What's the Difference between a SWIFT Code and BIC?

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Iryna Agieieva
Head of Product - Payments
Product leader. Data-driven and passionate about payments.

A SWIFT code, or BIC number, is an important aspect of international bank transactions in banks and financial institutions. Currently, BIC and SWIFT are almost synonymous. They represent the recipient bank involved in a money transaction as codes or numbers. 

However, a SWIFT code rarely differs from a BIC for clarity purposes despite contrary information.

SWIFT code vs. BIC

Though SWIFT codes and BICs may seem confusing, these codes are ideal for individuals who need to send international payments. As such, they are important terms to grasp, especially if your business has a global presence. 

Is there a difference between a SWIFT code and a BIC? Short answer: no. 

Both terms are typically used interchangeably and refer to the same thing. Therefore, they are simply branded with different names by different financial institutions and banks.

It is also worth noting that these codes take different aliases, including SWIFT code BIC, SWIFT identifiers, SWIFT ID, BIC/SWIFT codes, SWIFT/BICs. 

However, in practice, there is no recognisable difference between these terms. 

What is a SWIFT code?

SWIFT stands for 'Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, while BIC stands for Bank Identifier Code (BIC). You've undoubtedly heard it called a "BIC Code" – a common turn of phrase that's redundant, like an ATM.

In short, SWIFT refers to the entire messaging system, whereas BIC is the code for the system. They are both used interchangeably to describe the system or even the code. 

As such, if you request a SWIFT or BIC, you will be issued exactly the same 8-11 digit number. 

What do BIC and SWIFT codes look like?

These vital codes contain 8-11 characters identifying your city, country, bank, and your bank's branch. The code may look something like AAAABBCCXXX (for depiction purposes). Here is a breakdown of this depiction of a SWIFT/BIC:

  • AAAA. This is a four-letter bank code, a typically shortened version of your bank's name.

  • BB. This is a two-letter country code representing the country of the bank's location.

  • CC. It is a two-character location code. It points to where the bank's head office is located and is made up of letters and numbers.

  • XXX. This three-digit bank code specifies a bank's particular branch code, mostly the bank's headquarters. However, these last three digits tend to be optional for some transactions. 

To better understand what the BIC and SWIFT codes look like, here are a couple of codes from major banks in the world:

  • Aareal Bank AG: AARBDE5W100

  • Bank of England: BKENGB2LXXX

  • Deutsche Bank: DEUTDEFFXXX

  • Scotiabank (Canada): NOSCCATTXXX

The numbers will generally differ depending on location, branches, and country.

How do I find my BIC?

Are you trying to find your SWIFT code or BIC? If you receive international payments, knowing your BIC number is essential. Here are a few options to find the code regardless of which bank or bank branch you use:

  1. Check your bank statement. You can easily check your current or previous bank account statements to locate the SWIFT code and BIC. If you use online banking, log in to your digital bank account to access your bank statement easily.

  2. Browse the bank's official website. Head over to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section for answers on the similar. You can also check the international wire transfers and other related links for the SWIFT code BIC number. In case your bank's website has a search feature, key in BIC or SWIFT code in the search box.

  3. Call your bank. If you fail to find the code via the above methods, contact your bank's customer service via phone, live chat, email, or social media.

On the other hand, if you are making international transactions and need to find the recipient's BIC number, you can use a SWIFT/BIC finder (online tools) such as Bank.Codes. We advise double-checking with the recipient to ensure the BIC issued is correct before authorising a payment. In case of an incorrect code, your payment will be delayed, sent back, or go to the wrong recipient.

Is there a fee for using BIC or SWIFT numbers?

Yes, a fee is attached. The majority of banks require a fee to process international payments. Therefore, you may need to pay an average range of £40 to £50 (€48 to €60) when using a SWIFT/BIC for the transaction. 

In addition, if your money transfer is in transit, you may incur a handling fee from corresponding banks. Consequently, these fees attached may add up since bank transfers using BIC/SWIFT numbers typically pass through up to three corresponding banks. 

Unfortunately, it may be hard to know how much in total you will be charged when making a bank transfer since information on handling fees is mostly hidden in the small print.

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