Business Identification Code (BIC) | B2B Finance Glossary

Oct 20, 2023 by Zazil Martinez

What Is a Business Identification Code (BIC)?

BIC stands for Business Identification Code, but it was previously known as a Bank Identification Code or Bank Identifier Code. A BIC is a unique code assigned to every bank and financial institution; it consists of 8 or 11 alphanumeric characters.

BIC is the International ISO standard ISO 9362. This standard specifies the elements and structure of a universal identifier code, the BIC, for financial and non-financial institutions for which such an international identifier is required to facilitate automated information processing.


What Are BICs Needed For?

BICs are needed to process international payments using the SWIFT system – an extensive messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to quickly and securely send and receive information, especially for money transfer instructions. It allows individuals and businesses to take electronic or card payments even if the sender of the payments uses a different bank than the receiver.

However, before senders can send payment over this network, they will need to provide their banks with their beneficiaries’ bank details – in other words, they will need to give them the proper SWIFT/BIC code. This will allow your bank to correctly identify the recipient bank for which the payment is intended and safely transfer the funds to that bank.

Additionally, if someone wants to receive a payment from an overseas payer, they must provide the SWIFT/BIC code to ensure they receive the funds in the correct account. However, it’s not required to give the beneficiary bank’s BIC for SEPA (single euro payments area) payments.


What Is the Difference Between a BIC and a SWIFT Code?

A BIC is the same thing as a SWIFT code. The only difference is that different banks and financial institutions will use the name BIC or SWIFT code even though they are referring to the same thing. It’s important to remember that the country where you are making your payment might refer to this code as a SWIFT code, while the bank receiving your payment in another country might refer to this code as a BIC. That’s why, while making an international transfer, you might come across the following terms: SWIFT code, SWIFT identifier, SWIFT/BIC code, and BIC/SWIFT code.


What do BIC codes look like?

Every BIC and SWIFT code has the same format: They will range from 8 to 11 characters in length and follow a sequence like this:


  • AAAA is the four-character bank code that looks like a shortened version of the bank’s name
  • BB is the two-character country code that tells you which country the bank is in
  • CC is the two-character location code that reveals where the bank’s head office is located
  • DDD is the three-digit branch code (which is optional) that shows you where the specified branch is located

The banks that don’t use the 3-character branch code have a shorter BIC code – an eight-character code. These banks might have a triple X where the branch code is supposed to be, or this area is left entirely blank.


Are There Fees Associated With Using BICs?

Most banks will require a fee to send international payments, and it can cost anywhere between $35 and $50 to send an international wire that uses a BIC. On top of this, when your transfer is being sent, you could also incur a handling fee from corresponding banks. Bank transfers that use SWIFT/BIC typically undergo one to three corresponding banks, which means these fees can pile up.

Plus, information on how much these handling fees cost is not usually shared upfront with the payer, so it’s unlikely that the payer will know how much it will cost to send their international wire transfer.


How Can Account Holders Find Their BICs?

Your BIC will usually be in your bank statements, whether on the checks mailed to you or your online statements.

If you want to send an international wire transfer, you’ll need to find the BIC code of the recipient you’re sending the payment. If you’re having difficulty locating the recipient’s code because they did not provide it, your bank can help you identify the SWIFT or BIC code of the international bank to which you need to send the payment.