How SORT codes work
At first, clearing banks were given a single number to identify them but then banks added a code for each of their branches to make money transfers more efficient and reduce errors. The 6-digit SORT code we use today was introduced in 1957 when the number of bank transaction increased, especially as cheques became more commonly used to send money.
In most countries, SORT codes have been replaced by the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) but in the UK and Ireland they are still used in daily money transfers.
Breaking down the SORT code
SORT codes consist of 6 digits, divided into three different pairs such as 08-24-55. It helps identify both the bank (usually the first two pairs) and the branch location where the account you are sending money to is held.
When making a bank transfer, the SORT code is arguably more important than the account number. If you get the SORT code wrong, the money may end up at the wrong bank or branch location. Correcting that transfer may take up a lot of time.
On the other hand, if you send money using the right SORT code but you get the account number wrong, it is usually a lot easier to communicate with the bank and get the money to the right account – provided you did specify the correct account holder’s name .
You can check if the SORT code you have is correct here.
There are many different acronyms used in the money transfer space, and it can get a bit confusing. SORT Codes are integrated into the IBAN number of the account, but not in the BIC codes. SWIFT codes are a different system used for making international money transfers.