From 2014, bank account holders in Europe will have to use longer bank account numbers when making transfers. The current account numbers are supplemented with a country code and a bank code. The account number will therefore be 22 characters long and also contain letters.
New account number also for domestic payments
For years, the EU has wanted to harmonize online shopping and, relatedly, cross-border payments in Europe. The current bank account numbers and bank codes must therefore be replaced by much longer IBAN and BIC numbers by 2014 at the latest. From 2016, the current account numbers will no longer be valid for domestic payments. According to the European Commission, the changes must be implemented faster than planned:
- from 2014, the current bank account numbers will no longer be valid for transfers;
- From the end of 2012, the existing account numbers will no longer apply to direct debits.
Millions of payment accounts are affected by the measure.
Composition of new bank account number
Instead of the current account number, a 22-digit IBAN number (International Bank Account Number) applies to European bank customers, and a bank code replaces the 11-digit BIC (Bank Identification Code). All direct debit orders and standing orders must be adjusted. The new account number as it will be stated on your account statements from 2012 onwards contains 22 characters, which can easily be reduced as follows (from right to left):
- It is the current number of your bank account (10 digits);
- Plus an 8-digit BIC code (bank code);
- Supplemented with a 2-digit check digit;
- All this is preceded by the country code.
SEPA procedures for payments and collections
Since the beginning of 2008, banks have been offering so-called Sepa procedures for payments in addition to national transfer procedures and, since 2009, also for direct debits. Because after the introduction of the euro, cashless payments must also be standardized. SEPA stands for “Single Europe Payments Area”, which stands for uniform payment transactions between the 27 EU member states plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Monaco. Related to this, common standards have been developed to make cross-border payments faster and cheaper. Consumers can pay in this way if, for example, an insurer or energy company offers its customers to have direct debit payments made via SEPA Direct Debit from now on.
An information campaign for new bank account numbers will start in May 2012
Although IBAN and BIC are already required for foreign transfers, problems are expected if these numbers also apply to domestic payments. Great chaos is expected, especially during conversion, because many consumers will be surprised by the new number-letter combinations. In May 2012, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) therefore started an information campaign about the introduction of the new European bank account number in the Netherlands. Our familiar nine-digit bank account number will be replaced by an IBAN number in early 2014. Consumers must be informed in a timely manner about the new rules. After all, it affects almost all future payment procedures in our country. We currently also use an 18-digit IBAN number in our country for foreign transfers. If the IBAN and BIC code is used correctly, no more costs will be charged for foreign transfers than for domestic transfers. Contrary to the feared chaos among consumers, it is expected that the standardization of European procedures for banks will not cause too many problems. After all, people have been working with the new system for years. This does not alter the fact that all bank customers – therefore the entire economic system – must switch, and that takes time.