When you transfer money from one bank to another across borders, your transaction may require quite a bit of information. Both SWIFT codes and the IBAN system can help to make this process more efficient and ensure that the money makes it into your recipient’s account.
The primary difference between SWIFT code vs. IBAN is the information they convey during the transaction.
SWIFT and IBAN: What’s the Story?
International transactions used to be difficult before banking networks introduced IBAN and SWIFT codes. Previously, there wasn’t a standard method of account identification that all countries recognized. Routing numbers were in place for domestic money transfers, but not for cross-border payments.
That meant information used to identify an account in one country wasn’t always recognized by the receiving country.
Lack of standardized identification methods meant errors happened rather frequently. Payments could go to the wrong person. Payments might be delayed while banks worked to confirm details about where the money should go. Mistaken, delayed, and missing payments were not unheard of.
The expense and trouble of international bank transfers was simplified thanks to the introduction of the SWIFT code in 1973 and the IBAN in 1997. Both methods still play an important role in international transfers today.
SWIFT vs. IBAN
To sum it up quickly, a bank’s SWIFT code identifies a specific bank, while an IBAN identifies a specific bank account.
Both enable the quick, accurate transfer of funds overseas, although they aren’t used by every country. For instance, the U.S. doesn’t use IBAN at all. Read on for more information about each type of code.
International Bank Account Number (IBAN)
IBAN is an acronym that stands for “International Bank Account Number.” It makes it easier to identify a bank’s country and the specific account holder during the transfer.
The IBAN also helps banks confirm that a transaction’s details are accurate because the number begins with a two-digit country code, followed by two numbers, followed by up to thirty-five unique characters.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) introduced IBAN in 1997. The ISO has long led various standards for the world’s banking system. However, the European Committee for Banking Standards (ECBS), which is the modern European Payments Council, originally raised concerns about the flexibility of early IBAN standards.
In response, the ISO reworked the standards that required the IBANs for each country to be a certain length. It also required the use of only uppercase letters.
Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) Code
SWIFT stands for the “Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.” This is a messaging network used by financial institutions around the world to securely share information and instructions. The system relies on standardized codes, with each organization having their own unique code with either 8 or 11 letters and numbers.
Since its introduction in 1973, the SWIFT code remains a common bank identifier for international payments and funds transfers. It packs the following details into each code:
- The first four characters consist of letters; they are the bank identifier codes.
- The next two characters consist of letters and give the country code.
- The next two characters can be letters or numbers and further specify location.
- The last three characters can be letters or numbers and are optional, providing details about the branch code.
With the use of a SWIFT code and an IBAN together, banks can reduce the risk of error and process international transfers with much greater speed and accuracy.
You can find SWIFT codes by logging into your account or contacting your bank. The codes are often posted on the bank’s website and they may have different codes for different currencies.
When Will You Need to Use an IBAN?
When making an international wire transfer, your bank will ask you for details regarding the intended recipient. One detail they may ask for is the recipient’s IBAN number, which can be found on a bank statement, or by contacting the bank.
If you make a lot of international wire transfers, you are likely to become familiar with IBANs because you need to provide them as part of financial transaction details.
The IBAN system has become an international standard especially in European countries, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.
However, newer app-based methods for transferring money overseas don’t require you to know the IBAN or the SWIFT code in most cases.
Do I Need an IBAN or SWIFT Code for Remitly?
For instance, Remitly doesn’t require a SWIFT code and usually doesn’t ask for an IBAN code to complete your transaction. We make it easy for you to send to friends and family in countries like the Philippines, Mexico, or India.
- For first-time users, download the Remitly app and create an account. Then select your destination country.
- Enter the amount you wish to send.
- Select your preferred method of delivery, which will vary depending on your country but can include: bank deposit, cash pickup, mobile wallet, or home delivery.
- Enter your recipient’s information, like their name and address. You will need their bank details if you’re sending to their account. For many countries, their bank account number is sufficient. Some countries, such as Pakistan, ask for an IBAN instead. The Remitly app will prompt you for the appropriate number.
- Enter your information as the sender.
- Select your method of payment and enter your payment details.
You will need to provide an IBAN and a BIC code (Bank Identifier Code) for a SEPA transfer in the eurozone of the European Union. That is an Economy transfer from a bank account to another bank account.
Make Better International Transfers
Here at Remitly, we’re committed to making international transfers faster, safer, and easier.