What is SEPA?

SEPA stands for Single Euro Payments Area. It is the area in which individuals and businesses can make and receive card and electronic payments in euros across Europe simply, cheaply and efficiently, regardless of their location in Europe.

In other words, it’s the creation of an integrated euro payments market, with a geographical scope that extends beyond the Eurozone to include all the EU Member States as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco and San Marino.

Following the introduction of euro notes and coins in 2002, it’s viewed as the natural next step in creating a single market for Europe.


 

What will SEPA deliver?

SEPA requires the harmonisation, and ultimately the integration, of diverse existing national and cross-border euro payment systems, both at a technical level and in terms of customer services and procedures.

To help achieve this, the European Payments Council created a portfolio of SEPA Schemes - sets of interbank “rules, practices and standards”, providing a common understanding of “how to move funds from account A to account B” using a SEPA payment instrument.

These Schemes form the basis for banks and other PSPs to develop competitive products and value-added services for their customers.

So far, three SEPA Schemes have been developed for making payments in euros.

  • The SEPA Credit Transfer Scheme,
  • The SEPA Direct Debit (Core) Scheme,
  • The SEPA Direct Debit Business to Business (B2B) Scheme.

Find out more about these schemes in the SEPA Schemes section of this site.

What are the benefits of SEPA?

SEPA aims to deliver a number of economic benefits and is designed as a catalyst for future innovation. SEPA payment products and services offer businesses and individuals more ways in which to pay in euros – such as credit transfers and direct debits - as well as ensuring greater use of plastic cards.

SEPA also assists pan-European trade and helps UK businesses compete with other European companies by making it simpler and cheaper to send or receive euro payments. Larger businesses, in particular those operating across Europe, have the most to gain by capitalising on opportunities to rationalise their cash management and card acceptance arrangements.

From a consumer perspective, it is now easier to transfer funds between the UK and other SEPA countries for individuals who are working or studying abroad, or who have an overseas property. Those travelling within Europe on holiday or on business should find their UK-issued cards are even more widely accepted. 

The SEPA Credit Transfer and Direct Debit Schemes give consumers more control over their payments giving them common ground rules, predictable maximum end-to-end transaction processing timeframes for one off and recurring transactions, and certainty that payments will be received without fees having been deducted from the full original amount of the payment transaction. 

The European Payments Council website sets out further information about SEPA Benefits for Customers.  

 

Who are the key players? 

  • The European Commission represents the general interest of the EU and is the driving force in proposing legislation (to the European Parliament and the Council representing EU Member States). It administers and implements EU policies, enforces EU law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and negotiates in the international arena.
  • The European Central Bank (ECB)  is responsible for promoting the smooth operation of payment systems.
  • The Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) contributes to and supports the development of an integrated, innovative and competitive market for euro retail payments in the EU.
  • The European Payments Council (EPC) represents payment service providers, and supports and promotes European payments integration and development, particularly SEPA.