A SWIFT code (BIC) identifies international payments made between banks in a standard format used by members of the SWIFT network. Money transfer companies also send international money transfers using SWIFT codes. A BIC is a Bank Identifier Code or Bank Identification Code.
What is a SWIFT Code?
A SWIFT code is a standardized 8 or 11-digit Bank Identifier Code (BIC) used worldwide to make secure payments between banks as international wire transfers, SEPA payments within the EU, and other international money transfers. SWIFT includes three or four subcodes for the bank, country, location, and (optional) branch.
How Does a SWIFT Code Work?
A SWIFT code works when financial institutions like banks and money transfer companies use it to identify the international receiving bank and the location to which money will be transferred and the sending bank in a SWIFT payment.
Besides the sending and receiving bank, intermediary banks are sometimes used to complete these SWIFT international transactions to banks in different countries.
How Do You Find a SWIFT Code?
You can find your SWIFT code (or bank identification code) on international bank account statements or find the SWIFT code through an online search tool that’s a SWIFT code checker. The SWIFT number is an alphanumeric code.
What are SWIFT Code Uses?
SWIFT codes (BIC) are used for making international bank transfers, including wire transfers and SEPA payments unique to the European Union’s Single Euro Payments Area. Banks also use SWIFT codes to communicate with each other securely.
What Does a SWIFT Code Look Like?
A SWIFT code is an eight or 11 digit code of letters or numbers from left to right to identify a bank, its country, location code of the bank’s head office, and a particular branch location (or head office) to which the international financial transactions will be sent.
The SWIFT code is eight instead of 11 digits if the optional branch code isn’t used. Instead of using the branch code to identify a specific branch, you may use XXX to refer to the bank’s head office or primary office.
An eight to 11-digit SWIFT or bank identification code (BIC) is structured in a standard format from left to right as:
- Bank code (four letters abbreviating bank’s name)
- Country code (two letters)
- Location code (two letters or numbers between 0 and 9, locating bank’s head office – the headquarters)
- Optional – Branch code (3 letters or numbers between 0 and 9, for specific bank branch location, or head office as XXX)
ISO 9362:2014, an International Standard, “specifies the elements and structure of a universal identifier code, the business identifier code (BIC).” The BIC is the same as the bank’s SWIFT code.
ISO 9362 specifies the structure for BIC codes, which include an 8-character business identifier code and a 3-character optional branch identifier:
“The BIC is an 8-character code, defined as ‘business party identifier’, consisting of the business party prefix (4 alphanumeric), the country code as defined in ISO 3166-1 (2 alphabetic), and the business party suffix (2 alphanumeric).
The branch identifier is a 3-character optional element that can supplement the 8-character BIC, used to identify specific locations, departments, services or units of the same business party.”
To learn more about SWIFT/BIC, read the following FAQs.
What Does SWIFT Stand For?
As an acronym, SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
Is a SWIFT Code the Same as a BIC?
Yes. A SWIFT code (SWIFT ID) is also known as a Bank Identifier Code (BIC) or BIC code. It can be found on international bank statements with either description. Some financial institutions and different countries use either SWIFT code or BIC.
What Happens if You Give the Wrong SWIFT Code (BIC)?
If the bank SWIFT code for an international financial transaction is invalid, in the best case, it’s rejected by the SWIFT network and gets resolved by returning the funds in one to three weeks. Possibly a minor issue like a wrong branch code can be repaired quickly to get the bank transfer to the correct account.
To avoid funds delivery problems, you should use a SWIFT checker online to ensure that the SWIFT number of the receiving bank is correct before sending the bank transfer.
Is a SWIFT Code or BIC Like a Routing Number?
The SWIFT code, used for international transactions, is similar in concept to the U.S. routing number used for domestic transactions. However, the codes use different structures and subcodes to locate a bank and its local branch.
Is SWIFT or IBAN Used More for International Financial Transactions?
The SWIFT network is the most used international payment system, surpassing the rival system IBAN (international bank account number). This comparison of IBAN vs SWIFT is measured by the number of transactions (using IBAN number) in that network versus SWIFT financial transactions.
How Do Financial Institutions Connect to the SWIFT Network?
SWIFT provides documentation on its website to explain interfaces and integration for banks to connect with the SWIFT network software.
Do Any Non-Financial Institutions Use SWIFT Codes?
Yes. Money transfer companies approved by the SWIFT network can use SWIFT codes to send money internationally, either in a domestic or foreign currency, using exchange rates for currency conversion.