Following last week’s post on international payments, today’s will go into more detail on the IBAN, or International Bank Account Number. The IBAN contains all the info a bank receiving a cross-border payment should need in order to correctly apply the funds.

IBANs consist of four groups of alphanumeric characters:

a)    The country code

b)   Check digits, calculated via an algorithm of IBAN

c)    The bank code

d)   The account number

IBANs can have more than 30 characters, although not all do. The exact length is set by each country’s banking sector, and all IBANs within a country must be the same length, reports the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business.

The IBAN is being used as the primary means of identifying accounts in Europe; as a result, international payments without IBANs often take longer. If you will be paying an organization that’s located within Europe, you’ll want to make sure you receive its IBAN information. The IBAN Registry prepared by SWIFT also provides IBAN formats for several countries outside Europe, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. At the present, the IBAN is not being used for payments within the U.S.

Not sure about an IBAN? Several organizations offer online tools that payers can use to validate the structure of an IBAN.