IBAN vs. SWIFT Codes: What You Ought to Know

3 min readJan 14, 2021

Few Words about IBAN

Have you ever tried to send or receive money internationally? No? Then you obviously haven’t heard about the IBAN code. It was originally used to speed up the processing of international payments in the European Union. Currently, it is used in non-EU countries as well. Its purpose is to facilitate inter-bank settlement transactions and the remittance process.

Structure and Length

The IBAN code can’t contain more than 34 symbols. For example, in France, it consists of 27 characters, in the UK of 22, in Malta of 31, etc. IBAN example in France: FR1420041010050500013M02606.

1–2 — the country’s national code (e.g. Greece is GR, Italy is IT);

3–4 — check number;

5–34 — bank account, which includes the account number of the client and symbols identifying a particular bank.

If one symbol is incorrect, your money will not be delivered to its final destination. In this case, the operation will be delayed. The bank in turn will charge fees in full and on time. To avoid errors, try a special program. An IBAN Calculator guarantees you correctness. It won’t show you the recipient’s personal details, obviously. Nevertheless, you’ll see the country and the bank where your funds are routed.

Few Words about SWIFT

This one was created for the high-quality and cheap processing of international transactions. The SWIFT code is a combination of numbers and letters that indicates a specific banking organization within the SWIFT system. The platform blurs borders between states. What is more, it makes financial management as simple as possible.

The code provides an understanding of what particular bank you have to send money to. It can be compared to the card number of a bank client. There is no way the cardholder can receive money without it.

How to Read It Out:

WWWW. The first four symbols are the letters of the financial entity. Often, this is an abbreviated name of a bank or corporation in Latin.

XX. The next two symbols mean the state according to the ISO 3166 standard. This part allows you to understand the country of destination, e.g. Russia — RU, Kazakhstan-KZ, Germany-DE, etc.

YY. These are an alphanumeric designation of the region. The aim is to simplify the search for a bank branch on the territory of the country. For example, in Russia, there are such codes as MM-Moscow, 3T-Tolyatti, 8X-Blagoveshchensk, etc.

ZZZ. The last characters represent the alphanumeric designation of the bank’s branch. These are used only for large banks and corporations with an extensive network of branches.

The grand takeaway here?

Although these codes are different, they share the same primary function. Both are global standardized methods for the identification of the Bank. The only difference is the information they transform during the international remittance.

While SWIFT identifies a particular bank, IBAN is used to locate a bank account. When transferring money across borders, you have to know one of the above codes. Which one do you need? It depends on the bank, as well as on the sending and receiving countries.

Just for your information, almost half of the globe relies on IBAN. But there is an exception to every rule. When it comes to Nigeria, a person needs the Nigeria Uniform Bank Account Number (NUBAN) instead. The USA, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Canada use the routing number (RTN). This is a unique nine-digit number that functions similarly to IBAN.


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