What are bank sort codes?

When you open a bank account, you are given a unique bank account number and a six-digit ‘sort code’, which is normally expressed as three pairs of digits. But what exactly is a sort code?

Traditionally, the sort code was a way to identify which bank you opened your account with. That doesn’t just mean the bank overall – for example, HSBC or Santander – but specifically which branch your account was at.

Bank sort codes in this way mean that it is instantly possible to check geographically where your account was opened and traditionally, this meant people could call your bank manager if they had any questions or problems with your account.

If this sounds old-fashioned, it is. In the 21st century bank sort codes can be a big problem for people who move around a lot, as they can mean things like physical bank cards, debit and credit cards are sent to your branch for you to collect in person, even if you now live hundreds of miles away elsewhere in the UK.

What is a sort code online?

An online sort code is in principle the same thing as traditional bank sort codes – a way to identify the provider of your account – but providers like Arro do things differently from those traditional high street banks.

We are not a bank, first of all. We are fully regulated, but as a provider of electronic money services and related activities – which means your Arro Personal Account is not tied to a specific physical branch.

But it is important for your Arro Personal Account to still have a sort code because, even though this is not needed to identify a physical branch anywhere, it instead identifies that any funds sent to you need to come to Arro so that we can hold them in our secure client funds account.

Are my funds safe with Arro?

Yes, absolutely. Any funds transferred to Arro are held on behalf of our accountholders in a separate account. That means if you ever want to withdraw them, 100% of your account balance will be here in our secure separate account, ready to pay out to you.

This again is quite different from some of the traditional banks, who historically invested their accountholders’ money in an attempt to make a profit on the stock market.

If you’ve ever seen people queueing outside their local bank to try and withdraw their life savings, this is the reason why – because the banks may have invested some of their customers’ money, they could not always promise to pay 100% of their account balance if the bank went bust during a stock market crash.

How do I use a sort code?

So you know that money transferred to your account using Arro’s sort code is secure, but how do you actually use a sort code? It’s usually pretty simple, and if you need to provide your sort code, it will usually be quite obvious.

In general, if you expect to receive money directly into your account from someone, you will need to give them your sort code (usually as three 2-digit numbers, e.g. 01-02-03) and your account number.

Unless you are MAKING a payment using your debit card, you should never give out the 3-digit security code, also known as a Card Verification Value or CVV, from the signature strip on your card.

This 3-digit number is meant to identify that you are the cardholder when using your MasterCard® debit card online or over the phone, but it should not be needed to pay funds to you, so keep it safe and secret.

Remembering your sort code

Finally, you don’t need to remember your sort code off by heart. When you open an Arro Personal Account we will give you your sort code and account number, as well as your MasterCard® number and details, which we will send you as an SMS text message.

Your physical MasterCard® debit card will arrive to your UK postal address within a few days, and if you look at the bottom of the front side of your card, you should see your sort code and account number.

If you ever need to know it, just check your card for a reminder – the sort code looks like 01-02-03 and your account number is alongside it, something like 12345678.

Finally when actually making a card payment where you need to type in your details, your card number is the long 16-digit number printed across the middle of the card, and if you are asked for a CVV, this is the 3-digit number we already mentioned that you can find on the back of the card, printed on the signature strip.