Get your bank account into shape

How often do you check your direct debits and standing orders? Many bank customers end up paying for gym membership, email accounts or web subscriptions for years after they have finished using them but failed to cancel
How often do you check your direct debits and standing orders? Many bank customers end up paying for gym membership, email accounts or web subscriptions for years after they have finished using them but failed to cancel. If you bank online, log on today and check to avoid future overpayments.

Banks have a tab online displaying all standing orders and direct debits in one place. If you visit your bank ask them to print out your standing orders and direct debits and scan them for mistakes.

Both standing orders and direct debits are customers’ instructions to a bank to pay a named recipient at regular intervals. But while standing orders require the customers bank to send a fixed amount of money, direct debits involve giving your authority for the beneficiary - usually a shop or utility provider - to claim cash to pay your bills.

On the plus side regular payments are a useful way to save money - utilities and phone companies tend to offer discounts to customers paying bills via direct debits, for example, while they help credit card customers avoid late payment charges - but they all require good housekeeping. Don’t get complacent and think that utility companies are always going to charge you the correct amount.

Under the direct debit scheme, customers are protected by the direct debit guarantee: you can contact a bank to cancel at any time you like, and any errors can trigger a full refund from the bank, rather than from the company itself. Direct debits can be for variable amounts, such as ‘the full value of the bill’. Since values can change, it’s crucial to keep up to date with payments.

If you discover unnecessary payments you should cancel the contract - but read the contract first so you don’t incur a contract-breaking fee. Watch out for recurring payments - these differ from direct debits and standing orders as they cannot be stopped by the bank. Only the company you are paying to can stop them, and that can be difficult. Avoid if possible.

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