Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Swift Code and Sort Code

Swift Code vs Sort Code

Swift and Sort codes are two ways to identify a certain bank. These are used primarily in wired money transfers to identify the source and the destination. The main difference between swift and sort codes is where they are used. Sort code is only used by England and Ireland to identify banks located within the country and their respective branches. On the other hand, swift code is used around the globe and is the primary means for international money transfers. You cannot therefore use sort codes to transfer funds even to England or Ireland if you are in another country as it would lack the proper code to identify the country.

It is rather easy to identify if the code you have is a swift code or a sort code because there are major differences between them in terms of length and composition. Swift codes are typically 8 or 11 characters long and are alphanumeric; meaning that it can contain both numbers and letters. In contrast, sort codes are 6 characters long and strictly contain numbers only.

A swift code is divided into four parts, starting with four letters to identify the bank or institution. It is then followed by two letters to identify the country. The third set, which is the location code, contains two characters and can be letters and/or numbers. Finally, three characters of either letters and/or numbers to identify the branch. If the transfer is meant for the primary office, the last three characters can be omitted, resulting in only 8 characters. The 6 digits in a sort code are divided evenly into three pairs of two. The first pair identifies the bank while the last two pairs are used internally within the bank to identify different branches.

Although the British and Irish use sort codes, they are not unified so should not be used to transfer funds across the two. To be totally safe, it is better to use swift codes whenever attempting to transfer money internationally. For domestic transactions, sort codes would probably do the job satisfactorily.


1.Swift codes are used globally while Sort codes are only used in England and Ireland
2.Swift codes are typically 8 or 11 characters long while sort codes only contain 6 characters
3.Swift codes are alphanumeric while sort codes are purely numeric

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  1. I’ve recently had funds I was transferring from New Zealand to Barclays in London returned (at considerable expense to me through fees & loss of exchange rate – a total of $NZ 56!) because the details given to the UK recipient by her local branch were incorrect. She was given the Sort code, not the Swift code.
    I will resend the transfer again, after having read this very good explanation of why a swift code should be used for international transfers. Hopefully this time it will work successfully. Thankyou.

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