Martin Lewis: Take my direct debit test and see how much you save

Martin Lewis has challenged readers to take his direct debit challenge. Picture: Getty/Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis has challenged readers to take his direct debit challenge. Picture: Getty/Martin Lewis - Credit: Getty/Martin Lewis

Today, I’m laying down the gauntlet.

I want to find out how many of you are wasting cash - letting money drip from your bank accounts without knowing, for regular payments to services and companies you no longer use or need.

There are three types of regular payments. Most of you will be familiar with two of them, but the third type is the tricky one.

MORE: Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert: 12 furloughing need-to-knows for employees and firms1. Direct debits.

You give a firm your bank details and permission to debit your account when necessary, and it decides what to take and when, yet you’ve a right to ask the bank to stop it - but do check you’re out of contract first.

2. Standing orders.

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Regular payments to people. Here you set up an automated instruction to pay a firm or person a fixed amount, and you set the frequency. Cancelling is easy via your bank.

3. Recurring payments.

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Subscriptions, payday loans, or pornography sites. These used to be known as continuous payment authorities - where you give a debit or credit card number and the firm can take payment when it feels fit. Yet they look just like single transactions so they’re tougher to spot. It’s generally easier to cancel these via firms themselves, but sometimes they play hardball - since 2009 you’ve had a right to cancel with the bank, though some staff wrongly say you can’t.

But how do you find regular payments?

Both standing orders and direct debits are easy to locate.

If you bank online there’s usually a page that lists them, so it’s easy to check (best to do it that way so it includes currently paused subscriptions as well). If not, you can request it. Recurring payments are primarily just about going through statements to check.

There are some apps like and which can help via the open banking tool.

If you find firms you’ve not heard of, try Google or your bank.

Deciding what to keep and what to loose is often a fight between logic and instinct.

I’ve written before about my Money Mantras for shopping – for the skint, “Do I need it? Can I afford it? Have I checked if it’s cheaper elsewhere?” or the not skint, “Will I use it? Is it worth it? Have I checked if it’s cheaper elsewhere?” Answer “no” and you shouldn’t buy.

Yet we need to apply similar logic to regular payments too.

Yet often we just leave the money flowing out of our accounts unconsidered.

Here’s a few points to help:

1. The obvious ditch - where you’re paying for something pointless.

A cameraman on one of my shows once admitted to me: “I found I pay £1,000s in council tax on my old home”. Others find they pay insurance for old long forgotten mobiles.

If this happens always try and see if you can get the money back (you don’t always have a right to it though).

MORE: A warning for first time buyers2. Things you don’t need but do want, ask is it worth it?

There are some things you want, but don’t need, then the question is, is the gain you get worth the money? Think in annual cost, £8/mth is £100/yr – so if it’s a TV subscription you only use a few times, is it worth it?

If not, cancel or try and find something cheaper.

As one member of the public told me: “Sorted my bills in Jan & cancelled the gym (went twice in 2019), saving £300/yr.”

3. Things you definitely need – can you do it cheaper and get the same. Check if it’s a good price online or via comparison sites and consider haggling.

If it’s not good value use it as a spur to switch whether it’s energy bills, broadband, water bills or more look, at what you can do to save.

Full help for all of those at

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