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IBAN vs SWIFT codes

The numbers you need to know when sending an international money transfer to a bank account.

Banks and other financial institutions use IBAN and SWIFT codes to identify banks, branches and individual bank accounts around the world. The codes are used to ensure that when you send an international money transfer, it ends up in the right account.

But what’s the difference between IBAN vs SWIFT codes, and which code do you need when sending money overseas? Keep reading to find out.

IBAN vs SWIFT code: Quick summary

What it doesDescriptionWhere you can find itExample
SWIFT codeIdentifies a specific bank and branchA SWIFT code is an alphanumeric number containing information that identifies a bank and a specific branch. It can be 8 or 11 characters long, depending on which bank and branch it refers to.Bank statement, online and mobile banking, enquire at your bankROYCCAT2
IBANIdentifies a specific bank accountAn IBAN is an alphanumeric number containing information that identifies a country, bank, branch and individual account. With lengths fixed by country, IBAN codes can be up to 34 characters.Bank statement, online and mobile banking, enquire at your bankGB 29 NWBK 601613 31926819

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What is a SWIFT code?

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which is a messaging network used by over 11,000 banks and financial institutions around the world.

A SWIFT code is used to identify a specific bank or a specific bank branch. Each bank or financial institution in the SWIFT network has its own SWIFT code, including banks in Canada.

SWIFT codes are sometimes also referred to as BIC codes (Bank Identifier Codes).

What does a SWIFT code look like?

A SWIFT code can be 8 characters long if it identifies a bank, or 11 characters long if it identifies a specific bank branch.

An example of a SWIFT code is this one for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)‘s International Trade Centre location in Calgary: ROYCCAT2CIC. When we break down this SWIFT code, we discover:

  • A 4-letter bank code (ROYC)
  • A 2-letter country code (CA)
  • A 2-letter location code (T2)
  • A 3-digit branch code (CIC)

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 online or mobile banking or by 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 number?

IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number. Unlike a SWIFT code, an IBAN can be used to identify a specific bank account.

IBANs are used in most European countries and some other locations around the world, but they’re not used by Canadian banks. However, if you’re sending a money transfer from Canada to a country in the European Union, for example, you’ll need to provide your recipient’s IBAN.

What does an IBAN look like?

An IBAN contains information that identifies a country, bank and account number. The length of IBAN codes differ from country to country but can be up to 34 characters long.

An example of an IBAN code for NatWest in the UK is GB 29 NWBK 601613 31926819. Breaking down our UK IBAN code, we find:

  • A 2-letter country code (GB)
  • A 2-digit check number (29)
  • A 4-letter bank code (NWBK)
  • A 6-digit bank sort code for the bank branch (601613)
  • A unique number specific to the bank account (31926819)

Representative example: Using SWIFT codes and IBANs

When you send an international money transfer, you’ll need to enter your recipient’s bank account details to ensure that the funds go to the right place. But whether or not you need to enter a SWIFT code or an IBAN depends on where you’re sending money.

Let’s look at an example. Tom’s twin daughters are both studying overseas, one in France and the other in Australia. He wants to send them both $500 as a birthday gift, so he knows he’ll have to enter different codes to get the money into each daughter’s account.

To send money to France, he needs to provide his first daughter’s 27-digit IBAN number for her account with BNP Paribas: FR 14 20041 01005 0500024M038 06. This code consists of:

  • Country code (FR)
  • 2-digit check number (14)
  • BNP Paribas bank code (20041)
  • BNP Paribas bank branch (01005)
  • Bank account number (0500024M038)
  • 2-digit national check number (06)

To send money to Australia, he needs to enter the 11-digit SWIFT code for his daughter’s National Australia Bank account: NATAAU3303M. This code consists of:

  • Commonwealth Bank bank code (NATA)
  • Country code (AU)
  • Location code (33)
  • Branch code (03M)

Bottom line

IBAN and SWIFT codes identify specific banks and accounts around the world. When you send an international money transfer, these numbers are important to ensure that your money is deposited into the right account.

Learn more about getting the best rates and fees in our international money transfers guide.

Frequently asked questions

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To make sure you get accurate and helpful information, this guide has been reviewed by Leanne Escobal, a member of Finder's Editorial Review Board.
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Written by

Writer

Tim Falk is a freelance writer for Finder. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, he has reported on a wide range of personal finance topics. Whether you're investing in stocks and ETFs, comparing savings accounts or choosing a credit card, Tim wants to make it easier for you to understand. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors. See full bio

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