Fixed deposits has traditionally been and still is the most popular investment option in India. As per RBI's report on household savings, 56% of household financial assets are invested in Bank FDs. Corporate Fixed Deposits are term deposits like bank FDs. They offer fixed rate of interest and principal amount on maturity. However, instead of banks, corporate FDs are offered by non banking financial companies (NBFCs). Corporate FDs are very popular among informed investors since offer higher returns compared to bank FDs.
Interest rates of corporate FDs are usually higher than interest rates of banks FDs. For example current 3 - 5 year FD interest in SBI is 6.1%, whereas Bajaj Finance is offering 7% interest rate on 3 - 4 year FD. Interest rates of corporate FDs vary from one company to another depending on the credit rating of the company. We will discuss about credit ratings later.
The tenure for bank FDs range from 7 days to 10 years. The tenure for corporate FDs range from 12 months to maximum 4 - 6 years. If you want to invest for very long tenure e.g. 8 to 10 years, then bank FD will be the only term deposit option for you. However, for shorter tenures you may consider corporate FDs.
There is no lock-in period in bank FDs. Corporate FDs may have lock-in period. Usually lock-in period for corporate FDs is 3 months; you cannot make any withdrawal prior to the completion of the lock-in period. However, not all corporate FDs may have lock-in periods.
Premature withdrawals are allowed in both bank and corporate FDs. However, penalties may apply for premature withdrawals may be applicable for both bank and corporate FDs. If you want the flexibility of making premature withdrawals, then bank FDs will be the more favourable option for two reasons (a) no lock-in period (higher liquidity) and (b) lesser premature withdrawal penalty. While bank FDs may offer more flexibility for premature withdrawals, you should weigh this as a trade-off against higher returns offered by corporate FDs.
Taxation of bank FDs and corporate FDs is the same. The interest paid by the FD is added to your income and taxed as per your income tax slab.
Different NBFCs offer different interest rates on their FDs. You should compare different FDs and make informed investment decisions. However, you should also take credit risk into consideration.
Credit risk refers to the NBFC's failure of meeting interest and / or principal payment obligations, exposing the investor to potential loss of income and / or capital. You should consider the credit rating of the instrument and make informed investment decisions.
Corporate FDs may offer different interest rates for different tenures; interest rates are usually higher for longer tenures. You should decide as per investment needs.
Corporate FDs offer both periodic (non cumulative) and cumulative interest pay-out. In periodic interest payout, the interest will be paid to monthly, quarterly, half yearly or yearly; the rate of interest will differ for different pay-out intervals. In cumulative interest pay-out the interest is re-invested and you get the benefits of compound interest. You should decide on cumulative or non cumulative interest depending on your investment needs.
Bonds are fixed income instruments which pay fixed rate of interest at regular intervals and the principal amount on maturity. Bonds as an asset class are very popular in the developed economies. However, the bond market in India has historically been relatively small. In more recent times, with Bank FD interest rates declining, bonds are gaining a lot of popularity among retail and HNI investors.
You can buy bonds both from the primary market (at the time when the bond is issued) or from the secondary market (stock exchanges). You need to have Demat accounts to invest in bonds in secondary market. If you buy in the primary issue, you will get the bond at face value. In the secondary market, the bonds will be priced either at premium or discount to the face value based on prevailing interest rates. The bond will make periodic interest payments to you based on the coupon rate. On maturity you will get the face value of the bond. You can also sell the bond before maturity in the secondary market at prevailing market price.