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How long do SEPA Direct Debit payments take?

This guide details the timings for SEPA Direct Debit, and explains how GoCardless can help you to optimize them.

SEPA Direct Debit is not an instant payment method. Payments take at least 2 interbank working days under the B2B scheme, and 3 interbank working days under the Core scheme, to clear on your bank account.

Cut-off to submit payments in SEPA Core Direct Debit scheme

For first payment collections:

You must submit the collection to the banks 5 interbank business days before the payment due date.

For subsequent payment collections:

You must submit the collection to the banks 2 interbank business days before the payment due date.

Cut-off to submit payments in SEPA B2B Direct Debit scheme

Under the SEPA B2B Direct Debit Scheme, you will need to submit a collection to the banks 1 interbank working day before the payment due date.

Collecting payments under the SEPA Core Direct Debit scheme

Collecting a SEPA payment against an existing mandate

A collection under an existing mandate must be submitted to the banks 5 interbank working days before a first collection, and 2 interbank working days before any subsequent collections.

The chart below shows the relevant timings for the SEPA Core Direct Debit scheme:

2 weeks before collection (or a shorter period if agreed with the customer) Notify your customer that you will be collecting the payment 2 weeks later (or the shorter period agreed with the customer).
5 business days before collection This is the last day you can send a one-off or first collection instruction to your bank under the SEPA Core Direct Debit Scheme.
2 business days before collection This is the last day you can send a subsequent or final collection instruction to your bank under the SEPA Core Direct Debit Scheme.
Day of collection Day on which the payer's bank account is debited.
5 business days after collection This is the last day your customer’s bank can return a collection if they are unable to accept the collection (e.g. account closed).

Under the SEPA Direct Debit Core scheme, a payer is entitled to request a refund of an authorized collection from their bank within 8 weeks of being debited.

The payer is also entitled to request a refund of an unauthorized or fraudulent collection from their bank up to 13 months after being debited.

Collecting payment when no mandate exists

If you don't already have a mandate with your customer, one must be set up before a payment can be collected. As soon as a signed mandate is received, you can submit a payment request. As this would be a first collection, it will take 5 interbank working days before the payment is collected (see timings above).

For further details on how to set up a mandate, see our guide on SEPA Direct Debit mandates.

Collecting payments under the SEPA B2B Direct Debit scheme

A collection must be submitted to the banks 1 interbank working day before the payment due date, regardless of the collection type (one-off, first or subsequent).

The chart below shows the relevant timings for the SEPA B2B Direct Debit scheme:

2 weeks before collection (or a shorter period if agreed with the customer) Notify your customer that you will be collecting the payment 2 weeks later (or the shorter period agreed with the customer).
1 business day before collection This is the last day you can send a collection instruction to your bank under the SEPA B2B Direct Debit Scheme.
Day of collection Day on which the SEPA direct debit is processed.
2 business days after collection This is the last day you can correct the collection. This is the last day your customer’s bank can reverse the collection.

Under the SEPA Direct Debit B2B scheme, the payer is not entitled to obtain a refund of an authorized collection. However, if a payer believes that a collection is not covered by a B2B mandate, they will be entitled to claim a refund of an unauthorized or fraudulent collection for up to 13 months after being debited.

Payment failure notifications

If a payment fails prior to settlement, the customer's bank will notify your bank on the day the payment was due. If there is a problem with a payment following settlement, the customer’s bank will notify your bank on the day that the problem occurs, or up to a maximum of 5 days after settlement.

Merchants should be aware of the return period for payments during which the customer’s bank can return a payment (e.g. if they have been unable to take the payment from your customer’s account due to insufficient funds).

  • For Core scheme payments, returns must be settled by 5 interbank business days after the due date.

  • For B2B scheme payments, this returns period is reduced to 2 interbank business days.

For further details of the issues which may occur, see our guide to messages from the banks.

Non-working days and optimizing timings

Submissions to the banks can only be made on an interbank working day. Banks will not process any messages on non interbank working days. However, this does mean that you may receive a message on a national bank holiday which is not an interbank holiday.

Each interbank working day has a cut-off time which can vary from bank to bank. If this cut-off time is early in the working day, it is recommended to submit to the banks one day before the regular schedule.

For example 6 days before a first collection (instead of 5), and 3 days before a recurring collection (instead of 2).

Optimizing timings by combining the Core and B2B scheme

To optimize timings you should, where possible, try to take payments under the B2B scheme. The significantly shorter timings, particularly for initial collections, coupled with a reduced return period and refund policy may appeal to merchants.

However, the scheme can only be used to collect payments from businesses, not consumers or microenterprises. Moreover, this scheme will only be available with participating payer banks, which may reduce its reachability.

Nevertheless, you can use a combination of the B2B and Core schemes where appropriate to optimize your payment process.

SEPA Direct Debit timings with GoCardless

GoCardless processes all SEPA Direct Debit payments according to the fully optimized timetables above. GoCardless submits and retrieves messages from the banks on your behalf, complying with interbank timing and cut-off times. You have complete transparency on the status of your payments at any time through our dashboard or API.

GoCardless is currently processing SEPA Direct Debit payments through the SEPA Core Direct Debit scheme. We will soon extend our SEPA Direct Debits capability to the SEPA B2B scheme. We will then help you to use a combination of the schemes, as appropriate, to optimize your payment process.

To find out more about collecting SEPA Direct Debits, or to register your interest with GoCardless, visit our homepage.

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