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Sort Code vs. Swift Code: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on January 8, 2024
Sort Code is a code identifying a specific bank branch within a country. Swift Code is an international bank code for identifying institutions globally.
Sort Code vs. Swift Code

Key Differences

Sort Code, a banking term predominantly used in the United Kingdom and Ireland, refers to a unique code assigned to a specific bank branch. It's a part of the bank's identification process in domestic transactions. On the other hand, a Swift Code, also known as BIC (Bank Identifier Code), is used globally for identifying financial institutions. It facilitates international wire transfers and messages between banks.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024
The Sort Code is a six-digit number format, often formatted as three pairs of numbers, for example, 12-34-56. It is critical for ensuring that money is transferred to the correct bank branch. In contrast, the Swift Code is an 8 to 11-character long alphanumeric code. The first four letters represent the bank, the next two the country, and the following two or three characters identify the location or branch.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024
Sort Codes are primarily used within a specific country's banking system. For example, in the UK, they play a crucial role in the BACS and CHAPS payment systems, ensuring accurate domestic fund transfers. Swift Codes, however, are essential for international transactions, enabling banks worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized environment.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024
In the context of online banking, a Sort Code is often required when setting up direct debits, standing orders, or transferring money to accounts within the same country. Swift Codes, conversely, are necessary when sending money across borders, ensuring the funds reach the intended foreign institution without errors or delays.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024
Sort Codes help in distinguishing banks and their respective branches within a nation, serving as a fundamental component of the internal banking infrastructure. Swift Codes, meanwhile, contribute to the efficient functioning of global finance, allowing banks to process cross-border payments and communicate internationally with ease and accuracy.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Usage

Domestic banking within specific countries (e.g., UK, Ireland).
International banking across global financial institutions.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Format

Six-digit numerical code, often in pairs (e.g., 23-45-67).
Alphanumeric, 8-11 characters (e.g., ABCDGB2LXXX).
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Primary Function

Identifies specific bank branches within a country.
Identifies financial institutions worldwide for international transactions.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Necessity

Essential for domestic transactions like direct debits and bank transfers.
Required for international wire transfers and interbank communication.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Scope

Limited to national banking systems.
Global reach, facilitating international finance and communication.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024
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Sort Code and Swift Code Definitions

Sort Code

A banking identifier used primarily in the UK and Ireland.
Each bank branch has a unique sort code for identification purposes.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Swift Code

Used in international wire transfers and banking messages.
To receive the funds, you’ll need the bank's swift code.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Sort Code

A key component in UK's BACS and CHAPS systems.
Her sort code was needed to set up the standing order.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Swift Code

An international code that identifies banks for global transactions.
The swift code is necessary for transferring money overseas.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Sort Code

A numerical code used in banking to identify a specific branch.
Please provide your sort code and account number for the transaction.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023
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Swift Code

A combination of letters and numbers for bank identification.
His invoice included a swift code for the international payment.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Sort Code

A part of a bank's unique identification in domestic transfers.
My sort code ensures that my salary is deposited in the correct branch.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Swift Code

A unique identifier for financial institutions in the SWIFT network.
The SWIFT network uses the swift code to process cross-border payments.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Sort Code

A series of numbers segregating banks within a national boundary.
For internal transfers, you only need the sort code and account number.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Swift Code

Essential for international banking and financial communications.
Her bank provided the swift code for an overseas transaction.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Where is a Sort Code used?

In domestic banking transactions within countries like the UK and Ireland.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Where is a Swift Code used?

In international financial transactions and interbank communications worldwide.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

How many digits are in a Sort Code?

Typically, a Sort Code is a six-digit number.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

How long is a Swift Code?

It ranges from 8 to 11 alphanumeric characters.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Can Sort Codes change?

Yes, banks can change Sort Codes, typically during mergers or restructurings.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

What is a Sort Code?

A code identifying a specific bank branch within a country, mainly in the UK and Ireland.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

What is a Swift Code?

An international banking code for identifying institutions globally for wire transfers and communication.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Do all banks have a Sort Code?

In countries where Sort Codes are used, yes, each branch has its own code.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

How can I find a bank's Swift Code?

It’s often available on the bank’s website or by contacting the bank directly.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Are Sort Codes the same as routing numbers?

They serve a similar purpose but are used in different countries (Sort Codes in the UK, routing numbers in the US).
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Can a Swift Code be used for domestic transfers?

Generally, it’s used for international purposes, but some domestic systems may utilize it.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Can I find a Sort Code on a cheque?

Yes, it’s usually printed on cheques in countries that use Sort Codes.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Is a Sort Code the same as an IBAN?

No, an IBAN is used for international bank transfers, while a Sort Code is for domestic use.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Do all banks have a Swift Code?

Most banks involved in international transactions have a Swift Code.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Is Sort Code unique to each bank branch?

Yes, it uniquely identifies individual bank branches.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Are Swift Codes safe to share?

Yes, they are meant for public knowledge to facilitate banking transactions.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Is Swift Code unique for each bank?

It can identify the bank and, in some cases, specific branches.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Are Swift Codes permanent?

They generally remain constant but can change in certain circumstances, like bank mergers.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Is a Sort Code needed for online banking?

Yes, for setting up payments and transfers within the same country.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

Do I need a Swift Code for online international transfers?

Yes, it’s essential for correctly routing the money internationally.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 08, 2024

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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