The IBAN or International Bank Account Number is a standardized system for identifying bank accounts across national borders.

This system is crucial in facilitating cross-border transactions, especially in B2B, where companies often need to send and receive payments in multiple currencies and countries.

The IBAN system streamlines international transactions by ensuring efficiency, accuracy, and security, minimizing errors and fraud.

What is an IBAN number?

The IBAN consists of alphanumeric characters that uniquely identify a bank account within a specific country.

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Many countries require IBAN numbers to receive international payments. It typically consists of two parts: a country code and check digits, followed by the Basic Bank Account Number (BBAN).

Components of an IBAN number

An IBAN number can have up to 34 alphanumeric characters, which form agreed combinations to show the details banks need to process cross-border payments. 

Visual format of an IBAN (International Bank Account Number) code. It breaks down the IBAN structure into distinct parts with labeled brackets.

These characters are grouped and have different meanings:

  • Country code: A two-letter country identification code.
  • Check digits: The financial institution that issued the account assigns the check’s digits to check the accuracy of its number.
  • Bank identifier: This identifies the financial institution. Sometimes, the bank identifier may also contain information about a specific institution’s branch.
  • Basic Bank Account Number (BBAN): It uniquely identifies an individual account with a specific financial institution and country.

Different countries use IBANs of different lengths because the individual country’s banking authority decides how many digits are used in an account number.

For example, an IBAN for the UK may only be 22 characters long. It contains everything needed to ensure your international transfer arrives safely.

Global Use of the IBAN number

The internationally recognized IBAN number ensures swift and accurate identification of your account, regardless of the countries involved in the transaction.

This standardization has brought a remarkable level of consistency to international banking. With the IBAN system, financial institutions worldwide can accurately route payments and verify the intended recipient’s account, mitigating the risk of funds ending up incorrectly.

European countries and regions like the Middle East and the Caribbean primarily utilize the IBAN system.

Unlike the IBAN system, the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries rely on different systems for identifying bank accounts. These countries have their own systems, such as the American Bankers Association (ABA) routing number in the US.

Origin of the IBAN Number

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The IBAN system was introduced in 1997 by the European Committee for Banking Standards (ECBS) to simplify cross-border transactions within the European Union (EU).

Since then, it has been adopted by over 70 countries worldwide, including non-EU members such as Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.

The Critical Role of IBAN Codes in International Business Transactions

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Using a standardized format, IBAN numbers are essential for global transactions, especially in B2B, where companies must send and receive payments across borders. This format eliminates potential errors and reduces the risk of transferring funds to the wrong account.

Additionally, IBAN numbers help speed up the processing time for international payments, as they provide the necessary information for routing funds to the correct bank and account.

How to Validate an IBAN number

Validating an IBAN number before initiating an international transaction is crucial to ensure it has been entered correctly and will be processed without problems.

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Most banks provide online tools or calculators that allow you to validate an IBAN number. These tools check the structure and format of the IBAN number and verify that it is valid for the specified country.

IBAN Numbers vs. SWIFT Codes

In international banking, two key components come into play: IBAN numbers and SWIFT codes. While they are integral to the global financial system, it’s important to understand their distinct roles:

IBAN Numbers

An IBAN (International Bank Account Number) is designed to identify a specific bank account. It offers a unique code for each bank account, ensuring that payments are directed precisely to the intended recipient’s account.

The IBAN number is like the personalized address of your bank account in the international financial landscape.


On the other hand, SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) codes are utilized to identify specific banks. These codes provide comprehensive information about the bank, including its name, location, and branch.

The IBAN number and SWIFT code work harmoniously to ensure that international payments traverse the complex network of financial institutions with precision.

The IBAN guides the funds to the correct account, while the SWIFT code navigates them to the right bank, making international transactions secure and efficient.

Understanding this synergy between IBAN numbers and SWIFT codes is essential for successful cross-border financial operations.


The term ‘Bank Identification Code’ (BIC) is a SWIFT code alternative. For this reason, BIC and SWIFT codes are often seen together as SWIFT/BIC.

The SWIFT network serves as the platform for international transfers, where BICs (Bank Identifier Codes) are the designated codes employed within this network.

The main difference between IBAN and BIC is that IBAN primarily signifies the bank’s country of operation and the specific account number associated with the individual within that institution. The BIC (Bank Identification Code) provides more specific information to facilitate the transaction.

The SWIFT/BIC code consists of alphanumeric characters, including a 4-letter bank code, a 2-letter country code, and a branch identifier of a letter and a number.

Visual structure of a SWIFT code, also known as a BIC (Bank Identifier Code). It consists of 8 to 11 alphanumeric characters divided into 4 groups.

Having the correct SWIFT/BIC code is essential for a successful transaction. An incorrect BIC may incur additional costs to correct a misdirected transfer after the transaction.

Send Money Overseas: Where to Use IBAN & SWIFT codes

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IBAN is used in the following scenarios:

  • Cross-border payments between banks in different countries
  • Direct debits and standing orders for recurring payments

SWIFT/BIC is used in the following scenarios:

  • International money transfers between banks
  • Setting up correspondent banking relationships
  • Identifying the bank for regulatory purposes

What is the average time it takes for an IBAN transfer to take?

The time taken for an IBAN transfer depends on variables such as the countries, banks, and time zones involved.

An international IBAN bank transfer typically takes between 1 to 5 working days. Generally, IBAN transfers within Europe are quicker than transfers across different time zones. The time taken also depends on bank verification processes. 

Here are some helpful comparisons of average times between different countries:


Transferring money from the UK to a US bank account typically takes 1 to 3 working days. The time taken varies because some US banks are slower than others at clearing funds.

UK to Spain

Sending money to Spain from the UK usually takes 2-3 working days. The Spanish bank receiving the funds must do their own internal checks before they clear your money into the account.

UK to Australia

Your bank will make an IBAN money transfer to Australia, and the money will arrive in Australia in 3-4 working days.

UK to Canada

Using an IBAN transfer service, your pounds usually arrive in Canada in 2-3 working days.

Using International Bank Account Numbers with Bancoli

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With Bancoli, utilizing IBANs for international transactions simplifies sending and receiving payments across borders.

By offering multi-currency accounts with local details for currencies USD, EUR, GBP, SGD, and HKD, along with MXN, BRL, JPY, CNY, PHP, and INR payouts.

Bancoli ensures that businesses can manage their finances in multiple countries without the burden of excessive conversion fees or complex banking arrangements.

Competitive Advantages

  • Reduced Conversion Costs: Holding and transacting in the currency of your choice will save you on unnecessary currency conversion fees.
  • Global Reach, Local Convenience: Bancoli’s support for transactions in over 10 currencies across more than 200 countries empowers businesses to expand their operations internationally easily.

Enhancing Cash Flow

Bancoli’s innovative features extend beyond the use of IBANs. Our platform’s accelerated cash flow solutions, like guaranteed invoices and supply chain financing, are designed to improve liquidity and enable businesses to thrive in the competitive global marketplace.

Integrating IBANs complements these features, ensuring your international transaction is fast and cost-effective.

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Takeaways: The relevance of IBAN numbers in the banking system

IBAN numbers play a crucial role in facilitating international payments.

By providing a standardized format for identifying bank accounts, IBAN numbers ensure the accurate and efficient processing of funds across national borders.

Understanding IBAN numbers is essential for seamless transactions, whether sending or receiving international payments.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between IBAN and SWIFT codes?

SWIFT codes (or SWIFT/BIC numbers) help identify the bank holding the recipient’s account during international payments.

You’ll usually need a SWIFT code and an IBAN to make a payment, especially in Europe. These two alphanumeric codes cover most of the details needed to process payments safely.

2. Is IBAN the same as an account number?

An IBAN is not the same as a basic account number. It is required for international bank transfers but does not replace your basic account number.

The processing bank asks you to provide both the IBAN and the regular account numbers to double-check that they match up during an international transfer.

3. How long does an IBAN transfer take?

The time it takes for your transfer depends on where you’re sending from and to and the processes of your bank and the recipient bank.

Some transfers on common currency routes will only take a day or so, but other payments may take longer—3 to 5 working days.