SWIFT/BIC codes - What are SWIFT/BIC codes?
SWIFT is a code used to identify the bank in international money transfers.
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The SWIFT/BIC is an alphanumeric code with a specific combination of letters and numbers that allows banks making a transfer to identify the bank receiving a transfer. It provides security in the process of transferring funds.
SWIFT is an acronym for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, while BIC stands for ‘Bank Identification Code’ and is interchangeable with the SWIFT code.
SWIFT codes can be from 8 to 11 characters in length. It's structured as follows:
The first four characters identify the particular institution or bank to which the transfer will be made
The next two characters specify the country
The following two identify the location - usually the city
The final three characters are usually numerical and indicate a particular branch or office
When the final three characters are not included, the transfer goes to the head office or branch.
Whenever an international transfer is made, a SWIFT code is necessary. It’s usually paired with an IBAN (International Bank Account Number). Once the transfer is completed, the bank that receives the money issues a ‘SWIFT message’, a confirmation that funds were received that contains the full information about the transfer.
If you need to transfer funds to pay a supplier abroad, for example, you’ll need to include a SWIFT code. Conversely, if a customer from abroad needs to send you payment, they’ll request your SWIFT.
It’s therefore an important piece of information to include on an invoice if you have customers abroad. It makes payment faster because the customer will not need to request the information, and it will also ensure that your transfer is secure.
If you’re unsure of your account SWIFT/BIC code, this can normally be found on your bank statement. This number is recognised throughout Europe so it’s always good to know your own as you never know when it might be needed.
If you don’t have a bank statement sent through the post but instead use only internet banking, you’ll be able to view your SWIFT code when you log in to your bank online or on the bank’s mobile app.
While the SWIFT/BIC code specifies the country, bank, and branch, the IBAN provides information concerning the particular account that will be receiving the funds.
The combination of SWIFT and IBAN creates a higher level of accuracy and security when transferring funds both domestically and internationally.