Direct Debit
Bacs, Direct Debit
10, DEC 2015


Bacs is the organisation responsible for clearing and settling automated payments – including Direct Debits and Direct Credits – within the UK. If you would like to start collecting your customers’ fees or payments using Direct Debit, but haven’t yet set this service up and don’t have a Service User Number (SUN), here are a few things to consider.

What is a Service User Number?

The term Service User Number, or SUN, refers to the unique identifier that is used by organisations and businesses collecting payment by Direct Debit. This ID is allocated to the organisation by the sponsoring bank, as the bank needs to approve the organisation to collect Direct Debits.

Once allocated, the SUN is used in all communications with Bacs and in all transactions undertaken. As an organisation, you can apply for your own SUN, or you can use a Facilities Management (FM) Bureau who will allow you to use one of their SUNs. It is recommended, however, that you obtain and use your own SUN for a number of reasons, including:

  • Your organisation’s name appears on all paperwork – so your customers know who they are paying
  • Funds received go straight into your nominated bank account – whereas with an FM setup the funds are received into the FM Bureau’s bank account and then released to you a few days later
  • You retain the relationship with your customers – if you want to change how you submit your files to Bacs and use an alternative bureau or different software you can do this very simply, whereas if you are using an FM Bureau, you cannot easily change provider as you do not own the SUN
  • You have accessible reports and improved visibility – it’s your SUN
    It’s less expensive than using another organisation’s SUN

How do I get a Bacs Service User Number?

How do I find my Service User Number? This is how:

  1. The first step is to approach your relationship manager at your bank and ask if, in principle, they would be willing to sponsor you as a Direct Debit payee. They will consider factors such as the length of time the organisation has been operating, your financial turnover and stability.
  2. If you are approved in principle you will need to complete application forms – it’s important to obtain the correct forms as there are a number of different versions.
  3. Consider how you will use the service – will you want to apply for an AUDDIS-enabled SUN? (AUDDIS stands for Automated Direct Debit Instruction Service – this will allow you to submit new DD instructions to Bacs electronically.) Will you want to apply for Paperless Direct Debit sign-ups, allowing customers to sign up via the Internet or telephone?
  4. You will need to indicate if you will process in-house or use a bureau.

It can take some time to obtain your own SUN (Bacs advise four to six weeks) but the advantages of then being able to collect Direct Debits will make it worthwhile.

The benefits of Direct Debit

The benefits of Direct Debit include:

  • Your organisation is in control of when money is received
  • Improved cash flow – you know when money will be received and can plan accordingly; you also know what hasn’t been received and can pursue missed payments
  • Variable collection dates/amounts – if the customer’s order changes you can amend the Direct Debit (after providing notification) whereas with a Standing Order, for example, you are reliant upon the customer amending it
  • Easy reconciliation of payments
  • Saves on administrative resources as it’s quicker to operate than other payment methods

How can Clear Direct Debit help?

Clear Direct Debit is a Bacs Accredited Direct Debit training provider – we know Direct Debits. We are also a Bacs Approved Bureau and can process transactions for organisations that wish to outsource the workload while using their own SUN. Benefits of using Clear Direct Debit include:

  • No upfront investment in software
  • Secure collections
  • Bacs compliant
  • Quick set-up
  • Seamless integration
  • Direct Debit expertise

If you are interested in obtaining your own Service User Number – or have just agreed to this in principle with your bank – and would like more help or information, contact us today to discuss how we can help you achieve your goals.