International payments

An industry-wide initiative aims to increase the speed and reliability of making and receiving payments within Europe.

This guide explains BICs and IBANs, and looks at:

Sending a payment to Europe

Since January 1, 2006, it has been compulsory that all payments to and from Europe must include a Bank Identifier Code (BIC) and International Bank Account Number (IBAN).

What are BICs and IBANs?

BICs and IBANs fulfill a similar function in Europe as sort codes and account numbers in the UK, ensuring that payments can be quickly and accurately processed.

What does an IBAN look like?

IBANs usually consist of letters and numbers. Here are some examples of European IBANs:

  • Austria: AT123456789101112131
  • France: FR123456789101112131
  • Germany: DE123456789101112131
  • Ireland: IE291234567891011121

The number of characters in an IBAN will vary from country to country, but is fixed for a particular country. Eg French IBANs always have 20 characters.

What does a BIC look like?

Like IBANs, BICs also consist of letters and numbers. They are made up in the following way:

Bank code
(4 characters)

Country code
(2 characters)

Location code
(2 characters)

Branch code
(3 characters)





Can I make payments to Europe without a BIC or IBAN?

No. All customers must provide a BIC and IBAN for the person or business to which they are sending funds. Failure to do so may result in the payment being delayed, returned or incurring additional charges.

Payments to countries outside Europe generally do not require a BIC or IBAN (exceptions include Bahrain and the UAE ).

Receiving a payment from Europe

Do I need a BIC and IBAN to receive payments from Europe?

Yes. When you are the beneficiary of a cross-border payment from elsewhere in Europe you must provide the payer with your own IBAN and BIC details or you may find that your money is delayed or even returned to the payer.

How do I find my BIC & IBAN?

You can find these on your Bank Account statement, for both Sterling and currency accounts.

Are BICs and IBANs secure?

Providing your BIC and IBAN details is exactly like sharing your sort code and bank account details with a third party in the UK.

Do make sure that you share only the BIC and IBAN with the payer and under no circumstances give out any confidential information such as a PIN or memorable information that would allow an unauthorised person to access your account.

Further details on keeping your account secure.

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