OUR/BEN/SHA: Who pays what?

Guide to how expenses are distributed in bank transfers.

When talking about money transfers, one of the issues that may concern us the most is the transfer fees, and especially which party, the issuer or payee, has to pay them. Let's shed some light on who pays what in bank transfers.

When referring to transfers, we do so in a broad sense, including both national transfers within the SEPA area and international transfers. According to the type of transfer, there will be a series of expenses, which vary substantially both in their amount and nature depending on whether it is a SEPA or an international transfer.

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Traditionally in the financial world, when making a transfer, the issuer could choose between one of the following three possibilities:

  • OUR, where the issuer pays all the expenses, including both theirs and those of the payee's bank, as well as any fees that third parties intervening in the transaction may charge.
  • BEN, precisely the opposite, where all the expenses are paid by the recipient of the transfer.
  • SHA, where each party pays their own expenses, sharing the total cost of the transaction.

The freedom to choose between these options was restricted following the introduction of Law 16/2009 of 13 November on payment services (Spanish transposition of Directive 2007/64/EC), which enforces the SHA option (shared expenses) for transfers in euros or in the currency of any EU member state.

That is, all SEPA transfers, as well as some international transfers, must be settled using the SHA - or shared expenses - arrangement. while in all other international transfers (for example, those not denominated in euros or in currencies of EU countries) there is still freedom to choose.

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In SWIFT messages there is a specific section where the issuer and payee can see which arrangement the international transfer has been issued under.

The SHA option is the one which generates the fewest conflicts, since each party assumes the costs that correspond to their own financial operators, from whom they have had the opportunity to obtain information and with whom they have been able to negotiate, before and after carrying out the transaction.

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