Why should I open a bank account in Israel?
There are many different reasons why you should open a bank account in Israel, even if you only plan on being in Israel for a short period of time. From my experience, here are four reasons I feel why it is worthwhile to open an Israeli bank account:
- Deposit Israeli checks – The first reason to open a bank account is in order to deposit checks that you may receive for your Kollel stipend or your wife’s job. Checks that say on it למוטב בלבד cannot be cashed and must first be deposited and then withdrawn.
- Receive child benefits – Another reason to open a bank account is in order to receive Kitzvat Yeladim. Kitzvat Yeladim is a monthly stipend that you receive from Bituach Leumi (Israel’s national social security agency) per kid that you have. If you don’t have a bank account, you lose out on getting that money.
- Your own checkbook – The third reason to open an account is in order to have checks. Certain services, such as the Ramat Eshkol chicken and meat order, require you to provide a blank check with the order. You can borrow a check from your neighbor and pay him back, but it’s always nice to be independent.
- Israeli credit card – The final reason to have an Israeli bank account is in order to have an Israeli credit card. There are some stores and services that are not available with a foreign credit card. For example תשלומים, payment plans, are not always available with a foreign credit card. Similarly, some services which can be paid with הוראת קבע, recurring payments, are only available with Israeli credit cards. Therefore, even if you’re a big points guy and you want all of your spendings on your Chase Sapphire card, for some things it’s still worthwhile to have an Israeli credit card which is only possible with a bank account.
How to choose the best bank in Israel for you
There are two options for banking:
Israel Post Office Bank Account – The first option is to sign up with Bank Hadoar. Bank Hadoar is the post office. The post office in Israel is multipurpose and it can function as a bank account. Some people consider this to be the best bank in Israel for foreigners because it is simple for a non-resident to open a bank account at Bank Hadoar and it is lower cost. However, you are limited in functionality. I personally do not recommend this option.
Israel Banks – Although slightly more difficult for the foreigner, I recommend the other option which is to bank at a regular bank. While you can get a nonresident bank account in Israel, the big banks are often hesitant to open accounts for foreigners that will leave shortly thereafter. Therefore, I would recommend not saying that you’re planning on leaving soon. Rather, say that you are here for now and don’t know what will be in the future.
From my experience, I would say the main bank’s foreigners use are Mizrahi Tefahot (Orange), Bank Leumi (Blue), Bank Hapoalim (Red), and Mercantile Bank (Green). These banks give you full flexibility with ATM cards and credit cards. Additionally, they have apps that you can deposit checks instead of going into the bank.
For more detailed information on the different banks, see the article below.
How to Open A Bank Account in Israel
To open an account, you need to go with your spouse with your passports and student visas. Some banks may require you to sign up at the main bank as opposed to a branch. Be prepared for rejection and for it to take a long time. As with many aspects of life here, the Israel banking system requires a lot of paperwork. Your wrist will be in pain after you finish signing all their documents. Click here for Chaim V’Chessed’s website, which states exactly what you need to bring in order to open an account.
Banks in Israel
By Avigail Rasol | September 24, 2020
Banks and banking in Israel may be difficult to understand for international travelers and new olim. As Israel is a rather bureaucratic country, its banking system is similarly very bureaucratic and complicated. Choosing a bank can be difficult if one does not understand the differences between them. This article provides a guide to understanding Israel’s different banks, and a brief outline of important items to note about banking in Israel in general.
What are the important things to note before choosing a bank?
The importance of location
In Israel, unlike in the United States, your bank account is associated with a specific branch, your snif, with which you sign up when you register for your bank account. To complete any major transactions or make changes to your account, you must go to your specific branch. Therefore, it is important to keep this in mind when choosing a bank and when choosing which branch to sign up with. Though it is possible to change your branch later, doing so is a process in and of itself and it is easiest to simply select your preferred location from the start. Location may therefore play a role in choosing a bank, as some banks have snifim closer to your home. Additionally, some banks are much more widespread and have a greater amount of branches throughout the country, thereby making them more easily accessible. If this is a factor, then you should go with a more major bank, some of those being Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim.
Some banks are better and some are worse at being accessible for English speakers. While certain banks may have English phone apps available, others do not. Similarly so with the amount of English-speaking bankers in a given bank. Larger banks tend to have more English-speaking staff than smaller, more local ones.
Different banks differ in their services for non-citizens. This varies by bank, so it’s important to research a specific bank’s services, or lack thereof, for temporary residents, residents with visas, etc.
Different banks have different fees for transactions, human services, checkbooks, etc. The monthly fee refers to the minimum fee that the bank charges per month. It includes the transaction fee. In Israel, you are charged for every transaction from your account, including check, cash withdrawal, etc. This is the transaction fee. The teller fee is the fee that you are charged when you make a transaction via the teller, rather than through a bank machine. Banks also charge fees for depositing foreign currencies, making transfers, wiring money, maintenance of bank account, and checks, but these fees tend to vary less and are less significant in choosing a bank.
Banks also differ in their offerings for international transactions. Some banks charge much larger fees for international payments and transfers between bank accounts. Some banks also make it easier to directly deposit/transfer money from an international bank account into your Israeli bank account, and some don’t accommodate this at all.
Banks are open and accessible at much weirder and more inconvenient hours than those banks in America. Most banks are open during daytime hours, and have one day a week when they are open during evening hours. If this is an important fact, you should check to see when your bank snif is open in the evenings, and choose accordingly.
What are the main banks to choose from in Israel?
Transaction fee: 1.35 NIS
Teller fee: 6.5 NIS
Monthly fee: 13 NIS
Bank Hapoalim is the largest Israeli bank and as such, is the most convenient in terms of branch and ATM offerings. It has over 600 ATMs and 250 bank branches. While its popularity means that there is a decent amount of customer service in English, there is no English app available, nor is there an English website. Hapoalim is known for ease and convenience, and it is relatively no-hassle to open an account. Bank Hapoalim offers reasonable discounts and deals to students, making it an ideal option for that population.
Ramot Mall – Golda Meir 801
King George – 16 King George
Ramat Eshkol – 13 Paran St.
Talpiot – 101 Derech Hevron (in Tzomet Habankim)
Main phone number: +972 3-6532407
Transaction fee: 1.65 NIS
Teller fee: 5.5 NIS
Monthly fee: 11 NIS
Bank Leumi is the 3rd cheapest bank in the country. It is the second-largest bank in the country, with over 400 ATMs and 200 bank branches. Leumi is typically well accessible through phone/online chat, and has relatively decent customer service for Israel. There tend to be English-speaking staff at almost every branch, and there is an English phone app available as well.
Ramat Eshkol – 15 Paran St.
Talpiot – Derech Hevron 101 (in Tzomet Habankim)
Ramot – Golda Meir 1 (Ramot Mall)
King George – King George 22
Emek Refaim – Emek Refaim 4
Main phone number: +972 3-9545522
Transaction fee: 2 NIS
Teller fee: 5.9 NIS
Monthly fee: 11.8 NIS
Discount Bank is Israel’s third largest bank. It is the only bank that will accept customers that only have a passport and not a Teudat Zehut (Israeli identification card, similar to one’s Social Security number in America). Discount Bank also has many English-friendly services, as well as an English website, but does not have an English app. Discount is known for having special account offers and discounts for young people, soldiers, and other special groups, and offers deal for new joiners.
Jerusalem center – Yafo 103
Ramat Eshkol – 9 Paran St
Talpiot – HaUman 17
Main phone number: +972-35146355
Bank Mizrahi Tefahot
Transaction fee: 1.76 NIS
Teller fee: 6.8 NIS
Monthly fee: 13.6 NIS
Bank Mizrahi Tefahot is known for its convenient customer service both online/by phone and in person. It is the best bank in terms of mortgage lending, which is important to note if you are considering buying property in Israel.
Transaction fee: 2.5 NIS
Teller fee: 6.5 NIS
Monthly fee: 13 NIS
First International (FIBI) Bank specializes in business accounts and premium accounts for high-net-worth customers. It is known for its specialty in private banking options. FIBI allows you to transfer foreign currency to accounts in Israel and around the world easily and quickly, making it ideal for customers engaging in more international/foreign transactions. There are private, business, and platinum plans available.
These are not all of the banks available in Israel. Rather, they are the the biggest and most central ones, making them the most accessible to olim and internationals both in terms of English capabilities and in terms of international capabilities. These are also mostly banks that allow non-citizens to open accounts, whereas smaller banks do not always offer this option. With further questions on banks not listed, please reach out to the author.