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

Written by

Meow Technologies, Inc.

Published on

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

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

When sending or receiving money internationally, two key details you'll often come across are IBAN and SWIFT codes. But what exactly are these identifiers and numbers? How are they different or used together when transferring funds overseas? This guide will explain everything you need to know about IBANs and SWIFT codes to smoothly navigate international bank payments.

Defining IBANs and SWIFT Codes

An IBAN, or International Bank Account Number, is a standardized numbering system developed to identify bank accounts across borders. The IBAN contains detailed information to pinpoint the specific bank and account to route transfers.

Meanwhile, a SWIFT code - also known as a BIC (Business Identifier Code) - refers to a messaging network called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. This system allows financial institutions globally to send and receive information to enable international transactions. While the IBAN provides the account details, you can think of the SWIFT code as identifying the "mailbox" that will access the account.

The Core Differences

The main differences between IBANs and SWIFT codes lie in what they each convey and how they're used in overseas money transfers:

  • IBANs specify individual recipient bank accounts. SWIFT codes identify the bank itself.
  • IBANs are predominantly provided by the receiving party to collect incoming transfers. SWIFT codes are used by both the sender and receiver sides to route funds.
  • Usage of IBAN formats is more common in European countries. SWIFT is relied upon more universally by banks around the world.

When You'll Need Each Code

Whether you require an IBAN, SWIFT code or both depends on if you're sending or getting paid internationally.

Sending Money Overseas

To send money abroad, you'll typically need the recipient's SWIFT code to ID their bank for wire transfers and direct deposits.

However, if you're paying someone in a country that utilizes IBANs like most of Europe, you may need to obtain their extended account details in the IBAN format too. This allows seamless routing within those recipient nations using that standardized numbering system.

Receiving International Payments

When set up to receive money from overseas, it's important to share your specific IBAN with the payer whenever possible. This clearly maps out your account as the destination for their transfer.

If you live somewhere that IBANs aren't supported then providing your account specifics along with your bank's SWIFT code will still facilitate deposits from abroad.

Finding and Confirming Your Codes

For sending and getting paid smoothly across borders, properly identifying all bank details involved is crucial - on both ends of the transaction.

Locating Your IBAN and SWIFT Code

If banked in an IBAN-using country, you can likely find your IBAN printed on statements for that account. Also check your bank's website or customer service center to request your exact IBAN whenever needed by international payers.

Meanwhile, SWIFT codes for your financial institution are made publicly available online or by calling their customer support line. You can lookup your bank's code through simple web searches.

Double Checking Accuracy

Before entering any IBANs or SWIFT data to finalize money transfers, always verify accuracy. Even minor typos could cause expensive delays by sending payments into oblivion or the wrong accounts.

Luckily there are handy online IBAN calculators that can validate appropriate formatting. For SWIFT codes, you can cross-reference against published bank directories. Taking this extra step protects your hard-earned money.


Mastering usages around IBAN and SWIFT paves a smoother road for international money motions—whether you need to pay or collect funds beyond border lines. Remember that IBANs specify individual overseas bank accounts, while SWIFT codes identify the institutions housing those accounts. Usage differs too for funding senders versus receivers. However costs come with either option. Hope this guide empowers you to now transfer money worldwide with confidence!

Meow Technologies is a financial technology company, not a bank or FDIC-insured depository institution. Likewise, Meow Technologies is not an investment adviser and none of the information presented herein should be relied upon as financial advice or a recommendation to make any financial decision nor should it be considered to be tax or legal advice. The information is the opinion of Meow Technologies for educational purposes and may not be suitable for all companies. Products, like the one described herein, are offered through Meow Technologies and are not advisory services which are only offered through Meow Advisory, LLC.** The FDICs deposit insurance coverage only protects against the failure of an FDIC-insured bank.**

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