SWIFT, SWIFTNet and SWIFT Message Types

SWIFT, with its network SWIFTNet, is a major player in global payments. This article provides a brief introduction about SWIFT, its network and the SWIFT Message types, groups and categories.

What are SWIFT and SWIFTNet ?

SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. Its network interconnects banks and companies almost everywhere in the world for the exchange of financial messages. SWIFT provides secure messaging solutions to transport messages from one place to another.
Image of SWIFT Global Network

SWIFT Global Network for cross border payments

The strong growth of the traffic and the evolution of the needs of the users required the setting up of innovative and adapted solutions. In 1977, the SWIFT global network was created to replace the Telex network, which was considered too slow and unsafe. At first, it worked with the Binary Synchronous Communications (BSC) protocol introduced by IBM 10 years earlier. In 1991, SWIFT network migrated to the X.25 communication protocol. The network then took the name SWIFT II. The limitations of the X.25 protocol hampered the evolution and implementation of new services. To answer this, migration to the IP protocol started in 2004. The new name, SWIFTNet, is still valid. SWIFTNet is the SWIFT network based on an IP (internet) type protocol. According to SWIFT, the migration from X.25 to IP protocol is the biggest project ever undertaken and very well executed because the customers almost did not notice it.

SWIFT Messages

SWIFT allows all businesses and financial institutions to connect to their network to exchange financial messages. Each network member is identified by the BIC code, also known as the SWIFT code. You can get more information about the BIC code by reading the article about the SWIFT BIC code. It is thanks to this code that messages are routed from the sender to the recipient.

MT and MX messages are exchanged on the SWIFT network. MT messages are structured according to the specifications of the ISO 15022 standard and the newer MX messages according to the ISO 20022 standard.

Thanks to the standardization, the messages respect a specific formalism. This allows fast and automated processing.

The table below contains the list of SWIFT MT message categories:

Here is the page with exhaustive list of all SWIFT messages types. There is a search function included to help you easily find the information you are looking for.

Below are the links to posts where specific SWIFT messages are analyzed.

SWIFT MT101 analysis

SWIFT MT103 analysis

SWIFT MT103 202 COV analysis

SWIFT MT400 analysis

SWIFT MT940 analysis

SWIFT MT950 analysis

SWIFT Message Identifier

The identifier of a SWIFT Message is MT followed by a 3-digit number. The first digit indicates the message category. The second digit indicates the message group and the third digit specifies the type of the message. Thus, MT10x all indicates that the messages of category 1 and of group 0, that is, theoretically messages MT100 to MT109. In practice, SWIFT uses only 0, 1 and 9 for the group :

  • When the group takes the value “0” like in MT10X, it means the message is a about transfer.
  • When the group takes the value “1” like in MT11X, it means the message is a about a cheque.
  • When the group takes the value “9” like in MT19X, the message belongs to common group messages that are used for cancellations, queries, advices, answers and to handle other exceptions.

The picture below depicts the identifier a SWIFT Message MT.

Image of SWIFT Message category, groupe and type

SWIFT Message category, group and type

For MX, things are different. The identification of messages is based on the name IS0 20022. Thus the MT103 becomes MX Pacs.008 and not MX 103. You find the SWIFT MT to MX equivalence for MT1xx, MT2xx and MT9xx on the following page. The logic to name the  messages identifier is different in the two standards.

The exchange of MT messages is done via the FIN service that Swift introduced at the very beginning. Over time, SWIFT has expanded its offering and now offers solutions such as InterAct or FileAct for exchanging messages and files. These protocols will be presented and analyzed in future articles.

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14 Responses to SWIFT, SWIFTNet and SWIFT Message Types

  1. Cat October 5, 2018 at 7:25 am #

    Hi Jean, Thanks for your articles and it clears my head in some way.

    Do you mind also to explain the difference between SWIFT FIN and SWIFT FIN-Copy?

    And under what circumstances MT205 is used instead of MT202?

    It will be great if you could also give some introduction in MT204.

    Many thanks and have a nice weekend.



    • Jean Paul October 5, 2018 at 9:40 am #

      Hi Cat,

      Thank you for your interest to my blog. I take note of your request and will try to address in the future.
      Subscribe to the newsletter (if not already done), so that you can be notified when new articles will be published on the blog.

      Kind regards,
      Jean Paul

      • Musaddiq Usman May 5, 2020 at 9:06 pm #

        Hil Jean,

        Can you please clarify the scrnarios when MT 101 is used and in which scenario MT103 is used and why?
        Same case with MT202 and MT202 COV.


        • Jean Paul June 1, 2020 at 12:22 pm #

          Hi, just read the articles on the blog about MT101, MT103, MT202COV. Thanks

  2. Uday April 4, 2019 at 5:52 pm #

    Hi Jean,

    I wanted to understand the difference between the General Purpose Application and FIN Application. How are the two different.

    Would you be able to shed some light on it.

    • Jean Paul April 7, 2019 at 10:07 pm #

      Hi Uday,
      General Purpose Application allows only system messages. These are messages from a user to SWIFT or from SWIFT to a user, but not from one user to another.
      Financial Application allows to send messages from one user to another. It is the user to user service which includes the system messages MT0xx, the User to User Messages MT1xx through 9xx and other Service Messages such as Acknowledgements.

  3. Madhuri August 30, 2019 at 7:54 am #

    Hi Jean,

    Could you please explain more on FileAct and InterAct.

    • Jean Paul August 30, 2019 at 3:28 pm #

      Hi Madhuri,

      Thanks for reaching out!
      I take note of your request and will write about FileAct and InterAct in the future.

  4. Sridip February 28, 2020 at 6:25 am #

    Hi JP,

    Your Articles are always contentful and full of knowledge. Thanks for that!
    Could you please help understand a detailed difference between MT and MX ?

  5. Salih August 21, 2020 at 7:28 am #

    Hello JP,
    Is it possible to transfer a SWIFTNET message to SWIFTCOM ? and yes how best to do that? thank you

    • Jean Paul September 14, 2020 at 7:32 pm #

      Hello Salih,
      Sorry I don’t know what SWIFTCOM is. Could you please tell me more about it?

  6. Farha September 15, 2020 at 3:28 am #

    Hi Jean,

    can you please explain on Swift FileAct and Interact, their usage and differences. Thanks

  7. Adebayo blessing February 3, 2021 at 5:53 pm #

    This article is very helpful, please explain MT109 to me. Thanks

  8. Mandla February 15, 2021 at 11:07 am #

    Hi Jean,

    Please can you explain FIN message type MT012 andMT019. maybe point me to a message format page.

    thank you.

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