What is a sort code and account number?

Monday 14 August 2023, 3 minute read

In the world of digital payments, two important parts work behind the scenes to make sure your money gets from A to B: sort codes and account numbers. These sets of numbers might look simple, but they're like the secret codes that power all UK payments.

Today, we’ll explore what sort codes and account numbers are, where to find them and how they’re used. Plus, we’ll take a look at how you can make online payments (using sort codes and account numbers) faster and easier than ever. 

What is a sort code?

A sort code is a numerical code used mainly in the UK to identify which bank and branch are involved when money moves from one account to another. 

Sort codes are made up of six digits, split into three pairs (like XX-XX-XX). The first pair represents the bank, the second identifies the specific branch and the last pair helps to direct the transaction accurately.

That’s why an online sort code checker or sort code finder is able to tell you what bank and branch any sort code number that you enter represents. 

The important thing to remember is that your sort code isn’t necessarily unique to you. In fact, some branchless banks give every customer the exact same sort code. This is because your sort code identifies your bank and branch only, not your unique account. And that’s where account numbers come in.

What is an account number?

Complementing the sort code is the account number, a special set of numbers given to each bank account. Think of it like a personal ID for your account. While your sort code points to your bank and branch, your account number narrows things down to your individual account.

The structure and length of account numbers can vary depending on the country and financial institution, but in the UK, account numbers are normally made up of eight digits.

For online payments, direct debits, and other transactions, account numbers work together with sort codes to make sure funds are directed to the right person and place.

Where can I find my sort code and account number on my card?

You may be able to find your account number and sort code printed on your debit card, but not all debit cards will show these details - and if they do, they won’t always show them in the same place. 
If you can see a six-digit number (formatted XX-XX-XX) on your card, that’s your sort code, and the eight-digit number will be your account number. 

If you don’t see either of these numbers on your card, you should be able to find them easily through your mobile banking app, on your bank statements or in cheques.

How are sort codes and account numbers used?

Despite being introduced in the 1950s, sort codes still have an important role to play when it comes to facilitating payments and transfers. Along with account numbers, they’re crucial for making any online payment, as people and businesses need to provide the recipient's sort code and account number to make sure their payment gets to the right place. 

Sort codes and account numbers are essential for making:

  • Direct bank transfers: Whether you’re transferring money to someone who uses the same bank as you, or transferring to someone who’s with a different financial institution, you’ll need to provide the recipient's account number and sort code to make the payment happen.

  • Standing orders and direct debits: For regular payments, like utility bills or subscription fees, you might choose to set up a direct debit or standing order. To do that, you’ll need to provide your sort code and account number to schedule automatic transfers on specified dates.

  • Salary disbursements: Employers rely on account numbers and sort codes to pay employees’ wages directly into their bank accounts. 

Can I share my sort code and account number with others?

Yes, it’s safe to share your account number and sort code. In fact, you’ll need to share these details any time you want someone to transfer money into your account. Your sort code and account number can’t be used to transfer money out of your account - only to put money in it, or to set up a direct debit. 

Only companies that have been vetted by the Direct Debit Scheme can use your account number and sort code to take money from your account, and your funds are always protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee, so it’s absolutely fine to share these details with trusted companies.   

That said, it’s always important to be very careful who you share your financial details with, so make sure you only give out your sort code and account number to friends, family or reputable and trusted businesses. 

Streamlining online payments with Crezco

When you're making a payment normally, you have to manually enter the recipient’s sort code and account number. 

But when you make a payment through account-to-account payments platform Crezco, you don’t need to worry about manual data entry. Crezco pulls information directly from your accounting software, removing the need to enter your sort code and account number each time. 

But this open banking payments platform doesn’t just make payments easier than ever. When you use Crezco to make account-to-account payments, you’ll also benefit from the highest level of speed and security. 

You can use Crezco to make domestic payments to others in the UK, or to securely send money abroad without the high rates and hidden fees. 

Crezco can help

Crezco is an open banking payment platform that lets you make and collect international payments quickly, securely and affordably. Crezco ensures you get the most competitive rates when making international payments, and helps you avoid any extra charges or hidden fees.

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Final thoughts

Voila! You now understand what sort codes and account numbers are, and why they’re so important in the world of online payments. These simple sets of numbers are the foundation for moving money around; making sure your payments end up where they should, safe and sound.

Whether you're setting up direct debits, getting paid at your job or sending money to a friend, you’ll need sort codes and account numbers to make sure it all goes smoothly. 

To learn how Crezco can help you make payments faster, easier and more secure than ever, head here to find out more.

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