(Mint file)
(Mint file)

Opinion | NEFT round-the-clock

Beginning December, online payments through NEFT will be available round-the-clock, the RBI said on Wednesday

Come December and you could make a National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT) at any given hour on any given day. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), after its recent Monetary Policy Committee meeting, has announced round-the-clock availability of the NEFT payment system, by which people swipe open a bank app on a mobile phone and send money to another account, by the last month of this calendar year. With the volume of retail electronic payments growing in leaps and bounds, this doesn’t come a moment too early.

Presently, the NEFT system operated by RBI works only during regular banking hours; to make a transfer after those hours, one needs to schedule it for later, once banks open for business the next working day. The time restriction acts as a dampener on its use for online payments. For a facility to be adopted widely, it needs to offer convenience on every possible dimension.

To catalyze e-payments in general, RBI had taken some steps earlier as well. In June, the bank regulator decided to do away with processing and other charges levied on banks for RTGS and NEFT transactions. That had moved online payments towards a costless ideal, though not many users of these systems were even aware of any fees involved. The removal of the NEFT time bar, in that sense, would be a far more significant shift. India has made impressive strides towards its long-range goal of a cashless economy. What mustn’t be forgotten, though, is that complete cashlessness is unrealistic, practically speaking, if unofficial or illegal currencies are to be kept out.

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