Building Society Roll Number: The Latest Detailed Guide

A building society roll number is a unique identifier assigned to each account holder within a building society. It serves a similar purpose to a bank account number, allowing building societies to access customer information and process payments.

But what exactly is a building society and why is a separate roll number needed? This guide will explain everything you need to know.

What is a Building Society?

A building society is a type of financial institution that offers banking and financial services, typically with a community focus. The key difference from banks is:

  • Building societies are owned by their customers rather than external shareholders
  • Profits are invested back into the business to benefit members

This mutual business structure means building societies can often offer more competitive interest rates. There are over 40 building societies still operating in the UK.

Some of the largest national building societies include:

  • Nationwide
  • Yorkshire Building Society
  • Coventry Building Society
  • Skipton Building Society

What is a Building Society Roll Number?

A building society roll number is a unique reference code assigned to each building society account holder.

It is an identification number, similar to a bank account number, used to access customer information and process payments within the building society’s systems.

Format of Roll Numbers

The standard format is 2 letters followed by 6 numbers, for example:


  • The 2 letters identify the building society
  • The 6 numbers are unique for each customer

For example, roll numbers starting with CA belong to The Coventry Building Society.

The 6 digit account number part may also contain 1 or 2 check digits. These help validate the integrity of the full roll number when processing payments.

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How Building Society Roll Numbers Are Used

The main uses of a building roll number are:

  • Identifying account holders – Allows building societies to access the right customer information and transaction history
  • Processing payments – Required when setting up Direct Debits or making bank transfers to/from a building society account
  • Payment references – Helps building societies match incoming payments to the right account

So whenever you need to pay money into or out of a building society account, make sure you provide the correct roll number.

Where to Find Your Building Society Roll Number

When you open an account with a building society, they will issue you with a roll number which you’ll find on your:

  • Account welcome letter
  • Annual statements
  • Passbook

Most building societies also have an online banking service which displays your roll number.

If you have lost or forgotten your number, contact your building society’s customer services team. They can search your information and provide your roll number again.

Do International Transfers Use Roll Numbers?

No, international money transfers do not use building society roll numbers.

Services like bank wires, SWIFT payments and remittance transfers rely on:

  • IBAN numbers
  • SWIFT codes
  • Bank account and routing numbers

Building society roll numbers only work on the internal systems of the specific building society that issued them.

Building Society Roll Numbers vs Bank Account Numbers

Although they serve a similar function, there are some key differences between building society roll numbers and regular UK bank account numbers:

Roll NumbersBank Account Numbers
2 letters + 6 numbers8 digits
Unique to each building societyUnique across entire banking system
Used alongside sort codesSort codes not always required
Check digits incorporatedCheck digits less common

So while roll numbers provide access to accounts, they are specifically designed to work with the technical requirements of building societies through the use of prefixes and checksums.

Building Societies vs Banks

As we’ve discussed, the main difference between banks and building societies lies in their ownership structure:

  • Banks are owned by external shareholders
  • Building societies are owned by their customers

This gives building societies more focus on customer service and community engagement.

Banks aim to maximize profits for their shareholders. Building societies instead invest profits back into the organization.

So while they offer similar products, their philosophies and priorities differ.

Building Society Roll Number Misuse

While rare, some forms of identity theft or financial fraud involve misuse of building society roll numbers.

For example, criminals could attempt to:

  • Open an account using someone else’s roll number
  • Change the mailing address listed against a roll number
  • Divert payments destined for a legitimate member’s account

If you notice any suspicious activity relating to your roll number, contact your building society immediately.

You should also be wary of unsolicited contacts asking for your roll number details. Reputable organisations would never contact you out of the blue for this information.

Building Society Roll Number Barclays

Barclays is a major UK bank that operates more like a shareholder owned bank. So while Barclays customers have sort codes and account numbers, they do not use building society style roll numbers.

If you see any references to a Barclays roll number, it likely refers to an internal reference number or identifier used by Barclays staff – not an account number for customers.

Building Society Roll Number Santander

As one of the largest banks in the UK, Santander also does not use building society style roll numbers for customer accounts.

Only institutions with mutual ownership structures still tend to use traditional roll number systems. So Santander accounts rely on sort codes and account numbers to manage payments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I change my building society roll number?

No, a building society roll number is tied to your account and cannot be changed. You would need to close your existing account and open a new one to get issued a different roll number.

What happens if I switch building societies?

Your roll number will only work at the building society that issued it. If switching societies, you will be provided a new roll number linked to your new account.

Why do building societies need separate roll numbers?

Building societies developed before modern bank account numbering systems. Roll numbers help them track customer accounts within their own technical infrastructures. The two letter prefix provides routing information to access the right customer data.

Is The Roll Number The Same As An Account Number?

No, a building society roll number is different from a standard account number. An account number is an 8-digit number used to identify a bank account.

A roll number has a more complex format – usually 2 letters followed by 6 numbers. It provides an extra layer of identification on top of the account number.

So while your account number accesses your account, the roll number identifies you as a member within that specific building society’s systems.

This allows building societies to track things like dividend payments, which are based on membership status rather than just account activity.

Final Thoughts

While little known or used outside of the building society world, roll numbers serve an important purpose in linking customers to their accounts.

They provide building societies with an identification system that works with their internal systems and reflect their history as community owned organizations.

So if you have any dealings with a building society, be sure to keep your roll number handy. It will be essential for accessing your accounts and making payments.

Hopefully this guide has helped demystify exactly what a building society roll number is all about!