SWIFT Code vs. Sort Code

The difference between SWIFT and Sort Code

Related to banking and transferring of the money, SWIFT code and sort code are terms that help us to transfer money conveniently and securely. SWIFT stands for Society code for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, and is an identification code for banks and non-financial institution to perform an international wire transfers.  So, if you have to send money to your friend residing abroad or in a country other than yours, you will need the SWIFT code of his bank and other details. For instance, if you are living in Ireland and sending amount to a British friend, you would need SWIFT code of Britain. Or if you are living in Britain and sending money via wire transfer to a friend who is living in some other city of Britain, you would need sort code.

Sort cod is the routing number of banks.  Sort code is the Irish and UK version of 9 digit routing number. Instead of 9, in the UK and Ireland, it is of six digits. Used only for domestic transactions, it indicates the bank and branch from which the check has been drawn from.

Sort code is basically used in the UK and Ireland whereas SWIFT is used for financial transactions. To send some money abroad or internationally, you would need the SWIFT code and account details of the person and his country. SWIFT is an alphanumeric code whereas sort code is purely numerical. Unlike other countries such as US, the router code printed on the checks is of 6 digits in comparison to the 9 digit number. If a sort code corresponds 12-34-56, the first two digits would help other bank or financial institution to track bank, the latter two would help identifying country and the last two would be the code for branch.


  • Good informative post. I think it is worth adding that when transfering money, the sort code (UK and Ireland) must be accompanied by a valid account number.
    Similarly, for international payments, a SWIFT BIC (bank identifier code) is usually accompanied by a valid IBAN (International Bank Account Number) to ensure that the payment is routed correctly.