At a glance…
- SWIFT Code vs IBAN: What is the difference?
- What does an IBAN number look like?
- What does a SWIFT code look like?
- Can you use an IBAN to find a SWIFT code?
- Will you ever need both an IBAN and a SWIFT code?
- Cheaper alternatives to bank transfers
- Bottom line
- Related content
SWIFT Code vs IBAN: What is the difference?
Despite several differences, both IBANs and SWIFT codes are used to identify and facilitate international money transfers.
What is an IBAN?
An International Bank Account Number – more commonly known in its shorter form IBAN – is a bank code consisting of up to 34 letters and numbers. It is used as a unique identifier for bank accounts around the world when initiating international money transfers. An IBAN contains the account holder’s country, bank, and bank account and is used to ensure funds are deposited to the right account.
Read our full guide to IBAN numbers here
What is a SWIFT code?
SWIFT codes are another type of bank code, internationally recognised by banks and financial institutions as a method of identification when transfering money overseas. SWIFT codes are issued by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) and should not be confused with IBANs.
SWIFT codes are shorter than IBAN numbers – made up of 8 to 11 characters – but they serve a similar purpose: to provide crucial details during the process of transferring funds to an overseas bank account. SWIFT codes include the bank’s address, branch number and destination country of the relevant global remittance. SWIFT codes may also be referred to as a BIC: this stands for Business Identification Code.
Find out all about SWIFT codes in this full guide
What is the difference between an IBAN and a SWIFT code?
IBANs and SWIFT codes are both used to identify and facilitate international money transfers but the key difference between the two lies in the information that each code conveys. An IBAN is a unique identifier of an individual account, while a SWIFT code specifies the bank.
What does an IBAN number look like?
An example of an IBAN is: GB33BUKB20201512345678
The format of any IBAN number can be translated as follows:
- The two digit country code (GB33BUKB20201512345678)
- The two digit check numbers (GB33BUKB20201512345678)
- The four digit bank code (GB33BUKB20201512345678)
- The six digit sort code of the bank branch (GB33BUKB20201512345678)
- 8 digit code of the bank account number (GB33BUKB20201512345678)
What does a SWIFT code look like?
An example of a BIC/SWIFT code is: BUKBGB22
This information is interpreted by banks and financial institutions and translated into the following:
- BUKB: Bank code. These four letters usually look like a shortened version of the bank name.
- GB: Country code. These two letters represent the country the bank is in.
- 22: Location code. These two characters will indicate where the bank’s head office is located.
- 09L: Branch code. The last three characters will indicate the specific branch of the bank.
Can you use an IBAN to find a SWIFT code?
A customer’s IBAN number will contain some of the same characters as the SWIFT code. However, these codes are not the same and therefore it is not possible to use an IBAN to find a SWIFT code.
If you’ve read our guide How to find an IBAN number you will know how to find this information. Wherever customers find their IBAN, the SWIFT code/BIC should also be clearly displayed in the same place. This can be in any of the following places:
- Online banking account: view your account details or search for the option to display your SWIFT code or BIC
- Online or paper bank statements: these will display your SWIFT code or BIC
- On the bank’s website: if the bank does not have the SWIFT code or BIC displayed on their website you can call the bank or pay the branch a visit to find out your SWIFT code or BIC
Will you ever need both an IBAN and a SWIFT code?
IBANs and SWIFT codes are both used as methods of communicating bank account information during an international money transfer. We will run through a few country-specific scenarios to illustrate when an IBAN or SWIFT code will be needed:
- For those based in the UK and EU, an IBAN number will be required SEPA transfers, whereas SWIFT codes will be needed for international deposits from outside the EEA: check out our SEPA vs SWIFT code guide here
- For those based in the US, SWIFT codes are generally used for most international transfers: domestic transfers in the US simply require a Routing Number; learn more about Routing Numbers and how to find them in this guide
- For those based in Australia and New Zealand, SWIFT codes are used for international transfers: domestic transfers in these countries may require a BSB number; find out how to find a BSB number in our helpful guide
Cheaper alternatives to bank transfers
To enjoy cheaper alternatives to bank transfers, you need to use specialist transfer providers. Companies like WorldRemit and Wise do not have the big overheads of banks. Therefore, the savings from lower operating costs are passed down to the customer. Also, the money transfer industry is very competitive. It means you can account for fair competition to keep the fees low.
Most banks charge a hefty markup percentage for currency conversions. This is a bad deal when sending money internationally. Whereas top-tier transfer services offer much better FX rates. This saves significant sums of money over the long term.
Find the best money transfer rates
These internationally recognised banking codes are used around the world as standardised identification methods. For this reason, many customers assume a SWIFT code can be found using an IBAN. Although the information and formatting is similar, it is not possible to find a SWIFT code from an IBAN. However, wherever you find your IBAN number displayed, your SWIFT code or BIC will never be too far away. We hope this guide will help you locate this information, to ensure a smooth sailing overseas transfer.
What is an IBAN calculator?
In this guide we will be running through what exactly an IBAN calculator is and how they come in useful for those who need to make an international money transfer but may not have all the required bank account details.
What is a SWIFT Transfer?
SWIFT transfers are a reputable and safe money transfer method used by thousands of banks worldwide. We will be delving into the finer details of SWIFT transfers to help our readers gain an understanding of the pros and cons, and the difference between SWIFT and other types of financial networks.
What is an IBAN decoder?
What is an IBAN decoder? An IBAN decoder is an umbrella term that is given to the various online tools and resources which help customers decode, identify and validate banking information in order to find the correct International Bank Account Number needed for overseas money transfers. IBANs consist of a two digit country code, two […]
Article Factchecked by Elliot Laybourne on 20th July 2022
Elliott is a former investment banker with a 20 year career in the city of London.
During this time he held senior roles at ABN Amro, Societe Generale, Marex Financial and Natixis bank, specialising in commodity derivatives and options market-making.
During this time, Elliott’s client list included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Schroders Asset Management, and the Pennsylvania State Public School Employees Retirement System, amongst others.
April is a trained journalist and the Content Editor for MoneyTransfers.com. She has 10 years experience writing about a diverse range of subjects, from financial services to arts and entertainment. When she’s not writing about global remittances she can be found daydreaming about her next holiday abroad.