Sort Code Vs Swift Code: What Is The Difference

When it comes to sending money from one country to another, it’s important to have the correct codes to ensure that the transaction goes smoothly. In the UK, two important codes to know are the sort code and the swift code. But what’s the difference between the two, and why does it matter? In this blog post, we’ll explore the nuances of sort codes and swift codes and why it’s important to use the right one for your international money transfers. Whether you’re sending money for personal or business reasons, understanding these codes is essential to making sure your funds arrive at their intended destination.

Sort Code Vs Swift Code

Sort Code vs Swift Code

Definition and Characteristics of Sort Code

A code is a set of six digits that identify a specific bank and its branch location in the United Kingdom and Ireland. These numeric codes are used to ensure that the money transfers within the country are directed to the correct location. Sort codes are generated based on the bank and branch and used primarily for domestic transfers. These simple numeric codes are integrated into the bank’s system, and it aids in verifying transactions efficiently and securely.

Definition and Characteristics of Swift Code

SWIFT code is a unique identification code for financial and non-financial institutions used for executing international wire transfers and for the exchange of messages between banks. According to, “A SWIFT code is an alphanumeric international code that you use in order for you to send money to another country. It identifies the country and bank of your recipient’s account.” SWIFT codes are typically 8 or 11 characters long and are alphanumeric, meaning that they can contain both numbers and letters. They are used around the globe and are the primary means of international money transfers.

Key Differences between Sort Code and Swift Code

One key difference between Sort Code and Swift Code is global usage. While Sort Code is only used in England and Ireland to identify banks within the country and their respective branches, Swift Code is used around the world as the primary means for international money transfers. Another difference is the length and composition of the codes. Swift Code is typically 8 or 11 characters long and is alphanumeric, while Sort Code only contains 6 numeric characters. As stated by Difference Between, “Swift codes are used globally while Sort codes are only used in England and Ireland,” and “Swift codes are alphanumeric while Sort codes are purely numeric.”

1. Global Use

The difference between sort code and swift code is their global use. While sort codes are only used in England and Ireland to identify banks and their branches, swift codes are used around the globe as the primary means for international money transfers. According to, “Over 11,000 financial institutions use this network; banks, foreign exchange brokers, clearing houses, depositories, brokering institutes, trading houses, and asset management companies.” Therefore, when sending money internationally, it is recommended to use swift codes for a more efficient and reliable transfer.

2. Length and Composition

Swift codes are typically longer and more complex than sort codes. They are usually 8 or 11 characters long and contain a mix of letters and numbers, while sort codes are strictly numeric and only six digits long. According to Difference Between, “Swift codes are 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 identify the branch.” In contrast, the six digits in a sort code are divided evenly into three pairs of two.

3. Purpose of Usage

The of usage differs greatly between sort codes and swift codes. Sort codes are used for domestic transactions within the United Kingdom and Ireland to identify the location of a domestic bank. On the other hand, swift codes are primarily used for international money transfers, with over 11,000 financial institutions utilizing the global network. Using the correct code when making transfers is essential to avoid any potential risks or complications. As stated by, “sort codes will only be required for domestic bank transfers sent between British and Irish account holders or when from abroad; SWIFT codes, however, are used to identify a bank account when verifying an international money transfer.

Risks of Using Incorrect Codes

Using incorrect sort codes or SWIFT codes can result in delayed or failed transactions and in some cases, loss of funds. “Codes should always be checked before being used or submitted” warns Failure to validate codes is more likely to occur in electronic transfers, where users rely on auto-populated data. Even a single-digit error could cause a payment to be sent to the wrong account, and retrieving the funds can be difficult and time-consuming, if not impossible. Users should always double-check their codes to avoid such scenarios.

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