-12 digits and will often be the middle set of numbers. Your check number will often be placed on the far right.

Personal check annotatedGetty Images

Depending on your bank, your account number and check number placement could be different. If you’re unsure, the larger number will be your account number and the smaller number will be your check number.

If you don’t have any checks lying around the house, you should also be able to locate your account and routing numbers by logging onto your bank’s online portal and searching for “routing number.” You could also call your bank’s customer service line and ask for help.

2. Update your bill payment methods to ‘ACH payments’ and provide your banking information

Once you have your account and routing numbers, you’ll need to provide this information to whichever company you want to pay via ACH.

You’ll often be asked to type your routing number once and your account number twice. Be careful when you’re typing in these numbers. You don’t want to make any mistakes and cause a hiccup in the process.

3. Initiate your ACH transfer at least a few days before your bill is due

ACH withdrawals typically take three to five days to process. Many companies will regard a payment as “on time” as long as it was initiated by the due date. But just in case, you may want to send your payment a few days early.

You’ll also want to keep the processing time in mind if you are on the receiving end of an ACH payment from a friend or a client. Later, we’ll discuss ways that you can send or receive ACH transfers instantly.

4. Make a one-time payment or set up recurring payments if available

Once you’ve provided your account number and routing number to a servicer, many will allow you to set up automatic recurring payments. This could help you automate your bills even further.

Keep in mind, though, that it may take one to two billing cycles for your automatic ACH withdrawals to take effect. You may need to make one or two more one-time payments until your recurring payment schedule begins. This is especially common with credit card bill payments.

5. Make instant payments with Zelle or other services

While most ACH withdrawals take three to five days to go through, it is possible to speed up the process. Zelle is a service that many U.S. banks have worked to provide to their customers. If your bank offers Zelle transfers, you can send money to a recipient within minutes.

When you use Zelle, your bank sends the funds to your recipient instantly. Later, the transaction will be finalised through normal ACH processing. With Zelle, you can send and receive money by simply providing your mobile number or email address.

Other payments apps, like Venmo,PayPal, and Cash App, allow instant transfers as well, but may charge a small fee for the service.

Related coverage from How to Do Everything: Money

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.