IBAN vs. SWIFT codes: What you ought to know
financial controller content feed image

Bank codes demystified: IBAN and SWIFT

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

Banks and other financial institutions work by moving your money around for a profit — for example, paying you a bit of interest to store your money and then lending out your money for yet more interest to other borrowers.

With the volume of transactions running in the thousands daily, how do they keep track of it all? One way is by using a system of unique codes assigned to each bank they do business with. These codes help financial institutions process worldwide transactions with fewer errors and less confusion — all good things when it comes to your hard-earned cash.

These IDs have different names in different countries, but two systems you’ll hear more often are IBAN and SWIFT codes. These codes are internationally recognized by other financial institutions to identify your specific bank among worldwide payments and other transactions.

What is a SWIFT code?

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

Unlike IBAN, which identifies specific bank accounts, SWIFT refers to a specific bank only — including banks in the US. 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 identifies a bank and branch. It can be eight or 11 characters long, depending on which bank office it refers to.

An example of a SWIFT code is this one for a Capital One in New York City: NFBKUS33.

We can break down this SWIFT code to discover:

  • A four-letter bank code.
  • A two-letter country code.
  • A two-letter location code.
  • A two-digit branch code.

Where can I find my SWIFT code?

If you live in a country that participates 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.

Is my SWIFT code the same as my routing number?

No. For domestic payments, US banks use a domestic routing code to identify your specific bank and bank account. It’s made of a nine-digit ABA number that identifies your bank and branch and your unique account number.

This routing number is often found at the bottom of your personal checks or by signing in to your online banking system.

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. The United States does not use IBAN numbers, but you could encounter them when sending money to an international recipient — specifying the IBAN number makes for faster transactions.

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 two-letter country code.
  • A two-digit transaction number.
  • A four-letter bank code.
  • A six-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.

Bottom line

The mysterious IBAN and SWIFT codes are anything but: They identify specific banks among the many financial transactions conducted worldwide among bank accounts. And they’re especially 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.

Here’s what people ask about IBAN and SWIFT numbers

Kelly Waggoner

Kelly Waggoner is an editor with finder.com. She likes to toy with words, flip through style guides and fantasize about the serial comma's world domination.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

US International Money Transfers Offers

Important Information*
HiFX International Money Transfers

Transfer money into 20 currencies and schedule regular payments. $5 fee waived for transfers over $5,000.

WorldRemit International Money Transfers

Use promo code FREE to send your first transfer at no fee to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up.

World First Foreign Exchange

Exclusive offer: $0 transfer fee
No-limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies.

TransferWise International Money Transfers

Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks.

Go to site