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Swift Code vs. Routing Numbers: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 6, 2023
SWIFT codes are international bank codes for identifying financial institutions globally, while routing numbers are used in the U.S. to identify banks in domestic transactions.

Key Differences

SWIFT Codes are international bank identification codes, each unique to a financial institution, facilitating global transactions and communications. Routing Numbers, specific to the United States, are used to identify banks and financial institutions for domestic financial transactions.
In the context of international banking, SWIFT Codes are essential for transferring funds across borders, ensuring that the money reaches the correct bank internationally. Routing Numbers, however, are used within the U.S. banking system, primarily for direct deposits, bill payments, and check processing.
SWIFT Codes, also known as BIC (Bank Identifier Codes), are alphanumeric and contain 8 or 11 characters, which include bank, country, location, and branch information. Routing Numbers are numeric, consisting of 9 digits, representing the bank's location and specific identity in the U.S. financial network.
The use of SWIFT Codes is crucial in international trade and finance, as they provide a standardized method for identifying banks globally. Routing Numbers are important in managing the internal financial transactions within the U.S., such as clearing checks and electronic transfers.
SWIFT Codes are used by financial institutions worldwide, while routing numbers are exclusive to the U.S. This difference underscores the global reach of SWIFT Codes in comparison to the domestic focus of Routing Numbers in American banking.

Comparison Chart


Domestic (U.S. only)


Identifying banks globally
Identifying banks in U.S. transactions

Length and Format

8 or 11 alphanumeric characters
9 numeric digits

Used In

International wire transfers, global communication
Domestic wire transfers, check processing, direct deposits


Bank, country, location, branch
U.S. bank's location and identity

Swift Code and Routing Numbers Definitions

Swift Code

It's used for international wire transfers and messages.
Send the payment to our SWIFT code: DEUTDEFF.

Routing Numbers

A routing number is a 9-digit code identifying U.S. financial institutions.
Our bank's routing number is 021000021.

Swift Code

SWIFT codes facilitate global banking communication.
Use the SWIFT code NEDSZAJJ for transactions in South Africa.

Routing Numbers

Routing numbers indicate the bank's location and identity in the U.S.
The routing number 026009593 is for Bank of America in New York.

Swift Code

It includes bank, country, and sometimes branch information.
HSBC's SWIFT code HSBCHKHHHKH indicates its Hong Kong branch.

Routing Numbers

Routing numbers are crucial for the U.S. banking system.
Use routing number 031202084 for domestic wire transfers.

Swift Code

SWIFT codes consist of 8 or 11 alphanumeric characters.
Our bank's SWIFT code, CHASUS33, identifies our U.S. branch.

Routing Numbers

It's used for domestic transfers, checks, and electronic transactions.
For direct deposit, use the routing number 123000848.

Swift Code

A SWIFT code is a unique identification code for a specific bank worldwide.
The SWIFT code for Barclays UK is BARCGB22.

Routing Numbers

It's necessary for processing checks and online payments within the U.S.
Write the routing number on the check for proper processing.


What does a routing number do?

Identifies U.S. banks in domestic transactions.

What is a SWIFT code?

A unique code for identifying banks globally.

How many digits are in a SWIFT code?

Either 8 or 11 alphanumeric characters.

What is the length of a routing number?

Exactly 9 digits.

Is a routing number required for check processing?

Yes, it's essential for processing checks in the U.S.

Can a bank have multiple SWIFT codes?

Yes, especially large international banks.

Can routing numbers be used internationally?

No, they are specific to the U.S.

Do all banks have a SWIFT code?

Only those involved in international banking.

Are SWIFT codes used for domestic transfers?

No, they are for international transactions.

Can routing numbers change?

Yes, especially after bank mergers or reorganizations.

Why are SWIFT codes important for international trade?

They ensure accurate and secure cross-border transactions.

Do all U.S. banks have a unique routing number?

Yes, each bank has a unique routing number.

Are SWIFT codes confidential?

No, they are publicly available for transaction purposes.

How to find a bank's SWIFT code?

Check the bank's website or contact them directly.

Can I use any SWIFT code of my bank for international transfers?

Use the specific code assigned for international transactions.

Where is a routing number located on a check?

At the bottom left corner.

Is it safe to share my routing number?

Generally yes, but only for legitimate banking purposes.

Are SWIFT codes the same as IBANs?

No, IBANs are used for individual accounts, SWIFT for banks.

What happens if I use the wrong routing number?

Transactions may be delayed or fail.

Do routing numbers apply to credit unions?

Yes, credit unions also have routing numbers.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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