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What is a SWIFT code?

August 30, 2020June 13th, 2024No Comments

A SWIFT code, also known as a Bank Identifier Code (BIC), is an internationally recognised standard format used to identify banks and financial institutions globally. The term SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, the organisation that manages the registration of these codes. SWIFT codes are crucial for facilitating international wire transfers and ensuring that the money is directed to the correct bank.

Structure of a SWIFT Code

A SWIFT code is composed of 8 or 11 characters and is structured as follows:

  1. Bank Code (4 characters): The first four letters represent the bank or financial institution. For instance, “DEUT” for Deutsche Bank.
  2. Country Code (2 characters): The next two letters represent the country where the bank is located, according to ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country codes. For example, “US” for the United States.
  3. Location Code (2 characters): These two characters (letters or digits) specify the location of the bank’s head office. This code can help distinguish branches in different cities within the same country.
  4. Branch Code (3 characters, optional): The last three characters are optional and specify a particular branch. If these are not provided, it typically refers to the bank’s primary office.

Example SWIFT Code

Consider the SWIFT code DEUTDEFF500:

  • DEUT: Identifies Deutsche Bank.
  • DE: Indicates that the bank is located in Germany.
  • FF: Specifies the location (Frankfurt).
  • 500: Refers to a particular branch in Frankfurt.

Purpose and Importance of SWIFT Codes

SWIFT codes serve several key purposes in the global financial system they are essential for processing international wire transfers, ensuring that funds are routed to the correct bank when money is sent abroad. They facilitate secure communication between banks, including payment instructions, trade confirmations, and other financial information. By using a standardised format, SWIFT codes reduce errors in international transactions, ensuring that payments are processed accurately and efficiently.

How to Find a SWIFT Code

There are several ways to find the SWIFT code for a bank or financial institution:

  • Bank Statements: SWIFT codes are often listed on bank statements.
  • Bank’s Website: Many banks display their SWIFT codes on their official websites, usually in the section dedicated to international banking.
  • Customer Service: You can contact the bank directly to request their SWIFT code.
  • Online Directories: Websites like and other financial services directories provide searchable databases of SWIFT codes.

How to Use a SWIFT Code

When making an international payment via SWIFT, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Recipient’s Name: The name of the person or business you are sending money to.
  • Recipient’s Bank Details: This includes the recipient’s bank name, SWIFT code, and their bank account number or IBAN (International Bank Account Number).
  • Amount and Currency: The amount of money you are sending and the currency in which it should be received.
  • Payment Purpose: Sometimes, the reason for the payment is also required, particularly for regulatory compliance.

Advantages of Using SWIFT Codes

The advantages of using SWIFT codes include their global reach, as they are used by over 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries, making them the global standard for international transactions. The SWIFT network is known for its high level of security, ensuring that sensitive financial information is transmitted safely. Additionally, SWIFT codes streamline the process of sending and receiving international payments, reducing the time and potential errors associated with manual entry. Each transaction using a SWIFT code can be tracked, providing transparency and accountability for both the sender and the recipient.

Common Issues and Solutions

While SWIFT codes are highly reliable, users may occasionally encounter issues:

  • Incorrect SWIFT Code: Entering an incorrect SWIFT code can delay the transaction or cause it to be rejected. Double-check the SWIFT code with the recipient before initiating the transfer.
  • Non-SWIFT Banks: Some smaller banks or financial institutions may not have a SWIFT code. In such cases, you might need to route the payment through a correspondent bank that has a SWIFT code.
  • Additional Fees: International transactions using SWIFT codes may incur additional fees, including intermediary bank fees. It’s important to be aware of these potential costs and plan accordingly.


A SWIFT code is a vital element in the world of international finance, ensuring that cross-border transactions are processed efficiently and securely. Understanding the structure and function of SWIFT codes can help individuals and businesses navigate the complexities of international banking with greater confidence. Whether you are sending money abroad, receiving international payments, or facilitating global trade, knowing how to use and verify SWIFT codes is an essential skill in today’s interconnected financial landscape.

Making International Payments?

If you need to make international payments, Rutland FX can help reduce the costs associated with cross-border transactions. Call us at 0203 026 0112 or request a callback to discuss your requirements.