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The issue with Revolut, IBAN, BIC and ISO13616

Eintrag vom: 27.07.2017 | von: Basti | in: Internet & Co

9

I used to promote Revolut on this blog some times (like here). It’s an app combined with a credit card and a small e-money account. I still think it’s an awesome app concerning the concept and the features, but if you don’t want to rely on a heavy beta banking product, I can not recommend to use it anymore. I was kept locked out of it several times already – especially on the go, when I needed it the most. Ever had to do a security check over Internet for no apparent reason right when you wanted to pay with the Revolut credit card and don’t have any internet? That’s a pain. Having to re-evaluate your Top-Up credit card just randomly by re-scanning it with your camera is a pain – as the actual reason for me is to NOT carry around all my other credit cards. Or having to re-upload a picture of yourself to the support in order to re-gain access to your account – this is also a pain.

However, Revolut never claimed it to be ready. They’re still raising millions each year for developing it and they’re developing it fast.

Now, this month, they started to finally roll out European IBANs for it. So in the future, you can use Revolut nearly as a current account and receive salaries on it via your IBAN. You can also pay out to others, or even pay your bills. Nice feature, one might think.

Lucky me that I was suspicious enough of it. The IBAN was from Lithuania, the BIC for the bank from Revolut in London. Strange indeed, because we now had different country codes in IBAN (LT) and BIC (GB). Some German banks refused to transfer the money, so did one of mine. It seems they were right with this decision, because the only test transfer I did from another bank who did not check the BIC never reached my account. The money disappeared in thin air and we’ll see if it ever re-appears anytime again. Long story short: It seems the IBAN Revolut tried to use is not ISO13616 compliant.

ISO compliance? That’s something I’m interested in!

I wanted to be sure. So I asked the official Association of German Banks to take a look into that matter. They checked back with SWIFT who controls the IBAN registry. And they told me, that it IS possible to have two different country codes in IBAN and BIC. However, it depends whether Lithuana has defined an exception within the registry. But there is no BIC exception within the SWIFT registry for LT IBANs. Thus, a bank, receiving a LT IBAN with a GB BIC can refuse to do the transfer. And that’s just because the IBAN is not compliant with the ISO13616-Norm of that SWIFT registry. They CAN, but they don’t NEED to refuse it, though.

The banks who refused the transfer told, that their security software (probably something like IBANplus) does not allow to do the transfer. It looks up the exception rules within the IBAN registry, can’t find any for LT IBANs and thus the banks correctly refuse to transfer the money to a non compliant IBAN. It does not matter whether the BIC is correctly registered or not (of course Revolut is correctly registered and FCA controlled, just in another country!), all that matters in that case are BIC and BBAN exception rules for creating IBAN within the SWIFT registry.

This week, customers in the message board of Revolut complained about large transactions not being received. Even worse, I’ve got confirmation of other clients transfering large amounts of money (over 1000 €) FROM their account to other banks – and their money also just disappeared. And as that’s SEPA transfers, they should’ve been received the next day or at least 2 or 3 days later. To me, something seems to be clearly broken.

Revolut on the other hand, just told me, that these are „old banks“ that don’t know how to handle new stuff. I start to disbelieve them. And concerning, it’s REAL MONEY they’re playing around with, I find it nearly pretentious! To me it rather seems they’ve really messed it up and now want to cover this whole issue up quickly by giving the Jackass to somebody else. For me, one e-mail to the Bank Association was enough to be led to the necessary document by SWIFT, the ones responsible for IBAN and BIC standards.

Even I could check for ISO13616 compliance with it. And the only thing that Revolut would have needed and probably just hasn’t check would be country code exceptions for LT IBANs. One can see what this means with France, for example. Because France has other republic territories the BIC with FR IBANs can contain country codes like Mayotte (YT), New Caledonia (NC), Saint Barthelemy (BL), Saint Martin(MF) and so on. Look it up. Does Lithuania has such a rule in the country code for BICs? Nope. The only country code allowed according to this document is “LT”. The BIC by Revolut uses “GB”. So it seems, it’s just not compliant with ISO13616. Easily to be found on page 35 (France) and 52 (Lithuania).

If Revolut starts rolling out IBAN and BICs that are not SWIFT-registry compliant, than it’s clearly their fault. They could have waited longer and checked it thoroughly – at least with some test transactions. I’m not too sure whether Revolut really thought that exception was necessary, as it seems to be a “can do” but don’t “need to do” thing. If you don’t do it as a bank, though, you don’t need to wonder that money is routed the wrong way, takes longer, is not going through clearance or even disappears.

One more thing that makes me think, Revolut knows that it messed it up: While they at first started to collect the names of the banks who refuse to transfer to Revolut via their Twitter agent, they now are stating that they’ll just roll out UK IBANs as fast as possible. Why else would they do it? Why didn’t they in the first place if it’s so much easier?

For me, I better don’t trust them my money for the time being.

Kommentare (9)

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Thanks for the info. I was sending 1 EUR for testing purposes from my 1822 Bank account to my Revolut LT/EUR account and it was bounced back the same day. I was also sending ~50 EUR from my Revolut account to my bank account (N26) and it is still pending since the 28 July. However, the money was deducted right away from my credit. According with the support chat, I should wait until Monday… Well, today is Monday and the transaction is still pending… Let’s see how it goes…

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We’ll see what happens next, when the UK IBANs are there.
One has to admit that SIWFT itself *does* allow for different country code in IBAN and BIC (in IBANplus they give an example for a German BIC (Deutsche Bank Frankfurt) with Swiss IBANs handled by this particular BIC), but I’m not sure how Deutsche Bank really transfers money to it via Target2 and if they really use their DE BIC for the transactions to CH IBANs externally). I should also mention again that in the e-mail I got from the Association, I was told that banks CAN do the lookup exception rules in the registry/at SWIFT, they don’t need to do it, though.

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The key point here is: would you trust your money to company that so many users have issues with?

I had high expectations about Revolut and I’d wish to use the card while travelling, especially due to the lack of exchange charges. However, after the bad feedback from this site (and other users) I am just rethinking about the whole think.

I may give N26 a chance, or maybe not? What do you think?

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[…] Ich denke das Revolut sich mit den LT IBANs keinen Gefallen getan hat. Möchte nicht wissen wieviele Überweisungen im Nirvana verschwunden sind. Der Fehler scheint im übrigen in der Tat bei Revolut zu liegen. IBAN mit andere Länder BIC scheint grundsätzlich möglich zu sein. Allerdings muss dafür eine Ausnahme definiert sein. Und genau die scheint es für Litauen nicht zu geben: I wanted to be sure. So I asked the official Association of German Banks to take a look into that matter. They checked back with SWIFT who controls the IBAN registry. And they told me, that it IS possible to have two different country codes in IBAN and BIC. However, it depends whether Lithuana has defined an exception within the registry. But there is no BIC exception within the SWIFT registry for LT IBANs. Thus, a bank, receiving a LT IBAN with a GB BIC can refuse to do the transfer. And that’s just because the IBAN is not compliant with the ISO13616-Norm of that SWIFT registry. They CAN, but they don’t NEED to refuse it, though. Quelle: blog.coaster.de » Blog Archive » The issue with Revolut, IBAN, BIC and ISO13616 […]

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I just got an email from Revolut, they are still blaming the banks that they don t transfer the money – and they told me I have to wait till my bank updated there software. They still think their rules are OK with the SWIFT system.

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I think it’s a difficult issue, as BIC and IBAN with different country codes are indeed allowed, but you obvisouly need to Beta test this before going live with transaction details that obviously leads to people losing their money when using it.

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I could imagine that a lot of the disappeared money was killed by the charges. From my swiss account I did not reach to made my top-up with SEPA. Because SEPA needs the option to split the fees I payed EUR 4 (to-up EUR 200). Besides my bank made the money-exchange CHF to EUR (SEPA only goes through with EUR). Well, at the end it got through with SWIFT BUT instead of EUR 200 only EUR 167.50 reached my Revolut-account. That’s why I suppose that plenty of test-transfers where gone because of such high charges. The Revolut-Support told me, there’s no charge from Revolut. Imagine you would use the personal IBAN for Ebay-activity. Although people send you the correct amount you will loose over EUR 30 for each transaction. Could it be that some banks stops the tranfer because they know the costs?

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I can imagine similiar issues, but I’m not sure there.

Another bank with a similiar issue told me, that by just sending money in Euro and with IBAN and BIC and with SHARE-option does not mean the transaction is already fullfilled as SEPA. In countries where SEPA is optional (like CH and UK) it’s also possible that the transaction is still done as a foreign transfer (just in Euros). I don’t know if that’s true, but that might be the issue here for some.

If your transaction was really done as SHARE, you actually should be able to see how much charges where issued by your bank. All other charges could have been imposed by Barclay’s, who’s doing the banking infrastructure for Revolut and is the man in the middle for the transaction here (at least for the LT IBANs, it seems).

It’s also possible that Barclay’s not handling SEPA transactions correctly here. For example, another user told me, that a refund from Revolut to his bank was also charged, because of the problem mentioned above (Barclay’s sending it as foreing transaction in Euros with IBAN an BIC, instead of a regular SEPA transaction via Transfer2). I can link to the official statement of the bank, why, according to them, Euro transactions from Revolut does cost a fee as they’re not SEPA compliant.

So probably Revolut is right that they don’t charge it, they just receive less from Barcley’s or their other processing partners (modlur, Lloyd’s, Currency Cloud, whoever…) because the infrastructure is setup wrong.

I think the main reason for banks to stop transfer to Revolut is really the country code issue, though. These software checks are common and as we now know how unstable it is, it’s also a good reason to keep that practice in place and let Revolut sort it out instead of just allowing all the money to go through and be routed incorrectly.

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Note: I have posted an interesting update to this issue here: http://blog.coaster.de/wordpress/?p=34128

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