Money & Banking
Banks start charging money for SMS alerts, mobile banking

In another example of cartelization among bankers, several banks have increased or started imposing charges for transaction alerts through SMS as well as for mobile banking. As usual, private lenders have taken the lead, which soon would be followed by nationalized banks

There is no free lunch says a popular adage. Our banks, having lured consumers with ‘free’ services, have now started charging for them or hiking already existing fees to fatten their bottomlines. So far this year, many banks have started charging for SMS alerts on transactions and hiked the annual fees on debit/credit cards. A few banks have even increased charges to deposit cash in your accounts. The list includes large banks such as ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Canara Bank. Here are some areas in which charges have been increased.


SMS Alerts: Over the past month, almost all banks have begun to charge for SMS alerts on transactions.


Axis Bank sent an SMS to its account holders which states that “From 15 June 2013 this (SMS banking) service will be charged Rs5 per month”. ICICI Bank is charging Rs15 per quarter. Interestingly, both amount to an identical Rs60 per annum giving rise to the suspicion that banks, working through the Indian Banks Association, decide to hike rates in tandem or to a pre-decided plan. 


State Bank of India (SBI) is providing various services like MobiCash, mobile banking and SMS banking free of cost. Other state-run lenders like Punjab National Bank (PNB), Bank of Baroda (BoB) and Canara Bank are also providing SMS banking and mobile banking services free of cost.

(Update: As of 1 July 2013, both SBI and PNB decided charging Rs15 per quarter for SMS alert services. PNB, however, said, accounts of senior citizens, its staff-in service and retired and students, will be exempted from this charge)


When asked, an Axis Bank executive said whoever is subscribed to their SMS banking services will be charged Rs5 per month. He said, whoever chooses to unsubscribe from (to unsubscribe customers have to visit branch personally) their SMS Banking services will not be charged anything. Clearly, the banks are testing the ground. Nobody is likely to unsubscribe at a time when SMS alerts have helped protect part of the money.


ICICI Bank notifies on its websitePlease note with effect from 1 May 2013 all savings account customers availing alerts facility through an SMS will be charged Rs15 per quarter (inclusive of taxes)”. However, ICICI Bank has kept the facility free for accounts such as salary account, senior citizen savings account, silver savings account and privilege banking.


HDFC Bank notifies on its website, “Effective 1stApril, customers registered for InstaAlert service with ‘SMS’ as the alert delivery channel, would be charged.”


HDFC Bank customers registered for InstaAlert service through ‘SMS’ are charged Rs15 per quarter for salary or savings accounts, while customers who hold current account are charged Rs25 per quarter.


However, HDFC Bank said, InstaAlerts delivered through emails would remain free. Interestingly debit or credit card transaction alerts sent as per regulatory guidelines and net-banking transaction alerts are not covered in the HDFC Bank InstaAlertservice. Customers who are not registered for InstaAlert service will continue to get these alerts free of charge, according to HDFC Bank.


While all private sector lenders have increased charges for SMS alerts, Kotak Mahindra Bank has decided to reduce its already very high charges. This reduction would bring the rates at par with other banks. It notifies on its website “for savings account holders: The daily balance SMS alert that costs Rs200 per annum will be reduced to Rs120 per annum while SMS for weekly balance, transactions and value added alerts will cost Rs60 per annum from Rs75 per annum with effect from 1st July.”


Yes Bank, which offers up to 7% interest on saving accounts, is charging Rs10 per month to their basic saving account (smart salary) holders. While other account holders would continue to get transaction alert messages free of cost.


Kotak and Yes Bank, pays a higher interest on savings account balances above Rs1 lakh. But it seems both were clearly charging significantly more for other services. Even today, at Rs120 per annum, the charges are double than that of ICICI, HDFC Bank or Axis Bank.


Debit Cards:

Banks from the private sector also started hiking annual fees for debit or ATM cards. Among the state-run lenders, except Canara Bank, no other bank has increased the fees. From 1st July Canara Bank would charge Rs112 as annual fee for its debit cards issues to all customers, except holders of small savings account, basic savings account and financial savings account.


SBI is charging Rs102 annual fees on all debit cards, except Yuva International debit card. PNB is charging Rs112 and BoB is levying Rs113 as annual fees or maintenance charges on debit-cum-ATM cards.


Axis Bank has increased the annual charges by 50%. It would charge Rs150 instead of Rs100 as annual fee from its debit card users in metro and urban centers. For bank account holders from semi-urban and rural, the same is revised to Rs100 from Rs50. In addition, all prime salary account would be charges Rs150 as annual fee for a debit card. Axis Bank has also increased card issuance fee for all its customers to Rs150 from 1st May.


While ICICI Bank is charging Rs99 for gold or silver debit cards and Rs250 for business banking debit card, HDFC Bank charges between Rs100 to Rs500. Kotak Mahindra Bank is charging between Rs100 to Rs750 for platinum debit card, as annual fees.


Yes Bank has already increased the charges from November last year. The Yes Business Gold Debit Card has become costlier by Rs150 following the increase. The annual fees for the card are now Rs499. There is no annual fee on the debit card for the bank’s basic savings account holders.


Annual fees charged on ATM/debit cards


Minimum Annual Fees (in Rs.)

(Basic Debit Cards)

Maximum Annual Fees (in Rs.)

(Platinum /Business cards)

Axis Bank









Kotak Mahindra Bank



Yes Bank



State Bank of India



Canara Bank



Bank of Baroda



Punjab National Bank




The increase in banking charges is contradictory to the stand taken by the regulators. Earlier this month, while speaking at an Open House organized by Moneylife Foundation, Dr KC Chakrabarty, deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has said that the decision on various charges levied by banks has been left to their respective board of directors while the Indian Banks Association oversees the reasonableness aspect and can suggest a cap on the charges.


Mohan Siroya, chairperson of the Consumer Complaints Cell (CCC) had said, "The ‘greatest wrong’ the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has committed is by disowning its responsibility to supervise the ‘exploitation’ of bank customers. RBI has given the full liberty to each bank to levy ‘service charges’ as per their wish. It has become an open market. Now it has come to the light from the Banking Codes and Standards Board of India (BSCBI) that the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has been given an authority to put a 'cap' on such charges, thus fully abdicating its own duty as a statutory regulator. How is such a body expected to control the greed of making more and more money by its own members?”


Adding to Mr Siroya's view, Sucheta Dalal, trustee of Moneylife Foundation said, “The IBA operates in a particular pattern. When one bank decides to charge Rs500 for a debit card, the others, especially nationalised banks, follow its lead and say; okay we will charge only Rs250. This is how banking charges increase every time. Competition does not work because IBA has become a cartel. When was the last time that IBA spoke to any consumer organization or sought the consumers’ views?”


Ashok Ravat of All India Bank Depositors Association (AIBDA) and Vasundhara Deodhar from Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) also raised questions on the reasonableness of banking charges. Both requested the banking regulator to determine reasonable service charges.


Interestingly, while consumers are increasingly complaining about reasonableness of bank charges, the banks themselves are lobbying hard with the RBI, claiming that high cost of technology is making each transaction very expensive. For instance, having encouraged and pushed to obtain corporate accounts of companies, banks are now cribbing about high  transaction costs on small withdrawals from ATMs.


For instance, a senior central banker says that each balance inquiry costs the bank Rs11 while each transaction costs around Rs18. However, this calls for a serious discussion on the cost-benefit of technology to consumers, since the solution cannot be to load higher costs on to consumers.


The frequent hikes in service charges are fast reaching a stage where consumers will revolt. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which follows a policy of forbearance (allowing bankers to decide charges themselves) with regard to service charges, refuses to intervene. At the same time, the RBI is pushing banks to extend services to hundreds of million unbanked Indians. There is a clear disconnect here, since no-frills accounts permit only ATM transactions and banks now claim that those too involve a huge cost.


Can the RBI afford to remain silent about rising service charges? It is a question that the banking regulator needs to answer.



Ravindra Shamsher

2 years ago

Only savings and current account holders are eligible for mobile banking service. If you register your number for mobile banking services you also get the freedom to access your bank balance, fetch account statement, transfer funds and do much more. With most banks offering mobile banking services, there are different ways to do the same but the basic procedure remains the same.


3 years ago

It is absolutely looting the money from salary class account holders from their hard earned money, while it should be on free of cost for which banks are asking customers to maintain minimum balance. If Indian Government definitely want to collect the money, it should be collected from the richest people like politicians, ministers, business man where richers are becoming more richer and poorer are becoming more poorer. There is no benefit of this SMS alerts but exploiting the account holder. This is absolutely tourchering the middle class. RBI should not react on collecting money from common man rather it should corner those rich people, who has more money than their requirement and information should be available through Income Tax PAN Number. Here, I am challanging Indian Government, which has been formed by people for the benefit of people. Here, I don't see the benefit by Indian Government i.e. every day price increases, petrol increases, income tax liability increases while benefits are decreased day by day. In total Indian Government is totally one sided on richest people by politicians, business men and by collecting this money from common men it is simply sleeping. I would rather say, we should by-cott the elections, for which expenses are increased by the so-called indian government and common man life is getting miserableness.

Dayananda Kamath k

3 years ago

one more method of looting cusotmers by sbi is in gurgaon palmcourt branch of sbi suddenly the branch head desided that since it is corporate branch they need not collect cheques put in credit card drop box. i do not know whether a branch head can take such a decision on his own. since i am going out of town on holiday i dropped my cheque for sbi card in the drop box well in advance. after the due date i recive an sms that my account is overdue. i try to sms them on the number where we used to do earlier informing dropbox number and cheque number. i receive a service not available. then they have another service where you can message problem and they will contact back. i used this service also they promissed to contact back in 48 hours by sms acknowledgement but did not receive any call. subsiquenly on 20th when i came back and visited the branch. after perusing with various people they were able to locate the keys of the box and my heque along with some other 20 cheques were lying there un collected. then i went to the manager and informed the situation. and he immidetly scolded the peon why the box is lying there still and asked to remove it.however this cheque was collected on that day along with all other cheques. but sbicard has debited all the exorbitant penaltiese to all the card holders. when under core banking you are customer of a bank and not of a branch, how the action of the manager is justified. whether bankmanagment and rbi will take ation. and restore the service of drop box in the branch. they must provide it in all branches. they provide it in selected branches.and it also depeneds on whims of the branch head. whether bank will recrdit all the charges levied unethically and compensate the customers for the mental agony of being defaulter.


3 years ago


Moneylife requests all readers not to post their personal details like bank account number, debit/credit card number , mobile number or email ID on this and any other public forums.



3 years ago




In Reply to janakiram 3 years ago

Dear Sir,
Please contact your bank branch for this. Also we request you and all other readers from posting your account number, card number and mobile number on public forums.


3 years ago

MYSMS# +639192616111=or 09192616111==SMS ONLY


Chethan S

3 years ago

SBI to charge ₹15/quarter for SMS alerts. This is the announcement on SBI homepage: "With effect from quarter ending June 2013, SMS charges of Rs.15/- (inclusive of Service Tax) per quarter will be recovered."


arun adalja

In Reply to Chethan S 3 years ago

sbi already started charging rs 15 for quater ending june 13.without informing how can they deduct?icici bank waived sms charges for senior citizen,other banks must follow the same.


3 years ago

I think such practices not only of banks but by any organisation will continue basically because of absolute disregard for their own interest on the part of customers of bank and other business organisations. I just do not understand how, we, so called educated people behave in such irresponsible way and turn blind eye to our own interest.

Dayananda Kamath k

3 years ago

every service will be introduced free of charge initially to make it popular and then they will start charging you left right and center. and the regulators also contribute and govt also contribute by making it compulsory and then they start charging. you and you dont have any option because you come to know when you are short of time and this service is very much needed .one of the best example is service charges being charged for issuing solvency certificate. this is a certificate insisted by embassies and govt departments for tender qualifications. banks used to give it without any liability and accounting records maintined for a fees of rs. 100 to rs.1000/ but suddenly banks started charging based on the amount certified and maximum charges being rs. 25 lakhs. becoming insolvent by applying for solvency certificate. i complained to rbi with the same caption as well as how this can lead to corruption and frauds in the bank. as no entry is passed in the ledgers for issuing the certificate except for charging of charges. how an unscrupulous manager can mint money in this scheme. but no action from the rbi. but on its own bank reduced the maximum charges to rs. 25000/- but the loop hole is not yet plugged. even rs. 25ooo/- is exorbitant as there is no liability on the abnk and it is not at all accounted in the banks balance sheets.

Suiketu Shah

3 years ago

One must not forget that this trend of charging on even the smallest of service was started by HDFC Bank.The others have only followed.

arun adalja

3 years ago

icici banks is sending sms for creditin the money in the account but total amount in the account is not updating in sms.then why should i pay when full details are not given?


3 years ago

Hi, thanks for the engaging article..

I feel it needs to give a balanced view.. Banks are public limited companies, and need to make profits to be able to expand their reach, recover their costs, provide for the bad debts, invest in better technologies to prevent fraudsters from running amok, etc.

I don't think when we work for a company, we say that our cost of living is only Rs. 25,000, you don't need to pay me more than that. If my cost of living goes p, will come and ask you for a pay revision.

Banks need to increase dividend to shareholders, pay salaries to thousands of people they employ, give loans to small and big companies so that they can expand their operations and give employment.

Now, no doubt there are many things wrong about our banking system - banks' reluctance in general to give loans to smaller enterprises and individuals without taking adequate collateral to protect their capital; banks inability to expand into villages and rural areas; the propensity of politicians to manipulate banks into giving loans to undeserving organizations; corruption involved in lending decisions; the business of NPAs; tendency to increase charges frequently; et al.

What muddles the picture even more is the prevalence of the grey economy in the country. A large part of the economy works on cash only, and unaccounted cash at that. What it means is that those funds either don't enter the banking system at all, or reaches in fictitious names leaving the banks vulnerable to KYC norms.

Customers across the world pay far more charges for accessing banking services, and people don't mind paying those charges as the alternatives are either not present or are very expensive. Also, product prices vary depending on the features available on the product as well. So, if a particular banking account comes to you with free life insurance or general insurance cover, then paying a nominally higher amount as fees should be okay?

What Axis Bank has done is actually being clever by half. Whoever thought of this thing of customer canceling it by visiting branches did the bank's brand a big disservice, as customers would immediately understand that they are being taken for a ride here, and maybe lots of them wont switch banks immediately, but they will remember that the bank took advantage of the fact that they wouldn't find the time to visit the branch and cancel their mobile banking subscription. I suspect that even if the customer were to go to the branch, the branch would know nothing about this, and would require the customer to make multiple visits to get the necessary action recorded and undertaken. This is a malicious action and reeks of profiteering.

Banks spend approximately 25 paise for every sms and it sounded like a good idea to charge for actual number of sms sent, but maybe putting something like that in place might be expensive for banks.

No doubt RBI needs to pay attention to this streak of banks to increase charges from time to time. But maybe RBI also needs to see what it needs to regulate and what it needs to free up for the banks.

For instance should the banks in India be making NIMs of 4.5 percent?? That sounds very high when compared with the NIMs in other developing countries.

Should the banks be having prepayment penalties when they have already charged processing fee upfront?

The government's role in banking also needs to be assessed. Do we need the government to run banks, and dictate terms to them about whom to lend and how much?

Mun Mohan Kale

3 years ago

No charges need be levied for any service being rendered. It is duping customers. The charges are also varying from bank to bank at their whims & fancies. Govt should step in & cancel all such charges. Unfortunately these banks must be paying hush money to all concerned especially politicians.

Deepak Sholapurkar

3 years ago

Banks are like predators hunting the Normal account holders.
Let me give an example.
I am holding 2 accounts with Axis bank and my wife is holding one account.
On 14th -Jun I got a SMS saying that from 15th -Jun every month 5Rs will be charged for SMS banking and if don't want that then need to go "BRANCH" to discontinue this.

1)If they want to start charging from 15th-Jun why they have sent the notification on 14th.
2)As 14th and 15th are working day's for me, how can I plan and visit the Branch.
3)Why given such a short notice .
4)most importantly when enabling the SMS banking, I could do it through net banking. But to stop it why should I visit the Branch?

Basically Bank's want to charge and loot money, So they will not give sufficient time and set practically impossible things to customer.

Thanks & Regards,


ashwin bahl

In Reply to Deepak Sholapurkar 3 years ago

Very good and relevant points bro, any changes in Charges by banks there should be a minimum of a Months notice to it's customers, like we have in other civilized countries in The world. The way they are behaving is totally unacceptable and the so called Regulatory authorities are doing is mere lip service

ashwin bahl

3 years ago

we had a credit card from SBI as at the time of enrollment it offered heaven, as one year passed the charges started to creep in, we surrendered it.
For the compulsory draw bank account it charges yearly fees and it was/is supposed? to send account statement every year, we have never received it in our lives !

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