A SWIFT code, also commonly known as a BIC Code, is a standard format to uniquely identify all banks and financial institutions globally. SWIFT codes are a standard format for Business Identifier Codes (BIC).
If you send money internationally you almost always need to use a SWIFT code, as it’s the way banks, financial institutions and money transfer services identify where to send money on a global scale. You can think of a BIC code a bit like a ZIP/postal code. Your bank can use the SWIFT/BIC code to find another bank on the other side of the world. Just like sending mail to an incorrect ZIP/postal code means it may get returned, the same goes for your money and an incorrect SWIFT code.
A SWIFT/BIC code can be either 8 or 11 characters long:
AAAA BB CC DDD
There are 2 types of SWIFT code: live and passive. Live codes are for banks who are connected to the SWIFT network while passive Codes are used for manual transactions. Passive SWIFT codes will have a 1 as the second digit of the 2 character location code.
SWIFT code registrations and management are the responsibility of "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication" (“SWIFT”) which is located in La Hulpe, Belgium.
SWIFT is the registered trademark of S.W.I.F.T. SCRL with a registered address at Avenue Adèle 1, B-1310 La Hulpe, Belgium.