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What is an IBAN?

IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number. The IBAN is a globally recognised system used to identify bank accounts across geographic country and regional borders. IBANs greatly reduce errors and speed up international money payments and transactions.

This short guide will provide you with practical information about IBANs so you can transfer money easily, every time.

What can an IBAN be used for?

Your IBAN is a unique code used to identify your bank account for the purpose of cross-border payments. Using the wrong IBAN could result in a payment being returned or even sent to the wrong account altogether.

Your IBAN does not replace your sort code and bank account number. It's simply an additional number with extra information to help overseas banks identify your account for payments.

Make sure you (or the sender) have the following information to hand when you're sending or receiving funds overseas.

Sending money overseas

When sending money overseas you will need to have the recipient's:

  • name and address (their full name or company name)

  • IBAN

  • bank name and address

You may also be asked for:

  • the purpose of the payment

  • the details of your relationship with the recipient

Payments to the UK and European Economic Area (EEA) countries will also require the Bank Identifier Code (BIC). BICs are sometimes also known as SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) codes.

If you think you may have entered an incorrect IBAN, contact your bank immediately for help with recovering the transferred funds. The sooner you alert the bank to the problem, the easier it is to fix.

Receiving money from overseas

When receiving money from overseas, make sure the bank sending the payment has:

  • your personal details (name and address)

  • the IBAN of the account to be credited (and BIC if you're in the UK or EEA)

If money is received in a different currency to the one your account is held in, your bank will convert it using the most up-to-date exchange rate before crediting it to your account.

The US, Canada, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are a few of the countries that recognise the IBAN system but use SWIFT codes for international transfers instead.

Where can I find an IBAN?

You can usually find your IBAN and BIC on paper bank statements and in your online banking or mobile banking app.

When sending money, there are IBAN calculators online that will generate an IBAN for you if you have the beneficiary's basic bank account number details. But this is not necessarily guaranteed.

The best way to make sure you have the correct IBAN is to get in touch with your bank or ask the beneficiary for it directly. That way, you can be sure that your money will arrive safely when sending it abroad.

What does an IBAN look like?

IBANs can vary from country to country. They are unique because the alphanumeric code is connected to only one account. The IBAN includes all the information needed for a successful transfer: the country code, check digits, bank code, branch code and account number.

IBANs will have up to 34 alphanumeric characters, consisting of a:

  • two-letter country code (for example, IE for Ireland)

  • two-digit control number, used to catch errors

  • maximum of 30 alphanumeric characters that identify the bank and the account number

What happens if I put in the wrong IBAN?

If you put in the wrong IBAN and there is no corresponding account with that IBAN, the payment will be rejected. However, if you enter an IBAN that matches an account at that bank, the transfer will likely go through even if the recipient's name is incorrect. You won't be able to reverse the transfer without the recipient's permission, which could cause financial loss. Learn more about sending money overseas to see how we can help you.

Ready to open an overseas account?

We can tell you the best way for you to apply for an overseas account. Simply select your current location and where you would like to open an account. We'll then walk you through the steps.

Disclaimer

HSBC Holdings plc has prepared this article based on publicly available information at the time of preparation from sources it believes to be reliable but it has not independently verified such information. HSBC Holdings plc and the HSBC Group (together, "HSBC") are not responsible for any loss, damage, liabilities or other consequences of any kind that you may incur or suffer as a result of, arising from or relating to your use of or reliance on this article. The contents of this article are subject to change without notice. HSBC gives no guarantee, representation or warranty as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of this article. 

 

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