Something that should be on your list of things to do when settling in, although not urgent, is opening up a bank account. On this page, I explain why it’s important to have an Israel bank account and what you should know before beginning the process.
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 Checks that say on it למוטב בלבד cannot be cashed and must first be deposited and then withdrawn.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 non resident 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 banks 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 with instead of going into the bank.
There isn’t a great deal of difference between the different banks in Israel, and most people just go with the bank that has a branch closest to their home.
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. Here is a link to Chaim V’Chessed’s website, which states exactly what you need to bring in order to open an account. https://chaimvchessed.com/navigation-guides/legal-financial/