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GoCardless is the simpler way to accept Direct Debit Find out more

Setup

Which recurring payments option is right for you will depend on the size of your business and how quickly you need to start taking payments.

Credit cards
Do it yourself

Setting everything up yourself from scratch +

Payment Express Authorize.net
Do it yourself

Setting up a merchant account can be a long and complex process - you should expect a pretty comprehensive review - particularly if you're a new or small business going through the process for the first time.

Most payment gateways do offer help setting up a merchant account but it usually still takes around 3-4 weeks to be approved.
  • Authorize.net: With Authorize.net you can set up a combined merchant account and payment gateway making the process much quicker. If you already have a merchant account set up you can choose to just set up a payment gateway.
  • Payment Express: With Payment Express you'll need to arrange a merchant account with a supported bank. This can take up to 4 weeks. Once set up, it will take at least another 6 working days to get a payment gateway set up.
3-4 weeks
Do it yourself

Direct Access: To start collecting Direct Debit payments yourself you'll need to apply to your sponsor bank for an SUN. The application process involves several stages and will generally take around 4-12 weeks.

You'll also need to prepare your processes and staff to manage Direct Debit payments. This usually takes 3-6 months. For more details see our guide to preparing your business for Direct Debit.

Direct Debit bureau: Using a Direct Debit bureau can significantly speed up the process, taking around 4-8 weeks (including getting a SUN).
  • FastPay: With FastPay you can be set up in 48 hours and start taking payments in 2 weeks.
  • Smartdebit: With Smartdebit it takes 5 working days to get set up using their SUN. If you want your own SUN they will help you apply to their sponsor bank (which will take about 2 weeks) or through your bank (which will take 4-6 weeks).
4-9 months
Do it yourself

Managing everything yourself through a bank or a bureau +

SmartDebit FastPay
Payments service provider

A full service payment provider +

PayPal Adyen
Payment Service Providers

Setting up to collect payments through a Payment Service Provider is generally quite a quick process but can take up to a few weeks depending on the provider you choose:
  • PayPal: Older providers like PayPal can take a little longer as it takes a few days to complete their verification processes such as test payments.
  • AdYen: Setting up with AdYen usually takes 2-3 weeks but during this time you can access a test account and complete your integration.
Varies
Direct Debit Management Software

Getting set up to collect Direct Debit payments using management software is generally quite a quick process. However, you will need to get an SUN and train your staff to use the software:
  • Bottomline: Bottomline c-series requires significant customisation and extensive training before you can get started so make sure you consider this when working out timings
  • Fundtech: Fundtech requires a high level of training - particularly if you choose the most basic package which involves a lot of manual processes so take extra time for this into account.
4-9 months
Including getting an SUN
Management software

A full featured software suite +

Bottomline Fundtech
Payment processor

A combined merchant account and payment gateway +

Stripe Braintree
Payment Processors

With a full service payment processor, set up is usually very quick:
  • Stripe: With Stripe, you should be able to set up and activate your account in just a few minutes using their easy to use API, documentation and sandbox environment.
  • Braintree: With Braintree, set up usually requires several days although this can vary significantly depending on factors like your developer's experience level.
Varies
Instant for Stripe
Instant

The UK's leading Direct Debit provider +

Painful 3-6 month application reviews should be a thing of the past. Companies like Stripe and GoCardless offer instant set-up and can have you collecting payments in minutes.
Credit cards
Do it yourself

Setting everything up yourself from scratch +

Payment Express Authorize.net
Do it yourself

Merchant Account

For start-ups, small or home-based businesses, it's not always a given that you'll be granted a merchant account. You'll need to speak to your bank and will usually be asked to provide:
  • A UK business bank account
  • A business plan and one page summary of what your business will be doing
  • A website (if you plan to trade online) with terms and conditions
  • Management accounts and a profit & loss projection for the next 6 months minimum
  • A good relationship with your chosen bank
  • A minimum value of transactions a month (around £10,000)
  • bond of at least £10,000 (more if in a high-risk industry)
Your payment gateway may be able to help:
  • Authorize.net: With Authorize.net you can set up a combined merchant account and payment gateway making the process much easier.
  • Payment Express: With Payment Express you will need to arrange a merchant account with one of their supported banks.
Difficult
Do it yourself

Direct Access: Getting your own SUN can be very challenging and the application process can take up to 6 months. You'll need to speak to your bank and will need:
  • A minimum revenue of £1 million (for some banks this can be as much as £10 million)
  • A business plan and outline of your case for using Direct Debit
  • A review by the bank's credit and risk team
  • A personal guarantee or bond of £50,000-500,000
For more information on getting an SUN see our guide to becoming a Direct Debit originator.

Direct Debit bureau: While using a Direct Debit bureau makes the whole process much easier, you will still need to get an SUN (unless you choose to use the bureau's SUN).
  • FastPay: FastPay will help you to set up an SUN in 48 hours.
  • Smartdebit: If you want to set up your own SUN you will need to complete an application through Smartdebit or to your bank and you may need to provide the above.
You will also need to make sure your systems and processes are Bacs compliant and that your staff are adequately trained.
Difficult
Do it yourself

Managing everything yourself through a bank or a bureau +

SmartDebit FastPay
Payments service provider

A full service payment provider +

PayPal Adyen
Payment Service Providers

It is generally quite simple to get set up with a Payment Service Provider but it may take from a few days to a few weeks before you can start taking payments:
  • PayPal: PayPal takes a few days to complete their verification processes such as test payments.
  • AdYen: AdYen will need to review your website and certain documentation including your registration certificates, recent business bank statements and shareholder and owner passports. This usually takes around 2 weeks.
Varies
Direct Debit Management Software

While Direct Debit management software is typically very simple to set up you'll need to have already started the process of obtaining your own SUN before getting started.

For more information on getting an SUN see our guide to becoming a Direct Debit originator.
  • Bottomline: You will need your own SUN and a high level of technical expertise. Bottomline do offer training courses at an additional cost.
  • Fundtech: You will need your own SUN and a high level of technical expertise.
Varies
Management software

A full featured software suite +

Bottomline Fundtech
Payment processor

A combined merchant account and payment gateway +

Stripe Braintree
Payment Processors

With fully stacked payment processors, how easy it is to get started varies considerably between providers:
  • Stripe: With Stripe, you should be able to set up and activate your account in just a few minutes using their easy to use API, documentation and sandbox environment. You'll just need a bank account, email address, your account details and to answer some questions about your business.
  • Braintree: With Braintree, you will need to meet certain website requirements and their banking partners may require you to provide a reserve or personal guarantee.
Easy
GoCardless

Getting set up to take payments with GoCardless is incredibly easy. You can get signed up and start taking payments within minutes.

You just need a UK bank account, an email address, your account details and to answer a few quick questions about your business.
Easy

The UK's leading Direct Debit provider +

With providers like Stripe & GoCardless you only need to have a UK bank account and to answer a few simple questions on your business to start collecting payments - much simpler than tackling the hurdles involved in getting a merchant account or SUN yourself.

Some recurring payment providers deceive you by offering low transaction costs with hidden extras. Be sure to compare fully-loaded costs: setup costs + transaction costs + admin costs.

GoCardless makes it quick and easy to use Direct Debit

Start taking payments in minutes