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A SWIFT code - or SWIFT number is a standard format to uniquely identify all banks and financial institutions globally. SWIFT codes are a standard format for BIC - Business Identifier Codes.
If you transmit money internationally you nearly always need to use a BIC code, as it’s the way banks and money transfer services identify where to send money on a global scale. You can think of a SWIFT/BIC code a bit like a ZIP/postal code. Your bank can use the SWIFT code to find another bank on the other side of the world. Like sending post to the wrong ZIP code means it could get lost, the same goes for your money and an incorrect SWIFT code.
A SWIFT 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 institutions 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.