Personal Finance

A privileged banking experience

Anand Kalyanaraman | Updated on January 23, 2018

Viorel Sima/


Welcome to the world of preferred banking, where you get pampered and fussed over by your banker

Last year, there was much hand-wringing when the RBI changed the rules of the game for ATM transactions. Banks were allowed to charge customers for transactions exceeding five a month at their own ATMs and three at other bank machines. The vast majority fumed and fretted, but a lucky few were nonchalant. It was business as usual and nothing changed for them. They continue transacting at ATMs all they want and wherever they want — for free.

Perched high

The charmed set gets a whole host of other goodies too, gratis. From fund transfers to demand drafts, transaction alerts, unlimited cheque leaves and several other services and products, this bunch gets a free ride all through, unlike lesser mortals who get duly charged by their banks. And that’s just for starters — there’s much more on the privilege list. Welcome to the world of preferred banking, where you get pampered and fussed over by your banker.

If you are perched high up in the pecking order of bank accounts, the red carpet runs long — high-end debit and credit cards, sweetheart deals on loans, and financial products, enhanced daily withdrawal limits, discounts or waiver of charges on lockers, preferential rates on forex transactions, doorstep banking, including cheque collection and cash delivery, dedicated relationship managers at beck and call, special counters at bank branches, extended banking hours, dedicated toll free numbers to skip the tyranny of the machine voice, myriad offers on shopping, travel and eating out, waiver of fuel surcharge at petrol pumps, access to airport lounges, concierge services, penalty waiver for not maintaining minimum balance, family banking benefits, customised investment advice, whew! It sure gives you something to talk about in your circles.

Not for everyone

Many banks, especially the private and foreign ones, offer these high-end banking accounts. These accounts sport several names — privilege, premier, wealth, priority, premium, gold, first, and privy — but the rose smells just as sweet, with differentiated services and products, and special privileges for select customers.

Now, banks are obviously choosy about whom they offer the special treatment to. After all, it costs them money to be good to you. Ergo: these high-end accounts are reserved for those with deep pockets and give substantial business (and consequently income) to the bank.

For instance, to become an ICICI Bank Wealth customer, you need to have a total relationship value of ₹25 lakh with the bank. This includes your savings account, fixed and recurring deposits, insurance policies, investments, and loans.

Membership to HDFC’s Imperia Premium Banking requires you to maintain a minimum average monthly balance of ₹30 lakh across your savings and fixed deposits, or an average quarterly balance of ₹10 lakh in your savings account. The bar is higher to become a Citigold account holder — your net relationship value must be at least ₹50 lakh — this includes balances across savings and current accounts, deposits, mutual funds, loans including home loan balance, insurance premium, and a portion of demat holdings.

HSBC Premier customers are required to meet the total relationship balance criteria of ₹25 lakh quarterly. Axis Bank’s premium service Burgundy asks for a total relationship value of ₹30 lakh across all savings, current accounts, fixed deposits and investments, or an average monthly balance of ₹10 lakh across your bank accounts. Also, the monthly net salary of Burgundy salary customers should at least ₹3 lakh.

Keep it up

Making it to the higher echelons is just the first step; you also need to keep the high-maintenance relationship with the bank going. Slip up, and expect to be downgraded to lower categories of accounts. The bank will review your relationship value at regular intervals and assess whether you stay privileged or need to be pegged down. For instance, if you don’t continue to make the cut to be eligible for ICICI’s Wealth account, you will be moved down to the bank’s Privilege account, which is positioned mid-way between a normal account and the Wealth account.

The privilege account too has several benefits not available to general bank accounts, but then they pale somewhat in comparison with the Wealth account. And if you don’t maintain the minimum relationship value to keep the privilege account status, it could be down to the plain vanilla account. Ditto in the case of Citibank where you could be pegged down from Citigold to Citi Priority to Citibanking account. On the other hand, upgrades happen too and you move up the ladder as you increase your relationship value with the bank. At the pinnacle are the private banking or private client accounts.

Now, this is exclusive territory offered to the truly deep-pocketed — a relationship value of ₹2 crore will qualify you for ICICI Bank’s private banking account while it takes ₹5 crore to become a Citigold private client. These take the service and product proposition to a different level altogether — it’s akin to personalised advice by senior bankers who make available to you top-in-class banking and wealth management solutions designed specifically to your needs.

And, of course, all the bells and whistles that have come to define ‘premium’ are a given in these accounts. Money sure seems to make the world, especially the bankers, go around.

Published on October 17, 2015

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