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Sort Code vs SWIFT Code

In this guide we will identify the different uses of sort codes and SWIFT codes, comparing their functions side by side, to clear up any confusion that may arise during the process of arranging a money transfer.

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Money can be transferred in a multitude of different ways: from paying a vendor for goods and services, to using a mobile app to send funds to a friend; and some transactions require more information than others. Unlike a contactless purchase in a restaurant or store, arranging a money transfer from one country requires specific details.

In this guide we will look at the differences and similarities between sort codes and SWIFT codes, in a bid to lift the lid on the common types of banking jargon likely to emerge when making cross-border transactions.

What is a sort/SWIFT code?

Sort codes
SWIFT codes

Sort codes are used by British and Irish banks to identify the location of a domestic bank, so that financial institutions can recognise where the payment has originated from or validate where it is being sent to. Also known as sorting codes, or a national sort code (NSC) in Ireland, these codes can be found integrated into an IBAN (International Bank Account Number) but they have no relation to SWIFT or BIC codes.

What is the format of a sort/SWIFT code?

Sort codes
SWIFT codes

Sort codes are made of 6 numbers, divided into 3 pairs, for example: 12-34-56

How do sort/SWIFT codes work?

Sort codes
SWIFT codes

Sort codes are used by domestic banks and financial institutions only. They work by identifying accounts and providing instructions needed to route money transfers domestically within clearance organisations.

Who uses sort/SWIFT codes?

Sort codes
SWIFT codes

Sort codes are used by UK and Irish banks only; they are only used for international transactions when the payment is sent via bank transfer.

Where can I find a sort/SWIFT code?

Sort codes
SWIFT codes

Sort codes can be found on bank-issued cards, statements and via online banking. For customers still using cheque books, sort codes are also printed here as well.

Summary

We hope this guide has proven helpful and eradicated any confusion users may be experiencing when locating the specific banking details required for certain money transfers. To summarise: sort codes will only be required for domestic bank transfers sent between British and Irish account holders, or when sending money to the UK or Ireland from abroad; SWIFT codes, however, are used to identify a bank account when verifying an international money transfer. Check out some of our related content below for more information about organising cross-border payments.

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April Summers
April Summers
April is a trained journalist and the Content Editor for MoneyTransfers.com. She has 10 years experience writing about a diverse range of subjects, from financial services to arts and entertainment. When she's not writing about global remittances she can be found daydreaming about her next holiday abroad.