The RIB is the identity card of your bank account. On this one, we find a whole bunch of numbers and letters. Bank code, counter code, account number, RIB key, let’s ignore this part. What we are interested in here is the IBAN and the BIC code.

IBAN

The acronym IBAN means “International Bank Account Number”. It acts as an identifier for your bank account. It is generally composed of 27 characters .

All French RIB start with FR and are followed by 2 digits, then the components of the old RIB format:

  • Bank code
  • Branch code,
  • Account number and RIB key.

If you were in Belgium for example, your IBAN would only consist of 16 characters.

You can find the IBAN on your RIB, bank statements and chequebook.

Your IBAN is unique and personal. You can use it to receive transfers , by communicating it to the person who has to pay you money. When you work, you must provide your IBAN to receive your salary. Apply this to all social security benefits, and other transfers you may receive.

In the same way, if you want to send money to someone, a friend to whom you owe money for example, you will ask for his IBAN to make a transfer

Since the SEPA standard, the debtor IBAN is sufficient for a direct debit. For example, you can decide to pay your rent by accepting that the agency automatically deducts the amount from your account. If you subscribe to any kind of software, for example , for invoice editing or on Netflix, you will be required to provide your IBAN.

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Example of IBAN (fictitious) : FR76 1000 9720 2076 8332 9004 0001 780

BIC

The acronym BIC stands for “Bank Identifier Code“, so it’s the international identifier of the bank. It is sometimes called SWIFT (Society For Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the name of the company that manages the BIC. Since the SEPA standard, you need your BIC when you make international transfers. However, since 1 February 2016, it is not mandatory to use the BIC for cross-border payments.

There are two types of BIC:

  • 8-character BIC: the BIC8 identifies a financial or non-financial institution in a country or city.
  • 11-character BIC: BIC11 identifies the branch of an institution.

To better understand the content of the BIC, the first 4 letters identify the bank code, the next 2 give the country code, and the last 2 indicate the location code. Like the IBAN, it appears on your RIB, your bank statements, and your cheque book. For the Bic11, the last 3 characters correspond to the agency, the subsidiary or the branch code.

The BIC, unlike the IBAN, is not personal. Here are some examples of BIC :

  • Societe generale : SOGEFRPP
  • Credit mutuel : CMCIFR2A
  • LCL : CRLYFRPPXXX

Is it dangerous to give your IBAN ?

Many people seem to worry when asked for their IBAN. Let’s get one thing straight: The IBAN is not confidential . Its primary role is to facilitate the transactions you make, in complete security.

The IBAN is indeed used for direct debit by a third party. However, it can only be used for this purpose if you sign a direct debit mandate . When you take out a telephone subscription, for example, the operator makes you sign a paper or electronic authorisation to debit a specific amount from your account. You have access to this authorisation, which means that even if the debtor institution deducts a larger amount than it is entitled to do, you can contest it with your bank.

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Also in a very rare scenario, a malicious person could forge your signature. Again, don’t worry, as you have 13 months to dispute a fraudulent charge. Your bank will soon realise that you did not authorise the debit, and the law stipulates that the bank must pay you back the amount that was stolen. Rest assured, this almost never happens.

Remember that you can give your IBAN to anyone, they can never take money from you.