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NPS vs PPF: Which is a Better Option For Investing?

Updated on: Apr 25th, 2023


8 min read

National Pension Scheme (NPS) and Public Provident Fund (PPF) are both government-backed retirement saving schemes. They both encourage you to regularly save funds to secure your post-retirement life. However, why are there two schemes with similar goals? How are they different? Which of them should you choose?

If you are caught in the NPS vs PPF debate, we can help! In this article, you will find information on both NPS and PPF to help you plan your investments better.


This is indeed a tough question. Whenever we think of saving for a post-retirement fund, the Public Provident Fund (PPF) comes to mind first and foremost. PPF provides secured returns over the long term and for all ages, which is why it is a great investment opportunity for long-term savings.

Of late though, the National Pension Scheme or NPS has also been gaining a lot of attention as a tool for making retirement savings. The use of NPS has increased after the Budget 2015-16, where the government provided for an additional tax deduction of Rs.50,000 in NPS investments.

However, if you could only choose one of these which should it be? This is the question that we aim to answer in this article.

Understanding PPF

PPF is an age-old government-funded investment scheme that has been popular among investors with a long investment horizon. For best results, one needs to stay invested in the scheme for 15 years!

Earlier, there was no provision for premature closing of the PPF account but this feature has been added now; with the caveat that the account holder keeps the PPF account active for a minimum of 5 years before closing it.

The premature closing will only be allowed under certain circumstances like:

  • Paying for one’s higher education, or
  • For medical expenses (in case of life-threatening diseases and supported by documents from a medical practitioner)

Here are the other things you need to know before you open a PPF account:

  • The current interest rate for PPF is around 7.1% p.a. The interest is compounded annually
  • The interest is credited to the account on the 31st of March every year
  • To get maximum interest, the deposits should be made between the 1st and 5th of every morning as the interest is calculated on the lowest amount held (i.e. the amount held on the 5th)
  • You can even take a loan against your PPF account after holding it for a minimum of 3 years. If you repay the loan fully before the 6th year, you could be eligible for another loan as well

Who can invest in PPF?

Any Indian citizen can invest in PPF. One citizen can have only one PPF account unless the second account is in the name of a minor. NRIs and HUFs are not eligible to open a PPF account.

Understanding NPS

Now that we understand the basics of PPF, let us take a look at the NPS (National Pension Scheme) as well. The National Pension Scheme is a government-sponsored pension program which is open to employees from the public, private and unorganized sectors (except for the armed forces).

In this scheme, the account holders can invest regularly in a pension account through the tenure of their employment. Once they retire, the account holders can use a certain percentage of the corpus as a lump sum and use the rest as a pension.

Who can invest in NPS?

The NPS is open to any citizen of India, who is between 18 and 60 years old on the date of submission of their application. The account holder would need to comply with the Know Your Customer (KYC) norms and should not be an undischarged insolvent or of an unsound mind.  

Key differences between NPS and PPF

Key FeaturesPPFNPS
Who can invest?Any Indian resident. One can also open a PPF account in the name of his or her minor children and can avail tax benefitsNPS account can be opened by Indian citizens above 18 years and less than 60 years of age
Are NRIs eligible for this scheme?NoYes
Interest RatesAround 7-8%Around 12-14%
What is the maturity period?A PPF account matures in 15 years. One can also extend this term after 15 years by a block of five years with or without making further contributionThe maturity tenure is not fixed. You can contribute to the NPS account till the age of 60 years with an option to extend the investment to the age of 70 years
What is the investment limit?Minimum Rs.500 annually, with the maximum amount capped at Rs.1,50,000. A maximum of 12 contributions per year is allowedMinimum contribution required is Rs.6,000. There is no limit on contribution as long as it does not exceed 10% of your salary or 10% of your gross total income in case you are self-employed
What are the tax benefits?All deposits made in the PPF are deductible under Section 80C. Furthermore, the accumulated amount and interest is also tax exempt at the time of withdrawalTax benefit is available only on Rs.1.5 lakh under Section 80CCD(1) of the Income Tax Act, and an additional Rs.50,000 under Section 80CCD(2) – a total of up to Rs.2 lakh
Is premature withdrawal/partial withdrawal allowed?Partial withdrawals are allowed after the 7th year onwards with some limitation. Loans during the third and sixth financial years of opening the account are available; but subject to conditionsAfter 10 years, account holders become eligible for early, partial withdrawal under specific circumstances. However, to exit before retirement, one must use at least 80% of the accumulated corpus to buy a life insurance annuity
Can I choose how to invest my money?NoYes, you can choose between equity funds, government securities fund and fixed income instruments, and other government securities
What are the returns like?Interest rate is decided by the governmentInterest rate is linked to the market. Potential returns are therefore higher
Do I have to buy an annuity?NoAt maturity, you need to buy an annuity worth at least 40% of the corpus, unless maturity amount is less than 2 lakh

NPS vs PPF: Comparison

Risk & Safety: NPS is market linked and a bit risky, but it is strictly regulated by the PFRDA so there is almost no chance of malpractices. PPF is entirely government backed so there is almost risk free returns.

Returns: NPS can give up to 10% in some cases whereas PPF provides low but stable returns around 7-8%.

Liquidity: NPS has slightly higher liquidity as it provides multiple opportunities of partial withdrawal. PPF however, allows partial withdrawal after a certain lock-in period and an amount cap.

Taxation: NPS balance withdrawn on maturity is tax free whereas annuity have to be purchased after paying taxes. PPF is under the EEE or exempt-exempt-exempt category.

As you can see, NPS makes for a great retirement savings scheme. It may not be the best scheme to invest in if your aim is to save for other purposes like children’s education, daughter’s marriage etc. For all of these needs, a PPF scores over NPS as the best investment scheme.  

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