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SWIFT vs. IBAN Code: What’s the Difference?

SWIFT vs. IBAN Code: What’s the Difference?

March 7, 2024 4 min read

person comparing IBAN and SWIFT

If you have ever sent or received money internationally, you may have come across terms like SWIFT code and IBAN code. These codes help identify banks and bank accounts across different countries and regions. Banks use them to ensure international wire transfers reach their recipients securely and efficiently. But what exactly are these codes, and how do they differ?

Understanding SWIFT codes

SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, an organization that has developed a standardized system to identify financial institutions worldwide. The SWIFT code, also called the Bank Identifier Code (BIC), is an exclusive alphanumeric sequence used to identify specific banks. Each bank in the SWIFT network has its unique SWIFT code. 

So, if you want to transfer funds to someone’s bank account in another country or vice versa, you must find the SWIFT code for your recipient’s bank. This code helps your bank ensure your funds are routed accurately to the receiver’s bank, and without it, your transfer could encounter delays or perhaps never arrive.

Understanding IBAN codes

Like SWIFT, the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is a code for international money transfers. However, unlike the SWIFT code, which identifies the bank, the IBAN code identifies the specific bank account of an individual or business. As such, it’s a longer alphanumeric code that includes the country code, bank code, branch code, and the actual account number.

The IBAN system has been adopted primarily within the European Union (EU), but it has also reached other countries. So, if you’re sending funds to someone in Europe or a bank that uses the system, you will be asked to provide the IBAN code of your recipient to ensure the funds reach the correct account.

Need help validating an IBAN or checking formatting? Ria Money Transfer’s IBAN Calculator lets you input an IBAN to verify if it’s formatted correctly, or search by country to see an example.

When to use SWIFT vs. IBAN codes

In general, you will need to use a SWIFT code when sending money to a bank outside of the EU and an IBAN number when transferring funds to a bank within the EU. But that is not always the case. Some banks in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States also use IBAN codes. Other banks have both SWIFT and IBAN codes, so they accept either one.

So, the simple answer to when to use SWIFT versus IBAN codes is whatever the recipient bank uses.

Another solution

SWIFT and IBAN codes have been used for decades for international money transfers. However, there are some drawbacks. 

Before sending money, you need to ask your recipient for their bank’s code — which is not something many people have on hand. You might also run into issues with a transfer if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account or doesn’t want to receive money that way.

While it has nothing to do with the codes specifically, you should also consider the high costs of relying on banks for international money transfers. These fees vary depending on the amount, intermediary bank, and exchange rate. 

Thankfully, there’s another alternative: international money transfer services. Instead of requiring SWIFT or IBAN codes, they just need the basic recipient information, which makes transferring funds much simpler and faster. 

You also have several ways of sending money: via debit or credit card, cash, or bank account. Another advantage is the low fees. International money transfer services offer competitive exchange rates, transparent pricing, and minimal fees, which often makes them a more affordable alternative to international wire transfers.

Skip the codes with Ria Money Transfer

Ria Money Transfer is a leading global money transfer company that offers fast, secure, and affordable services to over 160 countries. You can choose from various delivery options, such as cash pickup at any of its authorized locations, bank deposit, mobile wallet, or even home delivery for select countries.

Send money now using Ria Money Transfer for an accessible, efficient, and cost-effective way to remit money worldwide.


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