What’s the difference between IBAN, SWIFT, BIC and routing numbers?

2 min read

There are a lot of acronyms, unfamiliar terms and strange names for different things in banking that seemingly do much the same thing. Four of the more common ones you’ll see – IBAN, SWIFT, BIC and routing number – all help banks identify where your currency needs to go when being transferred, but each is necessary because different countries and banks have different processes and requirements.

Before we get into the differences between them, you may want to find out more about each of these in our dedicated explainers:

In summary though, financial institutions use SWIFT codes (also known as a SWIFT BICs) to identify the specific bank and country they should send the funds to when making an international money transfer. An IBAN on the other hand lets them identify the specific bank account the transfer should be made to.

While SWIFT codes are used for international transfers around the world, the IBAN is mostly used across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean. It isn’t used in the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, as they have their own versions.

One of these is the routing number, which banks use for domestic and international transfers in the United States. If you have a US bank account, you’ll need your routing number for every transfer and if it’s international, you’ll also need your SWIFT code.

The Clear Currency effect:

Keep it simple


SWIFT codes are also known as SWIFT BICs – you’ll need one if you’re sending or receiving money internationally.


If you’re sending or receiving money from Europe and a few other territories, you’ll also need an IBAN.

Routing Number

If you’re sending or receiving money from the US you’ll need a routing number rather than an IBAN, but will still need a SWIFT code.

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