Everything you need to know about SWIFT codes for your online money transfers

What is a SWIFT code?

A SWIFT code is used to identify a specific bank in international money transfers. It is comprised of 8 to 11 characters that identify the bank, country and location.
These codes are a global standard and are used by almost every bank around the world.


How to read a SWIFT code

The 8 to 11-character SWIFT code is made up of the following:

4-letter institution code

2-letter country code

2-letter location code

3 optional letters that identify a specific branch code


PH - 

MM - 


For example, if you are trying to send money to Philippines, their largest bank BDO Unibank has a SWIFT code of BNORPHMM. BNOR identifies the bank itself, PH is the code for the Philippines and MM identifies Metro Manilla.

Why do you need a SWIFT code?


The SWIFT code identifies the bank and branch that your money is going to when you send money abroad.

Think of the SWIFT code as a recipient address. Trying to transfer money internationally without a swift code is like mailing a letter with no address. You can drop the letter in the mail but it’s not going to arrive where you want it to.

Where can you find a SWIFT code?


Since SWIFT codes are so widely used, you should be able to find your bank’s code easily. A good place to start in searching for your bank’s SWIFT code is to look at your bank paper statements. They are often listed with the other bank information. If you don’t have paper statements, you can log in online and look at an electronic statement.

You can also check the bank’s website to look for their SWIFT code. If none of these avenues have worked, you can search your banks name and ‘SWIFT code’ online or use www.theswiftcodes.com, or www.bankswiftcode.org to find it.

If you still can’t find it, call or visit your bank and ask in person.

History of SWIFT codes


The SWIFT code system, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, was established in 1973 and became available for use in 1977. At that point, only 518 banks in 22 different countries were using the SWIFT messaging service. Today, almost every bank around the globe has a SWIFT code, and the system is used in more than 200 countries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Since 2015, SWIFT codes have been used to link over 11,000 financial institutions spread throughout 200 countries.

A BIC Code is a Bank Identifier Code and is the same thing as a SWIFT code. The two are interchangeable.

Yes, a SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) code and a BIC (Bank Identifier Code) are the same. The titles are used interchangeably and are sometimes even hyphenated as SWIFT-BIC.

While both of these codes are used to identify bank accounts when money is being transferred between countries, they are not the same thing. SWIFT codes identify individual banks that are involved in the money transfer, while IBAN (International Bank Account Number) identifies individual accounts that are involved in the transfer. IBAN codes are used in many countries around the globe, and can be up to 34 characters long. You need both of these to ensure that you can send money abroad smoothly.

SWIFT codes and sort codes are similar but differ based on where you can use them. SWIFT codes can be used to transfer to banks around the world. They are the main method used for international money transfers, and work in over 200 countries. Sort codes on the other hand are only used in Ireland and England to identify banks and branches that are found locally.

While both of these codes are used to identify a specific bank within a country, they are not the same thing. Routing numbers are used for domestic money transfers within the United States, while SWIFT codes are used around the globe.

Almost every bank has a SWIFT code, and you should be able to obtain it by visiting or calling that branch or looking online. You can also look at your bank statement to see if it’s listed. If your bank doesn’t have a SWIFT code, then you can’t use that account in an international transfer

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