I wanted to wire some money to my parents today and was not sure about the IBAN number (it may have changed in the meantime via a reorganization of their accounts or a bank change).

This made me think: are IBANs recycled?

In other words: if someone closes their account, is it possible that the IBAN is reallocated to someone else? (similar to phone numbers)


1 Answer 1


Afaict this will likely vary by country and/or bank.

IBANs are kind of like international phone numbers in that they are globally unique but the structure is country dependent. The first two characters always identify the country and the second two are check digits but everything beyond that is country dependent.

In the UK for example the IBAN normally consists of the country prefix and check digits mentioned above followed by a four letter identifier for the bank, followed by the sort code and account number used to identify bank accounts domestically. So whether or not IBANs are reused will depend on whether or not sort code/account number combinations are reused.

According to https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/dec/17/recycled-bank-accounts-send-money-wrong-person some banks reuse sort code/account number combinations while others do not.

  • 1
    Agreed; because the IBAN is effectively County + Institution + Account, it becomes the responsibility of the institution, granting account numbers, to not 'recycle' old accounts. Jul 17, 2018 at 14:41
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    It is not "for the UK". IBANs actually follow a standard and as such they ALWAYS start with the country prefix etc. you mention. The UK is nothing special here.
    – TomTom
    Jul 17, 2018 at 18:52
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    They always start with the country prefix and the check digits but afaict everything after that is down to the individual countries. Jul 17, 2018 at 18:53
  • Quite a few Banks, specially older ones have run out of Account Numbers. There is a practice to recycle the account numbers as the country has mandated the length of account number to be fixed. So indirectly this means that Same IBAN number can have different owners after few years, provided the older account is closed by previous owner.
    – Dheer
    Jul 19, 2018 at 5:13

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