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Bank codes demystified: IBAN and SWIFT

We break down these international systems that move your money between countries.

Banks and other financial institutions keep track of your money using a system of unique codes assigned to each bank or account they do business with. Different countries use different systems, and the two most common are IBAN and SWIFT codes.

SWIFT codes vs. IBAN numbers

DescriptionWhere you can find itExample
SWIFTA SWIFT number is an alphanumeric number containing information that identifies a bank and branch. It can be 8 or 11 characters long, depending on which bank office it refers to.Bank statement, online banking system, inquire in the bankNFBKUS33
IBANAn IBAN number is an alphanumeric number containing information that identifies a bank, country and account number. With lengths fixed by country, IBAN codes can be up to 34 characters.Bank statement, online banking systemGB 29 NWBK 601613 31926819

What is a SWIFT code?

SWIFT is short for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. Despite its oversized name, it’s simply a worldwide bank ID.

Unlike IBAN, which identifies specific bank accounts, SWIFT refers to a specific bank only—including banks in Canada. Some 40,000 banks and offices worldwide are part of the SWIFT network.

What does a SWIFT code look like?

A SWIFT number is an alphanumeric number containing information that can identify either a bank, or a bank and particular branch. It can be 8 or 11 characters long, depending on which bank office it refers to.

An example of a SWIFT code is this one for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC): ROYCCAT2CIC. If the sending bank requires an 11 character SWIFT code, RBC uses the same generic one for all of their branches, and it is ROYCCAT2XXX.

We can break down this SWIFT code to discover:

  • A 4-letter bank code.
  • A 2-letter country code.
  • A 2-letter location code.
  • A 2-digit branch code.

Where can I find my SWIFT code?

If you live in a country that participates in SWIFT, find your SWIFT number on your bank statement, by signing in to your online banking system or by calling your bank.

If you’re sending money internationally and need a SWIFT number, ask your recipient for the SWIFT number of the bank to which their account belongs.

What details do I need for an international money transfer?

Is my SWIFT code the same as a transit number or routing number?

No. For domestic payments, Canadian banks use a 5-digit transit number to identify your specific bank branch. You can find your transit number by signing in to your online banking system or reading your bank statement.

In the US, a 9-digit routing number is used instead of a transit number. The UK uses a 6-digit sort code. In Australia, each bank branch is identified by a 6-digit Bank State Branch (BSB) number.

What is an IBAN code?

Short for International Bank Account Number, an IBAN code is a unique number assigned to specific bank accounts involved in international business. Though not exclusive to Europe, IBAN is used in most European countries. Canada does not use IBAN numbers, but you could encounter them when sending money to an international recipient—specifying the IBAN number makes transactions quicker.

What does an IBAN code look like?

An IBAN number is an alphanumeric number containing information that identifies a bank, country and account number. With lengths fixed by country, IBAN codes can be up to 34 characters.

An example of an IBAN code in at Great Britain’s National Westminster Bank is GB 29 NWBK 601613 31926819.

Breaking down our UK IBAN code, we find:

  • A 2-letter country code.
  • A 2-digit transaction number.
  • A 4-letter bank code.
  • A 6-digit bank sort code.
  • A unique number specific to the bank account.

Where can I find my IBAN number?

If you live in a country that uses IBAN, you can find your IBAN number on your bank statement or by signing in to your online banking system.

If you’re sending money internationally and need an IBAN number, ask your recipient for the IBAN number of their deposit account.

Compare money transfer services

Our table below lets you compare services you can use to send money abroad. Compare fees, exchange rates and discounts from different money transfer services, and when you have made your choice, click Go to site.
Name Product _compare_ Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
Wise (TransferWise)
24 hours
From 0.43%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Xe Money Transfers
Within minutes
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Instarem
Within minutes
From $0
Use code HELLO to get $20 off on first two transfers on a min transfer of $250. Valid until November 30, 2023.
Instarem offers zero transfer fees on all transfers.
Africhange
Within minutes
From $0
Send money in CAD to Africa on this blockchain and P2P powered provider.
Remitly
Finder Award
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
WorldRemit
Within minutes
From $0
Use promo code 3FREE and pay no fees on your first 3 transfers. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
MoneyGram
Finder Award
MoneyGram
Within minutes
From $4.99
For a limited time, get $0 fees on your first money transfer from Canada. Conditions apply.
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
OFX
Finder Award
OFX
24 hours
$0
Exclusive offer: Discounted exchange rates for your first and ongoing transactions. $0 transfer fee.
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
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We only list services that are overseen by a government regulator.
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Every service we compare has been assessed and reviewed by our editorial team.

Bottom line

IBAN and SWIFT codes identify specific banks to help direct money between bank accounts around the world. As such, these numbers are important when it comes to international money transfers.

Learn more about getting the best rates and fees to friends, family and businesses abroad in our guide to international money transfers.

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