A bank code is used to send and receive payments for deposits using financial institution systems and networks. Types of bank codes used vary for some transaction types and domestic vs international payments transactions.
Our explainer includes a bank code list of the types of U.S. and international bank codes used.
What is a Bank Code?
In the US, a bank code (or routing transit number) is a nine-digit number found on a check between the two colons that identifies an American bank. However, the format and information conveyed in a bank code varies by country, so the term “bank code” takes on a more general meaning from an international perspective. Let’s walk through all of the different types of popular bank codes used across the world.
Account vs Routing Number
In the United States, the bank code for financial transactions combines a routing number and a bank account number. The external bank identification routing number and bank account number are printed in MICR ink on the bottom of each check, with the routing number to the left of the bank account number.
The check number is to the right of the routing number and bank account number. MICR is magnetic ink character recognition, used by computers to read the numbers automatically.
The routing number is also printed on the top right of the check, in a different format shown as a fraction. The fraction format is used as a backup number to process checks if the MICR printing can’t be read.
The internal routing number for a bank on a deposit slip is also printed in MICR as a different number.
IBAN (international bank account number) is a standard format bank code of up to 32 alphanumerics used internationally (but not in the U.S. or Canada) to identify a foreign bank account and make wire transfers and interbank transfer transactions, including cross-border payments. The IBAN number includes a country code, two check digits, and a lengthy bank account number.
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A SWIFT code is used worldwide for money transfers between banks for international transactions. The SWIFT code or Bank Identifier Code (BIC) is an eight to 11 digit code of alphanumerics to identify the bank, county, the bank’s head office location, and optionally a specific branch.
In Mexico, CLABE (Clave Bancaria Estandarizada) which translates to standardized bank code or standardized bank cipher, is used for 18-digit Mexican bank account numbers. The CLABE is used for banking transactions, including bank transfers.
The Sort code is used in England and Ireland as a bank code to identify the bank location of a bank account. Sort codes are six digits, expressed as three sets of two numbers separated by a hyphen. The Ireland sort code, also referred to as National Sort Code or NSC, begins with 9.
The sort code is used as part of the IBAN code for making bank transfers internationally.
BSB (in Australia)
The BSB (Branch State Bank) code is used as a bank branch identifier in Australia. The BSB code consists of six numbers, with the first two or three digits for branch identification. In Australia, international bank transfers use a BSB, account number, and SWIFT code (the same as a BIC code) for processing through the SWIFT network.
The BSB code, the location code for a specific bank branch, is on a bank statement and online banking account. The BSB number can be found by searching a BSB branch locator on your bank’s website or another online BSB checker tool.
New Zealand BSB/Clearing Code
New Zealand uses its own six-digit BSB bank code to identify a bank (first two digits) and specific branch location (last four digits) of a financial institution in that country. To make a wire transfer, you also need the seven-digit account number and the suffix of two or three digits.
In India, the IFSC (Indian Financial System Code) is used as a bank code to transfer money within India between banks and to transfer foreign money to Indian bank accounts.
Besides the IFSC, India also uses a MICR code for using an Electronic Clearing System. The MICR code consists of City Code, Bank Code, and Branch Code of three digits each, totaling nine digits. MICR is magnetic ink character recognition printing on checks for automatic electronic reading.
Hong Kong Bank Code
The Hong Kong bank code is a three-digit bank code number only used for domestic bank account transactions within Hong Kong to identify the bank name. It’s combined with the branch code and bank account number to make bank transfers.
Hong Kong also uses the SWIFT code and IBAN for making overseas bank transfers.
These FAQs answer more questions about the meaning of bank codes.
What is ABA Number?
An ABA number is a nine-digit number called a routing number or routing transit number (RTN) to identify banks and branches in the United States in a standard format defined by the American Bankers Association.
How Do You Find an Example Bank Code Routing Number in the U.S.?
To find a bank code in the U.S., refer to your bank account statement, mobile banking app, or the bank’s lookup page for routing numbers. For example, you can find the Chase routing number bank code for your area, which may vary by state or region in the United States by logging on and entering the last four digits of your bank account.
Are SWIFT Code and BIC the Same?
Yes. The SWIFT code standard format is specified in ISO 9362 as a BIC. International bank transfers go through the SWIFT network.
Where Do I Get a SWIFT/BIC Code?
The SWIFT network issues each BIC code specified in ISO 9362. Besides SWIFT code, people refer to the BIC code as bank identifier code, bank identification code, business party identifier, and business identifier code.
What are the SubCodes Within a SWIFT Code or BIC Code?
The eight to 11 alphanumeric character code for SWIFT/BIC has four parts, including the optional branch code:
1. Bank code (four letters) specifying the bank name
2. Country code (two letters)
3. Location code (two numbers up to nine or letters) to identify the bank head office
4. Branch code (three digits) for a particular bank branch location or XXX for head office) – optional
Does the U.S. Use the SWIFT Code (BIC)?
Although the U.S. has its unique ABA routing numbers for bank codes, SWIFT number codes are used in the U.S. to send international money transfers through the SWIFT network.