What Is a Sort Code? [Banking Basics]

In this article, we’re answering β€œWhat is a sort code?”

This article is part of our series on bank account opening in different countries, which you can access for free by following the link above.

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

Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Sort Code?
  2. How Do I Find My Sort Code?
  3. Frequently Asked Questions
  4. Do You Want Help Opening Bank Accounts?

What Is a Sort Code?

A sort code is a 6-digit numerical identifier assigned to each branch of a financial institution in the United Kingdom. Sort codes are issued to banks, building societies, credit unions, and other financial institutions where accounts are held.

Importantly, a sort code identifies the specific branch of a specific financial institution. This branch is where a bank account is held. Using this code in combination with an account number ensures transfers arrive at the correct bank, branch, and account.

Most countries have an equivalent branch identifier for domestic transfers between the branches of financial institutions. This includes routing numbers in the United States, transit numbers in Canada, and a bank state branch number in Australia.

That said, sort codes are not used when sending international transfers. Instead, banks will use an international transfer number, such as a SWIFT code. SWIFT codes operate similarly to these codes, identifying specific branches and banks. However, SWIFT transfers are sent across the SWIFT network, which carries higher fees and has longer transaction times.

How Do I Find My Bank Sort Code?

You can find your bank sort code in six locations. These locations include physical bank statements, online bank statements, mobile banking, certain debit cards, the bottom of cheques issued by your bank, and written correspondence from your bank.

Here is a closer look at the available options.

Where is the Bank Sort Code?

  • Physical bank statements
  • Online bank statements
  • Mobile banking application
  • Debit (ATM) cards
  • Cheques for the account
  • Correspondence from the bank

If you do not have access to any of these options to locate a bank sort code, you can also contact your bank directly. If you have telephone banking set up, you can request your code over the phone. Otherwise, you may need to visit your local branch in person, present identification, and request your code directly.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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

Where Is the Sort Code?

The sort code refers to a unique identifier assigned to specific branch locations at each bank in the United Kingdom and Ireland. These codes are used when banks send domestic transfers to banks within their own banking system. International transfers require banks to use a different identifier, such as a SWIFT code.

What Is a Sort Code in the UK?

In the UK, a sort code is a 6-digit numeric code that identifies a specific bank and branch where an account is held. This code is used to confirm the destination of a bank transfer from one bank in the United Kingdom to another.

Is Sort Code the Same as SWIFT Code?

No, a sort code is not the same as a SWIFT code. It is a numerical code that banks in the United Kingdom and Ireland use. Equivalent numbers are also in use elsewhere. They identify the specific receiving bank and branch in a financial transaction. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the code is 6 digits in length.

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