National Savings Certificates (NSC) come with a longer investment period but offer a wide range of benefits that includes tax benefits. Fixed deposits offer a much higher rate of interest in comparison to savings accounts.

It is imperative to understand what these small savings schemes actually mean and how they operate before we actually pit them against each other to find out which one is better for which situation.

Features NSC FD
Interest Rate 8.5% to 8.8% 8.50%
Tax benefit at maturity Interest earned is taxable* Interest earned is taxable
Minimum Investment Rs.100 Depends on Banks
Maximum Investment No Limit No Limit
Interest compounding frequency Yearly Monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly
Liquidity Not as high Higher
Lock in period 5 years to 10 years
  • Minimum of 7 days to
  • Maximum of 10 years
Premature Withdrawal Allowed only under certain conditions* You can withdraw at any time. But usually with 1% of penality. Incase of tax saving FDs, withdrawal allowed after 5yrs.
Tax on interest earned Re-invested interest exempted from tax
  • If interest earned is more than Rs.10,OOO in a given financial year, TDS will be applicable for those below 60 years
  • For senior citizens, if the interest income is more than Rs.50,OOO in a given financial year, TDS Will be applicable
Can be used as collateral for credit card No Yes

National Savings Certificates vs Fixed Deposits

Now that we have had a refresher course in what each of the savings scheme actually does, let’s take a look at how each of these stack up against each other in comparison of features.

National Savings Certificates

NSC offering more returns over a sizably longer investment period, these are stable financial instruments that have added tax benefits.

  1. Rate of Interest – As mentioned above, these instruments offer rates of interest ranging from 8.5% to 8.8% per annum, calculated every six months, bringing the effective rate to somewhat around 9% per annum
  2. Financial Liquidity – Mandatory lock-in periods of either 5 years or 10 years make these investment schemes a choice for a long term goal, rather than something in the near future. Consequently, 10-year NSCs pay out better than 5-year ones
  3. Taxable returns – NSC VIII issue mandates that returns will be taxable, while the newer NSC IX that is currently available is tax free. The returns enjoy tax exemption as under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, making the effective returns through NSC even higher
  4. Premature withdrawal of funds – NSCs give a hard time when it comes to withdrawing investments before the maturity of 5 years or 10 years is done. Only under cases of the demise of the account holder, forfeiture of account by a gazetted officer or by order of law is this possible
  5. Loans – Having lock-in periods of 5 years and 10 years and being stable financial instruments, NSCs can easily be used as collaterals for availing loans for vehicles, housing and other secured loans
  6. Investment Security – Provided by the Government of India, NSCs offer rates that rarely change in a major way and are the safest possible investment one can make in India

Fixed Deposits

The no-nonsense investment option for the common man who wants a higher rate of interest than what is offered on savings accounts.

  1. Rate of Interest – As mentioned above, these financial instruments offer rates of interest that are linked to the respective bank’s base rate. Though higher than the interest rate of the bank’s savings accounts, the interest rate might never be higher than 8.5% per annum
  2. Financial Liquidity – With deposit periods as low as 7 days, there is rarely any need for someone to fret over lock-in periods. But fixed deposits do not have a mandatory lock-in period either
  3. Taxable returns – Save for a few tax savings deposits that are initiated by a few banks, the returns of any fixed deposit are taxable. For the tax-saver accounts, applicable tax benefits can be availed as per Section 80D of the Income Tax Act of 1961
  4. Premature withdrawal of funds – Banks might or might not charge a premature withdrawal fee if one decides to pull out of any particular fixed deposit scheme. Nevertheless, closing a fixed deposit account is always possible with minimal hassle
  5. Loans – Fixed deposits are as stable financial instruments as NSCs and can easily be used as collaterals for availing loans for vehicles, housing and other secured loans. Better rates can be availed on loans, if the fixed deposits being pledged are with the same bank
  6. Investment Security – Though nothing can beat the investment security of NSCs, the rule of thumb says that investing in fixed deposit schemes of public sector banks is always safer than doing so in private sector banks

Small Savings going Big

Investment as an option for growth of wealth is always a lucrative term for the financially wise. While both fixed deposits and NSCs score pretty good points when investment is considered, thinking about the potential higher returns on NSCs makes them the obvious first choice since a no-frills tax exemption comes with the package, protecting the returns. On the other hand, fixed deposits can be handy when liquidity is the priority. It is advisable, thus, to set aside a lump sum in NSCs for something really grand, like a dream wedding. While for the next batch of tuition fees or your next vehicle, fixed deposits can be the go-to option.

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