Direct debits

Like standing orders, direct debits are regular payments, made automatically once you set them up. They are used mainly to pay bills for services (electricity, gas, telephone, council tax). Magazine subscriptions and memberships are often paid by direct debit as well.

There are two main advantages of paying bills by direct debit:

  • you don’t have to remember to pay your bills
  • companies often give you a discount for paying by direct debit, as this makes life easier for them.

If you’re responsible for a bill, you can set up a direct debit with the relevant company (they will often encourage you to do so); you agree how much is to be paid to begin with, and on what dates. The direct debit instruction is then sent to your bank.

The amount of your direct debit payments is based on your usage of the relevant service, so will change. They are therefore different from standing orders which only change if you give specific instructions. But companies are required to give you advance notice of any changes to the amount or dates of direct debit payments so you can discuss any difficulties with them beforehand.

You can also cancel direct debits at any time, by notifying your bank, but if you carry on receiving the service you will have to sort out a different form of payment. Banks and building societies which provide direct debit payments (which is most of them) have to sign up to the “Direct Debit Guarantee” which is designed to protect consumers – see


Have a look at our other banking and money pages:

Bank and building society accounts – current accounts

Managing money

Manage your money