Home What is an IBAN number?

What is an IBAN number?

If you are sending an international money transfer to a European bank account, it’s likely that you will be asked for the recipient’s IBAN code. In this article, we’ll cover exactly what an IBAN is, why you might need one, and where to find it. 

Updated: 03/06/2021
Read time: 6 minutes
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What is an IBAN?

An IBAN – International Bank Account Number – is a code made up of up to 34 letters and numbers used as a unique identifier for your bank account. IBANs are used by banks all around the world to process international payments, with this unique combination of characters providing a code that pinpoints your country, bank, and bank account when sending or receiving money.

IBAN formatting

All of the countries that use IBANS have the same standard format to make processing international transfers as simple as possible. An IBAN will usually consist of 34 characters and be formatted accordingly:

AA-BB-CCCC-DDDDDD-EEEEEEEE

AA: Country code: the country that the bank account is held in

BB: Check digits: enable the sending bank to perform a security check of the routing destination.

CCCC: Bank identifier: This code identifies the account holder’s bank.

DDDDDD: Sort code

EEEEEEEE: Account number

Nice and easy

Your sort code and account number will be the same as it is as whatever country your account is held in, so it’s usually fairly easy to tell if you have got the right IBAN number for your account.

IBAN vs SWIFT: what’s the difference?

When dealing with international money transfers, you’ve probably come across the terms ‘IBAN’, ‘SWIFT’, and ‘BIC’, and wondered: what’s the difference?

An IBAN – International Bank Account Number – is used to identify the specific account that is to be used in an international transaction. A SWIFT – Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication – code, or BIC (Business Identifier Code), on the other hand, is used to identify a specific bank for an international transfer but not the account itself. Both codes are therefore essential elements containing vital information for international payments but serve different purposes.

How do IBAN codes work?

IBAN codes are often required if you are sending money internationally directly to someone’s bank account. They are used by banks to identify the location, bank, and bank account a payment needs to be made to, by providing a set format of information. 

If you are making an international payment where an IBAN is required, you should be able to organise your transfer via your online banking, app, or even by visiting your local bank branch. 

If you are required to provide an IBAN for your recipient, you will probably also need to supply:

  • Your recipient’s name and address
  • The name and address of your recipient’s bank
  • Your recipient’s BIC/SWIFT code
  • The sum you need to transfer
  • What currency you want your international payment converted into

These details will all enable your bank to convey your transfer instructions to the recipient bank accurately and securely, with an international transfer usually completed within 3 – 5 working days.

How do I find my IBAN?

If you are receiving an international payment, you may be asked by the sender for your IBAN. You can locate your IBAN one of the following ways:

  • Logging into your online banking and finding your IBAN in the account details section 
  • Checking a bank statement
  • Visiting your local bank branch

Alternatively, you could use an IBAN calculator.

IBAN calculator

IBANs follow a set format in every country they are used in, so it’s possible to find your IBAN via an IBAN calculator if you don’t already have

An IBAN calculator will require your home country, bank account number, and sort code to generate your IBAN. You may also be able to use a calculator to validate the IBAN you have and ensure it is correct.

Getting the right IBAN code

If you are sending or receiving an international payment using the services of your bank, it is vital that you provide the correct IBAN. Even one incorrect digit or character could cause your transfer to bounce back to your account, be severely delayed, or even be deposited in the wrong account – which is extremely difficult to reverse once completed.

Always double-check

It’s therefore crucial that you double-check you have the right details when sending money, and have provided the correct details when receiving a payment.

Fees for using IBANs

If you are looking for an IBAN because you are sending money abroad, it’s worth considering all your options for international transfers and what overall charges you are facing.

While banks are a convenient way of sending money internationally, they are rarely the cheapest or most efficient option. An international transfer can vary greatly in fees depending on what provider you use. The two fees to be aware of are transfer fees and exchange rates.

A poor exchange rate can add up to hundreds or even thousands lost in fees to your bank or transfer provider, so checking to make sure you are getting a good rate is the first step anyone sending money abroad should take. In general, banks are known to have less competitive exchange rates and higher transfer fees than most money transfer operators.

Additionally, with some transfer providers, you don’t need to go through the hassle of providing multiple details and bank codes for your recipient. You also have the option of sending funds via cash or even paying into a mobile eWallet using your recipient’s phone number or email address.

Regardless of how you are sending your transfer, informing yourself on the different options available to you and comparing the costs, transfer times, and payment methods offered by different transfer providers is a sensible approach to help you save money and get the best deal for your transfer.

Our innovative comparison engine is designed to give you a clear, transparent view of the best money transfer operators for your specific transfer needs, taking cost, exchange rates, transfer times, security and more all into account.

Where are IBANs used?

The IBAN format is used mostly within the EU, as well as by Norway, Switzerland, Hungary, and Liechtenstein. The US does not require an IBAN code for international payments, but if you are based in the US and making a transfer to an account in Europe, it’s likely that you’ll need your recipient’s IBAN.

FAQs

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Yasmin Purnell

Yasmin is the content writer for MoneyTransfers.com. With an English degree from the University of Nottingham and over 5 years’ experience freelancing in the personal finance niche, Yasmin joined the team with a mission to make international money transfers accessible and easy to understand for all. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Yasmin on her yoga mat or planning her next escape to the mountains.

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