How they work
They both let you set up an automatic payment from your bank account to another account. The payment goes out regularly, usually once a month.
The difference is:
Direct debits are used to pay companies, usually for bills. They give the company permission to take whatever amount they need each time.
Standing orders are used to send money to any UK bank account. They are for the same amount each time, and you control them yourself through your bank.
Both help you to avoid missing payments because they come out of your account automatically. You just need to make sure there is enough money in your account to cover the amount each time.
This depends on your bank. They could refuse to send the money and charge you a fee. If the payment is for a bill, you may also have to pay a fee to the company you owe money to.
Alternatively, the payment could go ahead but put you in your overdraft, which could also come with a fee from your bank.
Who can use direct debits and standing orders?
You usually have to be older than 16 or 18 to use them. You can send both types of payment from:
Which should you use?
Standing orders let you control the payment yourself through your bank, but direct debits are useful for paying bills because the company can take the exact amount they need.
Here are some of the ways you can use each payment type:
|Direct debit||Standing order|
|Paying utility bills||Regular payments to a person you know|
|Mortgage or loan payments||Regular payments to your savings account|
|Insurance premiums||Paying your rent|
|Paying for subscriptions like Spotify||Contributing to a charity|
How to use direct debits
You can set direct debits up to automatically pay bills straight from your bank account.
They come out of your account regularly, usually once a month, and the amount can change each time.
You can pay bills from businesses like:
Your mortgage lender
Your utility suppliers
A company you have a subscription with, e.g. a gym or music streaming service
The amount needed is taken from your account directly by the business, which means you do not control the amount paid. However, they must tell you how much they will take in advance, usually with a bill, email or online statement.
Some companies like utility providers charge you less if you pay by direct debit.
However, paying for insurance premiums or large purchases like furniture usually costs less if you pay for them upfront. This is because companies charge you a higher price if you spread the cost over several months or more with a direct debit.
How to set up a direct debit
You can only set up a direct debit through the company you need to pay. You can do this online, by phone, by post or by filling out a form in person to confirm:
Your bank's name and address
Your bank account number
Your sort code
The name on your bank account
How to cancel or amend a direct debit
You can contact the company you pay to cancel a direct debit or change details, like the date they take the money.
You could also cancel it by contacting your bank, but the company could charge you a cancellation fee.
What is the Direct Debit Guarantee?
It protects your money when you use direct debits. Every company that offers them has to sign up to the Direct Debit Guarantee. This offers the following protection:
You can cancel a direct debit whenever you need to
You get at least ten days' notice before any changes to the amount, frequency or date of your payment
A full immediate refund if your bank or the company you pay make an error
When you set up a new payment you should be given a copy of the Direct Debit Guarantee.
How to use standing orders
You can set up a standing order to send the same amount of money to another account in the UK on a regular date.
For example, you could send £100 on the first day of every month to your savings account.
You can use them to pay an account in the name of:
Another person like a relative or your landlord
A business or charity
The amount stays the same unless you change it, and they can last until a date of your choice or until you cancel it.
The funds usually arrive on the same day because they are sent through the bank's faster payments service, which is also used if you make a bank transfer online.
How to set up a standing order
You can set up standing orders yourself through your bank either:
In a branch
You need to provide the following details:
The start date
How often the payment is made
The destination account number
The destination sort code
The destination account name
How to cancel or amend a standing order
Contact your bank or log in to your online banking if you need to cancel a standing order or amend its:
How to transfer them to a new bank account
If you switch to a new current account with another bank, your direct debits and standing orders will be automatically moved over to your new account.
This means all your payments can continue from your new account without you needing to change them yourself.
Direct debit and standing order FAQs
Does it cost to add a direct debit or standing order?
No, it is free to set them up on your account. However, there are fees if a payment fails because there is not enough money in your account.
How can I see my current direct debits and standing orders?
Logging into your online banking is the quickest way to check them, but your bank can also confirm them by phone or in writing.
How many direct debits and standing orders can I have?
Banks do not usually limit the number you can have. You just need to make sure there is enough money in your account to cover them all.
Can a direct debit or standing order go wrong?
Yes, the wrong amount could be sent or it could be sent twice, but this is very rare. Your bank must refund you, so make sure you report it to them.
What if money is taken from a cancelled direct debit?
If you cancel a direct debit, you can claim the money back if the company still takes it. However, if you owe them money you will still have to pay them.
Do direct debits leave your account on weekends?
No, they leave on the specified day, e.g. the 1st of each month, except weekends or bank holidays when it leaves on the next working day instead.