What is the Difference Between a SWIFT Code and an ABA Routing Number?

What is the difference between a SWIFT code and an ABA routing number?

What is the Difference Between a SWIFT Code and an ABA Routing Number?


In the world of banking and financial transactions, various codes and numbers are used to ensure that money moves accurately from one account to another. Two such codes are the SWIFT code and the ABA routing number. While they serve similar purposes, they are distinct identifiers used in different contexts. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between a SWIFT code and an ABA routing number, shedding light on their functions and when they are used.

Understanding the SWIFT Code

What is a SWIFT Code?

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. A SWIFT code, also known as a Bank Identifier Code (BIC), is a globally recognized alphanumeric code used to identify a specific bank or financial institution worldwide. These codes consist of 8 to 11 characters and are structured as follows:
AAAA: Bank code (4 characters) - identifies the specific bank.
BB: Country code (2 characters) - indicates the bank's home country.
CC: Location code (2 characters) - specifies the branch or office.
DDD (optional): Branch code (3 characters) - offers additional identification if needed.

SWIFT Code's Purpose:

The primary purpose of a SWIFT code is to facilitate international money transfers by ensuring that funds are routed accurately to the recipient's bank and branch. SWIFT codes help banks communicate with one another during cross-border transactions.

Understanding the ABA Routing Number

What is an ABA Routing Number?

An ABA routing number, also known as a Routing Transit Number (RTN) or simply a routing number, is a nine-digit numerical code used exclusively in the United States. Each bank or financial institution in the U.S. is assigned a unique routing number by the American Bankers Association (ABA).

ABA Routing Number's Purpose:

ABA routing numbers play a vital role in domestic financial transactions within the United States. They help identify the specific financial institution and the location where an account is held. ABA routing numbers are commonly used for tasks such as direct deposits, electronic funds transfers (EFT), wire transfers, and check processing.

Key Differences Between SWIFT Codes and ABA Routing Numbers

Global vs. Domestic:
SWIFT codes are used globally to identify banks and financial institutions involved in international transactions.
ABA routing numbers are specific to the United States and are used exclusively for domestic transactions within the country.

SWIFT codes are alphanumeric and typically consist of 8 to 11 characters, with a combination of letters and numbers.
ABA routing numbers are nine-digit numerical codes.

Scope of Use:
SWIFT codes are used for international wire transfers, ensuring that funds reach the correct recipient's bank and branch across borders.
ABA routing numbers are used for various domestic financial transactions, including direct deposits, electronic transfers, bill payments, and check processing within the U.S.


In summary, SWIFT codes and ABA routing numbers serve distinct purposes in the world of banking. SWIFT codes are global identifiers used for international money transfers, while ABA routing numbers are specific to the United States and are employed for domestic financial transactions. Understanding these differences is essential when conducting financial transactions, ensuring that funds are routed accurately, whether they are moving across borders or staying within the U.S.

Do credit unions have SWIFT codes?

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about international bank routing codes

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