Don’t waste cash on unnecessary direct debits – 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. It shouldn’t take long and it can be extremely lucrative.
Netflix, which streams such popular dramas as Black Mirror, is great value if you watch it a lot, but if you rarely stream their stuff, why are you still paying for it? (Picture: PA)Netflix, which streams such popular dramas as Black Mirror, is great value if you watch it a lot, but if you rarely stream their stuff, why are you still paying for it? (Picture: PA)
Netflix, which streams such popular dramas as Black Mirror, is great value if you watch it a lot, but if you rarely stream their stuff, why are you still paying for it? (Picture: PA)

To enthuse you before we begin, here’s a couple of the hundreds of tweets I got after talking about it on ITV’s This Morning a few days ago… Louise tweeted: “Literally a 5 minute check on my online banking and found a phone bill, I was paying for a phone I don’t own anymore, and a subscription that I don’t even think I receive any more! Just been able to cut out about £100 a month! Thank you, Martin!” And Rob: “CV maker software £14.99 a month? I did one edit to a cv and haven’t been back on the site since. That was 6 months ago. They never even told me they were charging me”

Equally if you follow this and save, do let me know by tweeting @martinslewis.

There are three types of regular payments

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Most of you will be familiar with two of them, but the third type is the tricky one.

Direct debits

Typical use: Energy & utilities. 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.

Standing orders.

Typical use: 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.

Recurring payments

Typical use: 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.

How to 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.

Don’t be suckered in to keep payments you don’t actually want

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I’ve written previously 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. We need to apply similar logic to regular payments too. Yet often we just leave the money flowing out of our accounts unconsidered.

Even then, many people may find it hard to decide which payment to keep and which to cut. And especially with subscription services, they know there’s a powerful psychology here.

Companies use what I call the “inertia dividend”. It’s no coincidence many subscription firms are successful. We, humans, are naturally pre-disposed to not liking to lose something that we have.

Many people wouldn’t sign up for a movie service that they don’t really need if they had to pay for it, but would for a free month’s trial.

They go in with a view to cancelling it when it ends, but at that point they become accustomed to it and now getting rid of it means a loss – and we don’t like loss.

The lust for such things doesn’t bounce back like elastic. We tend to feel the loss of a service far more potently than the joy at its gain in the first place. So, be brutal with yourself, especially at a time like now.

Deciding what to keep and what to lose

It’s often a fight between logic and instinct. Here are 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 thousands in council tax on my OLD home.” Others find they pay insurance for old, long forgotten mobiles. If this happens always see if you can get the money back (you don’t always have a right to it, though).

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2. 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 per month is £100 per year – so if it’s a TV subscription you only use a few times, is it worth it? If not, cancel or try to find something cheaper. As Jo said: “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 Lewis is the Founder of To join the 13 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to

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