Your essential money transfer guide to international payment codes

29 Apr 2020 - Category: Blog /
international payment codes

Completing an international money transfer can seem a little overwhelming at first. What with BICS and SWIFTs and IBANs? It can feel like an entirely new language to learn. Luckily, all the information is easy to find once you know what you’re looking for.

When do you need to use international payment codes?

To send money from one account in one country to another account in another country you are required to use a number of codes for security and efficiency of payment. The codes enable the bank to quickly determine and verify where your money is being sent.

What information do you need to make an international bank transfer?

In order to transfer money overseas digitally, you’ll need the following:

  • The recipient’s name and address
  • The type of bank account they have (checking, current, savings)
  • Their basic bank account number (BBAN) or IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
  • The name and address of their bank
  • Their bank’s BIC or SWIFT code

Some of these details are more familiar than others, but what do all these codes mean? And, where do you find them?

The good news is, it’s not as confusing as it first seems.

So, what are the codes you need to understand and where can you find them?


The BBAN, or Basic Bank Account Number, is a unique combination of digits that identifies an individual bank account for a specific bank within a specific country. It is up to 30 characters long (length determined by country) and forms the basis of an IBAN, a code you will almost certainly be asked for when making an online money transfer. So, what’s an IBAN?


The IBAN —or International Bank Account Number — is a set of digits and letters that allows international money transfers. While a regular account number can sometime be used in the absence of an IBAN, an IBAN is the safest way to ensure your money ends up in the correct account as quickly as possible and should be used if available.

Your recipient’s IBAN is unique and contains information that identifies their country, bank and account details all in one. It is made up of a two-digit country code, two check digits and the BBAN, which is made of up to 30 characters.

While the number of letters and digits — up to 34 — can change between countries, the format within a country is standard. To check your recipient’s country, click here.

How to find an IBAN

You and your recipient will usually find your IBAN by logging into your online bank account or it can be found on a bank statement. While it is possible to calculate your IBAN, never send money without first checking the IBAN number with your recipient or their bank.

National Clearing Code

Some banks do not provide an IBAN, and instead provide a National Clearing Code. They are sometimes referred to as 'Federal Wire Numbers' by American banks, or a CLABE in Mexico.

SWIFT code

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication and it exists to help banks within its network communicate securely between themselves. SWIFT codes are eight to 11 characters long and contain all the information needed to identify the exact bank your money is going to.

When do you use a SWIFT code?

A SWIFT code will be used at the point of online money transfer to ensure you send money to the correct country, first of all, then it pinpoints the bank as well as the branch.

BIC code

BIC stands for Business Identifier Code and is technically assigned to a business by the SWIFT. However, the two are now used interchangeably. Therefore, you might be asked for your recipient’s BIC, SWIFT code or BIC/SWIFT code: all three of these are the same thing.

How to find a BIC/SWIFT code

Your recipient can find out their BIC/ SWIFT code on their bank statement, through their online bank account or by contacting their local branch.

If you have their account details you can also use an online SWIFT code search engine like this one but it’s always best to check with your recipient before using it.

Example of a BIC/SWIFT code A BIC/SWIFT code is:

  • 8 – 11 characters long
  • 4 characters, letters only = bank code
  • 2 characters, letters only = ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code
  • 2 characters, digits and letters = location code
  • 3 characters, digits and letters = branch code (if not included, it is assumed the code is for the primary office)

The difference between IBAN and BIC/SWIFT codes

While both serve a similar purpose — to facilitate international money transfer — the main difference is that the BIC/SWIFT code identifies the bank itself while IBAN homes in on an individual account. All transfers within Europe require both and many countries around the world are now adopting IBANs to make overseas payments more secure.

Both are easily found and shouldn’t be a concern when making transfers overseas.

Bank Codes

Bank codes are numerical codes that enable specific banks. They are national codes, assigned to each bank by the country’s central bank or banking body. They are known by a number of different names:

  • USA – Routing or ABA Number
  • Canada – Transit Number
  • UK – Sort Code
  • Australia/ New Zealand – BSB Code (Bank State Branch)
  • India – IFSC (Indian Financial System Code
  • Hong Kong – Hong Kong Branch Code
  • Singapore – Singapore Branch Code
  • Bangladesh – Bangladesh Branch Code

We hope this guide helps you to make online money transfers and payments safely and securely, and removes any confusion about the many codes that are required. 

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