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Routing numbers get retired — eventually

The bank where I do my checking was bought by another one. I kept my checking account, but when it came time to order new checks, the new blanks arrived with the wrong routing number.

— Harold P., Medford

A routing number is a nine-digit number assigned to a bank or credit union so funds can be sent and received from other financial institutions.

There have been plenty of recent acquisitions involving banks doing business locally that could easily create all sorts of confusion.

You have AmericanWest Bank picking up Premier West Bank and in turn being scooped up by Banner Bank. Washington Mutual, which took over Western Bank, became part of Chase. Then Klamath First Federal customers saw their accounts go to Sterling and land with Umpqua. Bank of the Cascades customers may have previously had accounts with Bank of America or Home Federal. Those accounts will likely convert to First Interstate Bank in a few months.

So there are plenty of routing numbers being rerouted.

"There are slight variations in how banks choose to handle routing numbers in a situation like this," said Kelly McPhee, Banner Bank's spokesperson. The short answer is the routing number will continue to work at least for the short term in all cases.

At Banner Bank, she said, routing numbers remain active long after a merger, allowing clients to migrate to the new number over time.

"So in the case where we have experienced a merger in your market, those routing numbers remain active today and will for years to come," McPhee said.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.