SEPA Transfer

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What Is a SEPA Transfer?

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is an integrated payments system that allows bank account holders in the EU/EEA and the UK to instruct cross-border funds transfers from one European bank account to another with increased speed, security, and ease.

Established in 2010 to simplify the previously cluttered business of sending money from one European country to another, SEPA today constitutes the EU's very own payment system and operates similarly to how the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system operates to allow quick domestic transfers in the UK.

Understanding SEPA Bank Transfers

SEPA is an agreement between European banks that allows consumers, merchants, and businesses to send funds very quickly from one bank account to another, often in a matter of mere seconds for some types of credit transfers.

For ordinary online bank transfers or wire transfers made via SEPA from one European country to another, SEPA transfers often take slightly longer, although the norm is typically within one business day.

Moreover, because an overwhelming majority of European banks currently participate in the agreement, the SEPA scheme has a considerable scope indeed. While SEPA transfers — which can be made using credit transfers, card transfers, or direct debit payments — do indeed centre around Euro payments, SEPA has also simplified international money transfers between Euros and the currencies of other European countries, meaning a SEPA transfer can be made in other European currencies in just the same way as it would in the Euro.

Ultimately, all of this means that whenever a consumer or merchant instructs a bank transfer in a SEPA country, in almost all cases, they would automatically be making a SEPA bank transfer to make fast, safe, and easy cashless payments across borders.

Many Countries, One Payment System

While SEPA bank transfers are centred around the EU and use the Euro as a primary currency, several other countries and currencies form part of the scheme too. These include Switzerland, the UK, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, and Bulgaria — each of which maintains its own currency independently of the Euro.

Furthermore, a number of smaller countries and constituencies are also part of SEPA, including Andorra, the Åland Islands, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Gibraltar, and Vatican City.

All in all, SEPA payments can be made in a total of 36 countries and territories across the European continent, all of which have their very own country-specific International Bank Account Number (IBAN) through which all bank transfers within those countries are routed.

SEPA vs SWIFT

Due to their associations with cross-border money transfers, people often wonder how SEPA bank transfers differ from SWIFT payments.

While there are many technical differences between the two, SEPA and SWIFT are similar in that both make bank transfers easier within a geographical region — SEPA in Europe and SWIFT worldwide. However, SWIFT and SEPA transfers differ in the following ways:

  • SEPA transfers are processed as domestic bank transfers, while SWIFT transfers are processed as international wire transfers;
  • SWIFT payments typically accrue wire fees of US$50.00 or more, while default SEPA payments are free of charge;
  • SWIFT transfers take up to five working days or more to arrive, while SEPA transfers usually take twenty-four hours or less;
  • SWIFT operates through payment orders while SEPA transfers are made via credit transfer or direct debit.

How To Do a SEPA Transfer

  • Step 01

    Check SEPA Membership

    Make sure that both your bank and your beneficiary's bank fall into the SEPA zone. If both banks are in the EU/EEA or the UK, your payment will automatically be a SEPA bank transfer.

  • Step 02

    Log in to Your Online Account

    Go to your online banking profile, log in with your username and password, and follow any additional security steps as usual.

  • Step 03

    Set Up a Bank Transfer

    Click on the function that allows you to transfer money. Next, you'll need to enter your beneficiary's full name and IBAN. In addition, you can also specify your beneficiary's physical address, BIC/SWIFT code, and a payment reference. (These steps are often optional.)

  • Final step

    Instruct the Transfer

    Click through to confirm the transfer. The funds will then be automatically debited from your bank account and credited to your beneficiary's bank account as a SEPA bank transfer.

Frequently Asked Questions About SEPA Bank Transfers

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