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What is a SEPA transfer?

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Last editedMay 20223 min read

You’ve probably heard of SEPA transfers, but what do they entail exactly? In short, SEPA transfers are an easy way to transfer money between countries in the European Union (EU). It’s one of the most rapid, cheapest and most secure ways to transfer your money from one EU country to another.

SEPA transfers explained

The SEPA, or the Single Euro Payments Area, is a European network which permits payments in euros between separate countries in the eurozone. This allows for transfers between one country to another to be as easy and straightforward as single country bank transfers.

Which countries are included in SEPA?

There are a total of 36 SEPA transfer countries.

27 of these countries are inside the European Union. These include France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

A further four SEPA transfer countries are from within the European Free Trade Association. There are Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

Four other members are micro states which operate through special arrangements with the EU. These are Vatican City, Monaco, Marino and Andorra.

The United Kingdom is the final participant in SEPA. Since leaving the EU, it is no longer a member country but participates in SEPA payment schemes. Overseas British territories in Europe, such as Gibraltar, Guernsey and Jersey, are still part of SEPA.

How does a SEPA transfer work?

There are three different types of SEPA bank transfers, each offering a different service. Below is a description of how SEPA Credit Transfer, the SEPA Instant Credit Transfer, and the SEPA Direct Debit Transfer each work.

SEPA Credit Transfer

This is usually used for one-time transfers. It requires the IBAN (International Bank Account Number) and sometimes the BIC (Business Identifier Code) numbers of both the sender and the recipient in order for the transfer to take place. With this type of transfer, the SEPA transfer time is usually one business day.

SEPA Instant Credit Transfer

Sometimes referred to as SEPA Instant Payment, this type is all about speediness. Once the sender has confirmed the transfer, it arrives in the recipient’s account in less than 10 seconds. This is because it’s an account-to-account payment with no intermediaries involved. SEPA Instant Credit Transfers are also available 24/7 everyday of the year and have the shortest SEPA transfer time.

In order for this type of SEPA payment to go ahead, however, both sender and recipient must be members of SEPA compliant banks.

SEPA Direct Debit Transfer

Unlike SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Instant Credit Transfer, the SEPA Direct Deb Transfer is more commonly used for recurring payments. This could be something like monthly rent or instalments on a loan repayment.

Like other SEPA transfer formats, the SEPA Direct Debit Transfer requires the IBAN number, and occasionally the BIC, of both sender and recipient. However, in contrast to the other transfer types, Direct Debit Transfer requires the recipient to be the initiator of the transaction, and the sender must sign a mandate giving the recipient permission to withdraw the funds on a recurring basis.

There are two different types of SEPA Direct Debit Transfers:

The SEPA Core Direct Debit Transfer can be used by  individuals, and must be offered by all SEPA compliant banks.

The SEPA B2B Direct Debit Transfer is only available for businesses, and SEPA member banks are not required to offer it.

Are there any SEPA transfer charges?

Generally speaking, SEPA transfer charges are equal to regular domestic bank transfer charges. This means it is usually free, however some banks which charge for domestic transfers may charge you an extra fee for using SEPA transfer services. Whether or not it is the sender or the recipient that pays this fee will depend on the bank.

Additionally, when sending from currency to another, e.g. Great British pounds to euros, or Icelandic krona to Swiss francs, there is an extra charge.

SEPA limits

SEPA limits, or the maximum sum of money possible to transfer is dependent on which SEPA transfer format you use.

SEPA Credit Transfers allow for a transfer limit of one cent less than one billion euros (€999,999,999.99)

SEPA Instant Credit Transfers will let you send up to €100,000 at a time.

SEPA Direct Debit Transfers do not actually have a fixed transfer limit. Instead, this limit will be determined by the recipient and the sender’s agreement.

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