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SWIFT codes, IBAN numbers and routing codes simplified

by Mustafa Jichi | July 12, 2018

An easy-to-understand breakdown of the different banking codes needed for making international payments…

If you’re sending international payments you are no doubt familiar with the various banking codes required to ensure your payment reaches your supplier. You may well have also had occasions where you’ve entered the wrong digit and a payment has gone missing. It’s not surprising error rates on international payments are high when some banking codes consist of over 30 characters.

In this blog we break down the different banking codes to help you understand them.

SWIFT code, also known as BIC code

A SWIFT code is used to identify worldwide banks. It is made up of 8-11 characters and is commonly known as a Bank Identifier Code or BIC. Around the world, other banks may refer to a SWIFT or BIC code as CHIPS, NCC, BSC or IFSC.

As a business you will use SWIFT codes or BIC codes on international wire transfers and SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) payments. Banks use them to exchange messages.

Here’s an example of a SWIFT/BIC code for Barclays Bank:


Bank code (4 letters)

Country code (2 Letters)

Location code (2 digits)

Branch code (3 digits)

IBAN number (International Bank Account Number)

Some banks use an IBAN to identify a customer’s bank account. When used in combination with a SWIFT or BIC code it helps facilitate the automatic movement of cross-border payments.

An IBAN number begins with two-letter country code followed by a two-digit IBAN checksum. Next follows 4 digits from the SWIFT code. After this there can be up to 35 characters which are used to identify the individual bank account.

In the UK, an example of an IBAN number would be:


Country code + IBAN Checksum

SWIFT code (4 digits)

Sort code

Account number

Routing number / ABA routing number

If you’re sending payments via the local payment network (ACH) it’s likely you will need a routing number and account number. The routing number defines where a payment needs to go in order to reach the recipient bank account successfully. It is also referred to as an ABA or RTN routing number.

A routing number is usually nine digits and looks like this


Federal Reserve Routing Symbol

American Banks Association (ABA) Institution Identifier

Check digit

If you are struggling to find the routing number, most US banks provide details on their website. Once you know the name of the bank and its location, it’s fairly simple to find the routing number online.

Speak to us about your international payments

If you need guidance making international payments, speak with one of our specialists. We can help you find out what information you need for your payments to reach any global destination.

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