SWIFT and wire transfers

Are you being overcharged for SWIFT and wire transfers?

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Within the SEPA zone, consisting of 36 European countries, fees for bank transfers conducted in Euro are regulated - they cannot exceed the fees your bank charges you for a domestic transfer. This is in contrast to SWIFT (read more about the SEPA and SWIFT here) international payments, which can end up costing you up to €30 per transfer. Recently we encountered a customer who was sending SEPA payments, yet their bank was charging them €250 a day. How is this possible?

The difference in fees

Banks make no money from sending SEPA payments as the fees are either free or really cheap (20-50 euro cents per transfer). For example, when a person or a company in Spain sends a payment in Euro to an account in Germany, the cost is free because of both countries being part of SEPA. BUT, surprise surprise, many banks force their customers to send SWIFT payments or Wire transfers, charging €30 per transfer, which tend to be both slower and more expensive. Since many European accounts are only SEPA enabled and do not use SWIFT (like the B2B Pay accounts), these transfers will be rejected and bounce back to the sender. And if they succeed, you will end up paying a hefty charge. 

Since every European bank has a different set of rules, we cannot offer a comprehensive guide on how to avoid sending SWIFT payments by accident. Yet, there are several things you can check to understand what type of transfer you're about to make. Most of the time, a payment sent in euro between any of these 36 European countries should be a SEPA payment. If you want to read more about it, we recommend checking our article about SWIFT bank transfer

This is a checklist to ensure you are not making a SWIFT payment by mistake:

  • Make sure you transfer the money between a Euro account to a Euro account
  • If you see a large fee, between €10-40, then for sure it is a SWIFT payment! Either talk to your bank about this or see if there are any other options in your online banking portal. If you want to know more about how SWIFT works, have a look at this article.
  • Words like SWIFT; SHA, OWN should be a red flag.
  • If you are asked for an address, it is most likely a SWIFT transfer.

Also, back to the basics - what is a SWIFT code?

SWIFT is a global standard for secure international bank transactions, which established a code that allows banks of both the sender and recipient to quickly recognise the accounts and execute the payment. SWIFT plays the same role as BIC code - so you might use them interchangeably. They’re both between 8 and 11 characters long. A more detailed description of the system can be found here.

How do I find the SWIFT code of my bank?

The code can be found on your bank’s website, possibly in your bank statement, or simply by searching online a combination of name of the bank + SWIFT keywords. 

What is a BIC code?

To learn about BIC, aka Bank Identifier Code, please have a look at this article.

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