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So you cancelled a direct debit but you're still being charged

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How to follow the correct process to ensure direct debit payments stop

Direct debits can certainly be a convenient way to pay your bills. You don't have to worry about forgetting to pay by the due date - although you do have to remember to have money in your account - and some providers will even offer you discounts for using direct debit.

Problems can arise, though, when it is time to cancel your direct debit. Maybe you have switched energy providers or maybe you're sick of paying for a gym membership you no longer use. Whatever the reason, you are well within your rights to stop the direct debit but sometimes it might be easier said than done.

The process will be different depending on whether the payment is coming out of your bank account or out of your debit or credit card.

cancel a direct debit stop a direct debit

Most institutions refer to the first as a direct debit but the latter as a recurring payment.

Keep in mind that even though a debit card is linked to your bank account, if you have used the numbers listed on the front of the card rather than the BSB and account number it will be treated like a credit card payment.

If you want to stop a direct debit from your bank account you need to contact your financial institution. You can do this over the phone but making the request in writing is probably a good idea. You can find a sample letter at moneysmart.gov.au or consumeraction.org.au.

As a courtesy, you can tell the merchant that the direct debit has been cancelled and this may make the process even quicker. Make sure you aren't breaching your contract, though.

The Consumer Action Law Centre warns that stopping payments under a contract without lawful grounds may result in a debt being owed and suggests you seek advice if you are unsure.

Contact the bank a few days later to make sure it has cancelled the direct debit and also keep an eye on your statement. If a payment comes out after you have requested the cancellation, make a complaint to your institution and it should reimburse your account.

If the regular payment is coming out of your debit or credit card, then you must write a letter to the service provider to request that the payments stop. This time it's up to the merchant to cancel the payments rather than the bank or credit union.

You should still send a letter to your financial institution and include a copy of the letter you sent to the service provider. Again you can find sample letters online.

A few days after you have sent the letter it's a good idea to call the service provider to make sure it has received your request and acted on it.

If a payment still comes out after you requested the cancellation, then contact your credit card provider as soon as possible to dispute the transaction and it should arrange a charge-back.

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Maria Bekiaris is editorial campaigns manager for Canstar and former deputy editor of Money. She holds a Bachelor's degree in business.
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