Bank Identification Code (BIC) Explained

Bank identification code, or BIC, refers to a unique code that is used to identify banks when sending international transfers.

In this article, we’re going to share everything you need to know about the Bank Identification Code, including how it compares to other international bank identifiers.

We will also be answering common questions we receive from our members on the topic below.

This article is part of our series on banking basics, ranging from opening different types of bank accounts around the world to understanding how various aspects of the banking system operate.

Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.

Table of Contents

  1. Bank Identification Code
  2. What Is the Difference Between BIC and IBAN?
  3. Frequently Asked Questions
  4. Do You Want Help Opening Bank Accounts?

Bank Identification Code (BIC)

Bank identification code or BIC code refers to a unique identifier that is used when sending international transfers between financial institutions. More commonly referred to as a SWIFT code, it is an international bank code that facilitates transfers over the SWIFT payment network.

When sending an international transfer, the sending party will need to provide the BIC/SWIFT number of the receiving bank. The standard BIC format is 8 to 11 characters, which vary by bank and bank location.

Because this international bank code is so integral to sending transfers to the correct financial institution, you do need to ensure that you have the correct bank identification code before sending.

To find the correct bank identification code, you can either ask the receiving party or use an online BIC directory or BIC validation tool. There are also a number of BIC search and BIC lookup tools available. However, it’s important that you validate the code with a trusted source prior to sending the transfer.

What Is the Difference Between BIC and IBAN?

The main difference between BIC and IBAN is that the BIC code is used to send and receive transfers to different financial institutions while the IBAN is used to send and receive transfers to a specific bank account. In other words, a BIC code represents the bank while an IBAN represents the customer.

What Is an IBAN Code Used For?

An IBAN code is used for identifying a specific bank account. It includes information that indicates in which country and bank an account is held, and also includes the specific account number. In other words, an IBAN code is a unique number to each bank account.

Is a Bank Identification Code the Same as a Bank Routing Number?

No, a bank identification code is not the same as a bank routing number. That said, both the bank identification code and the bank routing number are used to identify financial institutions. However, they are used in very different situations. While a bank identification code (or SWIFT code) is used to facilitate cross-border transfers internationally, a bank routing number is only used to send transfers domestically between financial institutions in the United States.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a few of the most common questions we receive from people looking into what a bank identification code is. If you have further questions you would like to ask our team, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Where Do I Get a SWIFT/BIC Code?

You get a SWIFT/BIC code directly from your bank. Importantly, the SWIFT/BIC code is unique to the financial institution. In other words, all clients at the same bank (and bank location) will have the same SWIFT/BIC code. This is because the number is unique to the bank but it is not unique to each customer.

Are SWIFT Code and BIC the Same?

Yes, SWIFT code and BIC are the same. That said, while these two terms are used interchangeably to refer to the unique identifier of a financial institution, BIC is the technically correct term to use. This is because SWIFT refers to the name of the network that the transactions are sent over while BIC refers to the unique code assigned to each financial institution.

Where Do I Find My Bank Identification Code?

You can find your bank identification code in the international wire transfers instructions provided to you by your bank. If you do not have your transfer instructions easily accessible, you can either contact your bank directly, or review one of the many online tools to try and confirm the BIC for your bank location.

Is a BIC the Same as a Routing Number?

No, a BIC is not the same as a routing number. However, both BIC codes and routing numbers do serve a similar purpose. This is because both are unique identifiers that represent a specific financial institution. However, while BIC codes are used to send transfers internationally, routing numbers are used to send transfers between banks in a specific country.

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GlobalBanks Team
GlobalBanks Team

The GlobalBanks editorial team comprises a group of subject-matter experts from across the banking world, including former bankers, analysts, investors, and entrepreneurs. All have in-depth knowledge and experience in various aspects of international banking. In particular, they have expertise in banking for foreigners, non-residents, and both foreign and offshore companies.

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