What is an International Bank Account Number – IBAN?
Using IBAN for European Money Transfers
Transferring funds to European countries has been made simpler with the introduction of the International Bank Account Number (IBAN). The IBAN was developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and adopted by the European Committee for Banking Standards in order to encourage hassle free cross-border transfers throughout Europe.
The purpose of the IBAN is to make it possible to identify an account held at a bank anywhere in the world.
By having a standardised international account number, money transfers can be made both quickly and safely.
Where Are IBAN Transfers Available?
IBAN bank transfers are available in Europe only, and are often the cheapest way to transfer money internationally. IBAN transfers have become tremendously popular among expatriats of Eastern Europe EU countries like Poland and Lithuania who are living in Western European countries like the UK, France and Germany. They use the IBAN transfers to remit money safely and cheaply to their relatives back home.
IBAN transfers are not available in the United States of America, and are not likely to be, with the decentralized structure of the US banking system and lack of nationwide banks as compared to Europe. Electronic account-to-account transfers are often called wire or ACH transfers in the USA.
How Much Do IBAN Transfers Cost?
IBAN transfer costs vary. Some European banks will send an IBAN transfer free of charge, of charge, as specified by EU/EEA directive 2560/2001, but some will charge up to five Euros (still quite cheap compared to many other money transfer methods). Check rates with your local bank.
How Long Do IBAN Transfers Take?
The length of time required for an IBAN transfer varies from bank to bank. Often the transfer will take place the same day; almost all will be complete by the next day; and only in exceptional circumstances will it take longer than that.
When you go into the bank to fill out an IBAN transfer request, some banks will have a section on the requrest form that you can tick if you want express delivery.
Some banks are simply better and speedier at handling IBAN transfers than others. Some offer a free IBAN transfer service, and a faster, “premium” service that you have to pay for. One customer who used the free service recently complained that, “It seems like the banks are delaying the cheap transfer (which they are obliged to offer) in order to sell the “premium” product.”
With the Bank of Ireland, normal transfers cost 28cts and take up to 3 working days. For 25 euro, you can get same day service. Bank of Scotland, on the other hand, will guarantee same day delivery (without forms just a fax) if processed before 11.00am!
Our recommendation is that if your bank offers a premium IBAN transfer service, and the costs are reasonable, then use that service, as you will likely get faster transfer times.
In any case, make sure you know whether the transfer will be free or not. One recent bank customer in Ireland:
“I transferred Euro 3500 from my Irish bank account to my Dresdner account, and sure enough Euro 3495 arrived, 5 Euros taken off for ‘charges’. I thought that with IBAN & BIC, international transfers are supposed to be free under EU law? I want to ring my bank and complain (I like complaining). But I like complaining even better when I’m sure of the facts.”
What do IBAN Numbers Look Like?
Some people mistake the IBAN for a new account number and are unsure which number to quote when asked. The IBAN is not a new account number, it is a series of alphanumeric characters that incorporates the ISO country code, two check digits and the bank branch reference number, which precedes your own account number at that bank.
Below is a table listing the European countries that use IBAN, along with a typical example of the specific country IBAN. Although the IBAN format differs from country to country, for each country, the IBAN is a fixed length and has common alphanumeric characters.
Where to Find Your IBAN Number
Many European banks now include your IBAN number on your bank statements. Ask a bank representative to point out to you the location of the IBAN number.
If you’ve just opened a bank account and you want to obtain the new IBAN number of your account you should contact your bank. The bank will inform you in writing or in some other appropriate way of the new IBAN number of your account. To be absolutely sure, that you have received accurate and complete information, please visit your servicing branch in person.
If you run a business and you receive bank transfers in the course of business, be sure to specify your IBAN as the account number on your invoices. Also, you should inform your business partners of the IBAN number of your bank account, generated by your bank. Ask your suppliers and business partners to whome you make payments to provide you with their IBAN account numbers so you can pay them easily and cheaply.
Looking Up Your IBAN Number Online
Several websites, such as BankersAlmanac.com, have IBAN number lookups or “IBAN Search” tools. These tools will generate an IBAN number based on the account information that you enter. However, these tools are intended to be used by bank professionals, and many of them require subscriptions or memberships.
BankersAlmanac.com’s IBAN search tool cautions: ” If you need an IBAN for your own use, please contact your bank who will provide you with one. Do not attempt to generate your own IBAN. The IBAN Search is not designed for and must not be used for the generation of IBANs by bank customers.”