SWIFT formatting rules and Character sets of MT Messages

This page gives an introduction to the SWIFT formatting rules of the MT messages fields and provides the X, Y and Z character sets used in SWIFT MT messages.

To explain the SWIFT formatting rules for the different fields, let’s consider few examples.

Example 1 : SWIFT formatting rules for Sender’s Reference (Field 20).

The format of the sender’s reference is 16x. It means 1) it can take up to 16 characters and 2) it can take any character of the X permitted set (See below).

:20:REF/hh123 is allowed. Number of characters < 16 and all characters belong to the X permitted set.
:20:AREFWithMore16Characters is not allowed because it contains more than 16 characters.
:20:Oth@REF376 Is not allowed. Because @ does not belong to the X permitted set.

Example 2: SWIFT formatting rules for Ordering Customer (Field 50a)

Option A format
[/34x] (Account)
4!a2!a2!c[3!c] (Identifier Code)

Square brackets, [ ], around the format of a particular subfield (in a field containing more than one subfield), indicate that the subfield is optional within that field. So the account is optional. The identifier code is mandatory if the field 50a is present, but only the first height characters that must be in the format 4!a2!a2!c. The last 3 characters are optional [3!c]. The identifier code is the BIC code. To know what a and c and ! mean, see the table below.

So to be more specific

:50A: /FR7630004008180001236749327 (with account only) is not allowed.
:50A: BNPAFRPP (with BIC only) is allowed.
:50A: /FR7630004008180001236749327
BNPAFRPP
with (Account and BIC) is allowed. BIC can be BIC8 or BIC 11.

Option F Format
35x (Party Identifier)
4*35x (Name and Address)

If option K is used, then the party identifier is mandatory and can have up to 35 of any character of the X permitted set (See below). One character is the minimum. The name and address can contain up to 4 lines (1 line minimum and 4 lines maximum). Each line can have a maximum of 35x characters. Following examples showing how the fields can be populated are available in the SWIFT Message Reference Guide.

:50F:/12345678
1/SMITH JOHN
2/299, PARK AVENUE
3/US/NEW YORK, NY 10017

:50F:/BE30001216371411
1/PHILIPS MARK
4/19720830
5/BE/BRUSSELS

:50F:DRLC/BE/BRUSSELS/NB0949042
1/DUPONT JACQUES
2/HIGH STREET 6, APT 6C
3/BE/BRUSSELS

Example 3: SWIFT Formatting rules for Beneficiary Customer (Field 59a)

There are 3 options to populate this fields: no letter option, Option A and Option F. We will consider option F only.

Option F
[/34x] (Account)
4*(1!n/33x) (Number/Name and Address Details)

The account is optional. See example 2 option A above.

Parentheses, ( ), around the format of two or more subfields indicate that what precedes the brackets applies to all the subfields listed within the brackets. For example, the field format 4*(1!n/33x) indicates that 4 lines are allowed in the field and each line must start with a digit, followed by a slash (‘/’), followed by a maximum of 33 characters.

The following table lists the rules and restrictions on field lengths.

The X, Y and Z Character sets used in the SWIFT MT messages are provided below.

X Character Set – SWIFT Character Set

Computer-based terminals communicating with SWIFT use EBCDIC code.
The character set is as follows:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
/ – ? : ( ) . , ‘ + CrLf Space

The characters Cr and Lf must never be used as single characters and must only be used together in the sequence CrLf, that is, LfCr is not allowed.
When the character sequence CrLf is used in a field format with several lines, it is used to indicate the end of one line of text and the start of the next line of text.

Y Character Set – EDIFACT Level A Character Set

In field 77F of MT 105, the EDIFACT level A character set, as defined in ISO 9735, is used.
This character set is as follows:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
. , – ( ) / = ‘ + : ? ! ” % & * < > ;
Space

Other characters are not allowed (Error code M60).

Z Character Set – Information Service Character Set

In fields 70F of MT 568, field 70G of the MT 564, and 77T of MT 103 REMIT, the allowed character set is as follows:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
. , – ( ) / = ‘ + : ? ! ” % & * < > ; {
@ # _
Cr Lf Space

Other characters are not allowed, including the curly bracket ‘}’ (Error code M60).

In a field format with several lines, the characters Cr and Lf must never be used as single characters and must only be used together in the sequence CrLf, that is, LfCr is not allowed. When CrLf is used in such fields, it will be interpreted as the end of one line of text and the start of the next line of text.
In all other fields, the characters Cr and Lf may be used as single characters or in sequence, such as, CrLf or LfCr.

The main source for this page is the SWIFT Standard – General Information document. Read it if you want to really deepen the topic of field structure, field formatting, character sets and so on. That document contains valuable information.

Examples of SWIFT MT103 messages are provided in the following articles. They illustrate other aspects of the SWIFT formatting rules. Take some time to consider them if you want to deepen this topic.

Comments are closed.