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SWIFT Code vs Routing Number

In this guide we will cover the definition and functionalities of SWIFT codes and routing numbers, clearing up any confusion users may experience when sending or receiving an international money transfer.

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When arranging a money transfer - domestic or international - your sending provider should clearly explain what details are needed to ensure speedy and secure delivery. However, we want to equip our readers with all the necessary information ahead of time, to avoid any mistakes or confusion later down the road.

SWIFT code vs routing number: what is it?

SWIFT code
Routing number

SWIFT codes are used when a sender is transferring funds to an international recipient in another country. The codes contain specific details about the receiving financial institution and this information is communicated via the secure SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network in order to verify where the funds should be deposited.

SWIFT code vs routing number: what is the format?

SWIFT code
Routing number

SWIFT code formats can range from 8 to 11 alphanumeric characters and each of these is divided into 4 categories: address, country and branch number of the bank.

An example of a SWIFT Code: AAAABBCCDDD

AAAA: Bank code. These 4 letters usually look like a shortened version of the bank name

BB: Country code. These two letters represent the country the bank is in

CC: Location code. These two characters will indicate where the bank’s head office is located

DDD: Branch code. The last three characters will indicate the specific branch of the bank

How do SWIFT codes and routing numbers work?

SWIFT code
Routing number

The SWIFT network facilitates the sending and receiving of secure messages between banks and financial institutions in order to complete payment instructions. Funds are not physically transported using the SWIFT network, instead, these codes simply relay payment instructions.

Where are SWIFT codes and routing numbers used?

SWIFT code
Routing number

More than 11,000 financial institutions use SWIFT codes to initiate international payments across 212 countries: these include banks, foreign exchange brokers, clearing houses, depositories, brokering institutes, trading houses and asset management companies.

If you are sending an international payment to a bank account in a foreign country, it is highly likely you will use a SWIFT code.

Where can I find a SWIFT code or routing number?

SWIFT code
Routing number

You will find a SWIFT code on a bank statement, via online banking or by contacting the bank directly and asking for it.

Summary

Bank transfers are an expensive way of sending money internationally. Choosing an alternative transfer provider offers a better deal for domestic and international transfers. They have lower overheads and more efficient processes. Also, the money transfer industry is highly competitive, so you benefit from a better deal.

Examples of top-tier alternatives to bank transfers are Wise and Xe Money Transfer. They offer percentage-based fee structures that take just a tiny fraction of the transaction amount. This provides significant savings that make sending money internationally a cheaper process.

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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.