If you have a bank account you may have come across an IBAN number before. But what is an IBAN number? Why is it used around the world today? And how did the IBAN numbering system develop?
If you bank internationally and make money transfers overseas it helps to know a bit about IBAN.
Below you’ll learn about:
- The IBAN number
- How can you find your IBAN number?
- IBAN country code examples
- Do all countries use IBAN for international payments
- IBAN or SWIFT
- How you can send money internationally
The IBAN number
IBAN stands for an International Bank Account Number. It is an internationally recognised code that is made up of 34 letters and numbers. The combination of these numbers and letters will be unique to your account and it enables banks to process international transfers correctly.
The IBAN number includes information about the bank you use, the country your account is based in and the account details you need to transfer money internationally. It is an extremely useful tool that provides you with an international banking identity.
The system of identification was first adopted by the European Committee for Banking Standards (ECBS) and has since been accepted as an international standard.
Before IBAN there were lots of different national standards for bank identification. This made it difficult and often confusing for users who wanted to send and receive money internationally. It also made it more complicated for routing and sometimes led to missed payments and mixups. Since the introduction of IBANs, they have reduced international money transfer errors to under 0.1% of payments.
One of the key aims of the IBAN was to improve data entry and the transfer of information. An IBAN number has helped make international banking far easier than it used to be especially from a processing and data entry perspective. Today most online banking platforms will show you your IBAN code.
How can you find your IBAN number?
Often the easiest way to find your IBAN number is by looking at your bank account statement. Usually the IBAN number will be displayed on the top right-hand side of the statement.
The alphanumeric series of 34 characters that comprise the IBAN number are clearly different from the short standard bank numbers such as the sort code and your account number. So it should be pretty obvious if the IBAN number is on your statement.
Depending on your bank, you should also be able to find your IBAN number through your online banking account. You can also use a calculator to work out your IBAN number - click here to find your IBAN number.
IBAN number breakdown
The possible 34 alphanumeric characters in an IBAN number consist of:
- Country code using ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 (two letters that form part of a standard published by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) that
- Check digits (two digits that are a form of redundancy check to detect errors in identification numbers)
- A Basic Bank Account Number (BBAN) (up to 30 alphanumeric characters that are specific to a country)
Below are a few examples of what an IBAN number looks like. As you can see the character length varies from country to country.
- GB29NWBK50272442835758 (The United Kingdom, 22 characters)
- FR7630006000022114575680178 (For France, 27 characters)
- SN08SN0100163110648500003035 (Senegal, 28 characters)
- ES7921000824710134556789 (Spain, 24 characters)
For a full list of IBAN number structure and examples for every country see here.
IBAN country code examples
Each country has a different IBAN format. The IBAN country codes at the beginning of the IBAN number let you know which country the account belongs to.
Below are some IBAN country code examples:
You can find a full list of IBAN country codes here. These kinds of codes are fairly simple and are usually formed from the first two letters of a country’s name, as you can see from the examples above. The codes are important for identification and are used throughout the banking, financial and IT industries to make it simple to identify country names.
Do all countries use IBAN for international payments?
Today many countries use the IBAN numbering system to help process foreign payments and to make it easier to process the moving of money overseas. However, while IBAN is used around the world there are still many countries who have not adopted the system.
As of 2021, there are over 70 countries that use the IBAN numbering system but there are some notable exceptions including the United States and Australia. IBAN is used throughout most of Europe and is also used in countries in Africa, the Middle East and Central America. North American and Asian countries do not use IBAN and will only do so when there is a need to send a payment internationally to a country that uses the IBAN.
IBAN or SWIFT
SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is another internationally recognised standard for identifying bank accounts for overseas money transfers. The main differences between IBAN and SWIFT are the information they convey and the countries which use them.
As you now know, an IBAN is used to identify individual bank accounts during international transactions. On the other hand, SWIFT Business Identifier Codes (BICs) only provide the bank branch information during an international transaction.
For a more in-depth look at the history of SWIFT and the details of how it differs from IBAN check out this Forbes Advisor article.
How can I send money internationally?
Transferring money around the world is easy with Small World’s international money transfer service.
You can send money with Small World via a number of services including Cash Pickup, Bank deposit, Mobile Wallet, Home Delivery, Mobile Top-up, Cash Card Reload. All methods are quick, simple and secure.
Small World has facilitated millions of money transfers all around the world. So if you need to support your loved ones wherever they are you can rely on Small World.
Your first transfer online is always free of fees!