IBAN numbers

A guide to IBAN Numbers

If you’re sending money to a bank account overseas, usually you’ll need your recipient’s International Bank Account Number (IBAN). Continue reading to discover what IBANs are, what they look like and when you’ll need one. 

What is an IBAN Number?

An IBAN means ‘international bank account number’, and it’s used by banks around the world to process international payments. You’ll need your recipient’s IBAN to make sure your money reaches the correct destination. An IBAN doesn’t replace a sort code and account number, but as you’ll discover, these three numbers and codes are connected.

What is the IBAN format?

The length and format of IBANs vary from one country to another. Examples of current IBANs include:

  • PL61109010140000071219812874 for Poland.
  • DE89370400440532013000 for Germany.
Fun facts: Norway has the shortest IBAN with 15 characters, while Malta and the Seychelles both have the longest IBANs with 31 characters. 

What all IBANs have in common are their structure and the information that they pass on when money is transferred overseas. 

A typical IBAN for a bank account in the UK consists of:

  • A country code.
  • A check number, digit or code.
  • A bank code.
  • A sort or branch code.
  • An account number. 

The IBAN for a hypothetical UK HSBC account would be in the format shown below:

GB12HBUK34567890123456
  • GB is the country code and helps identify the IBAN’s issue country and the account location. In this case, GB stands for Great Britain.
  • 12 is the check number and is used to validate an IBAN and vary from account to account.
  • HBUK is the bank code which identifies the banking institution. In this case, HBUK is the bank code for HSBC. 
  • 345678 is the sort code, and 90123456 is the account number. The sort code and account number identify which bank account you’re transferring money to overseas. If you’re making transfers from one UK bank account to another, you’ll typically only need these two numbers.  

Need to open a bank account in the UK? Read our helpful guide to setting up a bank account in the United Kingdom and start saving, receiving, depositing and transferring money. 

What is the difference between an IBAN and a SWIFT code?

Although IBAN and SWIFT codes are different, they perform similar functions. IBANs and SWIFT codes are both global standardised methods of bank identification. The difference between the two is the information they convey during an international money transfer.

Whereas a SWIFT code (also known as a BIC code) identifies a specific bank, an IBAN is used to locate an individual bank account. When making an international money transfer, you’ll need to know either your recipient’s SWIFT code or IBAN number. 

Which one you need depends on the bank and also the countries where the transfer will start and end, i.e. the sending and receiving countries. However, if you’re sending money to Nigeria, you’ll need your recipient’s Nigerian Uniform Bank Account Number (NUBAN) instead.

Fun fact: 77 countries use IBANs – that’s nearly half of the globe.

Countries like the United States, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada use Routing Transit Numbers (RTN). If you’re sending money to one of these territories, you’ll need your recipient’s RTN (or routing number). RTNs are nine-digit numerical codes that work similarly to IBANs. 

How to find an IBAN number

In some cases, you can generate your recipient’s IBAN with just their bank code and account number. Platforms such as IBAN.com can use this information to find your recipient’s IBAN, bank name and address. 

If you’re looking for your IBAN, you can usually find it by logging into your online banking account or checking a recent bank statement. 

While using IBAN calculators helps, it’s always a great idea to check the IBAN with your recipient before sending money overseas. An incorrect IBAN could delay or send your payment to the wrong bank account. 

How to validate an IBAN number

If you want to check that an IBAN is valid, IBAN.com also has this helpful IBAN checker. An IBAN validator is an excellent way of double-checking your recipient’s details, preventing any potential fraud and giving you peace of mind before your transfer.      

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