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What is an International Bank Account Number (IBAN)?

International Bank Account Numbers (IBANs) are a way of identifying bank accounts internationally, allowing for international payments to be processed quickly. When you send money abroad, an IBAN identifies the recipient to ensure the funds reach the right account.

The system was initially developed for payments within the European Union and has now been implemented by most European countries and many countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is the formal registrar of the IBAN system.

The downside of international transfers with your bank

When you send or receive an international wire with your bank, you might lose money on a bad exchange rate and pay hidden fees as a result. That’s because the banks still use an old system to exchange money. We recommend you use Wise, which is usually much cheaper. With their smart technology:

  • You get a great exchange rate and a low, upfront fee every time.
  • You move your money as fast as the banks, and often faster – some currencies go through in minutes.
  • Your money is protected with bank-level security.
  • You join over 2 million customers who transfer in 47 currencies across 70 countries.

Structure of International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN)

An IBAN consists of up to 34 alphanumeric characters, structured as follows:

CCKKBBBBBBBBBBBB...

  • The first two 2 characters ("CC") specify the country code in ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 format. Only letters.
  • The next 2 characters ("KK") specify the check digits, used to confirm integrity of the code. Only digits.
  • The remaining characters ("BBBBBBBBBBBB...") specify the Basic Bank Account Number (“BBAN”). The format is decided by the national central bank or designated payment authority of each country. Both letters & digits are allowed.

Structure of a Basic Bank Account Number (BBAN)

The length of a BBAN can be up 30 alphanumeric characters.

However, each country will have a fixed length and comprise case-insensitive alphanumeric characters. BBANs normally include local bank routing information such as bank & branch identifier and domestic bank account number.