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Payments Technology

What is SEPA? Payment Types, Benefits & Supported Countries

Alexis Damen | June 11, 2024
What is SEPA? Payment Types, Benefits & Supported Countries

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) has revolutionized how transactions are processed, simplifying euro-denominated payments across its 36 member countries, and ensuring that cross-border transactions are as straightforward and cost-effective as domestic ones. 

This unified system eliminates the complexities and high fees traditionally associated with international payments, making it easier for you to manage cash flow and expand market reach, among many other advantages. 

In this article, you’ll learn the key aspects of SEPA, including its various solutions so you can fully leverage the benefits of this payment system.

Table of contents

What is SEPA?

The Single Euro Payments Area is an initiative of the European Union aimed at simplifying and streamlining financial transactions across Europe. Launched in 2008, this scheme allows individuals, businesses, and organizations to make and receive euro-denominated payments under the same conditions, rights, and obligations, regardless of your location within the SEPA zone. This unified system makes cross-border euro payments as easy and convenient as domestic transactions, fostering greater economic integration and efficiency across the member countries.

📚Further reading: MONEI is the First Spanish Fintech to Offer Instant Payments Across Europe with SEPA Request-to-Pay

What are the SEPA area countries?

The zone encompasses a wide range of countries, both within and outside the European Union. As of now, the SEPA area includes 36 countries:

  • The 27 European Union member states
  • The four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland
  • The United Kingdom
  • Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City

These countries have adopted the SEPA standards, which means they have implemented the technical and legal requirements to facilitate seamless euro transactions. This extensive reach has made cross-border payments within Europe more accessible and efficient, benefiting a broad spectrum of users.

📚Further reading: Cross-Border E-commerce: Its Importance, Trends, and Future

What are the benefits of SEPA payments?

They offer numerous advantages, making them highly beneficial for individuals and businesses alike. Some of the key benefits include:

  1. Cost efficiency. SEPA reduces the cost of cross-border euro transactions by eliminating the need for currency conversion and simplifying the payment processes, something that’s advantageous if you sell to customers in different countries.
  2. Speed and reliability. The payments are designed to be quick and reliable. Standard SEPA credit transfers are typically completed within one business day, ensuring timely transactions and better cash flow management.
  3. Transparency. SEPA provides a transparent fee structure, so you know the exact costs involved in transactions, improving financial planning and avoiding unexpected charges.
  4. Simplified processes. With SEPA, there is no need for separate bank accounts in different countries. A single euro account is sufficient to handle all euro-denominated payments across the SEPA zone, reducing administrative burdens and enhancing operational efficiency.
  5. Enhanced security. SEPA adheres to strict security standards to protect against fraud and ensure the safety of transactions. The use of International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN) and Bank Identifier Codes (BIC) adds an extra layer of security and accuracy.

What are the different modalities of the SEPA system?

The system supports various payment services to cater to different needs. The main modalities include:

Bank Transfer

SEPA Bank Transfer or SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) is the most common method for transferring funds between bank accounts within the zone. This option allows individuals and businesses to send and receive payments in euros quickly and efficiently. 

Key features of SEPA bank transfers include:

  • Standardized processes. SEPA transfers follow standardized procedures, ensuring consistency and reliability across all participating countries.
  • Speed. Typically, SEPA transfers are completed within one business day, facilitating prompt payment processing.
  • Cost-effectiveness. SEPA transfers are generally cheaper than traditional cross-border transfers, as they eliminate the need for currency conversion.

Direct Debit

SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) is a convenient option for recurring payments, such as utility bills, subscriptions, and loan repayments. This method lets you collect payments directly from the customer’s bank account, once they have given you prior authorization. There are two types of Direct Debits:

  • Core direct debit. Used by individuals and consumers for regular payments. It offers a high level of protection, including the right to request a refund within eight weeks of the transaction.
  • B2B direct debit. Designed for business-to-business transactions, this variant is suitable if you need to make regular payments to suppliers or service providers. It offers a more streamlined process but comes with fewer consumer protections.


SEPA also supports card payments within the eurozone. Streamlined card standards and the implementation of compliant payment schemes have led to more efficient and cost-effective card transactions. Key aspects include:

  • Convenience. SEPA ensures that cardholders can use their cards seamlessly across the area, making travel and cross-border shopping more convenient.
  • Standardization. SEPA's standardization efforts have led to the widespread acceptance of common technical standards and security protocols for card transactions. This reduces the complexity and cost for merchants and acquirers.
  • Improved security. With initiatives like EMV chip technology (for contactless payments) and Strong Customer Authentication (SCA), SEPA has significantly enhanced the security of card payments. This reduces fraud and increases consumer confidence in using their cards for cross-border transactions.
  • Efficiency. SEPA card frameworks streamline the processing of card payments, ensuring faster and more reliable transactions. This is beneficial for both consumers and merchants, fostering a more robust and competitive card payment environment within the region.

Accept SEPA payments today with MONEI

SEPA has revolutionized the way euro payments are made and received across Europe. By offering a unified and efficient payment system, it has simplified cross-border transactions, reduced costs, and enhanced security. Whether through bank transfers, direct debits, or card payments, SEPA provides a versatile and robust framework that supports the diverse needs of business owners like you.

Create your MONEI account today to start accepting SEPA payments (and more) from a single platform.

Frequently asked questions

How is a SEPA account identified?

An IBAN code (International Bank Account Number) is the unique account identifier for SEPA payment transactions.

Where can I find the IBAN for an account?

You can find this information in your account statement, via you online banking portal, and other communications from your bank.

What is a BIC?

A Bank Identification Code (BIC) is an international standard used to identify entities operating in the financial sector.

Do I need to change my account settings to send or receive SEPA direct debits and transfers?

If the account already lets you receive national debits or transfers, you don’t need to change your account settings. These accounts are compatible with SEPA.

Alexis Damen

Alexis Damen is a former Shopify merchant turned content marketer. Here, she breaks down complex topics about payments, e-commerce, and retail to help you succeed (with MONEI as their payments partner, of course).

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