Transfers – what they are

Transfers allow a payer (e.g. an individual or a company) to move funds between payment accounts, making them available to the beneficiary.

The payer and the payee (beneficiary) of the transfers may be the same entity.

Depending on the location of the payment accounts, transfers can be:

  • Intrabank transfers – when carried out between accounts in the same payment service provider;

  • Interbank transfers – when carried out between accounts opened at different payment service providers. Depending on the location of the providers, they can be:

    • Domestic – when providers are located in the same country;

    • Cross-border – when providers are located in different countries.

Depending on the payment model used, credit transfers may be:

  • SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) transfers – credit transfers in euro through standardised systems in the SEPA area; these systems allow these operations to be carried out under the same rules, in a quicker and more transparent manner;

  • Non-SEPA transfers – credit transfers made through non-standardised systems, where the service provider of the payer, of the beneficiary or of both are not based in the SEPA area, or transfers which are made in a currency other than the euro, even when performed between payment service providers that are part of the SEPA area.

The SEPA payment scheme allows any customer (individual persons, companies and public administration bodies) located in the SEPA area to issue and receive credit transfers in euro through a single account and according to the same rules.

Payment service users must use the IBAN (international bank account number) as the identifier of payment accounts. Should the payers not be consumers or micro-enterprises, the ISO 20022 XML message format must be used when communicating with payment service providers to send batch transfers.

The countries that make up the SEPA area are:

  • the 28 European Union Member States – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom;

  • Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (countries which, along with the aforementioned, constitute the European Economic Area);

  • Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican.


The sender (or the beneficiary) of the credit transfer may not require that the payment account of the beneficiary (or the sender) be situated in a particular Member State.

It is possible in Portugal to make standard credit transfers and instant transfers.

When the user makes a standard transfer, the funds are available on the day on which the payment order is received – in the case of transfers between accounts domiciled with the same payment service provider – or by the end of the following business day – in the case of transfers between accounts domiciled with different payment service providers.

When the user makes an instant transfer, the funds are available in the (private or corporate) beneficiary’s account within at most 10 seconds, irrespective of the date and time in which the transaction takes place, up to a maximum of €15,000 per transaction.


Instant transfers


In the case of instant transfers:

  • The transferred funds are available in the beneficiary’s accounts a few seconds after the payment order is sent. The success of the transaction is confirmed to the payer and the beneficiary. The maximum time for carrying out the transfer is 10 seconds. In other words, the amount must be available in the beneficiary’s account less than 10 seconds after the initiation of the payment order by the payer’s payment service provider. Where this is not achieved, if the transaction is not completed within 20 seconds, the system will reject the operation and the payment service provider must notify the payer;

  • Transfers up to €15,000 (per operation) are possible, as standard across the EU. However, the payment service providers may establish bilateral agreements allowing higher sums to be processed;

  • Transfers are possible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For example, instant transfers may be carried out with the value arriving in the beneficiary’s account during the weekend, which does not happen in the case of standard credit transfers, with their limits on reception of the transfer order and longer time frames for executing the transaction and providing the funds.

With instant transfers, payments may be made between individuals or for goods and services, both in person and remotely (for example, when shopping online).


Payment service providers (such as banks, payment institutions and electronic money institutions) are not required to provide instant transfers. As a result, some institutions may not provide this service.

In time instant transfers will be possible between SEPA countries. For now, the solution only allows domestic instant transfers.


Instant transfers are account-to-account transactions (between the payer’s and beneficiary’s accounts) and not card-based transactions, like other solutions in the market such as MBWay.