Difference Wiki

Sort Code vs. Swift Code: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 11, 2023
Sort code is a bank code used in the UK and Ireland for identifying bank branches, while SWIFT code is a global bank identifier for international transactions.

Key Differences

A sort code is a unique identification number assigned to bank branches in the United Kingdom and Ireland, used primarily for domestic transactions. In contrast, a SWIFT code, also known as BIC (Bank Identifier Code), is an international standard for identifying banks worldwide, facilitating international wire transfers and messages.
Sort codes are typically formatted as three pairs of numbers, e.g., 12-34-56, and are crucial for transactions within the UK banking system, like setting up direct debits or making transfers. Conversely, SWIFT codes are alphanumeric, containing both letters and numbers, generally 8 or 11 characters long, and are used to ensure that international transactions reach the correct bank.
The sort code system is managed by the British and Irish banking industries. Each sort code uniquely identifies the bank and the branch where an account is held. In contrast, the SWIFT code system is overseen by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which provides a network for financial institutions globally to send and receive information about financial transactions.
Sort codes are essential for the accuracy of domestic banking processes in the UK and Ireland, while SWIFT codes play a critical role in global finance, helping to reduce the risk of errors in international money transfers. SWIFT codes are used by banks in over 200 countries to securely and efficiently communicate.
Sort codes are specific to the UK and Ireland's banking systems, aiding in the identification of bank branches for local transactions. SWIFT codes, however, are used globally, providing a standardized approach to identifying financial institutions for international financial communications and transactions.

Comparison Chart

Geographical Use

Used in the UK and Ireland
Used worldwide


Identifies bank branches domestically
Identifies banks globally for international transactions


Numeric, formatted as XX-XX-XX
Alphanumeric, 8 or 11 characters long


Managed by the British and Irish banking industries
Managed by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)

Role in Transactions

Essential for domestic banking processes like direct debits
Critical for global financial communications and international money transfers

Sort Code and Swift Code Definitions

Sort Code

Sort codes facilitate the routing of money transfers between banks domestically.
Please ensure you input the correct sort code to avoid transfer delays.

Swift Code

SWIFT codes consist of 8 or 11 alphanumeric characters, representing the bank and its branch.
The SWIFT code BARCGB22 identifies Barclays Bank in the UK.

Sort Code

Sort codes are used exclusively within the British and Irish banking networks.
For international transfers, you'll need a SWIFT code instead of a sort code.

Swift Code

SWIFT codes are used for various international transactions, including wire transfers and foreign exchange.
When sending money to Europe, I used the recipient bank's SWIFT code.

Sort Code

A sort code is a six-digit number used in the UK and Ireland to identify bank branches.
My bank's sort code 20-20-20 represents its specific location in London.

Swift Code

The SWIFT network provides the infrastructure for international bank communications.
Our bank uses the SWIFT network to send transaction instructions abroad.

Sort Code

Sort codes are integral to the UK's banking system, appearing in bank accounts and transaction details.
You can find your bank's sort code on the front page of your chequebook.

Swift Code

A SWIFT code is a unique identifier for banks worldwide, used in international financial transactions.
You'll need the bank's SWIFT code for an overseas wire transfer.

Sort Code

Each set of sort code digits typically represents a specific aspect of the bank branch.
The first two digits in the sort code indicate the bank's main office.

Swift Code

The code is integral to the global financial system, facilitating secure communication between banks.
The SWIFT code ensures that your payment reaches the right bank internationally.


Is SWIFT code used globally?

Yes, it's used for international bank identification.

What is a sort code?

It's a six-digit number identifying bank branches in the UK and Ireland.

Where is a sort code used?

In the UK and Ireland for domestic banking.

What does a SWIFT code look like?

An 8 or 11-character alphanumeric code, e.g., CIBCCATT.

What is a SWIFT code?

A global bank identifier used for international transactions.

How is a sort code formatted?

As three pairs of numbers, like 23-45-67.

Can sort codes be used for international transactions?

No, they're for domestic use in the UK and Ireland.

Who manages sort codes?

The British and Irish banking industries.

Do all bank accounts have a sort code?

In the UK and Ireland, yes.

How often do sort codes change?

Rarely, usually due to bank mergers or reorganizations.

Can SWIFT codes change?

Occasionally, due to bank mergers or branch changes.

Are SWIFT codes necessary for all international transfers?

Yes, they're essential for routing international payments.

Who oversees the SWIFT system?

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

What's the primary use of sort codes?

For identifying bank branches domestically.

Can I find a sort code on a cheque?

Yes, it's usually printed on chequebooks.

Is a SWIFT code the same as a BIC?

Yes, BIC (Bank Identifier Code) is another name for SWIFT code.

Do all banks have a SWIFT code?

Most banks involved in international transactions do.

Why are SWIFT codes important?

They ensure accurate international financial communications.

Is a sort code needed for online banking?

Yes, for setting up payments and transfers.

Are SWIFT codes required for receiving international money?

Yes, to ensure the money reaches the correct bank.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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