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Everything you need to know—but were never told—about your bank account number

5 min read

Find out what each digit of your account number means and what types of transactions you can make with it.

Transferring money to your family, paying your Internet bill by direct debit, depositing your paycheck... Your bank account number is so important that you’d think it should be in included in your list of close friends on Instagram.

But sometimes it’s hard to know where to find it and to understand how it works when we need to make a transaction. This article explains where you can find it as well as what each digit in the long chain of numbers means.

What is your bank account number? Here’s an example:

Bank account numbers are used to identify your account within any existing banking institution. It's like an ID card for your money. This specific chain of numbers allows third parties (your business, service providers or other users) to transfer money to you or charge you for services without worrying about sending or billing it to the wrong person.

Your bank account number is made up of 24 characters: 20 of those are the customer account code (CAC), which is unique for each person in any bank. Two characters are control numbers, and the remaining two indicate the country that the bank account is based in.

To understand it better, take a look at this example that has a breakdown of a normal bank account number and explains each set of characters.

Illustration showing the anatomy of an IBAN number.

These are the 24 characters that make up a normal bank account number

  • Country reference code. Indicated with two letters that make up part of the country’s full name (e.g. “ES” for Spain).

  • Control numbers. These two figures correspond with the letters showing the country that the bank account is located in.

  • Current account number. The remaining 20 characters that indicate: 

  • The bank code. Shows which bank the account is in.
  • Sort code. Indicates which branch the bank account number was opened with.
  • Control numbers. These are two numbers that allow the account to be validated.
  • Account number. A combination of ten characters assigned by the bank to identify the account. There can never be the same as another number.

What’s a bank account number for?

As we’ve already explained, your bank account number plays an important role in your daily life and is quite often needed to access certain services or payments—bizum (a Spanish instant payment service) couldn’t exist without it.

While there are lots of things you can do with your bank account, some of the main options are:

  • Send or receive money. Both national and international transactions.

  • Direct debit payment of paychecks and other types of income.If you receive unemployment benefits or other types of financial aid, public bodies will also ask you for a bank account number.

  • Pay for services and other bills by direct debit. Such as water, electricity, Internet or Netflix.

Is my card number the same as my bank account number?

Maybe you’ve wondered whether your credit or debit card number is the same as your bank account number (wouldn’t that make life easier?). 

But no, your card number is different and unique. Although card payments are linked to a bank account, their numbers are different and independent of each other.

In fact, a bank account has 24 characters, two of them being letters, while credit and debit cards have 18 characters.

What’s my IBAN code?

The IBAN (International Bank Account Number) is an alphanumeric code that’s been used since 2014 when the SEPA Area (Single Euro Payments Area) came into force. The IBAN identifies a bank account in any financial institution in the world (provided that the bank’s country supports the IBAN system, of course). 

This system makes transfers between users in different countries much easier, and also avoids extra charges associated with these types of transactions, since they don’t require manual intervention from the bank because they work automatically.

In Spain, theIBAN account number replaced the sole use of the Customer Account Code (CAC), which, until then, was the code used to make transfers and direct debit payments.

What’s my BIC/SWIFT?

The BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT (Society for World Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is another alphanumeric code that’s used to identify banks that aren’t part of the IBAN system, either to send or receive transfers.

This code can be either be made up of 8 characters or 11 characters:

  • A code with 8 characters. This includes information about the bank, country and location.

  • A code with 11 characters. This type has the same information as the code with eight characters, but has three extra numbers for the sort code.

Most banks usually include these codes in the relevant information on their website, so you can find yours with a quick Google search.

How do I find my IBAN?

We can’t look for your bank account number for you, but we can give you some ideas about where you can find it:

  • In your bank’s app. It’s usually shown with the balance of your personal account.

  • Over the phone. By calling your bank’s customer service team. They’ll give it to you if you can provide some personal information.

  • In the financial institution’s physical branch. Maybe not the most convenient option, but it’s just as effective.

The bank account that gives you more control

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Open your bank account with N26 in just 8 minutes

You can open a bank account with the online bank N26 wherever you are. To start, download the N26 app to your cell phone or go to our website. Next, enter all your personal information and select the type of account you want to open. 

Then, complete the verification process with a brief video call. Finally, you’ll get your IBAN so you can make your first transfer, or receive your first payment into your new account. 

Your virtual N26 Mastercard debit card will be working straight away and you can link it to your mobile payments app to make payments.


Is my card number the same as my bank account number?

Although all cards are linked to a bank account, the two numbers are not related to each other. Your bank account number has 24 characters (two of which are letters), while your card number has 18 characters (totally different from your IBAN).

By N26

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