What is SWIFT and how does it work?

In today's global society, international money transfers are a part of life.

5 March 2022

Businesses need to pay their employees; people want to support their family members; donors want to support great causes, wherever they are in the world.

You probably do it all the time. But have you ever wondered how sending and receiving money actually works?

Moving money between countries is possible thanks to SWIFT. Also known as a BIC or a SWIFT code, this alphanumeric identifier makes it possible for banks to communicate where your money needs to go. It's the system that keeps money moving all around the globe.

Let’s cover the basics of SWIFT: how it works, why it matters, and where you can find the SWIFT code for your bank.

What is a SWIFT code🤷?

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. A SWIFT code is a standardized way of identifying a particular bank so that banks can ensure the frictionless transfer of money.

The SWIFT system allows banks to send information to one another every time money is transferred between accounts. SWIFT codes let them know which account the money should come from and which account should receive the money. Without the code and all the information it contains, transfers can be delayed or even canceled.

Think of a SWIFT code as a passport or ID card for banks. It lets every bank in the network know exactly where your money needs to go. It also acts as proof for anyone sending money that they have the correct destination.

Is BIC the same as SWIFT❓

Yes, a BIC code and a SWIFT code are the same thing. Some banks prefer to use one term over the other. BIC stands for Bank Identifier Code, and it's used interchangeably with SWIFT. A SWIFT code might also be referred to as a SWIFT BIC code or a BIC SWIFT code.

Keep in mind that it's important to be sure that you have the right SWIFT code before you transfer any money. If you are in any doubt about whether the code you have is a BIC or SWIFT code, speak to your bank for advice.

What do SWIFT codes look like👀?

BIC and SWIFT codes all use the same format. They look like a string of 8 to 11 characters, arranged in the order AAAABBCCDDD. Here's what those characters mean:

  • AAAA: 4-letter bank code, usually a short version of the name of the bank

  • BB: 2-letter country code, telling you the country where the bank is located

  • CC: 2-character location code made of letters and numbers, telling you where the bank's head office is located

  • DDD: optional 3-number branch code, telling you which branch of the bank will receive the money

Some banks don't use the 3-number branch code. That means they have an 8-character SWIFT code instead. Their branch code might be left off entirely, or it could be replaced by three X characters.

Where can you find your SWIFT code🔎?

Depending on your bank, you can find your SWIFT code in any of the following places:

  • A SWIFT code finder online

  • A bank statement

  • The bank's official website

  • Wire transfer instructions from your bank

Anyone who isn't sure what their SWIFT code is should contact their bank directly to ask. If you enter the wrong code, your transaction could be cancelled and you could incur a fee for your mistake. It's smart to make sure you have accurate, verifiable information before you make a transfer.

For bunqers, you can check for your bunq SWIFT code on our Together forum. Make sure you use the right one! You can also find it in the app. Tap on your IBAN (for any Bank Account), and you’ll find the SWIFT code there.

How do you use a SWIFT code🙌?

Making an international transfer is straightforward – all you need is the right information, ready to use.

If you have online banking, like bunq, you can make the transfer online or through your banking app. Select the option to transfer money, ensure that you input all the information correctly, and your transfer should be ready to go. Be prepared to wait a few business days for your transfer to complete – it may have to pass through multiple banks to reach your account.

Most banks will charge a fee to process an international payment. If you make a transfer online, the bank will usually notify you of the fee before you complete the transfer.

Moving money SWIFTly🌈

The world is getting smaller every day, as more and more people work remotely and live internationally. There's never been a higher demand for international money transfers, and the SWIFT network is here to ensure that your money gets where it needs to go.

If you're interested in new ways of thinking about money, why not try bunq today? We're a mobile bank, offering you the freedom to bank remotely from your phone.

Keep your money moving with a truly international bank.

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Get a free international credit card in less than 5 minutes. Add it to Apple/Google Pay and start making payments today.

Easy Savings

Free

Get a free Savings Account and start growing your money faster with 4.01% interest. No minimum deposit is required!

Easy Bank

€3.99/month

Everything you expect from a mobile bank, and more. Open a bank account in just 5 minutes with your phone and ID.

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€9.99/month

Enjoy full control over your money wherever you go, with true borderless banking, easy budgeting, powerful cards, and much more.

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