Banks - A General Guide
Sarah Sacks
Dec-13th, 2016 12:21
Opening a Bank Account

Opening a bank account in Israel might involve lots of paperwork and endless signatures, but having one can be important. Besides its everyday convenience, many government funds, payments or refunds are processed exclusively through bank accounts, including reimbursements from kupat cholim and money from Bituach Leumi. Once you open one, you will be glad you did.

In order to open a checking account, you will need either a foreign passport with a valid visa or an Israeli ID card (teudat zehut). Almost all banks require two forms of photo I.D. for foreigners. Some banks also require supporting documents, like a driver’s license, credit card, or birth certificate; previous bank account records; U.S. Social Security number or British National Insurance number, if applicable; and three tlushei maskoret (records of salary payment) if you are working.

As of now, it has become increasingly difficult for foreigners to open bank accounts in Israel due to IRS regulations. Chaim V’Chessed is currently working to effect change in this area. For guidance, please contact Chaim V’Chessed.

Account Options

  • It is possible to open either a shekel or foreign currency account. Additionally, many shekel accounts allow you to deposit foreign currency into them, though you will only be able to withdraw the funds in shekels.
  • Most banks charge a monthly service fee in addition to individual transaction fees. There are other accounts that charge a flat fee per month, which includes unlimited transactions.
  • Ask whether there are special offers for those opening a new account; very often there are.
  • Inquire about specials for students (no monthly payments, discounted or free transactions). Many banks offer this with an ishur from your yeshiva.
  • It's a good idea to set up a phone/fax agreement at your bank. This will allow you to call or fax in transaction requests without having to be present at the bank. Many banks also offer online services.

Bank HaDoar

Bank HaDoar (Post Office Bank) is a low-cost alternative to a bank account. The fees of standard bank accounts can be costly. The post office offers some basic banking services, like foreign currency transfers and transfers to other banks, at discounted rates. Although there is no monthly maintenance fee, the transaction fees and limited services (as compared to other banks) might make this option less worthwhile.

Bank HaDoar charges minimal fees for most transactions. To order checkbooks, you must either have had an account for six months that currently contains at least 1,000 shekels, or receive a steady income that is directly deposited into your account each month. Cashing these checks at the post office costs about 2 NIS. Check clearing through Bank HaDoar takes seven days, which can be a tremendous drawback. Money can only be withdrawn from your branch with proof of ID, for a fee of about 5 NIS. There is a fee charged for an account that is inactive for six months. Bank HaDoar does not have a savings account option and they do not pay interest on accounts. Additionally, there is no overdraft; if your account is even one shekel too low, your checks will bounce.

To open a checking account in Bank HaDoar, you need to bring both the original and a copy of your teudat zehut or passport to a post office that offers this service. Only people age 18 years or older may open accounts in Bank HaDoar. You will be asked to fill out a form requesting a new account and you will then receive a bank account number. To open a joint account, both spouses must be present. If you have a restricted or foreclosed account at a different bank, you will not be able to open an account. For a monthly fee, Bank HaDoar offers a debit card that can be used to pay for purchases at stores and to withdraw money from bank machines.

24 Hour Automated Banking and Customer Service (with an easy-to-use English menu)

This service allows you to check your balance, review transactions or get information about services.

Telephone: 02-500-5303

Fax: 02-500-5300

Customer Service Hours

Sunday‒Thursday: 8:00 am‒6:00 pm

Friday and Erev Yom Tov: 8:00 am‒12:00 pm

ATM Cards

In Hebrew, an ATM is called a Kaspomat or Snifomat. ATM cards are generally offered when opening a bank account. You can withdraw money from any ATM machine in the country at a minimal charge. You can also use a foreign bank card to withdraw shekels from an Israeli ATM, but in this case there is usually a charge from both the foreign bank and the Israeli bank.

Cashing Foreign Checks

You can deposit foreign currency checks into your Israeli account and hold it in that currency until needed. There is a fee for a foreign currency deposit. It can take up to four weeks for the check to clear and the funds to be available. Funds can only be withdrawn in cash as shekels. There is a 1‒2% charge on withdrawing the foreign currency in cash. You can also cash foreign currency checks through a money changer.

Currency Conversion

The benchmark exchange rate is called the shaar hayatzig, which is set daily by the Bank of Israel. This rate is in between the buying and selling rate of the foreign currency. You can find out the exact rate on the minute by calling the Exchange Rate Hotline at 03-912-5777 (English) or 02-373-2000 (Hebrew). The banks convert currency at a lower rate than the one posted daily. They also charge commission fees for all conversion transactions. It is better to convert larger amounts at one time to avoid bank charges. Money changers usually convert currency at 0.5%‒1.5% off the shaar hayatzig, which is sometimes significantly better than bank rates.

Wire Transfers

Wire transfers are the most efficient and economical way of transferring large sums of money from abroad into an Israeli account. You can make wire transfers from abroad directly to your bank account. Money changers often offer better transfer rates than banks do.

Paying Bills

Your water, telephone, gas and electric bills, among others, can be paid in person at the bank for a nominal fee. You can also set up hora’at keva, automatic payments to be paid through your bank account. There may be a one-time charge for initiating this service. See Bills for more information.

Money Changers

The bigger foreign exchange companies offer many of the same services as banks, including check cashing and wire transfers. As mentioned above, they can save you substantial amounts of money in many instances, particularly when transferring or changing larger amounts; i.e. when buying an apartment or car. It is important to use only reputable companies.

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