SWIFT is an abbreviation for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which is a system that enables messaging and financial transactions between banks and financial Institutions to be automated and standardised.

A SWIFT Bank Identification Code (BIC) is used to identify the financial institution and is essential for rapid international payments and money transfers. BIC is commonly referred to as a SWIFT code or a SWIFT number.

A SWIFT code comprises of 8 to 11 characters which are divided into four categories:

  • The Bank Code: 4 characters, letters only, that identify the bank or financial institution. 
  • Country Code: 2 characters, letters only, defining the ISO country code
  • Location Code: 2 characters, numbers and letters, which distinguishes banks within the same country, region, county, town.
  • Branch Code: 3 characters, numbers or letters, determining the branch of the bank. This part of the SWIFT code is optional. Headquarters of a bank for example have no branch code.

Example SWIFT code

Bank Code Country Code Location Code  Branch Code 

To find out the SWIFT/BIC code of a bank or financial institution you can use the SWIFT lookup service or find out directly by asking the bank or financial institution in question. Often you will find that the SWIFT code will be posted on their web site.

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