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What is a SWIFT or BIC number?

Published July 8, 2018

A SWIFT code is an international bank code that identifies specific banks across the world. SWIFT is an acronym for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

It's also called a BIC code, which stands for Bank Identifier Code. The terms SWIFT code and BIC code are interchangeable.

The code is defined in ISO 9362 and the code for any bank may consist of either eight or eleven characters:

  • Characters 1-4: The bank's code
  • Characters 5-6: The country code
  • Characters 7-8: The location code
  • Characters 9-11: Optional codes, often used for branches or to convey other information.

Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, California USA has the following SWIFT code:


The SWIFT system is a cooperative of more than 10,000 banks which was originally formed in 1974. The cooperative is organized under Belgian law and according to the organization’s website, SWIFT is a global, member-owned cooperative and the world's leading provider of secure financial messaging services.