Bank transfers can be a convenient way to move money to your loved ones both in France and around the world. Find out how to make a bank transfer, how they work for domestic and international payments, and the benefits of doing so.
See what details you need to make a bank transfer and where to find them. In this simple guide we introduce you to the benefits and limitations of bank transfers as a means of moving money from one account to another. Learn how they work and get started today.
In this article
- Bank transfer: how does it work?
- The steps to follow to make a bank transfer
- SEPA vs. non-SEPA transfers
- Delay of a bank transfer
- Costs of a bank transfer
Bank transfer: how does it work?
Bank transfers work by moving money electronically from one account to another. They’re a form of cashless payment. You can move money between two accounts that belong to you, or from your account to one held by someone else.
What is a bank transfer?
A bank transfer is essentially an instruction to debit (remove) money from one account and credit (pay in) money to another account.
This instruction is communicated between the bank of the person making the payment and that of the person or business receiving it (also known as the payee or beneficiary).
Internal and external bank transfers
A transfer between two accounts held with the same bank is known as an internal transfer. An internal transfer includes moving money between two of your own accounts that are held with the same bank. It can also involve moving money from your account to an account with the same bank held in someone else’s name.
External transfers are those made to a different bank. This could be to another of your own accounts, or to one belonging to someone else, held with a different financial institution.
Types of bank transfer
Bank transfers can be:
- Domestic (within France)
- SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) payments – available to 36 European countries
- International (to countries outside SEPA)
International bank transfers
SEPA payments are a kind of international money transfer. They enable electronic payments to all countries in the European Union and nine other countries and territories across Europe, in an extra efficient way.
They operate in the same way as domestic payments and can be just as fast. SEPA payments are possible via credit transfer and direct debit. A direct debit is an instruction to allow your bank to request and take funds from an account.
Other international payments may take longer and cost more. They can involve the payment of a fee to enable a money transfer. The cost will vary depending on the exchange rates offered by the chosen payment provider.
You can instruct your bank to make a money transfer directly from an account you hold with them. Or you can use a specialist in international payments, like Western Union.
How quick is a bank transfer?
It depends where the receiving bank is. For example:
- Instant internal domestic transfers can be made in minutes.
- External transfers (to an account held with another bank) or SEPA payments can usually be made in one to three days.
- International payments (outside of SEPA) usually take at least four days.
Check bank transfer delivery times by country to find out more.
The steps to follow to make a bank transfer
To make a bank transfer you need the details of the account you want to take the money from and the account you want to pay into.
For French accounts all the information you need is available on the relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB) – a document every account owner has.
Information required for a bank transfer includes the:
- Full name the account is held under
- Bank and branch identifier number (five digits each)
- Account number
The information you need to make a bank transfer to an account held in another country varies. For international transfers and SEPA payments you usually need:
- The International Bank Account Number (IBAN). IBAN numbers in France are made up of 27 characters.
- A SWIFT or Bank Identifier Code (BIC) in some cases.
Understand what information you need to make a bank transfer to a specific country.
Ways to make a bank transfer
There are a number of ways to make a bank transfer. They include:
You can request a bank transfer at a bank counter or at an agent location for a specialist money services provider, like Western Union.
You can make a bank transfer via online banking services, either through an app or desktop application. Specialist money transfer services often offer online services as well. Some banks may provide it from their own online services.
The PayPal money service offers way to make international and domestic bank transfers.
At an ATM
You may be able to make bank transfers via an ATM. This might only be possible between your own accounts held with the same bank.
SEPA vs. non-SEPA transfers
The Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) allows for instant money transfers between a list of specific European countries. Via the new SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst) scheme payments can be received in seconds.
More than 529 million people live in the SEPA and it allows bank transfers with increased ease between 36 European countries. You can make payments to any of the member countries as easily as to an account within France.
They can be one-off or regular payments. Payments are made for the full original amount, though a fee may be charged by the payment service provider.
SEPA SCT Inst transfers
This European Payments Council scheme enables bank transfers to reach the recipient’s account in seconds across an area spanning many European countries. The list of participating countries and banks is growing.
Non-SEPA international transfers
Transfers to countries that fall outside of SEPA work via different methods. They may not be as quick and can involve additional fees. It’s also important to check the exchange rates offered, which may vary.
Delay of a bank transfer
There can be a delay in a bank transfer showing up in the receiver’s account spanning a number of days. The speed of a money transfer depends on factors including:
- The payment service provider used
- Where the account you pay from is held
- Where the receiver’s account is held
- If there’s a weekend or public holiday in France or the country where the receiver’s account is based
Check with your payment service provider for how long your transfer is estimated to take.
Costs of a bank transfer
In many cases bank transfers are free.
This is usually the case when transferring:
- Money between your own accounts
- To another French account
- To an account held with the same bank
It may also be the case with some SEPA money transfers.
There are often costs and fees associated with international money transfers. These can include sending fees, receiving fees and currency conversion charges.
You may get a better exchange rate with some payment service providers than others. It’s important to ask about fees, charges and exchange rates when making an international bank transfer.
Bank transfers can be a convenient way to move money but alternatives are available. These can include:
- Sending a money order.
- Arranging cash collection at a money transfer service location. Sending cash can be a useful alternative when your receiver does not have a bank account.
In some countries you can also send money directly to a mobile wallet.
FAQs and guides
- A parent’s guide to supporting and sending money to their children abroad
- Find the code of a bank counter
- Get a payment receipt