With a single set of payment instruments, SEPA is an important milestone to the European single market. In a way, it is an extension of the euro banknotes and coins changeover. The introduction of the euro has helped to make cash payments anywhere in the euro area just as easy as at home. But, until recently, it was not so easy to pay for goods or services electronically in another euro area country, for example with your bank debit card – a means of payment favoured by many Europeans today. And when you wanted to transfer money from your home bank account to an account in another euro area country, the payment could take much longer, and sometimes, the beneficiary did not get the full amount.
Since the 1st February 2014, in the 19 euro area countries, SEPA changed all this. It made all electronic national and cross-border payments in the euro as easy as cash payments. You can make fast and secure transfers between accounts anywhere in the euro area. And it will be possible for the 16 non-euro area countries of the SEPA zone from the 31st October 2016. It is the deadline decided by the European Union to close the transition period to SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Direct Debit.