A pensioner has managed to reclaim a whopping £1,120 after doing an audit of her direct debits and realising she'd been paying for more than five years for broadband she didn't use.

Anna Rowden decided to recheck all her outgoings after seeing MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis warn about the importance of regularly reviewing your direct debits to ensure you're not paying for something you're no longer using.

The 69-year-old from Oxford realised she'd been paying Three and EE for broadband for five and a half years – and she'd never noticed as the £15.98/month direct debits from Three appeared on her statements as 'H3G', and she had thought that simply referred to the broadband element of her EE bill.

For full help on how to stop cash leaking from your bank account, see our How To Cancel Direct Debits guide.

'If it hadn't been for Martin I'd be £1,120 poorer'

Anna told us: "I was checking my direct debits at the beginning of January... and I thought I was paying too much for my broadband package, so called to see what could be done.

"I discovered the H3G direct debit I was paying was nothing to do with my current package with EE."

Anna rang her bank which put her through to the fraud department to investigate, but after doing a bit of her own research she discovered she was being charged by Three. Anna believed she had cancelled her Three contract in October 2012 – although Three says it has no record of this.

She made an official complaint to Three and said she had reported it to her bank's fraud team, and her perseverance eventually paid off as the telecoms firm agreed to refund the full amount of £1,120.90.

Anna said: "I thought 'I am not going to let this go' – month by month £16 isn't a lot, but over five years it's over £1,000. I've banked the cheque and it's cleared – but if it hadn't been for Martin reminding me to check my direct debits I would be £1,120 poorer."

A Three spokesperson said: "Unfortunately, we have no record of a request to cancel Ms Rowden's mobile broadband contract before January 2018. We assess these requests on a case-by-case basis and on this occasion recognised that the account was inactive. As a result, we refunded Ms Rowden the full amount and also waived the usual 30-day notice period as a gesture of goodwill."

Always check your direct debits

Many people waste hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year paying for goods or services they don't use, such as a gym membership, dating site subscription or insurance for items they no longer have.

Payments, such as direct debits or standing orders, can be monthly, biannual or annual so it's important to check back at least 12 months. Here's what to check:

  1. Do an audit of your outgoing payments – You should be able to do this via online banking. If not, check back over your statements for the past year. See audit.
  2. Check how much money you're forking out – Use our tool to check how much you're wasting each year and how long it takes you to earn that cash.
  3. Cancel any you no longer need – It's best to check with the company concerned before cancelling in case you're in contract or need to give notice to cancel. See can I cancel?
  4. Tackle hidden recurring payments – They can be tough to spot, as they're set up when you give away your long card number, such as to a gym. You may have set one up for mags, telecoms or websites (including adult websites) without realising. See tackle recurring payments.

If you spot a payment you think has been unfairly taken, make sure you challenge it with the company, as Anna did.