IBAN, SWIFT and BIC. These are acronyms you probably will encounter if you ever need to send money internationally. But what do these terms even mean? In this guide we explain all you need to know about IBAN, SWIFT and BIC, including how they are used and where you can find them. It’s actually more straightforward than you might think.

What is an IBAN number?

IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number. It’s an internationally standardised and recognised system that’s used to ensure that international payments end up in the correct recipient account. Your IBAN not only identifies your bank account, but it also contains all the details to locate your country, bank, branch and exact account number. An IBAN can contain up to 34 characters in both letters and digits.

What does an IBAN look like?

The way an IBAN looks can vary from country to country, but in the UK all IBAN numbers typically follow the format outlined below:

  • The first two characters are letters that identify the country. In Starling’s case GB.
  • The next two digits are the check-number, which is unique from person to person.
  • Then comes the bank code, which can be letters or numbers. In the UK, the standard is letters. Starling’s bank code is SRLG.
  • The next six digits are your regular sort code, which for all Starling customers is 608371.
  • Lastly, the final eight digits are your regular bank account number.

When all of the above is put together, the IBAN of a Starling account can look like this: GBxxSRLG608371xxxxxxxx (the Xs refer to the customer’s unique numbers)

How do I find my IBAN number?

Typically you will be able to see your IBAN number on bank statements and in your online banking or banking app. You can also get in touch with your bank and ask.

Starling customers can see their IBAN numbers in the app by selecting Account Information and then Account Details.

What is a SWIFT code?

SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It’s a network that helps banks and financial institutions communicate securely. One way this is achieved is through SWIFT codes. These SWIFT codes make international transfers simpler by ensuring that they arrive at the correct bank and branch.

As opposed to IBAN numbers, SWIFT codes only relay the bank’s information. A bank’s SWIFT code is unique and can contain eight or 11 characters, which all convey specific details of the bank.

What does a bank SWIFT code look like?

All SWIFT codes roughly follow the same format, which can be outlined like this:

  • The first four characters are the bank code. Starling’s bank code is SRLG.
  • The next two characters are the country code. In Starling’s case this is GB.
  • Then comes the location code. This can be numbers and letters. Starling’s location code is 2L.
  • Optionally, there is also a three character branch code.

Starling is branchless, so the branch code is not applicable for our customers. However, even if your bank has a branch, the branch code can be left out. When all of the details above are put together, Starling’s SWIFT code comes out as SRLGGB2L (for our euro accounts the location code is 3L, which gives the SWIFT code SRLGGB3L).

How do I find my SWIFT code?

You will typically be able to find your SWIFT code on bank statements and on your online or app banking. Most often it will be in the same place as your IBAN number.

Starling customers can see their SWIFT code alongside their IBAN in the app, by selecting Account Information and Account Details.

Is BIC the same as SWIFT?

You might also have heard about BIC in relation to SWIFT. BIC is short for Bank Identifier Code, and it’s essentially the same thing as a SWIFT code. The two are used interchangeably and are therefore often referred to as SWIFT/BIC.

When are IBAN numbers and SWIFT/BIC codes needed?

Anyone who wants to transfer money internationally usually needs to use an IBAN number and SWIFT/BIC code to do so, because this is how banks communicate on a global scale. This means that if you’re sending money abroad, you’ll need to know your recipient’s IBAN and SWIFT/BIC code to ensure that the transfer ends up in the correct account, in the right bank. Likewise, if you’re receiving money from abroad, your payee has to know your IBAN and SWIFT/BIC details, in order for you to receive the payment.

Other resources

IBAN discrimination: How to defend yourself

Bank accounts explained: Sort code and account number

Interest rates: What are APR, EAR and AER?

What is Bacs? A guide to Bacs payments

What are Faster Payments and how to they work?

What is CHAPS? CHAPS payments explained

What are Direct Debits and standing orders

Understanding bank statements

Guide to cheques

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