BANKING- Invalid Cheque Books

If you are an account holder in any of the six erstwhile banks that had merged with the public sector behemoth State Bank of India (SBI), your chequebook has become invalid from January 1, 2018. These banks include State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Hyderabad and Bharatiya Mahila Bank. Now customers will have to apply for new chequebooks and those will have a new Indian Financial System Code, or IFSC, an 11-digit alpha-numeric system that uniquely identifies all bank branches participating in the Reserve Bank of India's fund transfer system. Recently, SBI changed the names and codes of nearly 1,300 of its 25,000 branches in the major cities owing to its merger with the five associate banks and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank.

SMALL SAVINGS SCHEMES - Small Savings to Yield Lower Returns

The interest rate on small savings schemes such as public provident fund (PPF), Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme (SSS), National Savings Certificate (NSC) and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) will fetch lower interest rate in the January-March quarter as the government has reduced the rate of interest by 20 basis points (100 basis points are equal to one per cent). Since April 2016, interest rates on small savings schemes have been market linked and are also linked to the yield of government securities of similar maturity period. The interest rate on PPF has been reduced from 7.8 per cent to 7.6 per cent. The interest rate on the girl child savings scheme has dipped from 8.3 to 8.1 per cent. KVP will now fetch 7.3 per cent while the interest rate on Senior Citizen Savings Scheme (SCSS) has been kept unchanged at 8.3 per cent, which is paid quarterly, but it is fully taxable.

RYPTOCURRENCY - Stay Away from Bitcoin

The ongoing frenzy to invest in Bitcoin and its ilk is not letting up even after multiple warnings from the Reserve Bank of India. Now the finance ministry has issued a similar warning, cautioning people against investing in virtual currencies.

The ministry said in a notification that the virtual currency is not a legal tender in India, does not have any intrinsic value and is not backed by any asset. The rise in price may be a mere speculation and hence, can expose investors, especially retail investors, to the sudden risk of losing their hard-earned money. As these currencies are stored virtually, they are also vulnerable to hacking, the ministry says.

SEBI - Mandate

Markets regulator SEBI has decided that any shareholder with 10 per cent stake in an asset management company cannot hold 10 per cent or more stake in another fund house to avoid conflict of interest. It has also come out with a consultant paper to differentiate between mutual fund distributors and advisors.

DIGITAL BOOST - Government to Pay MDR Charges

To boost digital transactions, the government has decided to bear the merchant discount rate (MDR) charges on transactions up to `2,000 made via debit cards, BHIM UPI or Aadhaar-enabled payment systems. The government will pay the charges for two years starting from January 1, 2018. MDR is the fee paid by merchants for card services and installation of swiping machines. For small merchants with an annual turnover of up to `20 lakh, MDR has been fixed at 0.40 per cent with a cap of `200 per transaction. For those with more turnover, MDR charges will be 0.90 per cent with a cap of `1,000 per transaction. For transactions via QR code, MDR rates for small merchants will be 0.30 per cent while others will pay 0.80 per cent (in each case the cap will be as mentioned above).

Quote: Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister "Slower growth in 2016/17 reflects lower growth in industry and services. Economic growth of a country depends on a number of factors, including structural, external, fiscal and monetary"