What is a Wire Transfer Code?

D. Poupon

A wire transfer code is a string of numbers and letters that identify an account into which money should be transferred. Some common wire codes are IBAN, SWIFT or BIC. When performing a domestic wire transfer, the bank code, the routing number and the receiving account number is all that is needed. In order to complete a foreign wire transfer additional information such as the country code may be necessary as well.

Many banks and other financial institutions offer domestic wire transfer services to their customers.
Many banks and other financial institutions offer domestic wire transfer services to their customers.

In the European Economic Area and many other participating countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is the norm. It is composed of a two-letter country code. This is followed by a two-digit check code. The alphanumeric code that follows contains up to 30 characters and varies from country to country. It contains the bank code and the account number and may contain a wire transfer routing number and a supplementary check code. A fictional example of a German IBAN is DE99 2032 0500 4989 1234 56.

To make a wire transfer in other countries, such as Japan and the United States, typically the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communication (SWIFT) wire transfer code is needed. SWIFT registers the Bank Institution Codes (BIC), so sometimes the codes are referred to as SWIFT codes and sometimes BIC codes. The BIC code contains a four-letter bank identification code, a two-letter country identification code, a two-letter country code and a three-letter optional branch code. The BIC code for Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, for example, is DEUTDEFF.

The main difference between the IBAN wire transfer code and the SWIFT/BIC wire transfer code is that the IBAN contains all the information necessary to credit a particular account. The SWIFT/BIC code only contains the destination bank information. Complementary information such as the account and routing numbers need to be reported separately. Since each country has its own accounting syntax, errors can occur when transferring money internationally without the IBAN.

Many companies offer to make a direct wire transfer to an employee’s account, avoiding the expense of cutting and sending checks. In the United States, the American Banking Association (ABA) routing number and the account number are necessary. This information is located on the bottom of the check starting from the left. The first nine digits are the routing number. The next twelve digits are the account number.

Banks are now providing a free wire transfer service between checking accounts and utility companies and other banks in order to attract customers. Typically the bank has a business relationship with the receiver, and does not require their wire transfer code. An account number may be sufficient.

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