International Electronic Payments In Depth


In the previous blog post we discussed generally international payments and how the Nolan Electronic Payment solution allows companies to make payments in various payment scenarios. Today we will discuss more in-depth the mechanics of how international bank files are created, namely:

  1. File type
  2. Bank numbers
  3. Additional information/considerations

Bank files can have many reasons that one file format won’t work for all payment scenarios. The most foundational reason is file format type. Does the file need to be generated as a TXT, CSV, XML, etc. Also, within those files do they require a certain field value delimiter such as commas (,), pipes (|), tabs, or semicolons. If the file type is XML then understanding tags and order will be critical. Each bank will determine what file type they require. XML format is typically required for international payment files.

The next consideration is understanding which banking numbers are needed for each payment scenario. There are four main banking numbers utilized in most bank files.


Bank Identifiers

  • Routing/Sort Number – This is typically the bank number with a branch identifier. The format is country dependent (some countries will require the branch ID to be in a separate field)
  • BIC/SWIFT – This an 8-11 character code that can identify a bank, country, and branch combination. This consists of 4 letter Bank Code, 2 letter country code, 2 digit/letter location code and optional 3 digit/letter branch code (ex. MSBCCNBJ002 China Minsheng Banking Corporation)

Account Identifiers

  • Account Number – This is simply a number sequence that identifies your account. The format varies by each bank
  • IBAN – This is a standardized international bank account number that consists of a two-letter country code, followed by two check digits, and up to thirty-five alphanumeric characters. This is primarily used in European countries.

Most bank files will require the originating and receiving banks to have the same 2 or 3 identifying numbers. The common combinations are:


  • BIC/SWIFT and Account
  • Routing/Sort and Account
  • Routing/Sort and BIC/SWIFT and Account

The next consideration is if there is any additional information that is required. Countries can require specific regulatory reporting codes, payment of purpose descriptions or codes, or other tax identification numbers of either you or your vendor. 

In addition to the previous complexities, there is also the need to have accommodated and excluded certain special characters. For example, domestic Chinese payments need the vendor and bank name in local characters. Also, XML files have certain invalid characters, such as “, ‘, <, >, and &. These need special care to ensure they don’t invalidate the file structure. 

The Nolan Electronic Payment solution addresses all these considerations by developing a scenario-specific file format that meets both your banks and local country requirements. We work with our clients to ensure proper formatting of vendor and bill data to be in compliant characters. Our solution allows us to conditionally include and exclude additional details as needed, auto-format information during the file generation process as well as aggregate various payment types where possible. 

If interested in expanding your payment horizon into international scenarios, please reach out for a FREE demo specific to your needs





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