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Falsehoods Programmers Believe About International Bank Account Numbers (IBANs)

Falsehoods Programmers Believe About IBANs

In the spirit of Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Phone Numbers , here is a list of mistaken perspectives on International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN)…

  1. IBANs are global.While the IBAN system has been deployed in some states on most continents, it is a long way from achieving universal adoption. Certain states, such as Australia, when their High Value Clearing Payments Association were queried regarding their decision not to adopt IBAN, first refused to respond for upwards of 12 months then finally refused to release any reasoning. There are a lot of established interests that are against reduced barriers to financial systems integration.

  2. IBAN country codes are the same as ISO3166-1 alpha-2 country codes.Quite dangerously this is mostly, but not always the case. Take for example the United Kingdom ( UK vs. GB ), unofficial codes such as AA or various dependent territories which may use the parent jurisdiction’s code instead of their own.

  3. IBAN country codes are the same as IANA country codes.Quite dangerously this is mostly, but not always the case. Take for example XK , unofficial codes such as AA , or various dependent territories which may use the parent jurisdiction’s code instead of their own.

  4. IBAN represents a ‘free’ and ‘neutral’ namespace for global financial cooperation.In fact, under the IBAN standard, which is managed by defacto global monopoly SWIFT, which has significant political significance to and affinity for US interests despite being a nominally Belgium-registered international cooperative, the only people who can create endpoints are existing financial institutions within countries holding an ISO3166-1 alpha-2 country code, a list which excludes many legitimate actors, virtually all innovators, plus the various states of the world with limited recognition. For a potentially mutually interoperable system adopted by some actors (eg. Bitcoin exchange Kraken) see the Internet IBAN (IIBAN) proposal at http://ifex-project.org/

  5. Pre-IBAN national checksums are still in operation.There is no way to reliably determine whether or not a given country had a national, pre-IBAN checksum system, whether that system was actually applied to all banks (certain central banks are known exceptions), or whether that system is still in operation after IBAN adoption. The php-iban library represents a best-effort approach to gathering this knowledge as appropriate.

  6. IBAN is clearly published standard.There are significant problems with the current dual-format publishing process used by SWIFT, which are documented over here .

  7. IBANs are always written the same way.Some countries tend to continue to use methods of spacing/delineation amongst legacy components present within the IBAN. Others tend to concatenate the entire IBAN to a machine-readable single word. Still others use the human-style formatting with four characters per block, XXXX YYYY ZZZZ 0000 . It is difficult to know how to best present an IBAN to a customer. In general, reasonable practice is that if the user is likely to manually transcribe (eg. via pen and paper) then a human format (four characters per block) is recommended. If the output is likely to be copy-pasted, however, then a single word (machine format) is preferred… in which case care should be taken to exclude neighbouring punctuation.

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