Your guide to taking payments by Direct Debit

What is direct debit? 

Direct debit is an electronic payment system that provides a convenient and reliable way for businesses to collect payments from customers on a regular basis. The payment amount is debited from the customer’s bank account on a predetermined schedule, which is agreed upon by the customer and the business.  

Direct debit is regulated by several authorities to ensure customer information is secure and private, and businesses must follow strict rules and regulations to implement this payment method.   

How does Direct Debit work? 

Direct Debit is a convenient and reliable way for businesses to collect payments from their customers automatically. By eliminating the need for manual intervention, it can help streamline payment processing and reduce the risk of missed payments or late fees. Here’s how the Direct Debit process works: 

  • Customer authorization: The customer must first authorize the business to collect payments from their account. This is done through a Direct Debit mandate, which the customer signs to give permission to the business to collect payments from their account. 


  • Payment request: Once the mandate is set up, the business can submit payment requests to the customer’s bank. This can be done either manually or through a payment service provider. 


  • Pre-notification: Before collecting any payments, you must provide pre-notification to the customer. This means they must inform the customer of the amount and timing of the payment at least 3 working days in advance. 


  • Payment processing: On the scheduled payment date, the customer’s bank will process the payment request and transfer the funds to the business’s account. The payment is automatically deducted from the customer’s account.
  • Reconciliation: The business will receive notification of the payment from their bank and will need to reconcile this against their records to ensure accurate accounting. 

How long does a direct debit payment take to process? 

The length of time it takes for a direct debit payment to process can vary depending on several factors. Some of the factors that can affect the processing time include: 

  • Payment processing time: The processing time for direct debit payments can vary depending on the payment service provider and the specific payment processing schedule. 
  • Pre-notification period: Before collecting any direct debit payments, businesses are required to provide pre-notification to customers. The length of the pre-notification period can vary, but it is typically between 3 and 10 working days. 


  • Bank processing time: Once the payment request has been submitted by the business, the customer’s bank will process the payment and transfer the funds to the business’s account. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few working days, depending on the banks involved. 

It’s important for businesses to plan accordingly and ensure they have sufficient funds available in their account to cover any potential delays in payment processing. 

What is a service user number? 

In the United Kingdom, a Service User Number (SUN) is required to collect payments by direct debit. A SUN is a unique six-digit identifier that is assigned to a business by Bacs, the organization responsible for the management of direct debit in the UK. The SUN is used to identify the business when submitting payment requests and to ensure compliance with Bacs rules and regulations. 

To obtain a SUN, a business must first register with Bacs and provide relevant information such as company details, bank account information, and authorization from the bank. Once registered, the business will be assigned a SUN and will be able to start collecting payments by direct debit. It’s important to note that obtaining a SUN can take several weeks, so businesses should plan accordingly when implementing direct debit as a payment method.

Are direct debit payments protected? 

Yes, direct debit payments are protected by several safeguards to ensure the security of both businesses and customers. In the UK, Direct Debit payments are protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee scheme. This scheme provides customers with a guarantee that if there are any errors or unauthorized transactions on their account, they can request a refund from their bank. 

Are direct debits an easy recurring payment option? 

Direct debit payments can be a relatively easy process for both businesses and customers. Once a direct debit mandate is set up, the payment is automatically deducted from the customer’s account on the scheduled date, which can help to streamline the payment process and reduce the need for manual intervention. Direct debits can also help to ensure that payments are made on time and reduce the risk of missed payments or late fees. However, setting up direct debits does require some initial setup and communication with the customer, and there are also regulations and requirements that businesses must follow to ensure compliance with direct debit schemes. Overall, while there may be some initial effort required to set up direct debits, they can be a convenient and reliable way to manage recurring payments. 

What are the benefits of collecting by direct debit payment? 

There are several benefits of collecting payments by direct debit, including: 

  • Predictable Cash Flow: Direct debit provides businesses with a predictable cash flow as payments are collected automatically on a predetermined schedule, reducing the risk of late or missed payments. 
  • Reduced Payment Processing Costs: Direct debit is a cost-effective payment method that eliminates the need for manual payment processing, such as cheque processing or cash handling.
  • Improved Efficiency: Direct debit enables businesses to streamline payment processing, reducing the administrative burden and allowing them to focus on core business activities.
  • Increased Customer Retention: Direct debit provides customers with a convenient and hassle-free payment method, improving customer satisfaction and increasing the likelihood of customer retention.
  • Enhanced Security: Direct debit is a secure payment method that is regulated by various authorities, ensuring the protection of customer data and privacy.
  • Compliance: Direct debit is subject to strict regulations and mandates, ensuring that businesses remain compliant with legal and regulatory requirements. 

Overall, direct debit offers numerous benefits to businesses and customers alike, providing a reliable and convenient payment method for managing recurring payments. 


In conclusion, direct debit collections provide a convenient and reliable way for businesses to collect payments from their customers. By setting up automatic payments, customers can avoid the hassle of remembering to make payments on time, and businesses can reduce the risk of late payments or non-payments. Direct debit collections also offer benefits such as cost savings, increased efficiency, and improved cash flow. However, it is important for businesses to communicate clearly with their customers about the terms of the direct debit agreement and to ensure that they have proper authorization before initiating any collections. Overall, direct debit collections can be a valuable tool for businesses seeking to streamline their payment processes and provide a better customer experience.

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