If you live in India and need to open a bank account or send money to a loved one, it’s helpful to know more about some of the most popular banks in the country.
This guide aims to help you identify some of India’s most popular commercial banks, many of which offer a broad spectrum of financial services for residents, international senders, and tourists.
Identifying the most popular Indian banks and understanding how their offerings suit your needs can help you select the best one for you. These banks were chosen based on the variety of products and services available, their accessibility throughout India, and their presence abroad.
The History of Banks in India
Despite being the second-most populated country globally, with 1.38 billion residents, India is still considered a developing country. And, like all developing countries, its banking system helps drive economic growth.
Although there are many popular Indian banks today, that was not always the case — even though India’s banking history dates back to before the country gained independence in 1947.
Because of this, we’ve broken down India’s banking history into the pre-independence period (1786-1947) and the post-independence period (1947 to date).
- The first bank of India, the Bank of Hindustan, was established in 1770.
- Over 600 banks were registered during the pre-independence period, but only a few managed to survive.
- Three banks were established during British rule, which later merged into a single bank, the Imperial Bank of India, in 1921.
- The nationalization of the Imperial Bank occurred in 1955 when it was named The State Bank of India. It is currently the largest public-sector bank and is run by the government of India.
- Currently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is the central bank of India.
The most significant development was the introduction of private banks. Today, the following large banks are some of the most popular in India.
Axis Bank is India’s third-largest private sector bank, with 4,000+ branches and 11,000+ ATMs at the time of this writing. Winning dozens of awards over the years, Axis Bank is known for its leadership, digital services, and excellence in operations. There are several products to choose from, including but not limited to personal savings accounts, debit and credit cards, home insurance, mutual fund investments, and much more.
Axis Bank also has many partner banks around the globe, assisting with international fund transfers.
Bank of India
First founded in 1906, the Bank of India was under private ownership until 1969, when it was nationalized with 13 other banks. As a result, it has experienced immense growth, having started with one office in Mumbai and now boasting over 5,000 branches in India and 45 branches and offices abroad, including those in major cities such as New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Tokyo.
The Bank of India remains at the forefront of innovative services and systems, combining traditional ethics and values with modern infrastructure. The products and services offered include home loans, credit cards, regional rural banks, and salary accounts.
This bank recently made headlines when it doubled its consolidated net profit.
As they say at Canara Bank, it is the ideal destination for all personal banking needs. There are also several corporate banking and investment options. Being the third-largest nationalized bank in India, it is under the ownership of the government. Customers can get assistance with everything from mutual funds to approved housing project services.
Canara Bank has branches around the globe, including London, Hong Kong, New York, Dubai, and Moscow.
HDFC Bank, Ltd.
HDFC Bank is known for its diverse portfolio of banking services and financial products. Incorporated in 1994, HDFC operates through retail banking, treasury, wholesale banking, and other banking operations, such as third-party product distribution and credit cards.
HDFC Bank has received many awards over the years, with some of the most recent including Best Private Bank in India (PWM Global Private Banking Awards 2021), Best Large Bank (25th Business Today – KPMG Best Bank Study), and Best Bank in India (FinanceAsia Country Awards for Achievement 2021).
ICICI Bank, Ltd.
ICICI Bank is a leading private sector bank offering personal banking and financial investment services. What makes ICICI Bank one of the most popular in India is its extensive network of national branches.
Much like SBI, ICICI Bank also has a strong presence abroad, with branches in the United States, China, South Africa, Dubai, and several other countries, as well as subsidiaries across Canada and the United Kingdom.
Some of the products offered include loans, fixed deposits, debit and saving accounts, life insurance services and credit cards.
Kotak Mahindra Bank, Ltd.
First established in 1985 as Kotak Mahindra Finance, Ltd., Kotak Mahindra Bank has become one of the largest private sector banks. After acquiring ING Vysya Bank in 2015 and establishing a solid brand with excellent products, Kotak Mahindra Bank quickly emerged as a favorite in India.
Some of the services offered include life and general insurance, wealth management, a variety of investment options, checking and savings accounts, debit and credit cards, and loans.
Punjab National Bank
After merging with the United Bank of India and the Oriental Bank of Commerce, Punjab National Bank has become India’s second-largest public sector bank (PSBs). This bank offers corporate, wholesale, retail banking, treasury, and other banking operations.
Its broad spectrum of services and products contributes to roughly INR 8 trillion in overall business as of this writing. These include housing loans, education loans, vehicle loans, deposits, and international and capital services.
The State Bank of India (SBI)
Throughout the history of banks in India, the State Bank of India (SBI) has been the country’s largest public-sector bank, acting as its financial foundation. With nearly half a million customers as of 2022 along with 22,500 global branches and 208 foreign offices in 36 countries, SBI maintains its position as one of the most influential Indian banks.
In recent years, SBI has focused on its digital capabilities, partnering with IBM to connect people throughout India and beyond. For example, creating the mobile app YONO, one of the world’s largest digital banks, helped SBI respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Services include but are not limited to ATMs, home loans, personal loans, credit cards, and saving accounts.
Recommended reading: How to Send Money Safely to State Bank of India in 5 Easy Steps
Sending Money to India?
If you need to send money to India, you’ll also want to get great exchange rates and avoid hefty fees. With Remitly, that’s possible. You can choose to deposit money into your recipient’s bank account in India. Transfer money to major banks, including Bank of Baroda, IndusInd Bank, IDBI Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Union Bank of India, YES bank, the banks listed above, and many more.
You can also send money to a UPI virtual payment address or opt for cash pickup.
More about Remitly
Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Since 2011, over 5 million people have used our secure mobile app to send money with peace of mind.
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