What is a BIC code

The BIC Code (Bank Identifier Code) is the unique international codification for financial institutions.

SWIFT handles the registration of the BIC codes under the standard ISO 9362.

These codes are used when transferring money between banks, particularly for international wire transfers, in and out of the SEPA area.

The BIC code can be found on the bank account statements.

The BIC code is 8 or 11 characters:

BIC format

Bank codeCountry codeLocation codeBranch code
AAAA AA XXXXX

A: Letter - X: Letter or digit

  • Bank code: 4 letters identifying the Bank,
  • Country code : 2 letters of the country of the Bank, under ISO 3166 alpha-2 standard,
  • Location code: 2 letters or digits for the location of the bank in the country,
  • Branch code: 3 letters or digits, optional  ('XXX' for primary office).

Where an 8-digit code is given, it may be assumed that it refers to the primary office.

Example:

Bank codeCountry codeLocation codeBranch code
BDFEFRPPTIT
Banque de FranceFranceParisSecurities Dept

The EU regulation 260/2012 requires the input of the BIC is no longer mandatory and must be added to any IBAN by the financial institutions:

  • From 1st February 2014, on all SEPA domestic orders,
  • As of 1st February 2016, on all SEPA cross-border orders.

BIC remains mandatory for financial transactions outside the SEPA area (SWIFT transfers).

SEPA PLUS DIRECTORY

SWIFT issues SEPA Plus which is a directory of all SEPA members. SEPA Plus is the solution for checking:

  • BIC code of all SEPA members,
  • available schemes in a bank (SCT, SDD Core or SDD B2B),
  • routing service by CSM and leading bank,
  • BIC deduction from IBAN (European Union regulation 260/2012)

SEPA Plus is the only international legal directory used for checking SEPA orders. It provides all the informations issued by the CSM.

Business Clients issuing SEPA files, and financial institutions, are required to check destination BIC before validating a SEPA transaction, otherwise it can be rejected.

CHECKING A BIC CODE

Banks apply a built-in checking for all BIC codes in customers web transactions.

If BIC code is rejected, this is mostly because the destination Bank is not a SEPA member.

Sometimes, BIC code is rejected, although it is a valid code:

  • SEPA directory is not up to date

The directory is updated every month by SWIFT. Some banks do not apply updates at the same frequency. Troubles may also occur with recent registrations in a CSM directory.

  • Bank use a wrong algorithm to control BIC and IBAN.

Some financial institutions conclued wrongly, that the country code in BIC should be the same than in IBAN, without checking in the SEPA Directory. For example, in french over-seas territories, a valid IBAN starts with "FR" as country code, and BIC country code can be different (GP, MQ, RE, PM,...).

Example:

BDPM PM PM XXX is a valid BIC code of the french territory of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (country code PM) , and

FR14 2001 0101 1505 0001 3M02 606 is a valid IBAN, because

FR code applies for IBAN in Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (see What is IBAN).

  • Bank does not issue SEPA orders

This is a rare case, but it may happen. Bank is not capable to send orders via SEPA, particularly cross-borders transactions. Bank will reject the BIC or will use SWIFT network, as for a non-SEPA international operation.