Sending Money Back Home? The 2022 Guide to Bank Identification Codes

Sending Money Back Home? The 2022 Guide to Bank Identification Codes

Sending Money Back Home? The 2022 Guide to Bank Identification Codes

Sending money overseas is a process that is fortunately getting easier and easier, particularly thanks to services like DeeMoney. However, even in its simplified form, there are still certain specific technical details that you need to be aware of and that might be unnerving for those coming from outside of the world of banking and finance. Bank identification codes are just such a detail.

Bank identification codes are an important tool in cross-border payments as they allow your funds to be tracked by the governments of the countries it is coming from and going to. That might not sound like a desirable feature – relatively few people actually want governments monitoring their every move. However, when it comes to sending money across international borders, it is essential. Without it, your money may end up in the wrong account or, even worse, may end up not moving at all because of concerns over money laundering.

As important as your bank identification code is, it is not necessarily essential to actually know the number by heart. Many remittance apps have tools to help you find the right code based on the brand and location of the destination bank. This guide will hopefully give you a better understanding of why you are asked for your code when it comes to sending money overseas and what exactly yours should look like.

What exactly is a bank identification code?

There are two basic types of code – SWIFT codes (now more commonly called BICs, meaning Bank Identification Codes) and IBAN codes. Which you need to use will depend on the type of transfer, the country you are transferring from and the country you are sending money to.

SWIFT codes, naturally, are associated with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication – the 40-year-old mechanism that most banks use for sending money overseas. This generally takes the form of an eight-to-11-character code consisting of letters and numbers and which identifies a specific bank and sometimes even a specific branch of a specific bank. Some BICs come in the form of 12-digit numbers that are even more specific, but these are comparatively rare.

A standard BIC should break down as follows:

  • Bank code: The first four characters of the BIC form an abbreviated version of the bank’s name. For example, the UK’s Halifax Bank is shown as “HLFX”.
  • Country code: The next 2 characters are the country where the bank is based. So, again using the example of the Halifax Bank, the next letters are “GB”, to show that the bank is based in Great Britain.
  • Location code: The third set of characters show the city of the bank’s headquarters. For Halifax, that’s Halifax (obviously), which is designated with the number “21”.
  • Branch code: The final set of characters designate the specific branch you opened your account at and want your money sent to, if it is different from the headquarters. Following our example, the main branch of Halifax in the city of York uses the code “Y50”. Note that not all branches are able to receive wire transfers, so not all branches will have a branch code.

In our example above, the BIC would look like this: HLFXGB21Y50. You can generally find this information by simply searching online for your branch and adding “SWIFT code” to your search terms or by checking your online/mobile banking portal.

IBAN (International Bank Account Number) codes are less common, but still important to understand as some countries use these more. Unlike SWIFT codes, which are set by the governing organisation they take their name from, IBAN codes are created by the bank itself. However, they are still listed on SWIFT’s registry.

An IBAN can consist of up to 34 characters but, just like SWIFT codes, each group of letters and numbers has a meaning as follows:

  • Country code: The first two characters identify the country (“GB” in the case of our example bank)
  • Check code: The next two characters simply confirm that this is a valid IBAN.
  • Bank code: The next four characters identify the brand of bank. For Halifax, this is “ABBY”.
  • Sort code: The following six digits are the sort code for a specific branch of the target bank. For the York branch, this is “110001”. When displayed on their own, sort codes are generally shown as three groups of two digits, such as: “11-00-01”.
  • Bank account number: The final set of digits (usually eight of them) are your bank account number, which will obviously be specific to you.

So, our example of an account with the main Halifax branch in York should look something like this: GB67ABBY110001XXXXXXXX, with the Xs replaced with your bank account number. Again, this information can generally be found through your online or mobile banking portal or on SWIFT’s registry.

Do I really need to know my BIC?

To put it bluntly, yes. You don’t need to memorise it, but it is important that you have it ready for when you want to send money home from Thailand. This will be required as it is the most effective way of telling your remittance service of choice where you want your money to go. If you are able to express this information in a way that banks understand, you will find the whole process goes a lot more smoothly.

But which code should you make a note of? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Different countries use different codes. Most use BICs, so it’s generally best to make sure you at least have that easily to hand. Fortunately, IBANs are often displayed alongside BICs, so you can easily find and note down both at once. It is entirely safe to store your BIC in an insecure place (such as your notes app or as a screenshot in your photos app) as this only identifies the branch your account is held at. With the IBAN containing your account number, this is better kept private.