SWIFT codes explained


SWIFT codes are an unique identification code for a each bank world-wide. For individual users, the SWIFT code is normally required by banks to transmit money across international borders. It is widely used to transfer money and messages between banks and some non-financial institutions as a standard format of Business identifier codes (BIC).

The database and register of SWIFT Codes is managed exclusively by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (“SWIFT”). It was founded in Brussels in 1973, and it is a cooperative society under Belgian law.

The SWIFT code is composed by 8 to 11 characters.

  • First 4 characters – bank code (only letters)
  • Next 2 characters – ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code (only letters)
  • Next 2 characters – location code (letters and digits) (passive participant will have “1” in the second character)
    • if the second character is “0?, then it is typically a test code instead of the code used on the live network
    • if the second character is “1?, then it indicates a passive participant in the SWIFT network. The code used for manual transaction.
    • if the second character is “2?, then it indicates a reverse billing code. It means that, the recipient pays for the message instead of usual mode whereby the sender pays for the message.

Last 3 characters – branch code, optional (‘XXX’ for primary office) (letters and digits). If these last 3 positions are missing, the 8-digits code identifies the primary office of the bank.

OpenSwiftCodes is a search engine by bank name and/or location, for instance the SWIFT ABNADEFFFRA

where ABNA is the code of the bank name which stands for ABN AMRO BANK NV NIEDERLASSUNG DE

DE is the country (Germany – Deutschland)
FF designates part of the bank location

Some data about the use of SWIFT codes

SWIFT Code or BIC code are part of ISO 9362 standards of Banking telecommunication messages.

Live countries 209
Live participants 4,329
Total live users 10,005

They were exchanging an average of over 17,5 million messages per day on average in September 2011.
In the network, there are over 7,500 “live” codes. Live codes are for partners who are actively connected to the BIC network. In addition to that, there are more than 10,000 additional codes, which can be used for manual transactions.

Traffic by region as of September 2011
Europe, Middle East & Afric2,214,929,210 66.8%
Americas677,429,680 20.4%
Asia Pacific421,719,854 12.7%


Other national routing identification codes

Some countries also implement domestic bank code or clearing system to transfer money within their own border. Bank State Branch

  • BSB numbers in Australia and New Zeland
  • IBAN numbers in Spain
  • Routing Numbers in United States (“USA“) and Canada
  • Indian Financial System Code (“IFSC”) in India
  • Sort Codes in United Kingdom (“UK“)
  • Bankleitzahl (“BLZ Codes”) in Germany
  • Bankenclearing-Nummer (“BC”) & SIX Interbank Clearing Codes (“SIC”) in Switzerland
  • Code Banque & Code Guichet In France
  • Codice ABI (“ABI”) & Codice di Avviamento Bancario (“CAB Code”) in Italy
  • Registreringsnummer (“Reg. nr.”) in Denmark

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