Swift code format explained

SWIFT Code Explained

1. What is a swift code?

swift code (or BIC code) is a unique alpha-numeric (letters & digits) code used to identify the bank, branch & country a bank or financial account is registered in. When transferring money internationally, you will need your recipient’s swift code so that money goes to the right account.

2. Why are swift codes important?

Swift codes (BIC codes) are important to make sure money is transferred to the correct bank/financial account. Swift codes are used when transferring money & information between banks & financial institutions globally, especially for international financial transactions such as wire transfers. 

3. What does a swift code look like?

Swift codes (BIC codes) are made up of 8 – 11 characters. The first 8 characters refer to the head office/HQ of a bank/financial institution. The total 11 characters refer to the specific branch office.

4. SWIFT Code Format

Swift code format explained
Image of swift code format

BBBB – First 4 characters = Bank Code (letters only)

AA – Next 2 characters = Country Code 

NN – Next 2 characters = Location/City Code

KKK – Final 3 characters = Branch code (letters or digits) “XXX” refers to the head office. 

Adding the branch code is optional. Branch codes can be used to identify branches, departments, or services of the same business or company.

Swift code (BIC code) examples:

  • BBVA Spain (Primary Office) – BBVAESMMXXX
    • BBVA BBVA (Bank code)
    • ES Spain (Country code)
    • MM Madrid (Location/City Code)
    • XXX – Head office (Branch Code)
  • BNP Paribas Arbitrage (London Office) – BNABFRPPLON

5. What is the difference between a SWIFT code and a BIC code?

Swift codes and BIC codes are the same. They can be used interchangeably. They are used to identify financial institutions and banks internationally.

6. What is a BIC code?

A BIC code or Business Identifier Code is a unique combination of letters and numbers used for routing business transactions and identifying business parties (banks & other financial institutions). We commonly use BIC codes to conveniently transfer money between these financial institutions globally. BIC codes and SWIFT codes are the same and can be used interchangeably. The format of a BIC code is the same as a SWIFT code.

7. What does SWIFT code stand for?

The “SWIFT” in Swift code stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. This cooperative provides the network that enables financial institutions worldwide to receive and send information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized and reliable environment.

8. Is an IBAN number the same as a SWIFT code?

NO, an IBAN number is different from a swift code. IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number.

A swift code is used to identify a bank and branch. An IBAN is used to identify a specific bank account within a bank and branch. Both codes are crucial for seamless transfer of money internationally. 

9. What is an IBAN number?

An IBAN number is an International Bank Account Number which facilities the automation of international payment transaction processing. Every country has a different format for their national IBAN format unlike SWIFT codes that are standardized globally. 

10. How do I find my swift code?

  1. Check your bank statement for an 8 – 11 character (number & letters/letters only) code that looks like this AAAAUSNY or AAAAUSNYXXX
  2. Contact your bank through mail, phone or online banking to find your swift code.
  3. You can use our directory, select your country, and search for the bank you are looking for.
  4. Visit bank website and search for swift code or check FAQs.
  5. Since you may be sending money abroad, you should ask the recipient for their bank’s swift code.

11. Do all branches have the same swift code?

No, many branches of major banks and financial institutions have different swift codes. Also, not all branches of banks in every country are connected to the SWIFT network. It is common practice to use a head office SWIFT/BIC code for international transfers. 

When the transfer has been received by the primary office, the money will be sent to the receiving branch office.

Note: All head office SWIFT/BIC codes end in “XXX

12. What happens if you transfer money with a wrong or incorrect SWIFT code?

  1. Your bank will debit your account.
  2. The funds will be routed to the “incorrect” SWIFT code.
    • If the SWIFT code doesn’t exist, the transfer will be reversed and your bank will credit your account.
    • If the SWIFT code exists,
      1. Receiving bank will receive the transfer notification.
      2. Receiving bank will notice they do not have the corresponding IBAN number (you filled this to process transfer) among their accounts.
      3. Receiving bank will notify your bank that the payment cannot be processed.
      4. Your bank will reserve the transaction and credit your account.
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