All About The SWIFT, BIC, IBAN, Routing Number And Sort Codes

banking codes

If you have made a money transfer through a bank or via companies like World First or Moneycorp, you have most likely came across terms such as SWIFT code, BIC code, IBAN and Sort Codes.

What exactly are these acronyms and what are they used for?

In this article, we take a closer look so that you are fully informed of the process behind international currency transfers.

SWIFT

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which provides a network that enables banks anywhere in the world to send and receive information in a standardized and secure environment.

In practical terms, it means that the SWIFT Code is a standard format of Business Identifier Codes (BIC), used by the banks when transferring money between them. Most of the times it is required when you conduct an international money transfer.

*Important to keep in mind when having a discussion at the bank: The SWIFT code is the same thing with the SWIFT-BIC, BIC, BIC code or SWIFT ID. All of these acronyms refer to the same code.

How Does SWIFT Help Me?

If you bank is affiliated with SWIFT, it can use the network to make very quick and secure money transfers. This helps the clients to move money around without any hassle.

What it looks like?

The SWIFT code structure consists of 8 or 11 characters and it is formatted like this:

AAAABBCC-DDD

  • The first 4 characters are the bank code (only letters);
  • The next 2 characters are the country code (only letters);
  • Next 2 characters are the location code (letters and digits);
  • The last 3 characters represent the branch code (letters and digits).

Top 10 Banks* and their SWIFT codes:

  1. P.Morgan Chase & Co in New York City, NY –BOFAUS3DSHA
  2. Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina –BOFAUS3DCRD
  3. Wells Fargo in San Francisco, California –WFBIUS6S
  4. Citigroup in New York City, NY –CITIUS33
  5. Goldman Sachs Group in New York City, NY –GSCMUS33
  6. Morgan Stanley in New York City, NY –MSNYUS33
  7. S. Bancorp in Minneapolis, Minnesota –USBKUS44IMT
  8. Bank of New York Mellon in New York City, NY –IRVTUS3N
  9. PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania –PNCCUS33
  10. Capital One in McLean, Virginia –NFBKUSF1

*By assets under management according to Wikipedia.

One feature of SWIFT payments are the automated codes provided by institutions directly to customers when making a transfer.

There are dozens of SWIFT codes split into 9 categories, providing a range of information about the exact transfer. Examples include:

MT 192 Request for Cancellation
MT 256 Advice of Non-Payment of Cheques
MT 300 Foreign Exchange Confirmation

SWIFT codes also share a uniform design that includes specific syntax and structure:

  • Basic header block
  • Application header block
  • User header block (optional)
  • Text block
  • Trailer block

check-form

IBAN

An IBAN or International Bank Account Number is the customers’ bank account number in a standard, internationally recognised, format. Used with a Bank Identifier Code (BIC), it helps international payments to be processed automatically, making them more secure and faster. It also helps prevent payments being rejected, delayed or sent incorrectly – which could involve additional charges being applied.

The IBAN is an international agreed system created to facilitate the process of cross border transactions with a reduced risk of transcription errors. The IBAN code is used when making money transfers between banks, mostly to/from other countries.

Initially, the system was created to facilitate payment within the European Union, but has quickly been implemented in most European countries (like when sending money to/from Spain) as well as other parts of the world, like the Middle East (UAE) and the Caribbean. As of February 2016, there are 69 countries officially using the IBAN system.

IBAN Code Format

The IBAN code consists of up to 34 characters, containing both letters and digits, and has the following structure:

AABBCCCCCCCCCCC

  • The first 2 characters represent the country code (only letters);
  • The next 2 characters specify thecheck digits* (only digits);
  • The rest of them represent a long and detailed bank account-number.

* A check digit is a form of redundancy check used for error detection on identification numbers

Routing Number (USA)

The Routing Number is a 9 digit numerical code used in the United States to identify a specific financial institution and it is used for domestic transfers. You can easily find it on the bottom of your checks.

The format of the Routing Number code is like this:

AAAA BBBB C

  • AAAA is the Federal Reserve Routing Symbol;
  • BBBB is the American Bankers Association (ABA) Institution Identifier;
  • C is the check digit.

Canadian Transit Number

Canadian transit numbers are regulated by the Canadian Payments Association and consist of nine numerical digits. They are used to identify an individual branch of a financial institution in Canada.

The format of the code is pretty simple:

AAAAABBB

  • The first 5 digits represent the Branch Number;
  • The last 3 digits are an Institution Number.

For Electronic Fund Transactions (EFT) the format starts with a zero, then the institution number, then the branch number all with no dashes. For example, if a transit number is AAAAA-BBB, the corresponding EFT code would be 0BBBAAAAA.

Good to know: Most of the time, the last digit of the branch number indicates the location of the branch:

  • 0 are located in British Columbia and Yukon
  • 1 are located in Western Québec, including Montreal and surrounding areas
  • 2 are located in Ontario, including Toronto and surrounding area
  • 3 are located in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, excluding Labrador
  • 4 are located in New Brunswick
  • 5 are located in Eastern Québec, including Labrador
  • 6 are located in Eastern Ontario, including Ottawa and surrounding area
  • 7 are located in Manitoba and North-Western Ontario
  • 8 are located in Saskatchewan
  • 9 are located in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut

Sort Code (UK)

The Sort Code is used by the British banking industry to route money transfers between banks domestically. The code identifies both the bank and the branch where the account is held.

The structure of the code is very simple comprising of 6 numbers split into 3 pairs, usually formatted as three pairs of numbers:

AABBCC