BANKING AND MONEY EXCHANGE IN INDIA
BANKING IN INDIA
The banking sector in India has come a long way and today has one of the largest networks in the world with a total strength of 301 commercial banks and a network of around 67,000 branches. The State Bank of India (SBI) is the largest banking network of the country having branches in almost all cities and large villages of the country. Major international banks like Standard Chartered Grindlays, Citibank, BNP, Bank of America, Hong Kong Bank, and others have their presence in the metros. With the advent of the new economic policy, many private banks such as HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and UTI Bank have also begun operations and provide quality services to their customers. The competition has forced the nationalized banks to provide better services to their customers.
All over the country, the normal banking hours are from 10 am to 2 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 12 pm on weekends. Some of the foreign and private banks give 24-hour banking facilities to their customers. All the major banks accept traveler's cheques and some of them are entitled to exchange money. However, one can get many more foreign exchange dealers providing good services in the metros and other places of tourist importance.
Many banks (mainly the foreign and private ones) provide Automated Teller Machine (ATM) facilities in the metros and other large cities. Most the ATM centers provide 24-hour-service to their customers. Now, with the availability of the latest technology, Internet banking and multi-branch banking facilities are also available. ATM facilities are also available in major nationalized banks such as SBI, Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, etc. Some of these banks too provide extended hours and seven days banking services to their customers.
Many nationalized banks such as SBI and Bank of Baroda are now offering co-branded credit cards to their customers. Most of the hotels, airlines, and shops in the metros and tourist destinations accept major international credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club.
MONEY EXCHANGE ENTITLEMENTS
India has very strict rules regarding import of foreign exchange. The Indian currency is the rupee, which is fully convertible. The notes are available in the denominations of Rs. 1000, Rs 500, Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20, Rs 10, Rs 5, Rs 2 and Re 1. Coins are available in the denominations of Rs 5, Rs 2, Re 1, and 50 p, 25 p, 20 p, 10 p, 5 p
There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travelers' cheques a tourist may bring into India, provided he/she makes a declaration in the Currency Declaration Form that is to be filled on arrival. This will enable him not only to exchange the currency brought in, but also to take the unspent currency out of India on departure. Cash, banknotes, and travelers' cheques up to US $10,000 or equivalent need not be declared at the time of entry. Any money in the form of travelers' cheques, drafts, bills, cheques, etc., in convertible currencies, which tourists wish to convert into Indian currency, should be exchanged only through authorized moneychangers and banks. At the time of the transaction, they issue an encashment certificate, which is required at the time of reconversion of any unspent money into foreign currency. Exchanging of foreign currency through agencies or persons other than banks or authorized moneychangers is an offense under the Indian law.
Indian currency is not allowed out of India and exchanging it before one departs is the best option. Banking facilities, for the conversion of Rupees into foreign currency, are usually located in the same airport halls as the check-in counters. It is best to access these facilities before immigration, as they are not available thereafter. Most of the hotels also provide money exchange facilities.
WHO CAN EXCHANGE MONEY
All money in India is expected to be changed through the official banks or authorized moneychangers. Authorization to exchange money is given by the Reserve Bank of India. Major banks such as SBI, Indian Overseas Bank, and Central Bank of India have their branches in almost all the cities and towns of India. Many of these branches accept travelers' cheques and exchange money. In larger cities and at tourist destinations, apart from banks private dealers also exchange money. Big companies like Thomas Cook, Western Union (through its agent in India, SITA Travels), and American Express exchange money at all their branches. Thomas Cook and Western Union also provide money transfer facilities to their customers. Many of travel agencies also provide money exchange facilities to their clients and they can be of great help. One can find small moneychangers even in the remote tourist destinations and changing money is not a problem for tourists in India.
As Indian currency is fully convertible, there is not much of a currency black market. However, beware of fake moneychangers. Since Indian currency spends more time in the market than other major currencies of the world, the notes often get soiled, especially the smaller ones. One can exchange the old notes in any of the commercial banks.