What Is a Bank Swift Number?

by John DeMerceau, Demand Media

    Your bank's SWIFT number, or SWIFT code, is how it identifies itself to other banks. It includes the name of the bank, its location, and, in some cases branch information. SWIFT codes are mainly used to send wire transfers. These codes follow a standard format recognized by banks throughout the world, which makes wire transfers fast and efficient.

    About SWIFT

    The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) was founded in Belgium in 1973. Its goal was to improve the way banks worked together. As of 2012, the cooperative still maintained the efficiency and security of communications between banks. It also registers bank identification codes on behalf of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

    Code Reading

    A SWIFT code has either eight or 11 alphanumeric characters. The first four characters are alphabetical and represent the bank name. For example, Bank of America's SWIFT code begins with BOFA, while the Wells Fargo Bank code begins with WFBI. The fifth and sixth characters represent the bank's country code. The third set of two characters is the location code. The first character is usually a number. If the second character is a 1, it means the bank is not a member of SWIFT. In an 11-character SWIFT code, the final three characters represent the bank branch.

    Code Use

    You'll need to know the right SWIFT code when someone wants to send a wire transfer to your bank account. For example, your brokerage house or mutual fund may need to know it to wire funds into your personal account. You would need to call your bank or check its website to get its code, which you could then pass on to your payer. You'll also need the SWIFT code of the bank of someone you're sending money to so you can include it in your wire transfer instructions.

    Alternatives

    Your bank may only need the SWIFT code when it's dealing with international wire transfers. You may need a nine-digit American Bankers Association (ABA) routing number for domestic transfers. Check with your bank about that number since it may not be the same one that appears on your checks. There's also an International Bank Account Number (IBAN). You'll only use this 27-character code if you're sending money overseas.

    About the Author

    John DeMerceau is an American expatriate entrepreneur, marketing analyst and Web developer. He now lives and works in southeast Asia, where he creates websites and branding/marketing reports for international clients. DeMerceau graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in history.