SEPA full termed Single European Payment Area was put in place by the European Union that had for objective to provide a method of payment that can be accepted in any European Country. This SEPA was a revolution in the payment systems in the Euro territory and has been of great use and advantage for many travelers that move in all corners around the European territory.
SEPA in 2021 has a total of 36 European countries that use this payment system. SEPA uses the common Euro currency €, and every member will have a SEPA bank account and a SEPA card that can be used and accepted in any country across the European continent without any complications of the country regulations. This SEPA bank account can also be used for online payments on website that accept payments just for specific countries in Europe.
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Bank transfers within SEPA bank accounts is instant and takes just some few seconds ( for SCT Inst scheme) to complete. However, SEPA is being managed by the European commission and European Central Bank (ECB).
However, SEPA makes it easy and convenient to do euro electronic payments across the European continent just with a SEPA bank account and/or SEPA Card. We are going to see the full list of all the 36 European countries that operate with SEPA.
However, though SEPA is available just for European countries, there are several ways that you can use to Open a non resident Virtual SEPA bank account if you are not located in Europe. The main advantage of having a SEPA bank account is to be able to accept payments in Euro from European countries since most countries in Africa don't have banks that support a transaction in Euro currency.
Brief History of SEPA
Everything started in 2007 where the European Union passed the Payment Services Directive. The Directive made its own tasked by placing all legal measures for the establishment and creation of the known SEPA with all its advantages. SEPA was then established in 2011 and then replaced national payments. With rapidly growing techniques, SEPA launched an innovative program that will let all SEPA members do bank transfers of up to €15, 000 within few seconds usually less that ten seconds (SCT Inst).
With great foreseeing, the European Commission wanted to extend the rules that forbids banks to charge extra transaction fees for transactions made to non European countries as from 2018. This was a great feature which let all the members to do transactions with other countries located out of the European territory at the same transaction cost as transactions within European countries.
However, all the members of SEPA where to be informed of the different conversion rates and cost that will implement them performing transactions between 2 different currencies.
SEPA always get to be confused with SWIFT which are two different things. Let's see what difference lies between them.
What is the Difference Between SEPA and SWIFT?
To first crown the difference, SEPA is available in Euros and transactions are limited to European countries and will require an IBAN to be provided for all transactions made meanwhile SWIFT Payments can be done between many countries.
A SEPA payment can only be sent in euros within the Single Euro Payments Area and the fees must be shared between the sender and the beneficiary. A SWIFT payment can be made between any bank in any country that supports the SWIFT service and in most currencies. SWIFT code is however needed for all SWIFT International transfers.
Benefits of SEPA for Business Entities and All Consumers
SEPA has a lot of opportunities that facilitate the financial state of all its consumers and business entities.
- Very Simple and convenient
- Transparency into pricing and fees for payments.
- With SEPA, you can perform transactions within your home country and any other countries which is not in SEPA zone without any additional transaction fee.
- Businesses can reduce the number of bank accounts necessary to do business across Europe and thereby simplify their liquidity management.
- Everything is automatic with SEPA with a debit system that will help you pay bills conveniently even if you happen to forget about the bill. SEPA debit system does the job for you.
- Easily get refund for all unauthorized SEPA payments of up to 13 months made on your account
- Easily identifies and get rid of payments that did not go through well.
- Cost-effective harmonized payment system
- Automatically updates card details such as Expiry and economizes administrative time.
How does SEPA Works?
SEPA payments are fully done with IBAN and all transactions work with a valid IBAN provided for the recipient. Plus, all transactions that will require an additional information ahead of the payment such as phone number verification will be covered uniformly.
So for all transactions like sending money to another account, you will need to provide your recipients IBAN number which is the international number for the bank.
We talk of IBAN since but what really is an IBAN?
What is an IBAN?
The International Bank Account Number is an internationally agreed system of identifying bank accounts across national borders to facilitate the communication and processing of cross border transactions with a reduced risk of transcription errors. Source - Wikipedia
An IBAN consists of up to 34 alphanumeric characters comprising a country code; two check digits; and a number that includes the domestic bank account number, branch identifier, and potential routing information.
Different Types of SEPA Euro Payment Schemes
SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT)
SCT is an electronic payment from one bank account to another. SCTs can be one-off or recurring payments (for example, a standing order to pay the monthly rent of an apartment or to regularly transfer money to a savings account). Otherwise it can be either a single or bulk payments (such as one debit from the payer’s account with multiple credits to different beneficiaries) are supported.
SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) and B2B
SDD consists of two services which are: CORE and B2B. They have different target markets of which retail and private customers is that for Core scheme, whereas that of B2B scheme is direct debits between corporates. The main difference between the two services is primarily related to debtor's refund rights, technically the two services are based on the same formats. This is usually used to do fixed payments such as house rent which is a payment to be made without delay. This is all possible thanks to its pre-authorized automatic payment system
SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst)
Officially launched in November 2017, the SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst) scheme enables euro credit transfers with the funds made available on the account in less than ten seconds at any time and in an area that will progressively span over the 36 SEPA countries. All payment service providers (PSP) are invited to adhere to the scheme as soon as possible, however this is not a compulsory scheme.
Since 2001, bank no longer do deductions on amount to be transferred with SEPA. However, Banks can charge an amount of their choice over credit transfers in euros if it is being uniformly charged by all the participating banks and payment systems.
However, the European Parliament ensured that the charges to be charged over transactions between a member of the SEPA and any other country should be the same as the charges charged for transactions between 2 members of the SEPA zone. This rule was put in place in 2001.
Also, Sweden and Denmark made it clear that euro transfers will be charged the same way as their own currency transfers with priority given to non of the currency (equal - equal charges).
SEPA Countries Full List 2022 [Updated]
This list is a simple list of all SEPA countries compressed together. If you want a well differentiated list based on local currency, BIC and IBAN codes then checkout this list of SEPA countries on Financial Hint.
Below is a Full List of all the Countries in the SEPA Zone together with their BIC codes, IBAN codes and their currency code.
|23||Isle of Man||IM||GB||GBP|
|42||Saint Martin (French part)||MF||FR||EUR|
|43||Saint Pierre and Miquelon||PM||FR||EUR|
However, there are still some special parts of some SEPA countries which have not been listed.
- Cyprus: Northern Cyprus is excluded.
- Denmark: the Faroe Islands and Greenland are excluded.
- France: the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna are excluded.
- Netherlands: Aruba, the Caribbean Netherlands, Curaçao and Saint Martin are excluded.
- Norway: Svalbard and Jan Mayen are excluded.
- United Kingdom: British Overseas Territories are excluded, save for Gibraltar and the Crown dependencies.
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SEPA, UK and Brexit
What is Brexit impact on SEPA payments? Although the UK is no longer part of the EU, it is still part of the SEPA payment scheme as non-EEA SEPA country. However, the fees might be higher. If you are looking for SEPA alternatives, you can set up a business in Estonia regardless of whether the UK remains in SEPA or not. If you’re not in the UK but you do business with UK businesses it can be smart to open an account with more flexible banks, such as Revolut.
Organizations within the UK are still learning the full impact of the UK’s recent Brexit deal. However, over recent weeks, corporations making SEPA payments from accounts in the UK to the EU are experiencing additional fees and payment refusals.
List of Non-SEPA Countries 2021
SEPA is not being used by all countries in Europe, these countries are;
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
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Conclusion and Final Thoughts
SEPA has brought great advancement in payment services which also made it easy for members of SEPA to perform transactions wit countries not located in Europe without additional fees. Using SEPA will also implement you to accept their terms of services and also be sure to notice automatic payments for services what need to be renewed such as house or vehicle rent.
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