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Paper vs Paperless Direct Debit

Chris Hooper
Written by
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Last editedApr 20232 min read

A comparison of paper and paperless Direct Debit to help you decide which is the best option for you.

Paperless Direct Debit is set up over the phone or online, while paper Direct Debit uses paper mandate forms. To help you decide which one is best for you we’ve pitted them against each other below.

Customer acquisition

Paper – Getting a signed form is an incredibly simple way to get authorisation where you already meet with your customers in person. It isn’t so good where you don’t – your customer will have to download and print a form to sign before posting it back to you. Plus you'll need to manually process the Direct Debit mandate before storing it securely.

Paperless – If you sign up customers remotely online or over the phone, you will need a paperless Direct Debit solution. You may also prefer to set people up in person using a tablet or mobile device. Getting paperless authorisation avoids the need for manual processing. However, to use paperless Direct Debit you'll need access to an online device at the point of sale.

Summary: Paperless is the simplest option unless you don’t have easy access to an online device at the point of sale.

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Customer preference

Paper - Customers without access to a computer or those who don't want to use the internet for payments or give out personal information over the phone, for example elderly people, may prefer paper mandates. 

Paperless - Customers increasingly prefer the convenience of setting up payments online or over the phone with an increasing shift to paperless.

Summary: Paperless is simpler all round and, as a result, is becoming increasingly popular, however, it may not be a fit if your customers aren’t comfortable using computers or the internet. We sometimes see this with businesses who have an elderly customer base.


Paper - Paper mandates should be stored. You will need to produce it in case of an indemnity claim. You will need an in-house or remote storage solution and someone to manage it. You will also need to create and maintain an electronic database of the mandate information.

Paperless - Paperless mandates do not need to be stored as there is no physical document. You will just need an electronic database of the data and log of the signup. This helps to reduce storage and administrative overheads. The lack of a physical document can make proving authorisation more challenging in case of an indemnity claim. However, less than 0.2% of payments are charged back so this is a small risk. 

Summary: Generally paperless makes sense as it saves so much time and effort, however, if you have an extremely high average transaction value and are concerned about chargebacks then paper may make sense.

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Paper – Paper mandates are slower to set up, and more susceptible to human error. Customers may need to post their mandates to you, and you will need to manually re-key the data into your database.

Paperless - Paperless mandates involve far fewer manual processes. Customers can sign up instantly online or over the phone, and the data is entered directly into your database. 

Summary: Paperless is less open to human error and customers can sign up quickly. This means you can start taking payments earlier.


Paper - Paper Direct Debit involves significant printing, postage and storage costs. Setting up payments and sending notifications by post is extremely expensive and can cause delays which in turn cost businesses money. 

Paperless - Paperless mandates are cheaper to set up, as they use a fully electronic process. This avoids the cost and inconvenience of printing, signing and posting paper forms. However, depending on your provider you may need to pay an additional monthly fee to use paperless services. 

Summary: Paperless avoids the costs associated with printing, posting and storing paper mandates – even with potential costs for accessing the paperless system this remains a significant saving.

Overall summary

Paperless Direct Debit is quicker, easier and cheaper than using paper. Increasingly customers prefer to set up payments online or over the phone. However, some customers continue to prefer a traditional paper set up.

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PreviousIntroduction to Direct Debit Mandates
Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help
Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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