What is a sort code and account number?

Tilly Michell
What is a sort code and account number?
In this article

If someone needs to pay money into your UK account via bank transfer, they’ll need to know your account number and sort code. You don’t need to worry about sharing these details with people who want to pay you. Your sort code and account number can be used to deposit money into your business account and to set up a direct debit, but they cannot be used to fraudulently move money out of your account. 

That said, you should always exercise caution when sharing bank details. Never give out your PIN, card number, card expiry date or CVV unless paying for something securely online. These details can be used to access the funds in your account.  

What is an account number?

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

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 describes 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 earlier digits describe the bank, 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?

In the Republic of Ireland, sort codes are no longer used, but form part of the underlying structure of account numbers.

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. 

Make sure you don’t confuse either your account number or sort code with the 16-digit card number that’s also printed on the card. This number is used to authorise online payments, along with the card expiry date and CVV. Remember, the account number is eight digits long and the sort code is six digits.

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. 

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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, utility 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's foreign currency account is 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 you in GBP with no forced currency conversions. 

With zero international transaction fees and bank-beating exchange rates, Airwallex offers businesses a chance to save on the cost of international payment acceptance and money transfers. 

You can also issue borderless Visa debit cards to your team, allowing them to spend in multiple currencies without any transaction fees. Create new physical and virtual cards in seconds, 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.

Related article: How to switch your business bank account in the UK

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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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