Sunday, January 20, 2008

Experience on opening NRI Account and Investment in Indian Mutual Funds

I was doing some research before I decide about opening an NRI Bank account with any bank in India. It is very tough to decide as I was looking for a NRI account which is also linked with Mutual Fund Account and I can do my MF Investments directly via online banking method.

My criteria for choosing the NRI Bank Account :
  • Presence of branch in Singapore
  • Good online banking infrastructure
  • 24x7 customer care to access for any issues
  • Easy way to remit money
  • Any reference from which I can take any feedback
  • Allow investment in Mutual Funds online
I looked at HDFC Bank, Kotak, Citibank, ICICI Bank, SBI etc. btw ..the research process took 2-3 weeks of time :)

But only Citibank was fitting into my requirements(which are pretty simple I think!). Specially the Online way of doing Mutual Fund Investments and branch in Singapore too. I know it does not matter in this internet world that we must have a physical branch here, but gave me an extra edge over other banks.

ICICI do not offer online mutual transactions. As per their website you need to contact them for doing the transactions.

HDFC does offer online MF transactions, but do not have presence in Singapore. Also I guess there customer care is not 24x7.

Kotak also offers MF transactions online, but they responded to my request after 10 days :)

SBI again offers MF transactions online but with some restrictions like you can purchase online, but cannot redeem :)

Finally I went for Citibank. The account opening experience was good. The account was opened in just 2 weeks. I am familiar with their online stuff as well. The only limitation I have found that the Mutual Funds allowed for investments do not cover all AMCs(which is fine I knew this already ..only ICICIDirect offers all the AMCs!(again not for NRI may be)). Also the AMCs listed in Citibank MF Investment page do not show all the Funds from that AMCs. This is something I don't understand, unless the AMC is not offering that particular for NRIs..which I doubt.

If you would like to do just Mutual Funds using your exiting NRI or resident account(if you are in India). You can use TimesofMoney, their process if very simple and works well for some of the few AMCs again. But they have wider choice of funds. The process of opening an account is also pretty fast.

Please share your experience with on NRI Online banking and Investment specifically..I will be glad to hear them !

I remember my recent reading The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less ..excellent in this context where too much choice is available which makes our decision more tough than easier :)

Happy Sunday !


Suresh S SCJP1.4 said...

Thanks for your post. i want to know whether they charge for the mutual funds , invested thru citibank online.

Sandeep said...

No bank charges more than the 2.25% charged by the AMC for the Mutual Funds in India as far as I know. Whereas in Singapore/USA there are additional charges by each one like Bank, AMC, Broker etc ! ...I am sure India will have the same story once the MF market is stabilized and more people are locked into(there is no harm btw) MF schemes as major medium for their investments apart from other instruments !


Anonymous said...


I am living in Dubai. I also did similar research. I opted for HDFC. It has a good internet banking facilities incl. online 3rd party money transfer, MF investment, LIC Premium payment, Utility (i can pay here without disturbing my parents). HDFC is having local presence in Dubai as a representative office. Also I can transfer money to anybody (to home or your other accounts) in India quickly thro' 3rd party transfer. Another main reason is that it has many branches in India. For the above all reasons I selected HDFC over Citibank etc.

In fact I am having HSBC also, it is also equally good. I used to have two accounts since it is good in case of problem in one a/c we can use other account.I also opened trading and demat account with HDFCSEC. So all in ONE account. I can transfer money instantly from HDFC NRI to PIS A/c (must for NRI if we want to trade shares). In many ways I have a good experience with HDFC.

If you are reside in main cities in India, HSBC also very good option. It has good net banking etc.



Anonymous said...


I am having a/c with HDFC and HSBC (Dubai). Nowadays it will not take 2 weeks. It is instant, in Dubai when u call they will come to your office with account opening kit. It will have Account Number, ATM, DebitCard etc. But it will not have your name in it. But u can apply later to emboss with your name in the card. So Internet account will be enabled with 2-3 days. The momemt u signed the paper, your account is enabled.

I forgot to mention this in my earlier comment.



Sandeep said...


thanks for commenting, it will help others too. Yes even for me the second choice after Citibank was HDFC.

Few more things about Citibank NRI Account :

The Opening of MF account if instant once you the internet banking access.

There is no online instant money XFR from countries other than USA :(

I liked your idea of having one more account. But that goes against one of my 2008 resolution of simplifying life !(well in case of issues it will simplify too)


Vidooshak said...

Sudarshan and Sandeep, these were very useful tips!! The same criteria applies to normal account also, I feel. I still live in India, but getting the right bank is equally challenging.

I agree with you that among the current choices in India, HDFC and CitiBank have the most convenient online banking facilities. ICICI is also good but their Netbanking GUI is quite cluttered and their hidden charges are more than both HDFC and Citi.

HSBC has been a terrible experience for me over the past 2 years, even though I am a PowerVantage customer. Their helpdesk is quite moronic and takes 3 months to fix minor issues. Lately, even complaints to their Nodal Officer get unprofessional and incorrect responses. For example, Nodal Officer took 2 months to answer why my Gift Redemption was not delievered and by time they said I must re-apply for redemption, the gifts had already reached-- 3 months from redemption date. Similarly, my auto-renewed debit card reached me 2 months after the date printed on their letter. All this points to a rot in HSBC India's management.

Public Sector banks have improved a lot recently and they have least hidden charges and gotchas. Unfortunately, their Netbanking looks like it was made by a 9 year old kid. In today's age, I had to shut my Axis bank account merely because they required me to visit a branch for many tasks!

Once again, a very useful post from you, Sandeep. Am sure it will help many people take better decisions!

Anonymous said...

I trade in Indian stock market and have taken a couple of Mutual funds all via Now I will be going to USA in a month's time. I want to open an NRI account which gives me an option in redeeming/purchasing shares and mutual funds. Which bank should I opt - ICICI, HDFC or SBI? Any help would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Its is nice guiding stuff. Thanks Sandeep. I have been meshed up with SBI people. They took four months to send the ATM card after several calls...yet to see other things.Note 4 this time my current address is going to changed.

Sandeep said...

recently one of my friend was trying to open NRE account with HDFC bank. The experience was not so good. He went to their branch in India to do the formalities, in spite of having all the required documents as per the website/form. They insisted that he get a employment offer letter ..otherwise they wont proceed with a/c opening ! ...insisting that the Employment Card for Singapore in original seen means that the person is really employed ..but they did not agree for me I would still recommend Citibank based on my experience so far.

remember that having a bank branch in the country/city where you are located makes a huge difference in service sometimes.

thanks for sharing experiences as well.

Anonymous said...

if you are gonnu choose HDFC better have all your documents in place and be prepared to provide any documents they ask for... HDFC is a very conservative bank ... they dont bend the rules to do their business.. and that is how a bank should be....

Sandeep said...

thanks for the comments. HDFC is good bank overall. Its not a issue if they ask for more documents, but they should list that clearly on their websites so that customers do not face inconvenience when they really go to their branch and wonder how they get this new document now :)

I had this experience, I went there with all the documents as per their form/website. But they keep on asking for my offer letter from Singapore company, even though I had my original EP card with me.

so it mainly depends on who is processing your application & how much aware he/she is about the NRE/NRO account opening process..

I found citibank better in this!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Sandeep, As someone said I too feel HDFC bank is one thing for their marketing but another for their customer friendliness. Im puzzled as to how they win the JD Power customer satisfaction survey. They are too archaic in their customer relations. ICICI is like an elephant who can no longer stand on its own weight. SBI is certainly no winner but as far as reliability & security it is second to none.
Im about to open a CitiBank NRI account through their london branch, hope everything works fine as you've said

Anonymous said...

Nice link. I have a very bitter experience with ICCICI. I have been trying to open an NRI (from Ohio, USA) account for the last 5 months and each day I expect a call from ICICI that some other papers were forgotten etc... they are the most unprofessional folks. I also used their money2 India, it was good in the beginning, now it takes almost 2 weeks before the Indian account really sees the cash! I think I will try HSBC.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Ive managed to open a Citibank NRI account, not seen the debit card yet but Ive got an email saying the account has been opened and am yet to recieve the ATM card, chequebook and PINs. The cheque handed in during the application process has been cleared from payee account in the UK. Hopefully the rest should follow suit.

Anonymous said...

any bank which buys funds on your behalf will take entry load from you.

So buying directly from amc is the only choice, previously it was difficult as it was through paper work, now you can do it online.

Anonymous said...

I came across this post... good discussion. I have CitiBank, ICICI & HDFC NRI accounts. Now a days I use mostly ICICI and key reason is currency conversion rate. HDFC also gives good rate and thats why I opened it rcently. But if you look at CitiBank, it give much lower rate as comapred to ICICI and HDFC. So, be carefull when using CitiBank.

Anonymous said...


CITI BANK don't offer you good exchange rate , i am in USA , today Currency rate is $45.85 , CITI bank offer for deposit is Rs 44.13 , which is very cheap, wheras Westernunion give u Rs 45.73 with nominal fee of $15.00 to $35.00 , you do the math, we still lossing money despite Free checking with no minimum. I think i will claose this account
any body comments ?

Anonymous said...

i want to open an NRO account. But donot have an idea which bank is better.I already have hdfc bank NRE account. And I want to open NRO bank account from the place I reside (Spore). I would like to know this - do we have to go to the bank in India to get our ATM card or we will be mailed after we sent our application to bank and once our account is opened. Its troublesome to open account from here and go till India to get our ATM card? Please guide me in this to know which bank service is better for NRI

@ndy said...

one basic question
if i open a citibank nri account from singapore, then can i transfer money from my NRI account to my dad's loacal ICICI savings account

Sandeep said...


Yes you can XFR money from your Citibank NRE/NRO account to any other Indian Resident Savings Bank account like ICICI, HDFC etc.

NRE/NRO account is essentially an account with Indian Bank in INR .


Anonymous said...

I have opened my NRO account in hdfc bank and they opened within ten days time they received my application. What was surprising was they opened my account and sent me all necessary debit card, IPIN, PHone pin etc even without my first cheque never even cleared. That is, my account showed -INR 100, as I think they are deducting 100 rupeed for DHL courier and registered posts. I would say their service is too good. And I tried HSBC bank to open before hdfc but they said I need to attest in local bank, which my banks refused to do attestation. HDFC have this SELF-ATTESTATION facility where we are the one who are signing all photocopies and not any other bank. Form 60 is not required for HDFC bank NRO a/c, while it is a must for HSBC a/c. And citi bank is too worse as they require INR 40,000 as initial deposit. HDFC and HSBC are flexible in this and they require only INR 10,000 to open account. ICICI need 15,000 and donot provide debit card for NRO acs, but only provide ATM card, which is useless. I hope my experience finds others more useful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sandeep for this blog and all others too on their views n comments. This helps me to make my decision faster.

Unknown said...

Has anyone have had experiense opening FCNRI account with the Indian BAnk from USA.

I am only interested in foreign currency accounts


My Blog said...

Hi, I'm in Singapore, I already have one citibank account in Bangalore and the online service is too good.I don't want to do any trade or Mutual fund ... stuff like that. But I come to know that minimum balance in citi bank is around 45K INR but in ICICI its 14.5K INR. I am really confused to choose between these 2 Banks. Sandeep can you please help me regarding this.Which is the best way to transfer money to india ? Times of money /Axis remit/Money2india by ICICI . Which one is giving good exchange rate as well as fast transfer? Whether Citibank is providing any such facility

Anonymous said...

Nice to read all the experiences. I would like to share my experience with Citibank... My God i did open a NRI Account in london with citibank and was fine for 6 months use to make transcations. But one of the experiences was like a nightmare.

I was visiting india and went to the ATM to for a transcation of Rs 5000 my little kid was with me and was playing with card and was afraid she does not put it into the slot so RS 5000 which came out went back into the Machine which does not happen in UK and USA so i did make another transcation and it showed Rs 10000 withdraw which was not fare i made the complain the same day at the branch but no action for almost 2 yrs i use to make call to their customer services and they use to say yes we will check and credit Rs 5000 at last i gave up.

But my father who was in india did not he went to the branch and spoke to them they never use to listen to them and always made a excuse yes we will but no action..........

At last my dad made a complain to Reserver bank of india and then citibank came back to me and sent out that amount after deduction all the service charges which they were not suppose to do.......

So be care full friends when you make a transcation in india. With CITIBANK big name but not good for NRI's/


Sandeep said...

Hi Anu,

Thanks for sharing your experience. But this could happen with normal residence account as well. Its just that being NRI you are out to of India to manage such situations.

I would suggest to have an NRE account only with the bank who has a local branch in the country/city you live in ..that helps a lot.


Ashok said...

Thanks Guys. Posts are really useful.

Unknown said...

I have both an NRE as well as an NRO acct with ICICI, for last 7-8 years,a nd have been quite happy with them.

I use the NRO account mostly, since I can use the income I get from my India investments, get them deposited there, and use it for further investments or local purchases, when I visit India.

I use the NRE account primarily for repatriating funds from USA, only when my NRO account balance gets too low.

One major gripe with ICICI NRO account. They do not have a debit card, only ATM card, this is a major drawback for me. especially when HDFC has a wel advertised and promoted NRO DEbit Card, called EasyShop NRO Debit Card.

Not clear why ICICI is so much behind on this one feature. I am thinking of yanking out my accounts from ICICI & transferring to HDFC, when I travel to India this December, unless the ICICI bank manager is able to pulla rabbit, and find a creative way for me to get an NRO debit card.


Anonymous said...

Hi All,

It is very useful post.
Currently I am in US and would like to open only NRO and not NRE..Is it fine?
Looking at the Pros and Cons for each bank to open account with...Can anybody suggets, with which bank I should go for NRO account...?

Anonymous said...

It is nice to refer this site Sandeep! Though I had my PIS account with HDFC for some years & NRO A/c, I was looking for opening Indian accounts fo rest of my family (in Australia). Eventhough the individual experience seems to be good & bad with each of these banks, this discussion chain provides a good measure of insight. Thanks. -Muru.