Eyebrows were raised last August on news that the 21 public sector banks (PSBs) and three major private sector lenders had collected a whopping Rs 5,000 crore from customers for non-maintenance of minimum balance in their accounts in 2017-18. But it was not the charge itself that had surprised people - everybody knows that banks slap fees and penalties for everything from debit cards to early account closure and overdraft.
But here are five charges that you may not have noticed:
1. ATM transactions
Till 2014, there was no charge for using your bank's ATMs, no matter how many transactions you notched up in a month. But now, PSBs and private banks alike have capped the number of free transactions at their own ATM networks to just five a month. Similarly, you get 3-5 free transactions a month at other banks' ATMs depending on location (metro or non-metro).
Post this limit, most banks, including SBI, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, charge Rs 20 per financial transaction and around Rs 8 for each subsequent non-financial transaction. But PNB charges Rs 20 for non-financial transactions beyond the set limit. The penalties gathered by the state run banks for excessive ATM transactions amounted to almost Rs 4,145 crore in the three years from 2015-16 to September 2017-18.
Furthermore, you are penalised for transactions declined at another bank's ATMs or point of sale (POS) due to insufficient balance. For instance, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank charge Rs 25 per failed transaction while SBI charges Rs 20 plus taxes.
2. Fund transfer charges
There is no denying that options like IMPS and NEFT have made everyday life easier - and RTGS, too, for fatter amounts - but most banks charge you for these online transactions. While SBI charges Rs 1 plus GST on IMPS transactions between Rs 1,001 and Rs 10,000, the likes of ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and PNB charge Rs 5 per transaction.
On the other hand, while most banks charge around Rs 2.50 per NEFT transaction for amounts up to Rs 10,000, HDFC Bank offers the online facility for free.
3. SMS alerts
That SMS you receive from your bank every time you swipe your debit card or your salary comes in? It's not free. Most banks charge Rs 15 per quarter to customers who sign up for SMS alerts. In other words, we shell out Rs 60 a year just to get a heads-up on possible fraud. Some smaller banks charge a higher amount. Karur Vysya, for one, has an upper limit of Rs 30 per quarter for all applicable accounts.
4. Branch transactions cost money
Physical banking is an expensive proposition for banks so they discourage customers from dropping into their branches in favour of Internet and mobile banking. One way they do this is by slapping on charges for cash transactions - read deposits, withdrawals and fund transfers - at their branches.
At ICICI Bank, customers get four free branch (cash) transactions in their home cities after which they have to shell out Rs 5 per thousand rupees, subject to a minimum of Rs 150 in the same month. Similarly, SBI offers three free cash deposit transactions at its branches, and charges Rs 50 plus GST for every subsequent one, while HDFC Bank charges Rs 150 per transaction (plus taxes) from the 5th transaction onwards.
Incidentally, the latter also caps free branch transactions covering cheque deposit, cheque issuance and fund transfers to 15 a month in case the account's Average Monthly Balance is below Rs 50,000. Thereafter a charge of Rs 75 per transaction will be levied, it says in its website.
Incidentally, if you drop in at your bank branch to get your Internet banking user ID or password reissued or regenerate a PIN, prepare to pay around Rs 50 for the service.
5. Fee for redeeming reward points
Reward benefits are among the first things we compare while shopping around for credit cards. In fact, banks offer rewards points on swiping their debit cards, too - the Payback loyalty programme offered by ICICI Bank being a case in point.
However, be prepared for a rewards redemption fee when you want to want to spend your accumulated points. Most banks charge Rs 99 plus GST per redemption request.
While all this might feel like being nickel-and-dimed by the banks, things could actually be a whole lot worse. In the West, banks are known to charge customers for everything from paper statements to excessive activity and coin counting.
Edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal