What is a sort code and account number?

Tilly Michell
2-minutes
Finance
What is a sort code and account number?
In this article

Before someone transfers money into your UK bank account, you’ll have to send them your account number and sort code. You don’t need to worry about sharing these details. Your sort code and account number can be used to deposit money into your account and set up a direct debit, but they can't be used to fraudulently take money out of it.

People you might need to share your account number and sort code with include: your employer, your clients, organisations using the Direct Debit Scheme, friends and family who wish to transfer you money.  

Never give out your PIN, card number, card expiry date or CVV unless paying for something securely online. These details can be used by fraudsters to access the funds in your account.  

What is an account number?

An account number is specific to your particular account. If you have several accounts, for example a savings account and a current account, they will have different numbers, even if you hold them with the same bank.

UK account numbers are eight digits long. There are some that are seven digits, but a zero is added to the front of the number to standardise the length.

What is a sort code?

The sort code indicates the bank and the branch where you opened the account. It’s made up of six digits, grouped in pairs. You don’t need to worry about spacing the numbers out when entering them online.

The first digits describe the bank or provider you have the account with, and the later digits refer to the branch. Some banks are online-only and don’t have brick-and-mortar branches. For these banks, every customer is given the same sort code. 

Six-digit sort codes in the UK date back to 1957, and were a result of the industry becoming more automated. 

Are sort codes and account numbers the same in the Republic of Ireland?

Sort codes are no longer used in the Republic of Ireland. Instead, all information is held within the account number.

As a part of the Eurozone, transactions in Ireland are processed using an IBAN, or International Bank Account Number.

An IBAN has 34 characters: both numbers and letters. It identifies the bank, the specific account, and the geographical location of the branch, as well as potential routing information.

Where do I find my sort code and account number?

If you have a bank debit or credit card, you can typically find the sort code and account number printed on it, along with your name. 

Be careful not to confuse either your account number or sort code with the 16-digit number that’s also printed on the card. This number is used to authorise online payments, along with the card expiry date and CVV. You should never give this number out unless you are making a secure payment. 

Remember, the account number is eight digits long and the sort code is six digits, grouped into pairs.

Another place you can find your account number and sort code is on bank statements. If you have a banking app or online log-in, this information should also be displayed along with other details about your account. 

Can sort codes and account numbers be used for international transfers?

Sort codes and account numbers are used for domestic transfers within the UK. You may need to share your IBAN, or additional details, to receive money from abroad.

How are sort codes and account numbers used for direct debits?

Organisations using the Direct Debit Scheme can use your account number, sort code and address to set up a direct debit from your account. These organisations include charities, utilities providers, and other subscription-based businesses.

Organisations within the Direct Debit Scheme are carefully vetted, and any money taken by direct debit in error is protected under the Direct Debit Guarantee. For this reason, it is safe to share your account number and sort code with these organisations.

Save money and time with Airwallex

Airwallex is a global business account designed for companies that operate across borders. We make it easier and cheaper to accept international payments by allowing you to open 11+ foreign currency accounts in a tap, with no monthly account fees.  

Open a British Pound account with Airwallex from anywhere in the world and you will be given an account number and sort code. These details will allow your UK clients to pay into your account in GBP with no forced currency conversions. 

Airwallex offers bank-beating exchange rates and zero international transaction fees, giving you a chance to cut the cost of international money transfers and payment acceptance. 

You can also issue borderless Visa debit cards to your team, allowing them to spend in multiple currencies without the cost. Create new physical and virtual cards in minutes, set spending limits on a card level, and track expenditure in the app.   

To find out more, sign up for a free account today or click below to watch a three-minute demo.

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Tilly Michell
Content Marketing Manager

Tilly manages the content strategy for Airwallex. She specialises in content that supports businesses in their growth trajectory.

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