Legal

What is a bank SWIFT code?

And when do you need one?
January 5, 2022
Emily Pacheco
What is a bank SWIFT code?

A bank SWIFT code is a unique identifier for banks and other financial institutions across the world. It says who they are and where they are located. Also known as a SWIFT number, it is a way for institutions to send and receive secure messages regarding payments and payment instructions. The SWIFT Code is a format of the financial institution’s Bank Identification Code (BIC).

A SWIFT code is made up of the following four components, and typically contains eight to 11 characters (both letters and numbers): 

  • Bank code
  • Country code
  • Location code
  • Branch code (optional)
Example of a SWIFT code

Source: OFX

Why is it called a bank “SWIFT” code?

SWIFT stands for the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, which is a member-owned cooperative that provides safe and secure financial transactions to its members. SWIFT assigns each member their own unique code. In 2020, SWIFT member institutions sent over 35 million transactions per day through the network. To learn more about SWIFT, click here.

When would you need a bank’s SWIFT code?  

You’ll need a bank’s SWIFT code any time you are sending money to a different country. For example, when a company in Australia needs to pay a vendor company in France, the Australian company would need the SWIFT code for the French company’s bank in order to send payment. Most banks provide their SWIFT codes on-line or on their customers’ bank statements. There are also websites available to help find SWIFT codes.

Generally, if you are sending money internationally, in addition to the SWIFT code, you may also need to supply the following information:

  • The recipient’s full name and address;
  • The name and address of the recipient’s bank;
  • Recipient’s bank account number and account type (checking, savings, etc.);
  • Recipient’s bank routing number;
  • The amount and reason for the transfer
  • A reference to include on the transfer, if desired.

Be sure to contact your financial institution to determine the exact information they will need to do a transfer. Also, never provide your bank account information (or anyone else’s) through unsecured methods (like an email); doing so may lead to potential fraud.

Have more legal questions about global hiring? We explore what IRS Form W-8BEN is in this blog post.

Disclaimer: This blog and all information in it is provided for general informational purposes only. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or tax advice. You should consult with a qualified legal or tax professional for advice regarding any legal or tax matter and prior to acting (or refraining from acting) on the basis of any information provided on this website.

About Oyster

Oyster is a distributed HR platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches or the expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll as well as great local benefits and perks.

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