SWIFT Code: What is it? What is it for?

If you have or manage a company, you will know that bank codes are a really important factor, especially for people and employees who work in financial or administrative departments, since they use them on a daily basis in their operations.

In the case of SMEs, they often do not have a professional department or one or more employees dedicated exclusively to this work, so normally the same owner or person in charge is in charge of carrying out all banking management.

It is important that you know, whether you are the owner or an administrator of the company, that there are important numbers in your bank account, especially if you are going to dedicate yourself to exporting and importing. The SWIFT Code is one of those essential numbers. That is why today we are going to tell you in this article what SWIFT is, what it is for and how to get it.

SWIFT: What is it?

The term SWIFT comes from the acronym “Society for World Interbank Financial Telecommunication”, which refers to the company in charge of directing and managing communications between banks around the world.

The SWIFT Code is made up of an exclusive alphanumeric series, different for each entity and for each zone, that the clients of each bank must have in order to carry out operations on an international scale. It could also be defined as a kind of protocol that enables the expansion of the area in which international transactions are carried out.

It is formed from the union of 4 numerical groups. Each group has its meaning and the sum of them makes the code between 8 and 11 digits in total:

  • The first group is formed by the first four digits. These identify the bank, they name it. For example, in the situation of the BBVA bank its four digits would correspond to those same letters, for the ING bank it would be INGD and for the Santander Bank BSCH.
  • The second group is formed by the following two digits, occupying positions 5 and 6 of the code. This group indicates the country : ES identifies Spain.
  • The third group is made up of the seventh and eighth digits. These indicate the population in which the bank is located. In the event that the entity is located in Madrid, the digits would be MM, in the case of Barcelona, the digits would be BB, etc.
  • The fourth and last group is made up of the last three digits, and they are completely optional. This group refers to the office in which the account you are working with is open.

The SWIFT Code, thanks to its direct nomenclature, increases security in international transactions and, at the same time, reduces the time invested in carrying them out and the amount of commissions that must be paid.

Another piece of information that is important for you to know is that this code is also known as BIC (Bank Identifier Code), since many banking professionals use both denominations, even though they refer to the same thing. So, if they ask you for the BIC, don’t worry, they are asking you for exactly the same thing.

SWIFT: When is it used?

It must be included in all international transfers. Once included, the corresponding bank will be in charge of preparing a proof of completion, which is called a SWIFT message and will have all the data related to the transfer that has been made previously.

It must always be included in the payment terms of the invoices, since in this way the clients will not have the need to contact the exporter to provide them with said code.

As a brief summary, whenever a supplier in a third country is paid by transfer (import), SWIFT must be included and vice versa, that is, a customer who owes us an invoice will request that code to include it in the transfer. which, later, will make you.

SWIFT: How to get it

Normally, when you start working with a bank, it is the same one that is in charge of providing you with the SWIFT or BIC Code.

However, if you don’t have your code, there are different ways to get it. The first and most basic thing is to go to an office of your bank and ask them to provide it to you, but, in the event that, for some reason, you cannot move, you can also consult it through the online banking pages.

These two options are valid only if you need the SWIFT or BIC Code corresponding to an account of yours. If what you need is the number of a client or supplier of yours, apart from requesting it directly, you can try to access the numerous code search engines of this type that exist on the Internet to find it.

Here are some recommendations to find your SWIFT code quickly:

On bank statements.

Banks often include information about this code on paper account statements. However, there is also the possibility of consulting it electronically from the corresponding bank’s application and viewing the statements from there.

On your bank’s website.

This goes for situations where you need both this code from your own bank and from any other. In this way, you will only have to enter the website of your financial institution and type in the search engine “SWIFT code” (if your institution has this option), otherwise, you can also consult the pages of frequently asked questions or related links.

Via Internet.

There are some pages dedicated to searching for these bank codes. The only thing you will have to do is put the country of the bank you want to consult and the name of said bank.

What is the SWIFT code for?

This code will be requested from those people who are going to carry out a monetary transaction, in other words, they will carry out a movement of money, such as any payment or transfer, in relation to an account in another country. Due to this, it is recommended that this information be included in the invoices since, otherwise, it is possible that your clients will run into some inconvenience when it comes to making a deposit.

This means that, if we make a transfer from our account in Spain to another in Chile, the code of the destination bank will have to be attached to the form.

However, we must point out that for SEPA transfers, that is, those that occur between the countries that are part of the Single Euro Payments Area, it will not be necessary to include the BIC or SWIFT in the transfer from February 1, 2016. The countries that make up SEPA are all 28 that belong to the European Union and Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and Iceland.

SWIFT and Maritime Transport

If you manage or work in a company that regularly uses containers by sea to receive or send goods, that is, that imports and/or exports by sea, you must bear in mind that the documentation provided in said transports must always SWIFT Code will appear. It is not useful to put the IBAN of the bank account, instead the SWIFT Code must appear on all international invoices or delivery notes.

It is a fact that more and more economic transactions are carried out through the internet. For this reason, the implementation of more modern security systems is beginning to be demanded to ensure that all online operations are carried out legally, efficiently and safely. The creation of SWIFT or BIC code-type nomenclatures arise from this need and their purpose is, without a doubt, to provide you with a more secure service.

Is a SWIFT code the same as a BIC?

Yes, the Bank Identification Code (BIC) is the same as a SWIFT, since both are made up of a succession of numbers and letters that serve to identify both the country, the bank and the branch to which that code belongs. Therefore, both provide essential information to send a money transfer.

Likewise, as we have explained in the sections above, the code must always be accompanied by an IBAN number, which is what is responsible for identifying the client of the entity in question. This number was created in the European Union (EU) and today it is used by all banks in the EU and most of the territories of the European continent except Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Armenia. However, the IBAN is also used by non-European countries such as Israel, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey that use the code to identify their accounts.

In this sense, we must point out that, both in the United States and in Canada, as in New Zealand, they use the SWIFT but not the IBAN. However, it is possible to make a payment with an IBAN account destined for these countries, since, even if they do not use it, they do accept payments that come from those accounts. In fact, recently in the United States the idea of implementing the IBAN number at the federal level for payments was being considered, but it is an idea that is still in the process of being executed by them.