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What's the Difference Between a Direct Debit and a Standing Order?

Emily Kendall Emily Kendall
6 min

We often get asked questions about the various available payment methods and why it is that Stewardship operate with Direct Debit Instructions, rather than Standing Orders, so we thought we’d debunk some myths and answer some common queries for you.

In one way, Direct Debits and Standing Orders are similar – they are both automatic payment methods, however there are some important differences to note. Let’s start with the basics.

What is a Direct Debit, and how is this different from a Standing Order?

A Direct Debit is a system of payment whereby you, as a giver, are able to authorise an organisation like Stewardship to withdraw a due amount, directly from your bank account. It might be helpful to think of a Direct Debit Instruction acting as a bridge between your bank and Stewardship. When you set up regular or one-off giving on your Stewardship account, we’re then able to withdraw the requested amount from your bank account, because of the bridge that’s in place. This is why you only need the one instruction in place, even if you are giving to multiple charities.

Unlike with a Standing Order, payment frequencies can vary, amounts can easily be changed, and there are comparatively lower administration costs. Because of the more rigid nature of a Standing Order, any changes would require you to cancel and restart multiple instructions at your bank, significantly increasing the time and cost of processing.

While in many cases a Standing Order may be appropriate, due the flexible nature of a Stewardship giving account and with many of our givers choosing to react on an ad-hoc basis to particular needs, the Direct Debit scheme offers much more control and flexibility.

Why do Stewardship not accept Standing Orders?

Direct Debits provide us a much more time and cost effective approach to receiving and reconciling payments made to us. With the Direct Debit scheme we can submit and subsequently reconcile thousands of transactions in a matter of a few minutes, whereas to reconcile a similar number of Standing Orders would take hours, if not days!

As we have seen our pool of generous Christians grow over the years, Standing Orders became less favourable for this reason, and also weren’t feasible in terms of the flexibility and ease we want to offer our giver base. Its certain nature is its biggest drawback, with Direct Debits instead allowing for much more fluidity with the amounts and frequency of payments able to vary, and without the need to keep cancelling and setting up new instructions.

So who actually has the control? Doesn’t a Standing Order give me more control?

While in some cases this may be true, the opposite is actually true when it comes to your giving with Stewardship, because we run a donor advised service.

Although it is the organisation that has effectively been given control over withdrawing payments, our online account is set up in such a way to give you maximum control when it comes to your generosity. It allows you to be active and reactive to the causes close to your heart, without the need to keep going back and forth to your bank. And this can be done at any time, anywhere, in a couple of clicks (or taps on your phone!). We will only take funds as per your requests to us, so if you set up a monthly payment for £10, we won’t increase that without you asking us to, or if you choose to update your giving online.

Your giving is kept in one neat space and as you only need the one Direct Debit Instruction in place, your admin is made even easier. Better still, with all your giving under one roof, you don’t need to go searching through all your bank statements when it comes to those pesky self-assessment tax return forms – just log in to your account and hit the ‘View Transactions’ tab to get all the information you require.

If I want to cancel or put some of my giving on hold, do I need to contact my bank?

There is no need to contact your bank. If you are giving to multiple charities using your Stewardship account and want to cancel one of your regular payments, there is no need to go to your bank to cancel the Direct Debit. In fact, doing so will actually sever the tie, or bridge, between your bank account and Stewardship altogether, meaning that all your giving will be cancelled. The simplest way to amend or cancel your giving is to log into your online account and head to the ‘My regular giving’ section.

Of course, if you need to cancel all your giving in one go, that’s fine too. Again this can be done directly using your online Stewardship account. It’s often the case that our givers choose to keep a Direct Debit active on their account, even if they perhaps wish to cancel their regular giving for a period of time. This means you don’t need to go through the set up process again when it comes to arranging one-off gifts or future regular giving.

How long do payments take to clear? Why do payment not always show up right away?

Direct Debit payments take at least 3 working days to clear, although often longer, depending on the organisation. We are committed to the 3-4 working day period, making sure your support is available for your chosen cause as soon as possible. Our recipients then have the option to withdraw any funds they receive into their Stewardship account on a weekly or monthly basis, or they can withdraw as and when they require.

What protections are there when it comes to my payments?

The Direct Debit scheme offers customer protection in the form of the Direct Debit guarantee. In short, this protects you against payments made fraudulently or in error, making it the safest payment method in the UK.


In simple terms, this guarantee lays out the following three rules:


  1. Advance notice. You must be told about any changes to the amount, date or frequency of a payment in advance. You can agree any notice period with a merchant (check their terms and conditions) - if no other time period is agreed, it will be 10 working days. If you are not given the correct notice of a payment then you will be entitled to claim a refund.


  1. Immediate refunds. You can get a full and immediate refund from your bank (also known as an “indemnity claim”) for any payment taken in error.


  1. Instant cancellations. You can cancel a Direct Debit payment at any time before the payment is due to be made. If a payment is taken after you have cancelled it you will be entitled to a refund.

Stewardship will always honour this Direct Debit guarantee.


If you have any queries about how to get the most out of your giving account, or you would like some more tips to boost your generosity, we’d love to hear from you! You can contact our team on [email protected] or on 020 8502 8560 to chat things through. You may even discover some account features you didn’t know about.

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Written by

Emily Kendall

Emily helps to lead the Giving Services Team and loves creating an ‘above and beyond’ customer experience. She enjoys enabling the team to use their unique gifts in the day-to-day work of serving Stewardship’s generous donor base. With a degree in Psychology and previous roles focussed on customer service, communications and Christian mission, Emily stands in good stead to serve Stewardship’s clients in their giving journey’s.

Emily currently lives in South London and is an active member of St Nick’s Church. In her spare time, Emily loves exploring new places or catching up with friends and family over a good meal!