International CurrencyInternational Currency

What is a SWIFT code?

And what's the IBAN got to do with it?

What is a SWIFT Code anyway?

SWIFT codes are 8 to 11 characters long and made of both letters and numbers. You can typically find them on a bank statement or on your bank’s website.

There are four components to the 8 to 11 character-long SWIFT/BIC code, these include:

  • Bank code
  • Country code
  • Location code
  • Occasionally the branch code may be included but this is optional

The SWIFT code is a format of your BIC (Bank Identification Code), and the two terms are used interchangeably. SWIFTs or BICs are unique identification codes for the particular bank that holds your account.

The SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) system allows banks and financial institutions to send and receive secure messages regarding payment instructions. These 8-11 digit codes are often used for sending money overseas.

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What about the IBAN?

Many banks, especially European banks, also use IBANs (International Bank Account Numbers). These are unique codes that identify a given bank account and provide a standardised way of recognising and locating bank accounts throughout the world.

Typically an IBAN will include:

  • Alphabetical country code (i.e ‘NL’ for the Netherlands, or ‘PT’ for Portugal)
  • Followed by two digits
  • Then up to 35 characters for the bank account number

Started in Europe during the 1990s, this method of bank account identification for international transfers has been adopted by more than 60 countries worldwide.

Do I always need to use an IBAN?

Not all countries will require an IBAN as it may be optional for transfers to other countries like Australia or Canada. At OFX, we use our Global By Local system to process your transfers locally whenever possible, so you may be able to avoid using complicated bank codes.

Instead, you can often make your transfers using simplified domestic codes like the routing and account number for the US, BSB for Australia, and the sort code and account number for the UK.

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What you need to know

At OFX, we use our network of 115 global bank accounts to tap into the power of local payment processing networks. We call it Global By Local (GBL). Our GBL network typically takes 24 business hours and very cost-effective compared to the banks and other FX providers. That’s part of why our rates are so competitive and why our transfers often arrive faster.

The local network extends to our customer service as well, so you can chat to someone in our friendly, localised customer support teams throughout our global offices, online over the phone 24/7. So wherever you are in the world, OFX can help you with your transfer needs.

If you need to send money abroad, your bank may be your most expensive option. Banks often charge as much as a 5% margin on your foreign exchange transaction plus fees. Depending on the size of your payment, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars by swapping to OFX for your international money transfers.

Better yet, when you send money with us, you may not even need to ask the recipient to search high and low for a SWIFT or IBAN. You just request their regular account details, and our local bank account in the destination country will do the rest.

Still not sure?

There’s no doubt that international payments can be tricky, confusing and sometimes, time consuming. When you register with OFX, we make the initial sign-up as painless as possible, and you’ll get the peace of mind of knowing that you can transfer at our great low rates—no matter which currency you choose or when.