What is a Sort Code?

Revolut Contributor

 · March 10, 2020  · 03/10/2020

What is a sort code? Where do you find it? Why does it matter?

We’ve got the answers to all of those questions, and more, down there. 👇

The sort code, explained

Chances are you’ve been asked for your bank account number and sort code at one point or another in the past — either to have money paid into or out of your account. But have you ever considered what the numbers that make up your sort code actually represent?

Well, it might surprise you to learn that those six numbers aren’t random. They actually have a specific meaning and purpose.

You see, your sort code isn’t just one six-digit code, but also three pairs of numbers, written as 12-34-56. The first two numbers identify the bank, and the other four identify the branch and its location.

Mind = Blown?

It’s not a recent development, either. Sort codes have been around for a long while.

A (very) brief history of the sort code

UK banks first began using codes in the early 20th century to help with the manual processing of cheques. At the time, these were known as “national codes” and they had between three and five digits.

Fast-forward to 1957, and the six-digit “sorting codes” were introduced as the banking industry shifted gradually towards automation. The national codes were kept, but if a bank had a single-digit as its identifier, it was issued a two-digit range to bring it in line with the rest. For example, Lloyds’ codes changed from starting with a 3 to 30, Barclays’ from 2 to 20, and so on.

What is a bank sort code? Well, it’s what was originally called a sorting code.

So, why do you need a sort code?

In short, you need a sort code to make sure that any money paid to you ends up in your account, and not someone else’s.

Whenever someone pays you money — whether it’s via Direct Debit, bank transfer, or standing order — they need your account number and sort code. Your account number is unique to you as a customer of your bank, and the sort code helps to identify your bank and the branch where your account is held.

If you give out the wrong sort code, it‘s possible that the money someone tries to send to you could in fact end up in another person’s account in a different bank. Nightmare.

How do I find my sort code?

It’s actually very easy to find your sort code. It’s often printed on your bank-issued debit cards, bank statements, cheque books, and any official correspondence from your bank related to your account.

You can also view your sort code in the account overview section of your online or mobile banking apps.

If you have a UK account with Revolut, you can find your sort code by opening the app and going to More > Profile > Account Details > GBP, or by tapping on your GBP balance on the home screen.

Is the sort code the Same as the SWIFT Code?

No, they are not the same. The sort code and the SWIFT Code are two different things.

SWIFT, which stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is an international finance organisation. The SWIFT payment system allows banks in two different countries to securely send and receive information on financial transactions in a standardized way.

A SWIFT code is also known as a BIC (Bank or Business Identifier Code). It’s like a sort code in that it identifies your bank — but unlike a sort code, it’s recognised worldwide.

So, we’ve answered your question, “what is a sort code?” but if you want to learn more, check out some of our other articles: