SEPA payments

What are SEPA payments?

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) was set up by the European Union to simplify making electronic cross-border payments. Individuals and businesses can make payments in Euros within the Single Euro Payments Area as easily as in their own country. This includes transferring money by SEPA direct debit and credit transfers.

SEPA payment services have also been extended to card payments to ensure a consistent experience when making or receiving payments by card throughout the Single Euro Payments Area.

As well as making cross-border transactions easier, the SEPA system means you pay a similar fee as you would for a national payment (also known as a domestic payment). This means credit transfers and direct debits between international SEPA banks will either be free or have a similar fee as a domestic transfer. More information on World First fees for same currency transfers.

It’s not just Eurozone countries or European Union member states that can use the SEPA payment scheme for international payments. Countries like the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Vatican City also offer SEPA payment services. View full list of countries in the SEPA zone below.

To ensure continued collaboration and transparency for cross-border transactions, The European Central Bank and the European Union support the SEPA payment scheme. The EU provides the legal framework that harmonises international payments, while the European Central Bank is responsible for governance and steering via the Euro Retail Payments Board.

How to make SEPA payments

As SEPA is all about simplifying the way electronic payments are made in Euros, it’s straightforward to make international payments between SEPA countries.

To make a payment to a SEPA European country you’ll usually need the:

  • Name and address of the person or company receiving the money
  • International Bank Account Number (IBAN) of the person or company receiving the money
  • Bank Identifier Code (BIC) of the bank receiving the funds

If you have a WorldFirst account, all you need is the account holder’s name and their IBAN to make SEPA international payments.

Outside of the WorldFirst foreign exchange platform, you can make SEPA direct debit and credit transfers online using internet banking. SEPA also supports mobile payments for online shopping, paying with your phone in-store and for credit transfers.

The fee you’ll pay will depend on the bank or foreign exchange service you’re using.

How long do SEPA payments take?

At WorldFirst, we use SEPA SAMEDAY transfers so in most cases we’re faster than the banks.

In the case of most banks, the money appears the next business day, but SEPA transfers typically take 1-2 business days to arrive in the beneficiary’s bank account.

It should be noted, however, that the time it takes for SEPA international payments to arrive varies between countries and providers. SEPA was set up to make payments more convenient so it shouldn’t be a long wait.

If you need to make an urgent payment within the Single Euro Payments Area contact our dedicated team of relationship managers to get a more accurate estimate of how long the SEPA payment will take.

Which countries are part of SEPA?