Mutual fund Direct plans vs Regular plans – Which is the better option?

Mutual fund Direct plans vs Regular plans – Which is the better optionMutual fund Direct plans vs Regular plans – Which is the better option?

From Jan-2013, as per direction from SEBI, mutual fund houses have started tracking the mutual fund schemes under direct plans separately. Mutual fund direct plans are those where mutual fund schemes would not charge distributor expenses / trial fees and hence the NAV of such direct plan would be higher compared to regular plan. However the investment mix in the mutual fund scheme would be same for direct or regular plans. Earlier mutual fund houses have already issued mutual fund direct route, however whether it is thru distributor or thru direct route, it was tracked with single NAV, hence an investor was bound to buy mutual funds based on the NAV.

Features of Mutual fund direct plans

  • Individual investors can directly invest in direct plans without involving distributors or brokers.
  • There would not be any distribution / trial fees paid to distributors or brokers for such mutual fund direct plans. Hence the annualized expense ratio would be lower and investors would get higher returns compared to regular plans. The equity mutual fund direct plans scheme expense ratio would get gained between 0.50% to 0.75% p.a. and debt mutual funds between 0.20% to 0.50% p.a. depending upon the mutual fund house expense ratio.
  • There would be a separate NAV (Net asset value) for direct plans. The scheme would denote “Direct” in its description for such direct plans.

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How to switch from existing mutual fund regular plans to Mutual fund direct plans?

Direct route: If you have earlier invested your mutual funds through direct route, these mutual fund plans are already been shifted to mutual fund direct plans. Hence an investor need not worry about this. In case the switch has not happened for any reason, an investor can contact mutual fund house.

Regular mutual funds: If the investor wants to switch from regular mutual funds to direct plans in mutual funds:

Lump sum investments: If an investor made lump sum investments, then he/she can submit switch form to mutual fund house. These mutual fund units would be shifted from regular mutual fund schemes to direct plan of mutual fund schemes.

SIP: If you are investing through SIP, then an investor can submit switch form, where the existing SIP units would get shifted from regular plan to direct plans. All future SIP transactions also would get automatically shifted to direct plans.

However both these options would attract, STT, capital gains tax and exit load depending upon the period of investment.

Agent will not submit your application for direct plans as he would not get distributor or trial fees.

Are there any additional costs involved during or after switching to direct plans?

Switching from regular mutual fund plans to direct plans of mutual fund would cost you.

Direct mode to direct plan – No costs: If the shift is from mutual funds direct mode (earlier who invested directly) to mutual funds direct plan, there is no exit load.

Exit load if redeemed before 1 year from original date of investment: If the shift is from regular plan to direct plan and if you withdraw the mutual fund investments before 1 year from original date of investment, necessary exit load would be applicable. E.g. if an investor had invested in regular plan during Apr-2012 and shifted to direct plan from Jan-2013. However, redeems during Feb-2013 (11 months from original date), it would attract exit load. MF industry feels that this exit load would protect the interest of distributors.

Capital gains tax: Necessary capital gains tax would be applicable for such switch from regular plan to direct plans. This switch would be treated as two separate transactions and necessary capital gains tax would be applicable.

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Who should invest in such mutual fund direct plans?

  • Direct plans in mutual funds is good for investors who wish to invest in mutual fund schemes by directly dealing with mutual fund houses without distributors.
  • Investors who want to increase their returns by way of reducing expense ratio.
  • Investors, who are tech savvy and have moderate financial knowledge in selecting good mutual fund schemes, can opt for such plans.

Drawbacks about mutual fund direct plans

Though mutual fund distributors or brokers would be against such direct plans as it would reduce their business, there are some minus points to be considered apart from this.

  • Investors should invest directly without distributor getting involved.
  • Investor should have moderate knowledge on how mutual fund schemes would run so that he can directly deal with them.
  • Investor should take care of documentation process. It includes getting acquainted with various regulations from time to time, submission of mutual fund applications, tracking, portfolio consolidation, nominee inclusion or modification, change of address, KYC compliance issues etc.,
  • Investors should do their own analysis and select top performing mutual fund schemes. Investor need to depend upon mutual fund websites or blogs to get to know about good mutual fund schemes.

How to handle mutual fund direct plans in better way?

Here are some suggestions on how to handle direct plans in mutual fund in better way.

Lump sum investments: If your investments have not matured 1 year, wait for one year to get capital gain tax exemption or reduce your capital gain tax and exit load and then switch to direct plans.

SIP: Stop existing SIP schemes in regular plans and start new SIP schemes in direct plans. Once your existing SIP regular plan mutual fund units come to a stage where it would not attract capital gain tax or exit load, you can switch those units to direct plan.

Conclusion remarks: Introduction of mutual fund direct plans is a good move. You can maximize your annualized returns by investing in these direct plans. If you have moderate knowledge about mutual funds and if you can invest some time for documentation purpose, it is worth investing through direct plans.

Readers, I would like to invite your views and comments on this article.

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Mutual fund Direct plans vs Regular plans – Which is better option

Suresh KP


  1. Very good article. Axis Direct is giving option to buy MFs without any charge. In this scenario, is it always better to buy “Direct” plans,by looking at regular plans?

    Ghana Syam

    1. Syam, It is surprising for me to note that they are offering direct plans. If any one is offering such direct plans in mutual funds, it is good invest through that method as all your investments are in one place and you can easily track it.

  2. my portfolio holding 4 regular growth funds,my icici bank charge Rs.33/sip .if i select direct plan , my monthly sip transaction charges is stop or not ? why crisil not rank to direct growth plan mutual fund?

    1. 1) Whatever SIP value is, ICICI direct charges Rs 33 per SIP transaction 2) Direct plans are those where you directly approach mutual fund house and do KYC and invest in them. These are named with same fund name, but at end you would see “Direct”. Returns would be higher for such direct funds as they do not pay trial fees to brokers (in your case ICICI direct). Crisil does not rank direct plans as they are already ranking regular plans

  3. This pertains to HDFC Prudence Fund – Direct & Regular Plan (Equity). The Direct & Regular Fund is handled by same Fund Manager, has same underline (quality), except AMU differ due to inception under Regular is Feb 1, 1994 and under Direct is Jan 1, 2013. Prudence Fund on Feb 27, 2013 declared dividend per unit of 3% for both plans. However, on Feb 26, 2014 declared dividend per unit of 3% under Regular Plan and 1.25% under Direct Plan. Thus a very big impact in returns. The query is why such big difference in returns? Does it imply that one should switch to Regular and make future investments in Regular plan? Please reply & guide. Thanks. Shah ([email protected]

  4. Hi Suresh

    I have checked it from I understand I have to pay 1.5% or Rs 30/(whichever is lower) per transaction as transaction fees for SIP.

    1.Is there any tax applicable on purchasing of mutul fund units other than transaction fees(like service tax or charge)??.

    2. is there any transaction charge for redemption of MF units ??(excluding the exit load)

    3. Do I have to pay transaction charge separely for each mutul fund scheme or cumulatively?

    Like- If i start 3 SIPs of 1000/ each.Do I have to pay 15/ (1.5% of 1000) for each scheme i.e total 45/ or I have to pay 30/ (as 30/ is lower than 1.5% of 3000)??

    4.What you have said 33/ per 1000/ SIP,if at all I have understood it correctly,probably is the net saving over Old entry load(which was 2.5% of SIP) or including both transaction & service charge.

    source of info

    1. Priyajit 1) No. I am doing regular SIP’s thru ICICIdirect, my SIP amount of RS 5,000 I need to pay Rs 5,033 (incl taxes). 2) I think similar charges would be there when you redeem 3) I thnk I answered this in point no.1

        1. Hi Suresh

          I consulted with the relationship manager…what she says

          1.Transaction charge(tc): 1.5% or Rs 30 whichever is lower per transaction of a single scheme plus service tax of 12.36% of transaction charge.ex ; 1000/ SIP for a perticular scheme:tc 15/ +  1.68/(i.e 12.36% of  Rs15)=16.68/

          2.TC: for SIP 2000 or more for a particular scheme is rs 30/ + 3.2(12.36% of 30)=33

          3. TC : 3 SIPs 1000/ each will have to pay 16.68/ per scheme..i.e total (16.68 * 3)=50

          Plz confirm

          1. Priyajit, I am not able to advice as there are transaction specific charges which ICICIdirect might be charging. I have seen Rs 33 as charges for Rs 5,000 SIP investment. 

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