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How do SEPA transfers work?

There are several types of bank transfers and they are always based on an interbank network.

Within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), transfers are called SEPA transfers, and international transfers are called SWIFT transfers.

There are two types of SEPA transfers. Both of them include the term SCT (SEPA Credit Transfer):

  • SCT – standard SEPA transfers
  • SCT Inst – Instant SEPA transfers

Standard SEPA transfers (SCT)

SEPA transfers were introduced by the European Union in 2007 as part of the Payment Services Directive. Their purpose is to establish uniform conditions for payments in euros. This payment method, which has been available at French banks since 2010, is growing steadily. In 2019, its use increased 6.6% for a total value of €149 trillion.

Key information about SEPA transfers

  • In theory, standard SEPA transfers have no maximum amount.
  • In practice, the maximum amount of a standard SEPA transfer depends on the bank or establishment offering this option.
  • It is available 24/7.
  • Funds are made available in the beneficiary’s account in one business day.
    • The opening hours of the bank issuing the transfer must be taken into account.
    • A transfer issued at 6:01 pm for an establishment closed at 6 pm will be issued the next business day when the establishment opens.
  • The transfer is received in one to three days.
    • A transfer between two accounts of the same bank can be made within the same day.
    • For transfers between two different bank accounts, you have to consider 1) the opening hours and issue times for transfers from the bank of the issuing account, and 2) the opening hours and settlement times for transfers at the bank of the receiving account.
  • Usually, it is not possible to cancel a transfer you have already made, except under two circumstances:
    • By proving that the account holder did not initiate the transfer or that the transfer was made incorrectly (if the amount or recipient does not correspond to the transfer order). In this case, the deadline is 13 months.
    • In the event of fraud. To cancel a transfer, you must file a police report and submit it to your bank or the establishment of the account from which you made the transfer within 10 days.

Instant SEPA transfers (SCT Inst)

Instant SEPA credit transfers (SCT Inst) were introduced in 2017 by the European Payments Council. In 2020, 62.4% of all payment providers in the European Union already offered this type of transfer. Treezor has been offering instant SEPA transfers since 2021.

Important information

  • In theory, an instant transfer is limited to 100,000 euros.
  • In practice, the maximum amount of an instant transfer depends on the bank or institution offering this option.
  • It is available 24/7.
  • It takes less than 10 seconds.
  • The deadline for contesting an instant transfer (not made by the account holder or incorrectly executed) is 13 months. Otherwise it cannot be contested. A transfer requires the account holder to act voluntarily and validate the transaction, assuming the holder’s agreement to carry out the transfer.

Key takeaways about the different types of SEPA transfers:

  • There are two types of SEPA transfers: SCT (standard transfers) and SCT Inst (instant transfers).
  • SEPA transfers only apply to SEPA member countries.
  • SEPA transfers are considered irrevocable except in the event of fraud or if the transfer has been incorrectly executed.

Want to know more? Read our articles on SEPA transfers here.

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