What Is Correspondent Bank?

When you send an international wire transfer (SWIFT transfer), you often face with correspondent banks. Sometimes you asked about correspondent bank in the SWIFT payment form, sometimes your bank respond that the payment stuck in a correspondent bank. So what is exactly a role of correspondent bank in cross-border payment?

If banks don't have direct relations with each other, they need a third-party whom they trust. Usually it is a correspondent bank. It means that both sender's bank and beneficiary's bank opened a bank account in this bank. Sometimes it is also called an intermediary bank, while there are small difference between a correspondent bank and an intermediary bank for the purpose of this article (and sending cross-border funds) let's consider it is the same.

Often correspondent banks are located in the country which issue the currency. So, for example, if you send US Dollars from Bank CenterCredit Kazakhstan to First Abu Dhabi Bank in UAE, the payment will go the following way via Citibank NA:

Bank CenterCreditCitibank NAFirst Abu Dhabi Bank

It is a simple example, because both sender's bank and beneficiary's bank maintain relations with Citibank. If not, there will 2 or even 3 banks in between and more banks you have, more potential problems you get with your SWIFT transfer.

How To Find a Correspondent Bank?

There are three major ways how to understand where the bank has correspondent accounts.

  1. Search the official website of the bank. This information could be called “Correspondent Banks” or “Nostro Accounts” or “Standard Settlement Instructions”. Make sure you check the correspondent banks for exact currency in which you wire your transfer.
  2. Ask the bank. If you are a client of the bank, simply ask a customer service. If you are not a client of this bank ask the beneficiary to contact his/her/their bank and check this information.
  3. Check the database. Normally information about correspondent relations is stored in SWIFTref, however regular users don't have access to it, it is only for banks. However TrackMySwift does have an option to request this information on their website. They have a full database of correspondent banks. You can search by bank's name or a SWIFT code.

For example, if you are looking for correspondent banks of Kapitalbank in Uzbekistan, search by name at TrackMySwift:

If you are experiencing difficulties when searching your bank (and it is okay, because there are tens of thousands banks in the database), just use a country filter which is located on the right side of a search field:

On Kapitalbank's page you can see a basic info, like a SWIFT/BIC code. Just click the “Order” button in the Correspondent banks section:

The price of 1 request is $7.49 and you can receive information about correspondent relations in 3 currencies of your choice. You can select only currencies in which bank send/receive international payments. 

After clicking “Get Access” button you will be redirected to Stripe for a payment with a debit card, credit card or a paypal. If you are not registered, you will be also requested to sign up with the phone number.

After the payment make sure you select 3 currencies which you need. Even if you send USD now, ask for EUR or CNY just in case you will send another currency in the future. You can see the list of all currencies in which bank operates.

After clicking “Get Correspondents” button you finally get a list of correspondent accounts (also called nostro account in financial world):

Order the extract from correspondent accounts database at TrackMySwift. So far, this is the only website we know which provide this useful information to consumers.

The registrations of SWIFT codes are handled by Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) and their headquarters is located in La Hulpe, Belgium. SWIFT is the registered trademark of S.W.I.F.T. SCRL with a registered address at Avenue Adèle 1, B-1310 La Hulpe, Belgium. We are not in any way affiliated with S.W.I.F.T. SCRL.