How to access Direct Debit: a 60 second guide

There are three options you can use to access the Direct Debit system. This guide will walk you through each to help you decide which is best option for you.


There are three options you can use to access the Direct Debit system. This guide will walk you through each to help you decide which is best option for you.

1. Direct access via a bank

  • You can access the scheme directly through your bank. This is best for big businesses signing up customers with paper Direct Debit.
  • If you are able to meet certain criteria they will issue you with a “Service User Number” ("SUN"), which means you can submit payments into the system yourself.

2. A Direct Debit Bureau

  • A Direct Debit bureau is a third party which handles Direct Debit payments on your behalf either using your own SUN or using the Bureau’s SUN.

  • A bureau is great if you need the full-suite of phone, paper and paperless Direct Debit and want to manage everything yourself from scratch; if not take a look at GoCardless.

  • They’re best for smaller businesses who want to sign up customers with paper mandate forms.

3. GoCardless

  • With GoCardless you can get instant access to a fully automated Direct Debit payments service.

  • This is your best option for online Direct Debit, if you want to get started straight away or if you want an efficient and cost effective payments solution.

  • Signing up with GoCardless is free, and we manage the whole payment process for you.

Option 1: A bank

You may wish to manage Direct Debit collection in-house. To do this your bank will need to grant you your own SUN. 

Why go through a bank?

There are two advantages:

  • Lowest cost per payment. You will pay a small fee per payment which should decrease with volume.

  • Full control of your payments. You will decide when and how you submit payment requests and only your company name will appear on your customer’s bank statement.

What do I need to do?

The requirements for accessing the scheme differ slightly by bank, but in general you will need to:

  • Get your own SUN (Read more about the pros and cons of getting your own SUN here).
  • Put down a £100k bond with the bank to cover their risk
  • Invest c. £15k in software, and staff training 
  • Assign 1-3 staff to manage the system
  • Invest 3-6 months in setting up

For further details on what this will involve see our guide to becoming a Direct Debit Originator.

Where do I start?

The first step is to get a sponsor bank and a Service User Number. For details on getting an SUN please see our guide to Service User Numbers.

Option 2: A Direct Debit Bureau

A Direct Debit bureau is a third party which handles Direct Debit payments on your behalf. For examples, see Eazy Collect, FastPay, and SmartDebit. 

There are two ways to collect Direct Debit payments using a bureau:

  • Using your own SUN. A bureau can set one up for you. Choose this option if you would like only your business name to show on your customers’ bank statements. Expect to pay c. £800 upfront. This is called “facilities management.”
  • Using the Bureau’s SUN. The bureau will submit and manage payments on your behalf. Choose this option if you don’t mind the name of the bureau appearing on your customers’ bank statements, and would like to get started more quickly. Expect to pay c. £400 upfront, and be aware that up to 30% of your funds may be withheld each month to cover their risk.

Our guide to SUNs should help you to decide which of these two options you prefer.

Why use a Bureau?

Compared to direct access through a bank, bureaus are cheap and quick to sign up with. They are great if you want to sign up customers with paper forms. However, while some bureaus do offer paperless Direct Debit this may be more expensive or at a lower standard. 

What do I need to do?

Direct Debit bureaus typically don't publish their pricing but typically you will be required to:

  • Pay a £400 - £800 setup fee
  • Pay a 40p per payment, and £1.40 to set up each new customer
  • Manually reconcile reports back into your systems
  • Invest 4-8 weeks setting up

Where do I start?

The first step - and possibly the biggest challenge - is to find the right bureau for you. Ask each bureau these 8 Questions to help you decide if it's right for you.

Option 3: GoCardless

GoCardless is the UK’s leading Direct Debit provider. It’s a completely automated Direct Debit payments provider which lets you take, track and automatically reconcile your payments online through our simple dashboard or REST API. Customers can easily set up their Direct Debit payments online.

Why use GoCardless?

GoCardless automates and simplifies the whole payment process for you. This has three main benefits:

  • Reduced admin. You can collect recurring and one-off payments automatically, or at the click of a button. We manage everything else for you. 
  • Powerful tools that suit you. With GoCardless, it is incredibly easy to set up, collect and manage Direct Debit payments with our simple online tool or REST API. We also offer integrations with your accounts provider.
  • Simple, low pricing. Our size enables us to offer you highly competitive prices. All it costs is 1% per transaction, capped at £2. Scale pricing is available too. Further information on our pricing is on our website.

Our merchants often tell us that they previously found the payment process difficult to manage. Businesses like Greater Anglia have saved 3 days every month since switching to Direct Debit payments with GoCardless.

What do I need?

There are no requirements for using GoCardless. Any business or charity - from sole traders to national finance companies – can sign up for free with us online and start collecting payments immediately.

Where do I start?

For more information on how to use Direct Debit to save time and money when collecting payments, watch our short video here.

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