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I am trying to transfer funds from my account in Europe to my account in Canada. On the sending (European) bank's transfer instruction form there is a field I need to fill-in in the beneficiary's section called "Account no./IBAN". Canadian banks do not use IBAN so I can't use that number format.

There are a number of different prefixes you could include in and formats you can use to create an account number. I've seen formats with branch and/or institution numbers prefixed with and without a leading zero. I've seen a format with a /xxx suffix where xxx is the institution number. There seem to be many possibilities here and I'd like to get this right.

What Canadian account number format do European banks need to transfer money to Canadian accounts?


"Why don't you just ask the sending bank for clarification?"

My usual strategy is to ask the sending bank for clarification. However, the bank in Europe has become increasingly difficult to deal with. At this point they will only communicate by lettermail and seem to be deliberately unhelpful in their correspondences. Many fellow expatriates of the same country have reported the same problem. It seems that their banking climate has changed such that they no longer want non-resident clients. Instead of just asking us to close our accounts, they just serve us with extreme reluctance.

  • Out of curiosity, which bank is this ? Did you try creating a ruckus on twitter or on their FB page if any ? – DumbCoder Mar 13 '15 at 17:41
  • You might want to look at services like transferwise.com or worldfirst.com to transfer the money. – deflomu Jun 6 '17 at 10:19
  • Thank you for sharing your experience and frustration. It's saved me a lot of time (the answers too). I'll do everything I can to avoid transferring money into Canada. The international transfer fees with Canada are very high (both coming and going). – Foliovision Oct 12 '17 at 20:13
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I've spoken with a number of expatriates in Canada and Canadian bankers over the past few days. Here's what I've been able to piece together.

Wiring Money to Canada from Outside North America Involves Trial-and-Error

This was surprising to me. As I understand it, the only sure-fire way to wire transfer funds from an arbitrary bank to another arbitrary bank on a different continent on the first try is by using the IBAN number of the destination account. IBAN seems to be the only account number format that is anywhere close to a worldwide standard. If the destination account does not have an IBAN number (like those in Canada and USA), then you rely on a degree of wisdom on the part of the sending bank(er) to format your numbers (account/institution/transit/etc) in such a way that the transfer successfully reaches the destination account.

If any given sending bank has not sent funds to another given non-IBAN bank recently, then there is an element of uncertainty as to how the destination account's numbers have to be entered into the sending bank's system. The de facto practice seems to be to develop the wisdom of what works and what doesn't by attempting to transfer small sums until they succeed. Then the sending bank uses the exact same method to transfer the large sum as they used for the small sum that succeeded.

Increasing Your Odds when Wire Transferring to Non-IBAN Accounts

It seems like there are some things you can do pro-actively increase your odds that a wire transfer to a non-IBAN account will succeed. Ultimately you want to provide four different pieces of information that are especially important for non-IBAN wire transfers:

  • SWIFT Code - Even though the destination bank might not use IBAN numbers for its accounts, it probably has a SWIFT code that uniquely identifies the entire institution. That way, if/when the transfer is made at least the wire transfer should end up in your institution and not some random other bank. That way, hopefully, you can deal with your bank to sort out a failure not some other random bank who doesn't care about you.
  • "Note: Canada/USA doesn't use IBAN" - From what I've heard, many bankers in places that use IBAN don't know that there are still places that don't use IBAN. Often what happens is they enter the non-IBAN numbers into the IBAN field anyway and give up when they see an error. Putting a notice clear and up-front gives the person entering the instructions a heads-up that they might need special help or authorizations for your wire transfer.
  • All of your numbers in all applicable compositions - Wire transfer number formats are often actually multiple fundamental numbers that are concatenated, prefixed, and suffixed. I suspect that some wire transfer senders actually need to enter the fundamental numbers separately or in different compositions. Suppose the sending bank needs, for example, the institution identifer. The ABA routing number does contain, among other things, the institution identifier. However, you should provide the institution number separately in your wire transfer instructions because the sending bank might need the institution number and will probably have no idea how to extract it from the ABA routing number. For Canada, I think the number you should provide are as follows:

    • Account Number without prefixes, suffixes, or concatenations
    • 4-digit transit number
    • 5-digit transit number
    • 3-digit institution number
    • Canadian Payments Association Routing Number
    • Canadian Payments Association MICR Number
  • The format used most commonly in the destination country - Dheer's answer first put me onto this concept. As far as I can tell in Canada, this format exists, is not (publicly) documented and might (probably) changes from receiving institution to institution. I was able to get my Canadian banker to provide me with this number which turned out to be yet another concatenation of transit number, account number, and institution number with a - and / thrown in. After asking around, getting this number right does seem to sometimes be the key to a successful wire transfer. I've even heard rumors that some sending systems accept the number my banker provided me instead of IBAN numbers. The story goes that the sending banker enters the undocumented Canadian number format into the actual IBAN field on their system. The bank expected an immediate error (IBAN has a very specific format with built-in validation), but, to their surprise their system accepted the number and the transfer succeeded.
3

Some Canadian banks (RBC for instance), will accept the format

institution/account/transit

No spaces, no slashes. Transit number must be five digits, if it's not add a 0 to the front. Just had a situation where the European-based system would not accept anything but an IBAN, so I called my bank and that's what they confirmed.

I know this is super late, but thought I would leave it here for future generations to discover.

Edit: See comments for an example.

  • Which direction were you transferring the funds? – alx9r Jun 5 '17 at 16:21
  • @alx9r receiving funds in Canada. – Stephen P. Jun 6 '17 at 16:29
  • I'm confused by your answer. What number format did you end up providing to the European bank? – alx9r Jun 6 '17 at 16:48
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    @Ani TD The RBC corporate services person said they all use the above format, but it could be different at TD. TD does it on a regular basis, with their TD Luxembourg branch. Try calling the business accounts number, and asking? – Stephen P. May 2 '18 at 22:50
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    here official RBC info (from their website): Where do I find RBC's IBAN code? Canadian banks do not have IBAN (International Bank Account Number) numbers. If asked for the RBC IBAN number it is simply our Bank Number (003) followed by your account number and your branch's transit number. Please be aware that the IBAN is different than the SWIFT BIC which is used for incoming wires. For RBC, the BIC code is ROYCCAT2. You can find what you need for RBC's IBAN on the bottom of your personalized cheques or in Online Banking. – TiloBunt Dec 17 '18 at 20:29
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You need your transit, branch account and SWIFT code.

Example, CIBC:

Transit: 010
Branch: 0752
Account: 085285246
SWIFT: CIB10

To get this information as it pertains to you, it is best to go to your bank in person.

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    Thanks for this info, Code Whisperer. I am trying to find out answers on Canada's IBAN. German bank is looking for something that starts with CA, meaning Canada, before the digits. I can't find that format anywhere. Even my own bank can't help me. – user48307 Sep 8 '16 at 12:34
  • For the CIBC is as follow IBAN: CC0010/(Branch or Transit)/account/ Branch and Transit are the same. – Danial Jan 5 '18 at 6:44
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Well technically the Bank in Europe does not care about the Beneficiary Account Number [i.e. your Account number in Canada]. Use the format that is most commonly used in Canada. Generally if you quote with Bank/Branch identifiers it would be better.

  • Interesting. Does that mean that the beneficiary account number only gets parsed once it enters Canada or the Canadian Institution? Is there any validation of the account number at the European bank? – alx9r Mar 13 '15 at 18:51
  • The validation is only for IBAN as its a published standard and adopted largely by Europe and Australia. Otherwise its pass through. The account number is only used by Bank in Canada – Dheer Mar 14 '15 at 4:55

protected by Chris W. Rea Sep 8 '16 at 19:30

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