Frequently asked questions about SEPA

What does SEPA mean?

SEPA stands for "Single Euro Payments Area". The aim of SEPA is to allow all European end users to make payments in euro throughout Europe in the same way they would in their own country, just as simply, just as securely and with the same turnaround times as for a domestic payment.


When does SEPA come into effect?

SEPA came into effect on 1 January 2008. It will be phased in:

  • Since 1 January 2008, Belgian consumers have also been able to pay with Maestro in some shops. BNP Paribas Fortis payment cards automatically include the Maestro function.
  • You have been able to use the European transfer since 28 January 2008.
  • From the end of 2009, the European Direct Debit will be part of our day-to-day lives.
  • Belgian transfers will be entirely replaced by the European transfer by 2010. 


Which countries are affected by SEPA?

SEPA includes:

  • All EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland (including Åland), France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla), Sweden and the United Kingdom (including Gibraltar and Northern Ireland).
  • Five other European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland.
  • The French overseas departments: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Réunion.


What is an IBAN?

The IBAN (International Bank Account Number) identifies every accountholder along with their bank and the country where they are based. Thanks to the unique IBAN, banks can make payments automatically without the need for any additional information.


In Belgium, the new account number will consist of 16 characters as standard, compared with 12 at present.

An example: the Belgian bank account number 001-1234567-44 will become BE48 0011 2345 6744 in the IBAN format.


The format is always as follows:

  • ISO code for the country (BE for Belgium)
  • two check digits (48 in this example)
  • the existing Belgian account number


No uniform length has been established for the 31 SEPA countries but the IBAN cannot exceed 34 characters. Fixed lengths have, however, been agreed by each country. In France, for example, an IBAN consists of 27 characters, compared with 22 for a German IBAN.


Where can I find the IBAN for my account number?

Each account number has a different IBAN. You will find the IBAN for your account number to the bottom right of your account statements. You can also work out your IBAN based on your Belgian account number.


What is a BIC?

The BIC (Bank Identifier Code) is an international code that banks use for financial transactions. Each bank has its own BIC. This means that international payment orders automatically reach the right bank. The BIC is also known as a SWIFT address or SWIFT code.


The BIC for BNP Paribas Fortis is: GEBABEBB.


Will SEPA have an impact on charges?

SEPA does not make any stipulations in relation to charges nor to how payments must be accepted and processed. A European Regulation (2560/2001) does, however, bring charges for cross-border payments into line with the charges for domestic payments. This Regulation applies to all SEPA countries except for Switzerland.



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