The Differences Between Swift Codes and Routing Numbers

by Chris Blank

If you're receiving a payment from an overseas client, he may ask for your bank's SWIFT code or BIC and IBAN number so that he can initiate a wire transfer deposit to your bank account. If he doesn't ask for this information, you should ask him how he intends to make sure you get your money. Unless he mentions some sort of electronic payment method or express delivery service, you should also be prepared to wait to receive your money.

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. SWIFT is a cooperative association headquartered in Belgium comprised of more than 9,000 corporate customers, banks and securities institutions located in 209 countries worldwide. SWIFT doesn't hold your money or manage any of your financial affairs. Instead, SWIFT provides a framework that allows companies and financial institutions to conduct business seamlessly.

Business Identifier Code

The Business Identifier Code (BIC) is assigned to a financial institution or a non-financial entity through a system adapted by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO). BICs have either eight characters or 11 characters. A BIC8 identifies an individual financial institution or non-financial entity in a particular location. A BIC11 further identifies the branch of the institution. ISO appointed SWIFT to assign BICs (ISO 9362) and to publish the BIC Directory. A SWIFT BIC, also called a connected BIC, is directly connected with the SWIFT network and has a location code that ends with a character other than the number "1." The location code of a non-SWIFT BIC, also called a BIC1 always ends with the number "1."

International Bank Account Number

Each country has its own format for International Bank Account Numbers (IBANs), but each format must comply with the ISO 13616 standard. Requests for IBAN format registrations are restricted to national central banks or to a national standards body. Smaller banks may have cooperative agreements with national institutions that allow them to receive international money transfers. SWIFT also serves as the registration authority for national IBAN formats. SWIFT also publishes the ISO 13616 IBAN Registry, which is available for free download through the SWIFT website.

Routing Numbers

The American Bankers Association created the routing number system in 1910, which now applies to all of the 28,000 financial institutions that maintain accounts with the Federal Reserve Bank. It is also associated with online banking, electronic funds transfers, and designates automated clearinghouses. ABA routing numbers have also adapted to accommodate Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) and the implementation of the Expedited Funds Availability Act, also known as Regulation CC. The first two numbers in a routing number refer to the bank's Federal Reserve District. The third digit refers to the bank's original Federal Reserve check processing center. A zero for the fourth digit indicates that the bank is located in a city with a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, otherwise, it indicates the state where the bank is located. Digits five through eight are unique to each bank. The ninth digit, also called the check digit, is calculated through a formula involving the first eight digits.

Wire Transfers

Your bank uses its ABA routing number and your bank account number to execute domestic wire transfers; international transfers are made through the SWIFT system. Wire transfers outside the banking system involve proprietary transfer systems that make it possible to send and receive money worldwide in minutes or hours, rather than days, to and from locations far removed from banking institutions. These services can be pricey, and not all such services are legitimate.

About the Author

Chris Blank is an independent writer and research consultant with more than 20 years' experience. Blank specializes in social policy analysis, current events, popular culture and travel. His work has appeared both online and in print publications. He holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Juris Doctor.

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