SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) transfers are a cross-border system for making EUR transfers within the SEPA area. SEPA transfers are similar to domestic transfers despite being possible between different countries within the SEPA area. The SEPA zone includes 28 EU countries as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Vatican City and Monaco. Bank transfers can be made from any SEPA zone European checking account to any other account within SEPA. SEPA is a trusted and safe way to make online payments and purchases using your own online European bank.
SEPA was first established by the EU to facilitate fast, smooth transfer of funds in EUR between member states. This has been made possible by all the SEPA members adopting the same system of bank account numbers – IBAN. The European standardization of account numbers has made the processing of transactions faster and reduced the cost so that SEPA transfers cost the same as a domestic transfer in Europe. With SEPA companies can receive payments from clients across the continent and clients benefit from the fast transfer process and low transaction costs.
SEPA same day transfer
There now two different schemes in SEPA. SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) clearing rules require that payments made before the cutoff point on a working day must be credited to the recipient’s account by the close of business that day. Individual banks can set their own cut-off time. Generally, this is set at mid-afternoon. Transfers happening later than this will have to be completed on the following day of business.
SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst – also called SEPA Instant Payment) was launched in November 2017 for end customers in 8 euro zone countries. Currently it is functional in 22 countries and is being supported by 56% of European PSPs. It provides for instant crediting of a payee of up to €19,000 within ten seconds (with a maximum of twenty seconds in exceptional circumstances).
SEPA transfers cost
Receiving banks are not allowed to make any deductions from the amount transferred by a SEPA transaction, but the initiating bank can charge its customer a credit-transfer fee as long as it is charged uniformly to all customers and banks, both domestic and foreign. Generally, SEPA transactions are fee-free, but a few banks still do charge a fee for a SEPA transfer, so you should double-check with your bank.
SEPA payment method
SEPA payments are based on the IBAN identification, which associates a unique number with the sending and receiving bank accounts. This lets individuals and businesses make direct debits and credit transfers to an recipient in any other SEPA-participating country with a standard set of rules and conditions. This results in a reliable, fast, secure and standardized way to make and receive euro payments.
How to make a SEPA payment
You own account must be with a bank based inside the SEPA area, which means it has already been allocated a unique IBAN account number. Most banks provide a range of different portals via which a SEPA transaction can be initiated, including internet, ATM, mobile apps and so on, and generally also face-to-face in a bank branch.
The essential information that you need in order to complete the transfer is the net amount (currently there is a limit of €50,000 per transaction) and the receiving party’s IBAN account number. All the other information relevant will be associated automatically with the two IBAN numbers.
Is SEPA only for euro payments?
SEPA transactions can only be denominated in euro currency. However, since some countries that are part of the SEPA zone are not euro-based, it is possible to make a transfer from a non-euro bank, but there will likely be some charge for currency conversion into the euro – check this out with your own bank. Similarly, if the transfer is coming into a non-euro zone bank, then there may be some charge for conversion into the local currency.
Newest Developments in SEPA
- Since 2019 clients can now enjoy Instant SEPA where money can be transferred within 10 seconds.
- If you don’t hold a bank account in a SEPA country, you can get a virtual SEPA bank account online from anywhere in the world.
- It is possible to make cheap and even free SEPA transfers to bank accounts in SEPA countries from anywhere across the globe.
- If you are not a resident of one of the SEPA countries, you can still open a non-resident bank account and get an IBAN which makes it easy to receive payments from SEPA countries. The non-resident account must be opened remotely; it is a lengthy complex process and not permitted in all SEPA countries.
SEPA Transfer Fees
SEPA regulations prohibit banks from deducting any amount from the funds being transferred. However European banks still have the right to impose a credit-transfer fee for EUR transfers so long as the charge is adopted by all SEPA banks. This is an important regulation for SEPA countries not using EUR and for countries where domestic EUR transfers are uncommon as it protects them from inflated fees. In Denmark and Sweden legislation insures that EUR transfers are charged the same as transfers made in their own currencies. This means free EUR ATM withdrawals but a charge for ATM withdrawals in other EU currencies like the Czech Koruna and Hungarian Forint.
The EU Cross-border Payments Regulation of 2009 mandates that cross-border EUR payments, up to 50,000EUR between EU member countries will be charged the corresponding amount as payments within the member country. This regulation applies even if the transaction is sent internationally and not as a SEPA transaction. Also this regulation does not define the charges for currency conversion so transfers made in non-euro currencies can still be charged. This regulation does not apply to all SEPA countries; for example, Switzerland is within the SEPA zone but not a EU member state.
SEPA Credit Transfers
The SEPA Credit Transfer system (SCT) is used throughout Europe and has replaced the Euro Credit Transfer (CT) that used to be used for EUR domestic and cross-border transfers. SCT has standardized the transfer systems across Europe making cross-border transfers as simple as a domestic ACH transfer. To standardize agreed upon regulations the 2019 SCT rulebook version 1.0 came into force in November 2019 and will remain the ultimate guide to the SCT system until November 2021.
How Fast are SEPA Credit Transfers?
It can take a SEPA Credit Transfer between 1 and 3 days to be processed. This depends on the time of day when the transfer was initiated as there is a cut-off time of 3pm. SEPA transfers initiated before 3pm will be processed the same day while those made after 3pm will have to wait until the following day of business.
SEPA Direct Debits
The SEPA Direct Debits Scheme (SDD) allows merchants in Europe to accept EUR payments from accounts at banks within the SEPA zone; in non-Eurozone SEPA countries and in associate territories. SEPA direct debit transactions are automatic. Payments are made automatically at the appointed time so there is no risk of missed or late payments; no risk of customers incurring late-payment fees and you are not at the mercy of service interruptions. The recurring payment is made on time via the SDD system and if necessary there is a straightforward refund procedure. Businesses using SDD benefit from efficiency gains; prompt payment of invoices and optimization of cash flow. The standardized system insures that business can continue smoothly throughout Europe.
How Does SEPA Direct Debit Work?
SEPA Direct Debit uses direct bank-to-bank transfers instead of a card network. The regulations and information regarding SDD are explicitly laid out in the mandate including refund terms under the relevant SEPA Direct Debit scheme. For example, under the SEPA Direct Debit Mandate customers requesting regular scheduled payments are protected against incorrect or fraudulent deductions. You can see a link to the SEPA Customer Protections Guide below.
Legal Framework of the SEPA Direct Debit Scheme
Read about SEPA’s legal framework set out in the payment services directive 2007/64/EC.
In the SEPA regulation (EU) No 260/2012 you can read about the rules and deadline set in 2014 for Eurozone countries to make direct debits and credit transfers in EUR under the same conditions. Here you can also learn about the option of EUR transfers in non-Eurozone countries.
Becoming a SEPA member is complex and is only possible for licensed financial institutions. The applicant is put through an intense integration between its system and the SEPA system and once approved SEPA members must operate under strict regulation.
- 28 EU member countries
- Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Vatican City and Monaco.
SEPA members list/SEPA participants list
What countries make up the 33 Country SEPA Zone?
The 33 SEPA Zone countries comprise the existing 27 EU member states of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden, the 3 EEA countries of Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and also Switzerland and Monaco.