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What Is SWIFT Banking System & How Does It Work?

Key Highlights

  • SWIFT banking system is a global messaging system that provides a standardized and secure platform for banks to communicate and facilitate swift and reliable cross-border money transfers.
  • SWIFT does not hold money or settle transactions but acts as a network that connects banks and other financial institutions worldwide.

The global economy majorly relies on seamless and secure financial transactions in today’s digital world. One of the vital players is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, commonly known as SWIFT banking system. This global messaging system gives a robust and standardized banking system that facilitates swift and reliable money transfers across borders.

What is SWIFT Banking System?

SWIFT Banking System is a messaging network that allows banks to communicate with each other about financial transactions.

How Does SWIFT Banking System Work?

When a bank wants to send money to another bank, it sends a SWIFT message to the other bank’s SWIFT code. The receiving bank then processes the transaction and credits the recipient’s account. SWIFT is not a payment system. It does not hold money or settle transactions.

In a nutshell, the SWIFT Banking system connects banks and other financial institutions around the world and is used to send and receive messages about financial transactions like:

  1. Money transfers
  2. Securities trades
  3. Foreign exchange deals

Steps To Send Money Using The SWIFT System

To send money using SWIFT, the following steps can be followed:

Step 1: Gather the recipient’s bank details: bank name, address, country, routing code, and recipient’s full legal name, current address, and account number.

Step 2: Obtain the SWIFT Code of the recipient’s bank account.

Step 3: Have your government-issued ID and any other required documentation or information ready.

Step 4: Visit your bank or access your bank’s online system to initiate an international wire transfer.

Step 5: Understand the fees and limits associated with sending money abroad.

Step 6: Provide the necessary information, including the recipient’s bank details, the purpose of sending funds, and any other requested details.

Step 7: Send the money from your bank using SWIFT and keep a record of the transaction.

If you’re receiving money, ensure you have your bank’s SWIFT number ready, which may vary depending on whether you’re receiving funds in U.S. dollars or foreign currency.

Who Uses SWIFT?

SWIFT is used by:

  1. Banks
  2. Brokerage institutes
  3. Securities dealers
  4. Asset management companies
  5. Clearinghouses
  6. Depositories
  7. Exchanges
  8. Corporate businesses
  9. Treasury market participants and service providers
  10. Foreign exchange and money brokers

It facilitates secure communication, settlement of transactions, and information exchange for various financial activities such as payments, trade confirmation, securities transfers, and treasury operations.


  1. What is a SWIFT code?

A SWIFT code is a unique identifier for a bank or financial institution. It is used to facilitate international payments. SWIFT codes are made up of 8 or 11 characters, and they always start with four letters. The first four letters identify the bank, and the remaining characters identify the specific branch or location.

  1. How long does it take for a SWIFT payment to clear?

The time it takes for a SWIFT payment to clear can vary depending on a number of factors, including the banks involved, the amount of the payment, and the time of day the payment is made. Generally, SWIFT payments can take anywhere from 1 to 3 business days to clear.

  1. Is it safe to use SWIFT for international payments?

SWIFT is a secure messaging system, and it is considered to be one of the safest ways to send money internationally. However, it is important to note that there is always some risk involved in sending money internationally, regardless of the method used.

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