What is a SWIFT code?
A SWIFT code (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) or SWIFT number is an 8-11-character reference consisting of both letters and numbers. SWIFT is a network used to identify individual banks to ensure international payments are sent to the correct location.
The code is split into four sections with the first four characters referring to the bank code, followed by a two-digit country code, then a two-digit location code and finally a three-digit branch code. The branch code is optional and may not always be included.
You may also hear SWIFT codes referred to as a BIC (bank identifier code), which can be confusing as different banks across various countries can go between the two names.
When does a SWIFT code need to be provided?
A SWIFT code is needed each time you wish to send a payment into an international bank account. It essentially acts as a bank ID to ensure that your payment is sent to the right place.
Similarly, if you are receiving a payment from an international bank account, you will need to provide the sender with your SWIFT code so you can receive your funds efficiently.
How to locate a SWIFT code
When sending money abroad, the recipient should provide you with their bank’s SWIFT code. If not, it is possible to find this information online. Banks usually display their SWIFT code on their website; take a look at their FAQ section or type SWIFT code into their search box. Alternatively, there are several SWIFT code finder websites which can help you locate the correct reference.
Many banks also display their SWIFT code on the bottom of bank statements. Have a look at either your paper statements or your view them via online banking.
You must use the correct SWIFT code when sending and receiving international payments as an incorrect code can result in lengthy delays.
How does a SWIFT code differ from an IBAN?
A SWIFT code is not the same as an IBAN (International Bank Account Number) though they do serve a similar purpose. An IBAN is used to identify the location of a specific bank account whilst SWIFT codes are for individual banks.
IBANs are much longer references than SWIFT codes and contain up to 34 characters, also made up of numbers and letters.
Whilst SWIFT codes are used all over the world, IBANs are mostly used within European banks. However, more financial institutions across other countries have now begun introducing IBANs. As a result, IBANs are not always required when sending international payments and is optional in countries such as Canada and Australia.
How to get the best deal when sending money overseas
When sending money abroad via banks, many will charge a transfer fee, and often you are not able to secure the best exchange rate.
Using an FX specialist such as Halo Financial, to send international payments can help you avoid costly bank fees and ensure you get the best rates through a variety of foreign exchange solutions.
To find out more about how Halo Financial could help you save money when sending international payments, please give us a call on 020 7350 5474.