[Dave Birch] Unlike many of you, I am very fortunate to have access to a) a euro bank account and b) someone that I can ask to waste their time on payment-related lunacy. Put these two things together and a SEPA experiment was born: I decided to celebrate the birth of the SEPA zone and send some euros to one of our Forum friends in the Netherlands, thus becoming (I hope) the first blogger to originate a SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT).

Well, my plan fell at the first hurdle because according to our bank (who shall not be named in this piece, but it’s one of the U.K.’s big four) “SEPA transfers are not available online”. Yes, that’ s right. Getrude’s dream of a friction-free payments landscape was in tatters, and it was only day 1. Someone had to physically go to the bank in order to do a SEPA Credit Transfer.

Most normal consumers would, of course, have given up at this point and forgotten about the whole SEPA thing. But I’m not a normal consumer. I have a responsibility to Digital Money Denizens and will leave no stone unturned, no path untravelled in order to send some euros to Amsterdam. So I sent someone down to the bank (not because I was lazy, but because I was out of the country).

She came back with a paper form to fill out. This was done, and the form was returned to the bank on a Tuesday, and on Friday I received confirmation from my Dutch colleague that the money had arrived in this account,

So, in summary, sending 50 euros to Amsterdam in the exciting new world of SEPA took two trips to the bank, cost £15 (ie, a transaction fee of 40%) and took three days. Next time, I’ll use PayPal.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. I am not suprised. I have a French Bank account and have to visit a branch (again one of the Big Four)to fill in a form every time I need to top it up. After going through an identity check, Passport plus something else, because my transaction is usually >£1k, this form is then partially processed via a branch terminal. However, the payment request, as far as I can ascertain, is actually handled at some central service location by another operator. Branch staff have been promising for years that the process is about to be ‘automated’ but nothing ever happens. Apparently one of their main concerns is fraud and money laundering.

  2. It is absolutely astonishing to hear the above given negative facts about SEPA. I personally being in India haven’t had the experience of working on a practical SEPA transaction, but after going through a number of articles relating to SEPA was excited to know about the customer reactions to the same. I still think that SEPA has ways to go ahead

  3. Hello
    Just a comment. The directive to price SEPA Credit Transfers at the same price as domestic credit transfers only apply to Euro-zone countries. Since the UK is not a Euro country, the UK Banks are not obliged to price accordingly, and a SEPA credit transfer is treated as a foreign currency tranfer (hence £15). Also, it’s up to the Bank to decide how to offer SCTs and I suspect since the transaction volumes are not great, they see no great benefit in automating the process (hence paper in a branch).
    For an example of the SEPA ideal in action, then apply for a Euro account at Bank of Ireland, and you will find that you can do Euro Transfers online with no transaction charge ((which has been the case for a couple of years)

  4. “a SEPA credit transfer is treated as a foreign currency tranfer (hence £15”
    It was a transfer from a euro account to another euro account, so that’s why I didn’t expect to see a “foreign currency transfer” charge. My mistake.
    “apply for a Euro account at Bank of Ireland”
    I looked at the web site but couldn’t figure out how to do this, can you send me the link and I promise I’ll give it a try.

  5. I sympathise with your predicament, but you clearly didn’t read my blog content about prepaid cards a few days ago.
    Get a suitable card, such as The Sun prepaid card, and use that. It incurs no currency fees and costs very little to load and withdraw funds.
    It’s the future (in a kind of retro way) 🙂

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