What’s an IBAN?

3 min read

IBAN is an acronym for an International Bank Account Number, a standardised global numbering system that identifies different bank accounts and their respective countries around the world.

Primarily used in the European Union, an IBAN makes it easier for banks to process cross-border transactions and transfers. An IBAN isn’t a replacement for your normal bank account number but rather works in addition to it to help speed up international payments, interbank transfers and money wires.

You’ll find your IBAN on any of your bank statements or in your account details within the secure area of your online bank.

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How does an IBAN work?

An IBAN works because of the numbers and digits it’s made up of. Each of these helps banks quickly identify which country it came from, which bank and which account. Let’s break these down:

  • The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) country code, which in plain English is the first two letters of the IBAN and represents the country of origin. For example, GB for the UK or DE for Germany.
  • The next two digits are the cheque number.
  • Then we have up to 30 alphanumeric digits known as the Basic Bank Account Number (BBAN), which include the bank’s domestic account number, a unique branch identifier and potential routing information.

When do you need to use an IBAN?

You won’t always need your IBAN to make a foreign exchange, as not all countries use them. While it’s commonplace for transactions across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean, notable exceptions include the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand who all have their own solutions for handling international payments.

Even banks who don’t use the IBAN themselves now mostly accept them for European accounts, though their processing and due diligence for checking transactions might not be as good. That’s changing though, as they start to realise the importance of checking the validity of the origin of international transfers to make sure they’re genuine and correct.

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Keep it simple


An IBAN is a standardised numbering system used to make international transfers and transactions, mostly in Europe, quick, easy and reliable.

widely used

An IBAN isn’t essential for every international transaction but is widely used and accepted.

enter with care

Be careful when entering your IBAN and always double check it, as some banks may charge a fee or reject the transaction altogether if you’ve entered it wrong.

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