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Banking Basics: get to know your bank account

Ever wondered what your account number and sort code actually do? Find out, right here.

4 min read

If you prefer to keep your money anywhere other than underneath the mattress, opening a bank account is good place to start. Any bank in UK, will give you a sort code and account number when you open an account – but if you’ve ever wondered what these are for – we’ve got you covered.

In our Banking Basics series, want to simplify the often neglected “how it works” questions around banking, to empower everyone to make the best choices for them when it comes to money. In this guide, we explore the unique bank details given to you when you open a UK current account.

What is a bank account number?

In the UK, an account number is the number that identifies your specific current account or savings account. Generally, it needs to be used together with the sort code, which is used to identify your bank, rather than you personally. How many digits does an account number contain? An account number in the UK contains 8 digits. Some banks in the UK offer shorter account numbers (i.e. 7 digits) and in this case, you can enter ‘0’ at the start of the number to make the length up to 8 (when filling out forms online and so on).

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Where can I find my account number?

If you need to find out your account number, most bank cards have this printed along the bottom of the card, along with the sort code. Keep in mind, this is different from the 16-digit long number across the middle of the card (known as the card number).

You can also find your account number on bank statements or through your online banking portal. N26 customers can also find their account number under the My Account section of the app.

What is a sort code?

A sort code (which you might also hear called a ‘branch sort code’) is the other key number you need. It’s a 6-digit number that identifies the branch of your bank where your account is held. The digits are typically grouped in pairs. For example, N26 accounts in the UK all share the same sort code: 04-00-26.

The first 2 digits will typically identify the bank itself (for instance, Barclays or Lloyds), and the remaining 4 identify the specific branch. Sort codes are only used in the UK and Ireland. Other countries have different systems, such as BIC.

Where can I find my sort code?

Just like your account number, your 6-digit sort code should be printed on your bank card and on your bank statements and communications, or featured on the account overview page of your online banking or app.

Can I find out my bank’s address from my sort code?

It is possible to find out which address corresponds to your bank sort code, using online sort code checkers. Bear in mind, however, that most banks have multiple branch locations, so if you’re ever asked for your bank’s address – when filling out a form for example – it’s best to put the address of the bank branch you opened your account at, since the sort code will not refer to one specific location.

What is a bank SWIFT code?

For international transactions, you might be asked for a SWIFT code. SWIFT is the name of an international finance organisation (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). A SWIFT code is also known as a BIC: a Bank (or Business) Identifier Code. Like a sort code, a SWIFT code/BIC identifies your bank – but unlike a sort code, it’s recognised internationally.

SWIFT codes and BICs are either 8 or 11 digits long. As well as identifying the bank, they identify the country. The extra 3 digits in an 11-digit BIC identify the bank’s branch.

If you want to know more about IBANs and BIC codes– read more about EU banking acronyms here.

Tips when giving out your bank details

If someone wants to send you money, you will need to provide them your sort code and account number. But you should always be careful when giving out bank details.

In order to remove money from your account, fraudsters would usually need more personal details, like your address, date of birth and passwords. However, if you think your personal information has fallen into the wrong hands, get in touch with your bank as soon as possible.

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