What should you use SEPA Direct Debit for?


Similarly to UK Direct Debit, the level of control SEPA Direct Debit gives merchants makes it ideal for the collection of recurring payments.

Unlike UK Direct Debit, SEPA Direct Debit allows you to collect payments in 21 Eurozone countries. This guide will look at the kind of businesses SEPA Direct Debit is great for and considers how it benefits those businesses. It will also summarise the types of transactions that it isn’t great for to help you to decide whether it is suitable for you.

SEPA Direct Debit is great for...

Collecting regular payments such as subscriptions. For companies collecting regular payments such as membership or subscription organisations SEPA Direct Debit has three important advantages:

  1. Control – Using SEPA Direct Debit enables merchants to ensure that customers will pay their bills on time every month.
  2. Retention rates – Using SEPA Direct Debit eliminates failed payments due to card expiry or cancellation. It also increases customer loyalty by offering a convenient “set it and forget it” payment method.
  3. Reduced admin – Using SEPA Direct Debit reduces the admin time involved in chasing and inputting updates to card details.

Invoicing for services where instant payment is not required. An example would be marketing agencies. SEPA Direct Debit is great for B2B invoicing for three important reasons:

  1. Improved cashflow – Using SEPA Direct Debit puts control back into the merchant’s hands. Merchants are able to collect payments when they want. This provides greater control over cash flow.
  2. Variable amounts can be easily collected – Using SEPA Direct Debit enables merchants to collect variable amounts using a single upfront authorisation. As and when the payment amount changes, merchants are able to automatically claim the new amount. This differs from a standing order where customers need to give their bank new instructions each time a change is needed.
  3. Reduced admin and credit chasing – Using SEPA Direct Debit reduces the time and manual effort required by chasing late payments and reconciling payments. It also reduces average debtor days without requiring awkward conversations about money with customers.

Account customers with an on-going relationship with the merchant. A good example would be wholesalers. Using SEPA Direct Debit to collect payments from account, or on-going, customers works well for the same reasons as invoices (above). It also provides two additional key benefits to your customers:

  1. Simple payment method for customers – It automates the collection process and enables customers to simplify the way they pay.
  2. Allows a flexible payment option – SEPA Direct Debit allows ongoing customers the option of spreading costs and paying on account.

Markets with low card use such as Germany and the Netherlands, where credit card penetration is lower than 50%. Paying by bank account through SEPA Direct Debit is the preferred way to pay in these countries. Similarly, in industries or markets where usage of corporate cards is low, B2B customers will prefer to pay by bank account.

SEPA Direct Debit isn't so good for...

Transactions which need immediate clearing. SEPA Direct Debit payments are not instant, even under the faster B2B scheme - see our guide to timings for more information.

Transactions likely to be charged back including liquid assets and high value goods. The SEPA Core Direct Debit no-questions-asked refund policy makes chargebacks easy in the initial eight weeks following the payment. This is a lower risk than with UK Direct Debit where chargeback periods were subject to no time limits.

SEPA Direct Debit Payments Through GoCardless

Our simple online interface and API make it cheap and easy to access and use SEPA Direct Debit. People use us for a wide range of things, chiefly revolving around regular billing, instalments and subscription payments. A few examples:

  • SaaS companies
  • Subscription companies
  • B2B or B2SMEs companies
  • Telecoms companies
  • Web hosting companies
  • Lending
  • Marketing agencies
  • Insurance
  • Membership organisations

To find out more about collecting SEPA Direct Debits or to register your interest with GoCardless, check out our GoCardless Europe page.

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