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Are you a Direct Debit devotee or paper statement supporter?

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If you are reluctant to embrace the digital world, prefer to get paper copies of the household bills and want to pay them by cheque, did you know this could potentially be costing you an extra £276 a year?

Are you most like customer A – happy to pay by Direct Debit, get paperless bills and use online tariffs? Or perhaps customer B – you prefer to pay by cheque, get itemised paper bills and don’t like online tariffs.

There’s no right or wrong here, it’s entirely up to you of course, but I very was surprised to find just how different the charges for common household bills – mobile phone, broadband/phone and energy – in our scenarios ended up.

Virgin Media, for example, charges £5 a month for non-Direct Debit payments plus £1.75 for a paper bill for its broadband customers – that’s £51 a year. And that’s just the beginning; online options for energy tariffs can offer you a better rate too. The examples we looked at could mean the difference of £128 between the best online and offline energy tariff available.

Paperless bills, discounted rates

I was only too happy to do away with paper for my bank statements and mobile phone bills. The uninspiring looking envelopes tended to go unopened and, if I needed to check one, were difficult to locate in my filing system (otherwise known as my overflowing top drawer). Now it’s all handily accessible online.

I’m also happy to pay my bills by Direct Debit, as I find this the most convenient way to ensure I pay on time. Paying my council tax on time has often eluded me as this needs to be transferred every month, and has resulted in a couple of scary letters demanding full payment unless I paid up immediately.

Of course, if you have a preference you’re willing to pay out for that’s entirely up to you. It’s just worth working out exactly what that will mean for your pocket. Do you prefer to manage your finances entirely online and through automatic payments or do you get peace of mind from good old fashioned statements and bills?


I use numerous Direct Debit and have never had a single problem. Many years ago, I twice had a problem with my mortgage Standing Order, where the old and new amounts were debited from my account. This was dealt with very promptly by my bank.

For me, the most important use of Direct Debit is to pay off the full balance on two credit cards each month. I don’t want to risk paying interest at the rates charged on credit cards.

NatWest phased out paper statements but by then I had started to download details of transactions from their website.


When shredding some documents I discovered that I am still getting NatWest statements, albeit infrequently. That reflects how much attention I have paid to them now that I have up-to-date information online whenever I need it.


I do direct debits so far as I can – it ensures things get paid when we’re on holiday and I have never known a payment to go wrong in over forty-eight years [incidentally, Which? Magazine must be my longest continuous direct debit and not a single issue has gone astray despite various changes of address!]. However, I do like to receive paper bank and credit card statements every month as a useful reminder of my financial state of affairs as I tend not to look at my balances on line very often. They also have their uses when you need to prove you are who you say you are and live where you say you do. There is no charge for these at the moment but I presume it is only a matter time and then I might review the position


That’s a good point about proof of identity and address. As many of us move our financial affairs online and printouts are sometimes not accepted as proof, action is needed. Most of us have a bank account, so perhaps the banks could help its customers deal with this problem.

Bank statements are not usually suggested as examples of proof of identity, presumably because many would not be too keen on others seeing their financial information. A list showing current Direct Debits and how long they have been running, together with name and address, might be useful for this purpose. Rightly or wrongly, people tend to stay with their banks longer than utility companies.


Had to dig out a paper copy of a bank statement/utility bill as proof of address for my Bus Pass today!
Funny how banks/building societies can check ID electronically online when opening an account but public bodies still need the old 1 document from List A and 1 from List B .


What I don’t understand is the lack of consistency. Sometimes a printout of an online statement is acceptable proof, but not always. Photos are a problem for me because I have an old fashioned driving licence and my passport has expired. I wonder if my bus pass would be acceptable. 🙂

West Brom Building Society does not seem to know about electronic ID checking, rarrar.


West Brom BS – interesting I had a fixed rate savings account a few years ago with them – opened without needing to provide any ID documentation.
When I got my photo driving licence they asked for permission to get the photo from the Passport Office – now that is what I call good joined up use of existing resources.


You’re bundling direct debit together with online billing; the two don’t go together.

I hate receiving paperwork in the post, which just piles up on my desk and requires my attention in bulk when I’ve been away from home. I therefore use online billing for everything whenever possible. I get very annoyed when companies unnecessarily send me paper correspondence, which inconveniences me and is harmful to the environment.

I oppose any compulsion (through charges) to pay by direct debit. It gives me no control over what goes out of my account until after the event, and only if I happen to notice an error in time. I’ve had plenty of problems with companies taking the wrong amount or on the wrong date, and I avoid this troublesome payment method whenever possible. My first choice is to pay by continuous payment authority to my credit card so that I receive airmiles, points or cashback. Failing that (for example if there is a surcharge for credit card payments), I pay by bank transfer.

Anyone who still chooses to pay by cheque or receive paper bills should pay the full costs of doing so. Others shouldn’t have to subsidise these wasteful practices.

richard says:
29 August 2013

I have always preferred monthly paper bills ever since Midland bank only updated bills every three months and I got into serous arrears – I changed my bank to first direct – but now First Direct are changing their charges and conditions completely in THEIR favour so I will be considering seriously my options.- any recommendations???