November 16, 2017 4:48 pm Written by

Understanding Direct Debits and Standing Orders

Direct debits and standing orders are two of the most common ways to make regular and recurring payments to other individuals or companies. In this guide, we explain how they both work and where they differ. Plus, we explain how they are relevant for guarantor loans products.




Direct Debits:

  • Set up online or by phone
  • Delivers variable amounts
  • Allows an organization to deduct from your account
  • Used to pay an owed amount and can be taken incrementally in different amounts
  • Companies must give 10 days’ notice before deducting
  • Used for paying bills such as gas, electricity, Netflix, gym memberships and tax bills.
  • No charges

Standing Orders:

  • Set up online or by phone
  • Delivers fixed amounts
  • Instructs one bank account to pay another account
  • Used to pay fixed costs, e.g. gym membership
  • Can pay to any individual with a bank account
  • Can pay into your own accounts (e.g. from general to savings)
  • No charges

What is a Direct Debit?

Direct debits are the most commonly used method of making regular payments and repayments. Despite the name, you can set up a direct debit on a debit or credit card, depending on what you are paying for.



A direct debit is used to set up payments to another organization that you are dealing with or are a customer of. Rather than having to call up and log in every week or month to make a repayment, a direct debit involves setting up an automatic repayment through your bank either by phone, in your local branch, or online. The easily-accessible online feature is why direct debits are so convenient and are used by millions of people.

Typical uses of a direct debit include:

  • Paying your mobile phone bill
  • Paying gas and electricity bills (variable amounts)
  • Subscriptions such as Sky, Netflix or your local gym

By setting this up, you allow the organization to take payments from your debit or credit card upon a scheduled date. You must give the bank or building society permission to do this. As per the regulatory requirements, the company must give you notice on the days leading up to the money being taken out of your account.

The main difference between direct debits and standing orders is that they pay variable amounts, meaning repayments can vary from month to month. For instance, if your phone bill varies each month depending on your usage, this will most likely be paid using direct debit.

Using a direct debit as a method of payment is completely free. There are no additional bank or transaction charges incurred. In fact, some vendors and organizations will give you a discount for using a direct debit, especially utility providers of gas and electricity.

You also have the peace of mind knowing that whatever payments are made are overseen by your bank, so it is a safe and secure environment. In the event that too much money has been debited from your account and you have been overcharged, you have the Direct Debit Guarantee scheme from your card holder that will be able to refund you.

A tip: once you have your direct debits set up, to double check the amount going out each month. It is easy to sit back and watch the repayments going out but you need to be alert in the rare instance that you are overcharged, or charged too frequently.

What is a Standing Order?

A standing order is similar to a direct debit in the way that you make recurring payments each week or month based on an amount you have set and date you have agreed with another party. You are, however, setting up a fixed amount that you are paying each month.



Standing orders are perfect for paying rent because you know that the amount charged will remain the same for several months or a year. If the rates went up and down each month, like utility bills, you would use a direct debit.

Another good use of standing orders is the ability to pay individual bank accounts whether it is sending money to another family member each month e.g £100 a month. Or in a smart way, you can send money to your own other savings account. Imagine that you want to put £300 aside each month for savings or a rainy day, well, you can set this up via your standing order.

Similar to a direct debit, you have the security of your bank or building society. They can be set up in your local bank branch, by post or most usually, the convenience of your own home by the phone or email.

Again, standing orders are free to set up. Since you have more control, it is your responsibility to double check that amounts that you are paying each month and make sure that you delete anything that you are not using as you could be getting charged. For any issues with your standing orders and the amounts being paid, simply contact your bank branch.

Do Loans Use Standing Orders or Direct Debits?

Most commonly, loan companies use neither standing orders nor direct debits. Loan companies, including guarantor lenders use a process called Continuous Payment Authority. This is a method of recurring payments whereby the lender verifies your account during the application stage and is then able to collect from your debit account only (not credit card) on a scheduled date.

Like with direct debit, the amount collected each month may vary month-on-month, and the lender is required to give you notice before taking any repayments each month.

Whilst a direct debit allows you to cancel it at any point, you cannot ask the lender to cancel your continuous payment authority, but you have the right to cancel by asking your bank directly. The only reason for cancelling would be to stop repaying your loan from that account. You must consult your loans provider when doing this if you want to avoid additional fees.

The reason that lenders use CPA is that it gives them more flexibility to make repayments on a massive scale, especially if they have hundreds or thousands of repayments that are going through every month. Lenders do incur a small fee every time they go to access your debit account for a repayment, but they are limited to the number of times a day that they can access your account.

For more on loans and the types of processes involved in taking out a loan visit our homepage.

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