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Banking in Israel

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Israel’s modern and high-performing banking system compares favourably to those of Western countries and will give you access to quality financial services. Opening a bank account without holding resident status can nevertheless prove a thorn in your side if you are living in Israel. Here are a few pieces of information you may find useful.

The banking system in Israel

Israel’s pool of banks is comprised of commercial banks, investment and development banks, and co-operative credit institutions, all under the supervision of the national Central Bank.

The Israeli Central Bank also manages the national currency, the Israeli new shekel (NIS), worth about 0.25 euros as of 2017, and divided into 100 agora.

The national financial system is overall sophisticated and well-run, with good risk management. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) was founded back in 1953.

Israel’s main commercial banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot. They operate branches and own ATMs across the whole country. Most financial institution offer online banking services, often with an English version.

You may initially have to use your foreign card. The good news is that international credit cards are widely accepted in Israel. You should still make sure to check the fees charged for ATM withdrawals and payments in Israel before moving. Many banks charge a flat, fixed fee on each international transactions, thus some foreigners find it best to take out money in bulk in order to get charged only once.

Opening a bank account in Israel as a resident

In order to open a bank account, just walk in the nearest branch of your chosen banking institution with:

  • a valid Israeli ID
  • another identification document such as a social security card or a driver's licence

By default, you will get a NIS account, but you can also ask for a foreign currency-compatible account. Conditions and requirements to procure a cheque book, a debit card and a credit card vary from one institution to the other, contact your chosen bank to inquire about these or simply visit their website.

 Good to know:

A couple should preferably opt for a joint bank account, as benefits such as the maternity and child allowance can only be paid to the mother.

Opening a bank account in Israel as a non-resident

Temporary expats may be entitled to a non-resident account under certain conditions :

  • having their “center of life” (permanent home, family residence, workplace, economic interests, personal ties…) abroad
  • having spent less than 183 days in Israel during the current year, or less than 30 days in the current year, and less than a total of 425 days in the current and the two previous years.

A non-resident account offers a number of advantages, such as exemption of certain taxes and fees, and preferential interest rate on deposited amounts.

However, non-residents may encounter difficulties when attempting to open a bank account in Israel. Of late, many Israeli banks have raised barriers to foreign applicants, only dedicating a handful of branches to non-resident accounts management. You may need to look around to identify the closest bank branch granting accounts to non-residents in Israel.

 Useful links :

Bank Hapoalim
Israel Discount Bank
Bank Leumi
Mizrahi Tefahot

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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