Frequently Asked Questions

What is encryption?

Turning meaningful words and numbers into coded language - that is, encryption - has been in use since before the pharaohs ruled over Egypt some 4,000 years ago.  Today, BBVA encrypts your online banking sessions using much more powerful forms of encryption than were available even just a century ago. However, the principle remains the same: your account information will read as gibberish to anyone but you or BBVA.

What is the difference between 128-bit, 40-bit, or 56-bit encryption?

A 128-bit "high" or "strong" encryption is exponentially more powerful than 40-bit or 56-bit standard encryption. Think of it this way:

  • Standard encryption (40-bit or 56-bit) means there are 2 to the 40th power or 2 to the 56th power possible keys that could fit into the lock that holds your account information, but only one that works for each online banking session. So there are many billions of possible keys that could potentially get to your account information, but only that one that works each time you bank online.
  • "High" or "strong" encryption (128-bit) means there are 2 to the 128th power (if you were to write that number down, it would be the number 34 with 37 zeroes after it or the notation, 3.4E+38) possible keys that could fit into the lock that holds your account information, but only one that works for each online banking session. So a hacker attempting to get to your account information would need to use a computer with immensely more processing power than for 40-bit or 56-bit standard encryption to find the correct key.

NOTE: The U.S. government lists 128-bit encryption as a federal munition. This means that browsers that offer it can be used only by citizens and permanent residents of the United States and citizens of Canada, and it can only be downloaded to locations in the United States or Canada.

How does encryption work?

Everything that travels through the Internet during your online banking session - from your password to your instructions to pay a bill - becomes a string of unrecognizable numbers before entering the Internet. BBVA's computers and the browser you use to surf the web understand the mathematical formulas, called algorithms, that turn your banking session into numeric code and back into meaningful information.

These algorithms serve as door locks on your account information. While BBVA and your computer can easily translate this code back to meaningful language, this process would be a daunting, almost impossible, task for unauthorized intruders. That's because there are billions of possible keys that could potentially solve each formula, but only one that will work. Every time you begin an online banking session, your computer and BBVA's system agree on a random number that serves as the key for the rest of the conversation. What that random number is depends largely on the strength of encryption used by your browser.

How do I know if my banking session is encrypted?

You can determine if encryption is being used on a given web page by looking for the following icons in the lower portion of your browser:

Microsoft Internet Explorer


Netscape Navigator and Communicator


Netscape and Firefox display the encryption icon in the lower left corner of the browser. In addition, Netscape displays the icon in the navigator toolbar. Microsoft Internet Explorer displays the icon in the lower right corner of the browser or on the toolbar next to the address bar.

All BBVA-approved browsers provide detailed information on security levels. See your browser's help or documentation for more information.

What type of encryption do I need?

To conduct online banking with BBVA, you must use a browser with 128- bit encryption.