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How to deal with payment problems

How to manage and cancel payments from the account, access cash, and resolve problems arising from a joint account.

This content applies to England

Managing payments from the account

There are different types of payments an account holder can use to make regular payments. An account holder could set up payments from their account under a:

  • direct debit

  • standing order

  • continuous payment authority

Direct debit

A direct debit is set up through the company that receives the payment. The account holder completes a direct debit form that the company submits to the bank. The company that receives the payment can change the amount, date, or frequency of the payment by giving the account holder 10 days' notice.

The account holder can cancel a direct debit at any time through online or telephone banking, or by contacting their branch. Cancelling a direct debit could mean the account holder incurs charges for late payment.

Companies authorised through the direct debit guarantee can set up payments by direct debit. Direct debits are often used by fuel and utility suppliers and membership organisations. has online information about the direct debit guarantee.

Standing order

A standing order is set up by the account holder for regular money transfers. The company or person that receives the payment cannot change the amount, date, or frequency of the payment.

The account holder can amend or cancel a standing order at any time through online or telephone banking, or by contacting their branch. Cancelling a standing order could mean the account holder incurs charges for late payment.

Continuous payment authority

A continuous payment authority (CPA) is set up when the account holder gives their debit card details to a company to guarantee future payments. A CPA is often used by payday loan companies to collect repayments.

The account holder can amend or cancel a CPA at any time by contacting their bank. Cancelling a CPA could mean the account holder incurs charges for late payment.

Balance does not cover payments due

A drop in income could mean the account holder cannot cover all their regular payments due by standing order, direct debit, and continuous payment authority.

An account holder can tell the bank which payments they want the bank to make, and which to refuse. This is called the first right of appropriation.[1] For example, a person can instruct the bank to use money paid into their account, such as wages, to cover regular bills before the bank uses it to pay off an unauthorised overdraft.

The account holder should make an arrangement with the bank to repay the unauthorised overdraft at a later date.

Banks might only accept appropriation instructions for a short time before withdrawing facilities. A bank account holder with a debt to their bank could consider opening a new basic bank account with a different bank.

How to ask for the first right of appropriation

The account holder can write to the bank and set out an amount of money for each of their intended payments. This can include an amount for a cash withdrawal for living expenses. The account holder should write to the bank before they receive the payment into their account.

The account holder must ask the bank to exercise the first right of appropriation each time there is money paid into the account. That means it is only suitable as a temporary measure.

An account holder can make a complaint if the bank does not follow their instructions.

Debt and money advice

Account holders who have an overdraft debt they cannot repay without suffering financial hardship can get debt advice. A debt adviser can help the person in debt find a solution for the overdraft and other debts they might have.

Find out more about where to get debt and money advice.

Benefits and grants advice

A benefits adviser can help a person check their entitlement to benefits and grants, get help to claim benefits, and challenge DWP decisions.

Find out more about where to get advice about benefits and grants.

Payments from a joint account

A joint bank account is an account in the names of both account holders, with debit cards issued in both their names.

Both account holders can use the features and benefits of the account without getting the consent of the other account holder. One account holder could withdraw all the money in the account. Both account holders are liable to repay any debts linked to the account, including arranged and unauthorised overdrafts.

A joint bank account creates a financial link with the other account holder. Experian has more information about the effect of a financial link.

Freeze payments from the account

A joint bank account can be frozen by one account holder to protect funds in the account in the event of a dispute, or to prevent the other account holder from incurring debts on the account.

A joint account holder can contact the bank to freeze their account.

Close a joint account

Banks usually require the consent of both account holders to close the account. If one joint account holder wants to close the account and the other does not, the person who wants to close it can contact the bank and cancel their mandate. This could prevent the other account holder incurring debts on the account.

How to access cash

Bank account holders can access cash using their debit card to withdraw money at an ATM or in-store, or at the Post Office.

Larger sums can be withdrawn at the bank branch.

ATM cash machines

People with a bank account cash or debit cards can withdraw cash from ATMs (cash machines). ATMs are usually available to use at all times, so people can withdraw cash outside of branch opening hours.

There is a limit to the amount of cash someone can withdraw each day from an ATM depending on their bank and account type. The daily amount is usually between £200 and £350.

Most ATMs are free to use, others charge a fee of around £2 per withdrawal.

In-store cash back

Some shops and supermarkets provide cash back in-store.

Cash back is available in some shops without making a purchase. The person can withdraw between 1p and £50 without a fee.

Find ATMs and in-store cash back

The Link cash locator website and app provide a map of local cash machines and in-store cash back including information about wheelchair access and audio facilities.

Cash in branch

The counter cash withdrawal facility is normally used for larger cash withdrawals. Some banks ask for 24 hours' notice of withdrawals of more than £2,000.

The account holder needs their account details (which could be found on their bank card or a letter from the bank) to withdraw cash. The bank might want to see identification and carry out extra security checks for large withdrawals.

When an account could be frozen

A person could miss important payment dates if the bank freezes their account.

The bank account could have been closed or frozen because the holder:

  • has not used the account for a long time

  • is bankrupt or has a debt relief order

  • has an unpaid debt to the bank

  • is suspected of fraud

A person in prison can take steps to protect their bank account from being frozen until they are released.

When to contact the bank

The account holder can contact the bank to find out why the account has been frozen and whether the freeze can be lifted. Contacting the bank will alert it to the location of the account holder, which could mean it takes steps to enforce a debt.

People with debts to their bank could open a new account with a different bank. The person should get specialist debt advice before contacting a bank they have an unpaid debt with.

Debt and budgeting advice

A specialist debt adviser could help someone with budgeting and financial advice. Online tools include budget planners and template letters.

Find out more about where to get debt and money advice.

Last updated: 10 January 2023


  • [1]

    Leeson v Leeson [1936] 2 KB 156, [1936] 2 All ER 133, CA; Stepney Corpn v Osofsky [1937] 3 All ER 289, CA; see Halsbury's Laws of England, Contract Vol 22, Chapter 8(2)(c).