Investors often seek safe-havens for their hard earned money, and nothing could be more safe than the securities which are issued by the government or the central bank of a country. It is even better if the interest rates earned on these investments are higher than some of the other investment options which are not as safe and secured as these investments are.
One such investment available to the Indian investors is RBI’s 7.35% Floating Rate Saving Bonds (FRSBs). These bonds are issued by the Reserve Bank of India on behalf of the Govt. of India and are open for subscription throughout the year. RBI has given authority to the State Bank of India (SBI), other nationalised banks like Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank (PNB), Bank of India and Union Bank among others, and only four private sector banks, namely HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and IDBI Bank, to accept applications for these bonds.
Here are some of the other salient features of these bonds:
Coupon Interest (Floating) & Payment Dates
Interest payable on these bonds is 35 basis points (or 0.35%) per annum higher than the interest payable on the National Saving Certificates (NSCs) which is set and announced periodically by the Govt. of India. Effective January 1, 2023, NSCs carry interest rate of 7% per annum. So, these bonds yield 7.35% per annum to its investors.
This interest of 7.35% per annum is reset on a semi-annual basis based on the fixation of interest rate on NSCs and payable on January 1 and July 1 every year. Interest gets credited to the investor’s bank account electronically.
Who is eligible to invest in these bonds?
1. A person resident in India is eligible to invest in these bonds:
* in her or his individual capacity, or
* in individual capacity on joint basis, or
* in individual capacity on any one or survivor basis, or
* on behalf of a minor as father/mother/legal guardian
2. A Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) is also eligible to invest in these bonds.
Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are not eligible to invest in these bonds. However, if the holders of these bonds, subsequent to their investments, attain the NRI status, then they can continue to hold on to their investments subject to the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) guidelines.
There is no maximum limit for investment in these bonds. So, you can invest as much as you want to.
Tax Treatment & Tax Deduction (TDS)
Interest earned by the investors on these bonds is fully taxable as per the tax slab of the investor. Tax gets deducted at source while making periodical interest payments. In case an investor is not liable to pay any tax in a financial year, she/he may submit a declaration in order to avoid TDS deduction.
Issue Price & Minimum Investment Amount
These bonds carry a face value of Rs. 100, and issued for a minimum investment amount of Rs. 1000 and in multiples thereof.
Mode of Issuance
These bonds are issued only in the electronic form and held at the credit of the holder in an account called Bond Ledger Account (BLA), opened with the receiving office of the intermediate bank. However, as a proof of subscription, a certificate of holding is issued to the holder/s of these bonds.
Investors may nominate one or more persons as nominee(s) while making their investments, who in the event of death of the bondholder(s) would be entitled to these bonds and the principal and interest payments due thereon. Even a minor could be a nominee in these investments. However, nomination is not allowed if the investment is made in the name of a minor, as such investments will have parents or legal guardians to take care of the investment in case of untimely demise of the minor investor. Investors may even make changes in their nominees subsequent to their investments.
These bonds are not transferable, except transfer to a nominee or legal heir in case of death of the holder of these bonds.
Tradability & Collateral
Unlike tax-free and other taxable bonds, these bonds are not tradable in the secondary markets and not even eligible as collateral for availing loans from banks, NBFCs and other financial lenders.
Lock-In Period and Maturity
These bonds are issued for a period of 7 years and you cannot withdraw your investment amount before this period if your age is less than 60 years. In other words, premature encashment is allowed only if the investor is an individual and aged above 60 years.
Lock-in period for investors in the age bracket of 60-70 years is 6 years from the date of issue, while the same is 5 years for individuals aged between 70-80 years and 4 years for individuals aged 80 years and above. So, the shortest lock-in period with these bonds is 4 years before which investors cannot withdraw their money.
Personally, I consider these bonds as one of the safest fixed income investments for the Indian investors, with no or least volatility in their principal investment amount as well as coupon interest rate. But, lack of liquidity with no premature withdrawal is its biggest negative factor for a lot of investors. If you need to invest your money for a medium to long term and don’t want to take any risks, then these bonds are meant for you. Definitely go for them!