When you send money to support loved ones around the world, you’ll need to provide a few important details about you and your receiver. This might involve retrieving your receiver’s account number from an IBAN.
An IBAN, or International Bank Account Number, can help your international money transfer to run smoothly. Whatever the receiving currency and whether you’re transferring money as a gift, remittance or for another reason, knowing the IBAN can be essential.
Understand when you need the IBAN number, how to get one and how to make an international transfer with an IBAN in this guide.
In this article
- What is an IBAN?
- What is an IBAN used for?
- How is an IBAN constructed?
- Are IBANs always the same length?
- What is a BBAN?
An International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is a unique code used to identify a specific bank account when making international money transfers. It follows a standard structure to help ensure uniform payment transfers in countries using IBAN codes.
An IBAN for an international transfer can be up to 34 digits – depending on the country. In Germany an IBAN contains 22 characters.
Are BIC and SWIFT the same as IBAN?
A Bank Identification Code (BIC) and a Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) code serve similar yet slightly different purposes to an IBAN. The main difference is that an IBAN identifies an individual account involved in the international transfer. A BIC or SWIFT code only identifies the specific bank involved.
An IBAN is mainly used when making money transfers within SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area). Money transfers and direct debits have been standardized across the 36 SEPA member states (including Germany) to make the process quick, easy and reliable. You can also use an IBAN to send money within Germany, as well as overseas.
Outside of SEPA, you can use an IBAN to send money to certain other countries such as:
An IBAN is made up of up to 34 letters and numbers. The exact number of digits depends on the country where the bank account is held. However, every IBAN follows the same format and includes the same three sections:
- Country code (2 digits)
- Check digits (2 digits)
- BBAN (Basic Bank Account Number – up to 30 digits)
The main difference between the structure of IBAN codes is in the third section, which can differ in length and contents depending on the country. However, the main information included is the same.
As an example of how an IBAN is constructed, this is everything that a German IBAN must include:
Country code (2 digits)
The first two digits in the code are two capital letters that show the country where the bank account is held. These use ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes, as designated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). For Germany this is DE.
Examples for other destinations include:
- AU for Australia
- CN for China
- FR for France
- ES for Spain
- GB for the UK
Check digits (2 digits)
Two check digits follow the country code. These are two numbers that your bank calculates automatically for the account holder using Modulo 97.
The two numbers are used to identify your checking account/routing destination and any typing errors to prevent an incorrect money transfer.
Bank/sort code (8 digits)
This is the first part of the BBAN, which, for Germany, is an eight-digit sort code. These eight numbers help identify the bank and branch where the account is held.
When entered correctly, this confirms that the money transfer is going to a valid financial instiution, which can accept the payment type. If entered incorrectly, the checking process can flag the bank as non-existent.
Account number (10 digits)
With a German IBAN, the account number will be 10 digits long. It identifies the exact bank account where the money should be sent, and is a unique string that should match the receiver’s account details.
If the account number is less than ten digits long, a series of zeros are added before the account number.
For example, if the account number was the eight-digit 12345678 you would enter 0012345678.
No, an IBAN can be up to 34 digits long but the exact length depends on the country of origin. While the first two sections are the same number of digits (two for both the country code and check digits), the BBAN length can vary greatly.
For example, Norway has the shortest IBAN code at only 15 digits in length, while Saint Lucia has one of the longest at 32 digits.
Check out a few further example IBANs for different countries:
- Austria (20 digits) – AT483200000012345864
- Brazil (29 digits) – BR1500000000000010932840814P2
- Netherlands (18 digits) – NL02ABNA0123456789
- Poland (28 digits) – PL10105000997603123456789123
- Switzerland (21 digits) – CH5604835012345678009
A Basic Bank Account Number (BBAN) is the last part of an IBAN that comes after the country code and check digits. The BBAN can be up to 30 digits and is country specific.
In Germany, the BBAN is 18 digits, made up of the bank/sort code and account number. You need the full IBAN to make an international money transfer. If you’re sending money domestically (within Germany) you might be able to use the BBAN alone.
FAQs and guides
- How to receive money from abroad
- How to retrieve transfers online
- How long does it take to send money to someone?
- How to transfer money from one account to another