Direct Debit reaches half a century

16 December 2020

As of 15 December 2020, Direct Debit, one of the most frequently used payment methods in the UK, turned 50, after being launched in 1970.

Direct Debit moves £1.3 trillion each year, and changed the way bill payments were made when it was first introduced. It is owned and run by the UK retail payments authority, Pay.UK, which also owns Faster Payments and cheques.

Direct Debit has seen continual year-on-year growth, as the number of bills that individuals pay has increased. In the 1970s, regular payments were restricted to mortgage or rent, and utility bills. In contemporary society, there are substantially more bill payments that can be made – mobile phone bills, broadband, insurance, or payments relating to spreading the cost of major purchases.

These bills can be paid without the requirement to leave the house, and in 2020, that has been more important than ever.

Pay.UK’s Chief Payments Officer, Maha El Dimacki, said:

“We need payments to work without fuss so we can get on with the important things in our lives.

 During this unusual, difficult year, Direct Debit has continued to run quietly, securely, and reliably in the background, as it has in the past 50 years, collecting payments for billers and giving customers peace of mind that the services they need and want are being paid for with the minimum of effort on their part.

And we are determined that will remain the case for as long as end users need and value it. Our team continues to work hard to ensure the service operates smoothly and efficiently, this year and in the years to come.”

There is a breakdown of the number of payments that have been processed via Direct Debit, as follows:

1970 – 30 million

1980 – 171 million

1990 – 836 million

2000 – 2 billion

2010 – 3.2 billion

2019 – 4.49 billion

2020 – 78.5 billion +


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