An MT103 is a standardized SWIFT payment message used specifically for cross-border/international wire transfers. MT103s are usually accepted as proofs of payment and include all payment details such as date, amount, currency, sender and recipient.
According to SWIFT Knowlege Center, this message type is sent by or on behalf of the financial institution of the ordering customer, directly or through (a) correspondent(s), to the financial institution of the beneficiary customer. An MT103 is also a prerequisite for a SWIFT Payment Tracking or any payment investigations.
When looking on samples of MT103s we can find a list of standardized fields. In this article we will go through them and discuss their impact on the payment or remittance.
|Transaction Reference Number
|This reference number is generated by each bank in the payment chain. Normally when you try to track your payment or call to the banks, you need a, so called, Sender's Reference. It is a reference number, assigned by a sender's bank. UETR is more universal and usually located in the field 121 in a payment's header.
|Bank Operation Code
Four-character field to specify the type of operation to which your instruction relates. The possible values are:
|Value Date / Currency / Interbank Settled
|Here is the example: 230726EUR1400. It means the payment was sent on 26th of July 2023. The currency is EUR and the amount is 1400. Keep in mind that the date can slightly differs from the date you made an order in online bank or visited the branch. If you made a payment order on Friday evening, most probably your payment will be processed and sent via SWIFT not earlier than Monday next week.
|Currency / Original Ordered Amount
|If field 33B is present in the message received, it has to be forwarded unchanged to the next bank. This field must be present when a currency conversion or an exchange has been performed on the Sender's side. If there are no Sender's or Receiver's charges and no currency conversion or exchange took place, field 32A equals 33B, if present.
|:50A, F or K
|Ordering Customer (Payer / Sender)
Option A: (Account) (Identifier Code)
Option F: (Party Identifier) (Number/Name and Address)
Option K: (Account) (Name and Address)
The only thing which you need to remember about this field - you shouldn't have “famous” people with the same first name and last name as yours. Check open sanctions before sending your cross-border payment.
|:52A or D
|Ordering Institution (Payer's / Sender's Bank)
This is the bank (or other financial organization) which initiated the payment. Normally it should contains the SWIFT/BIC code of the bank, however it can use option D and state the name and address. For example, here is how Wise do it when I send my payments to Montenegro:
|:53A, B or D
|Sender's Correspondent (Bank)
|Where required, this field specifies the account or branch of the Sender or another financial institution through which the Sender will reimburse the Receiver. Absence of this field implies that there is a unique account relationship between the Sender and the Receiver or that the bilaterally agreed account is to be used for settlement. You can check the list of potential correspondent banks of the sender's bank before ordering a payment.
|:54A, B or D
|Receiver's Correspondent (Bank)
|This field is used for cover-method only. If there is this field in MT103, it means MT202 form has been sent in parallel for a cover payment.
|:56A, C or D
|This is a correspondent of beneficiary's bank in a serial method.
|:57A, B, C or D
|Account with Institution (Beneficiary's Bank)
|This field contains information about beneficiary's bank (SWIFT / BIC code). If you have placed an info about beneficiary's bank's account in a correspondent bank, it will also be here.
|:59 or 59A
|Always use a full name of the beneficiary and put his address which bank has on file for the beneficiary. If not sure, ask beneficiary to double-check in his bank. There are cases when bank rejected the payment only because his address was wrong.
|Remittance Information (Payment Reference)
|If you transfer your funds between personal accounts, simply put “OWN FUNDS TRANSFER”. If you make a remittance to your family members, write “TRANSFER BETWEEN CLOSE RELATIVES”. If that's a payment for smth, try to explain it short and simple: “RENT. CONTRACT #__, INV #__”. If you transfer to a third party and this is not a goods/services exchange, that doesn't sound really well from banks compliance perspective. For small amount: “FINANCIAL AID” could be fine.
|Details of Charges (BEN / OUR / SHA)
This field contains info about who is paying for this SWIFT transfer:
BEN - Beneficiary will pay in full
OUR - Sender is paying
SHA - Shared expenses (Wise in Euro send with this type and I always struggle - I pay from both sides).
|Sender to Receiver Information
|This field specifies additional information for the Receiver's Bank or other party specified. It's normally for banks only.
Where the residence of either the ordering customer or the beneficiary customer is to be identified, one of the following codes may be used in Code, placed between slashes ('/'):
BENEFRES - Residence of the beneficiary
ORDERRES - Residence of the sender.
Example :77B:/ORDERRES/BE//MEILAAN 1, 9000 GENT
MT103 is the most common message for funds transfer in cross-border payments however not the only one. You can check the list of other messages in official SWIFT Message Reference Guide.
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