SWIFT and BIC Codes: Everything You Need To Know

SWIFT and BIC Codes: Everything You Need To Know
  • GB stands for Great Britain, also known as the United Kingdom.
  • 41 identifies Aberdeen, a city in Scotland.
  • 15T is the branch code of HSBC’s Aberdeen office

Why Do I Need the Code?

You need it if you want to transfer money to a foreign account. SWIFT is the most popular foreign currency transfer system, and virtually all banks use it. Your institution will always ask you for the SWIFT number of the banking institution you want to send money.If you’re transferring money internationally, you will likely come across BIC and SWIFT codes. These codes enable banks to identify each other and exchange money transfer instructions. This article will explain what these two codes are in detail.

What Is BIC Code?

It stands for Business Identifier Code. It is a unique number that identifies each financial institution. Banks use these numbers to exchange messages with themselves, just like individuals do with phone numbers.

What Is SWIFT?

SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. It is the standard messaging system that global banks use to exchange instructions.

SWIFT is the name of the messaging system, and every banking institution connected to this system is assigned a BIC number. Whenever you transfer money to a foreign bank account, you’ll need the number of the receiving financial institution.

People often think SWIFT and BIC numbers are different, but they’re not. Just know that the former is the messaging system, and the latter is the number that identifies every financial institution using this system.

What Does A BIC Code Look Like?

It consists of 8 to 11 characters in this format: AAAABBCCXXX.

  • The first four characters identify the banking firm
  • The next two letters signify the country
  • The next two signify the banking firm’s location
  • The last three digits signify the receiving branch of the banking institution (this is optional because, in some cases, all branches of the same bank share a single code)
  • Take HBUKGB4115T, for example.
  • HBUK identifies HSBC Bank

Similarly, if you want to receive funds from a foreign account, you’ll need to provide your banking branch’s number to the sender.

How To Find BIC/SWIFT Code

  • Website: Your financial institution should have a list of all codes for its branches on its official website.
  • Contact: You can call the bank’s customer service line or email them to get the number for your branch.
  • Bank statement: If you have requested a banking statement, you should find the number for your branch on it.

Alternatively, there are websites that aggregate the numbers for different banks and display them to visitors. They’re a good option if you find using the three aforementioned options difficult.

Is SWIFT/BIC the Same Thing As IBAN?

No, it’s not. IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number. It identifies a specific bank account, while BIC identifies the banking institution managing it. When you want to send money abroad, your banking firm will request an IBAN in addition to the BIC of the recipient institution. Without the IBAN, the funds may get stuck at the receiving bank instead of settling in the intended recipient’s account.

Are There Alternatives to SWIFT?

Yes, they are. Some alternatives to the network include

  • The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), which serves banks in the Eurozone.
  • Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) for yuan-denominated payments.
  • System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), which was developed by the Central Bank of Russia for ruble-denominated payments.

Yet, SWIFT remains the most widely used system for foreign transfers.


We have provided clear answers to the questions of What is SWIFT Code? and What is BIC Code? Though many think they’re different, these two are the same thing.

Transferring funds via the SWIFT network is easy as long as you have the correct code available. A transfer usually takes up to 5 working days to settle.