The SWIFT Bank Identification Code is an internationally-recognized system of codes for identifying banks (see ISO 9362). These codes are commonly used to identify the banks involved in an international wire transfer.
The code is 8 or 11 characters, made up of:
- 4 characters – bank code
- 2 characters – ISO country code
- 2 characters – location code
- 3 characters – branch code, optional ( ‘XXX’ for primary office)
Where an 8 digit code is given, you may assume that it refers to the primary office.
It is not the only coding system for banks – individual countries also have their own sets of codes which are used to identify banks in national interbank business. For example, ABA numbers (or routing codes) identify banks in the US and Canada, Sort Codes identify banks in the UK.