The abbreviation SEPA ("Single Euro Payments Area") names the project of a Europe-wide uniform payments area, in which the new standards are effective since 2008. 31 countries participate in SEPA. Further to the member states of the European Union, the 3 countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland participate as well.
The most important terms
The BIC ("Bank Identifier Code") is the internationally standardized bank code. It is comparable to the bank code number in Germany. With the BIC which often is also named SWIFT code credit institutes can be identified clearly worldwide. For foreign transfers, you receive the IBAN (pls. see below) and the BIC from the foreign beneficiary or business partner. In case you expect to receive funds from abroad, please indicate your personal IBAN and the BIC of your bank, for example in your letter or your invoice. You can find IBAN and BIC on your bank statements.
The EPC ("European Payments Council") is a board established by the European banking industry. It develops the uniform standards for SEPA .The EPC is the European equivalent to the Central Credit Committee of Germany.
The European Union currently consists of 27 member states. Since January 2008 15 EU member states have introduced the Euro as their currency.
EWR (EEA) stands for "European Economic Area". It consists of the 27 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway
The IBAN is the "International Bank Account Number". The IBAN consists of one international part that is composed of a country code and a check digit, and another nationally defined component. For example in Germany this component is composed of the bank identifier code and the account number. The IBAN consists of a maximum of 34 alphanumerical characters but within this the length differs from country to country. In Germany the IBAN is composed of 22 letters and digits in total. For foreign transfers you have to indicate you IBAN instead of your account number, this also applies to online-banking.
In the SEPA Cards Framework, the European Payments Council (see EPC) defines the minimum requirements for the SEPA ability of certain payment systems and payment cards.
SWIFT is the "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications". The society controls the international data exchange between banks. It runs a worldwide line network and defines news standards. Any participating bank is given a distinct identifier, the BIC.