Sucheta Dalal :RBI’s directive may help clients earn more from savings accounts
Sucheta Dalal

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RBI’s directive may help clients earn more from savings accounts  

February 22, 2010

The credit side of your passbook will soon show much healthier figures, instead of the measly amount your savings deposits earned until now. The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) recent directive to banks to start calculating interest rates on such accounts on a daily basis from 1st April will bring cheer to millions of savings account-holders in the country.

Under the new system, banks will now calculate interest on your savings account on daily balances, replacing the current archaic system where banks compute interest on the lowest available balance held between the tenth and the last day of the month.

The current system is no less than a rip-off for the common man, as banks have become used to getting low-cost funds at the cost of hapless savings account holders. This is how it used to work: Suppose you held Rs20,000 in your savings account at the end of the 10th day of a month, subsequently withdrawing Rs15,000 at the end of the month, you would only earn interest on the lowest balance in your account for the entire month—in this case, Rs5,000. As such, your account will be credited with Rs175.

However, under the new system, even if you have withdrawn Rs15,000 at the end of the month, you will get interest not only on your account balance on the last day of the month (Rs5,000), but also on the daily balance held for the first 29 days of the month. In this case, the interest will add up to Rs682.50.

For banks, though, this will obviously raise the cost of funding. Banks with higher proportion of CASA (current account and savings account) deposits in their funding sources will get hurt the most. Margins will get squeezed unless the RBI decides to act on the bankers’ call to reduce interest rates on savings accounts. This is highly unlikely, however, as it would defeat the very purpose of RBI’s depositor-friendly stance in this matter.

Speaking about the impact of this move on banks, SSN Murthy, senior vice president, Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) said, “The interest payment will now be high for banks. We are asking for some reduction in interest rate. We are trying to either continue the old procedure or are asking for a reduction to 2.5%.” He also added that it would likely result in a rise in liquidity for banks as people will put money into savings accounts to get the benefit of more interest payout.

Although the central bank had proposed this move two years back, banks had asked it to postpone the same citing unfeasibility due to lack of computerisation. Now that majority of the banks are well-equipped with computers, RBI has finally asked banks to implement the decision from 1st April. Customers are unlikely to be fooled this April Fool’s day.

However, banks may still try to circumvent the new regulations by attempting to reduce the interest rate chargeable on daily basis through some subterfuge. In such a scenario, depositors may still find themselves short-changed, unless the RBI takes a hard stand on the matter. — Sanket Dhanorkar & Ravi Samalad


-- Sucheta Dalal