What are SWIFT and BIC codes?

In an increasingly global economy, you might find that you’re making more and more international transactions. If so, you may have heard of SWIFT and BIC codes. Wondering what they are and how they work? Read on!
Persona usando un teléfono celular.

SWIFT codes (also known as BIC codes) ensure safe and speedy international payments through the SWIFT system. When making an overseas transaction, a SWIFT code is used to verify the identity of the banks or financial institutions. This safety measure helps ensure that funds are sent to the correct account. Between 8 and 11 characters long, each character of a SWIFT or BIC code provides specific details that can be validated, such as the bank, the country of origin, or the branch location. Once the bank is authenticated, a quick and secure overseas payment can be made.

Why was the SWIFT/BIC code system created?

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (or SWIFT) system was created to provide a standardized and secure way of sending international payments. SWIFT is essentially a messaging network that allows different banks to send and receive information electronically. Thanks to its standardized format, SWIFT helps to avoid confusion between banks in different countries, making payments simpler and faster with less room for error.

Who uses the SWIFT and BIC code system?

Over 200 countries and 11,000 institutions use the SWIFT / BIC system—in fact, it’s the biggest international payment network in the world. By processing the codes, the system can detect where the transfer should be sent to by checking the characters in the transfer against the global database. If you’re planning to send or receive money internationally via your bank, you’ll probably be asked for a SWIFT or BIC code.
Open online bank account
map of the world made with local coins.

SWIFT and BIC codes—defined

When it comes to SWIFT and BIC codes, things can get a little confusing—so let’s lay out a simple definition. In short, SWIFT is the name of the overall messaging system, and BIC is the code used for the system—or the ‘Bank Identifier Code’. Both terms are used interchangeably to describe the code, or even the system. This means that if you request your SWIFT or BIC code, you’ll receive the exact same 8-11 digit number.

Do I need a SWIFT or BIC code to make an international payment?

Wherever you are in the world, if you need to send or receive funds overseas through your bank, the SWIFT code of the recipient is usually required. Without this code, the transaction will likely not go through. You’ll also typically need to provide an IBAN, or International Bank Account Number, when making an international transfer. Need some insight on IBANs and how they work? Learn more about what an IBAN number is here, and how to use one here!

Understanding BIC code formats

Consisting of both numbers and letters, your BIC code has 8 characters—or possibly 11 if the branch location is included. The first 4 letters of the code indicate the financial institution unique to your banking service provider—to make it simple, this may be the initials of the bank’s name! Next is a 2-letter country code, such as ‘FR’ for France or ‘DE’ for Germany, and a 2 character location code that indicates the bank’s head office. The last 3 digits, if they’re provided, refer to the specific branch that your bank account is associated with.

How do you find your SWIFT/BIC code?

To locate your SWIFT/BIC code, check any paper or digital banking statements, or look at your account details on your online banking profile. You can also search for your BIC code using a digital SWIFT/BIC search tool by providing your country and bank location data.

SWIFT/BIC coded security

Because SWIFT/BIC codes only communicate the sender and receiver’s bank identity rather than facilitating the transaction itself, they’re a very secure way to manage international payments. By sending and receiving secure, standardized instructions between financial institutions, SWIFT helps reduce any errors that might occur between international banks.

Other international money transfers

While SWIFT provides the messaging network to send international payments, your bank may charge fees to process them. This can be a long and expensive process, and there may be hidden service fees that you haven’t accounted for. However, there are lots of affordable ways you can send funds abroad—like with N26! To learn more, discover our tips on the best ways to send money online internationally.
Un hombre hablando con una mujer al lado de una piscina.

N26 BIC code access

At N26, we like to keep things simple. That’s why your BIC code can be easily found on your bank card, or at the top of your digital bank statements. To get access to your statements, or download a PDF for your records, go to the ‘My Account’ tab in your N26 app. Easily access your BIC code, as well as a host of other features—including Statistics, which offers a categorized breakdown of your spending, and 24/7 chatbot support to answer any questions you might have.

Your money at N26 with Wise

At N26, we’ve partnered with the currency exchange service Wise to offer our customers straightforward international payments with no hidden fees. Whether you’re paying friends and family overseas or moving money between global accounts, Wise is secure and trusted by over 9 million consumers worldwide. Open an N26 account today in minutes, and you’ll have access to Wise for making quick, affordable international transfers—all right in your N26 app.
N26 x Wise.

With the N26 app, making international transfers using Wise couldn’t be simpler. Just open your N26 app, tap ‘Send Money’ on your home screen, and select ‘Foreign Currency Transfer’. Next, enter the amount you want to send to the recipient's account and select the receiving currency to get an instant quote. Finally, add the receiver account details, and confirm the transaction. Send money abroad and make international payments that you can trust, wherever you are in the world. Learn more about Wise banking features here.

Find a plan for you

N26 Standard

The free* online bank account

The N26 virtual card.
Virtual Card


  • A virtual debit card

  • Free payments worldwide

  • Up to 3 free withdraws

  • Deposit protection

N26 Smart

The bank account that gives you more control

N26 You card, Teal.
N26 You card, Ash.
N26 You card, Wheat.
N26 You card, Petrol.
N26 You card, Rhubarb.


  • Free Virtual Card

  • Up to 10 Spaces sub-accounts

  • Support Center phone number

  • Round-ups


N26 You

The debit card for everyday and travel

N26 You card, Rhubarb.
N26 You card, Petrol.
N26 You card, Wheat.
N26 You card, Ash.
N26 You card, Teal.


  • Up to 5 free withdrawals in the Eurozone

  • Flight and luggage delay cover

  • Medical emergency cover

  • Winter activities insurance

  • Pandemic coverage

N26 Metal

The premium account with a metal card

N26 Metal - Slate Grey.
N26 Metal - Charcoal Black.
Quartz Rose - N26 Metal Card.


  • An 18-gram metal card

  • Up to 8 free withdrawals in the Eurozone

  • Purchase protection

  • Phone insurance

  • Dedicated N26 Metal line

  • What is a SWIFT or BIC code?
  • Is a SWIFT code the same as a BIC code?
  • Are a SWIFT code and an IBAN number the same thing?
  • What’s the format of a SWIFT or BIC code?
  • Where can I find my SWIFT/BIC code with N26?