IBAN Number: What Is It and How Does It Work?

IBAN Number: What Is It and How Does It Work?

An IBAN number, a SWIFT code, the CVC on your card… the world of payments is riddled with acronyms.

To help you figure out which is what and when you need (or don’t need) to use it, we take a closer look at IBAN.

In this article, learn everything you need to know about IBAN and how to use it.

Content

  • What is IBAN?
  • How many digits are in an IBAN?
  • What’s the difference between IBAN and SWIFT?
  • Is my IBAN the same as my card number?
  • When do I need to use an IBAN?
  • How do I find out what my IBAN is?
  • Can I send money abroad without an IBAN?
  • Summing up
  • FAQ

What is IBAN?

IBAN is short for International Bank Account Number and is a standardized system that allows you to send and receive money internationally.

It is a unique identifier indicating the country, bank, branch, and account number of a given bank account holder.

Originally created as a banking standard for cross-border and domestic transactions in the eurozone, the International Bank Account Number is now an internationally recognized system in the transfer of funds overseas.

How many digits are in an IBAN?

An IBAN contains up to 34 characters, including both letters and digits.

The format is easily recognizable (GB29 NWBK 6016 1331 9268 19 in the UK, or FR14 2004 1010 0505 0001 3M02 606 in France), but the exact length depends on the country:

  • 22 characters in the UK
  • 27 characters in France
  • 28 characters in Poland
  • 15 characters in Norway, and so on.

So what are the elements that make up an IBAN code? The IBAN structure typically contains:

  1. The country code - two capitalized letters (‘GB’ for the UK, ‘PL’ for Poland, ‘UA’ for Ukraine, etc)
  2. A two-digit check number
  3. The bank code identifier
  4. The sort code indicating the bank branch
  5. The domestic bank account number

What’s the difference between IBAN and SWIFT?

If you made an international money wire before, you were probably asked for several details including the IBAN and the SWIFT (or BIC) code of your recipient. So what do they each stand for and when do you need them?

The IBAN code is used to identify a specific account number (i.e. a recipient’s bank account), including the receiving bank's country, and the bank branch.

SWIFT (or BIC - Bank Identifier Code), on the other hand, is a network used by financial institutions to move funds internationally.

A SWIFT code contains just 8 or 11 characters which identify the receiving institution, the country, its city or location, and sometimes the branch. It therefore does not indicate the recipient’s specific account number, which is why you are required to use both the IBAN and the SWIFT/BIC codes when making an international payment.

Is my IBAN the same as my card number?

As explained before, your IBAN identifies your bank account in order to receive a money transfer to your bank account. It is a combination of letters and digits and can have a length of up to 34 characters.

Your card number, on the other hand, is made up exclusively of numeric characters (always 16 digits), and you can easily find it on your credit or debit card.

You can receive international money transfers to your card using Fin.do.

When do I need to use an IBAN?

First things first; an IBAN number is only required when you send or receive funds abroad. You don’t need your IBAN to withdraw or deposit cash or make online purchases.

So when do you need to use an IBAN? Here are a few cases that require you to use it.

1. Making an international money transfer

If you want to receive money from abroad, you'll need to give your sender your IBAN number as well as your bank’s SWIFT/BIC code.

If you send money abroad, you need your recipient’s IBAN and their bank’s SWIFT/BIC code. Beware that if the IBAN (or any other information) is entered incorrectly at the time you make the transfer your transaction may be rejected.

Here’s everything you need to know in order to make a SWIFT transfer.

2. SEPA transfers

If you send or receive money inside the eurozone (a SEPA credit transfer), you need to provide the recipient’s IBAN code. The SWIFT/BIC code is not required in this case.

How do I find out what my IBAN is?

You can usually find your IBAN number on the top right-hand side of your bank statement or in your digital bank account.

Can I send money abroad without an IBAN?

Luckily, yes!

There are a few situations when you can make international transactions without using an IBAN.

Sending to a country that doesn't use IBAN

While it is internationally recognized, some regions (like the USA, Canada, or Australia), don’t use the International Bank Account Number system.

So you don’t need an IBAN to make transfers between or to banks located in these regions; however you do need it if you make a payment from a territory not using IBAN towards a bank in another country using IBAN.

For example:

  • US to US: IBAN non needed
  • UK to US: IBAN non needed
  • US to UK (or France or Poland or other country): IBAN required

Card-to-card cross-border money transfers

You can send money overseas without an IBAN or a SWIFT/BIC code using Fin.do.

Fin.do is a card-to-card instant money transfer app available in more than 50 countries and 160 currencies. To make an international money transfer with Fin.do, all you need to do is:

  1. Install the app
  2. Add your card to the Fin.do app
  3. Know your recipient’s phone number or 16-digit card number.

No bank account, bank details, or any other information is required for a money transfer with Fin.do.

Fin.do works with both Mastercard and VISA cards and transactions are typically completed within minutes. Learn more here.

Summing up

IBAN is a standardized bank account numbering system used for international funds transfers.

The IBAN code has a standard format and contains up to 34 characters which identify the country, bank, and specific customer account. Together with SWIFT/BIC, the IBAN is a central piece of information ensuring your transfer is routed correctly toward your recipient.

IBAN differs from SWIFT in that it also indicates the individual bank account number, which SWIFT does not. SWIFT/BIC codes are used by financial institutions in cross-border payments and they only identify the receiving bank, branch, and country.

You’ll need to use IBAN almost every time you send or receive money from overseas, except when you are making transfers to or within the USA, Canada, and other regions which do not use the system.

You can make international money transfers without the use of an IBAN with Fin.do; in this case, you’ll only need your card number and your recipient’s phone number to make an instant money transfer.

FAQ

What is an IBAN account?

An International Bank Account Number - or IBAN - is an international system used to identify bank accounts for cross-border money transfers.

Containing up to 34 characters, an IBAN code uniquely identifies a customer’s bank account, bank, and country. The IBAN varies in length from one country to another but in all cases the format is the same: it starts with the country’s ISO code (two letters) and a two-digit check number.

Who uses an IBAN/ account number?

Each country uses its own system of bank account numbers to process domestic transactions.

  1. In the UK, you can make transfers based on the bank’s 6-digit sort code and the recipient’s 8-digit account number.
  2. In the US, banks use a transit routing number (also known as a check routing number or ABA number), which is a 9-digit code identifying the bank, its branch, and location.
  3. The IBAN system is used by banks in Europe and other territories. North American, Australian, and Asian banks don’t use it for domestic transfers, but they do accept international payments that use IBAN.

Which countries use IBAN?

All European Union countries and some other regions including the Middle East and the Caribbean (70 in total), use IBAN.

You can check the full list of countries using IBAN codes here.

Why was IBAN created?

IBAN numbers are used for secure money transfer in domestic and international transactions. The system was developed to reduce routing errors in cross-border payments. As a standardized system, it reduces transfer delays, payment errors, and eliminates bank fees associated with them.

How do I make a transfer if I don't have my recipient’s IBAN?

If you need to send money to a recipient overseas, you should ask them for their IBAN number and SWIFT code.

If that’s not possible or you need your transfer to be processed faster, you can send money using Fin.do. You simply need to know the recipient’s phone number and you both have to be Fin.do app users. Money will be available to your recipient in minutes.

Download Fin.do to send money today