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Israel - Banking

If you are living and working in Israel then a bank account makes life easier, particularly as all expat workers are now allowed to open an account, and not just Israeli citizens. Most banks that accept foreign nationals as account holders will ask for a deposit, but the Israeli post office runs a Postal Bank which allows an account to be opened with no funds in advance.

Expats should note that most banks in the main cities have English speaking staff, as this language is widely spoken, although branches in more rural areas may only have staff that speak Hebrew. There are several Israeli banks to choose from, such as the Arab-Israel Bank, Bank of Jerusalem, First International Bank of Israel and the Union Bank of Israel, but there are also foreign banks that have branches in the country. These include Barclays, HSBC and Citibank.

Most of these banks will offer very similar services. They will have telephone and online banking facilities and many of these services will be available in English. Banks can also provide all paperwork in English if required. Israeli law states that all bank statements have to be kept for a minimum of seven years. Cheques are normally issued with current accounts, although regularly writing bad cheques can lead to the account holder being blacklisted by the banks. In Israel it is also possible to deposit a post dated cheque for the bank to process on the specified date. Cheques and debit cards usually incur a fee for use although fees will vary considerably. It is a good idea to shop around before deciding on one particular bank.

Credit facilities are usually available, though some banks may offer them automatically and some may need the client to request them. There is a usually a small charge made for overdraft facilities and this will vary from bank to bank. There are two types of credit card in Israel. One is for using within the country itself and the other is for international transactions that may be in another currency. Credit cards are normally only issued to those who have lived and worked in the country for several months and the requirement is that all funds used are paid back the following month with no spreading of payments. Debit cards are standard issue to current account holders and most banks have an ATM located outside to give the user 24 hour access to their funds. There are daily limits placed on withdrawals, though these will vary between banks.

There are several types of accounts available. The most widely used is the current account, although unlike most other countries, these will offer a small interest rate. Savings accounts are similar to those in other countries, with different rates of interest depending upon the type of account. There are also fixed term accounts which lock the money away for a fixed period of time and usually give the account holder little or no access to it.

Accounts can also be opened in currencies other than the Israel Shekel, including the American dollar and British pound. These accounts are a good idea if you have funds being sent from abroad in other currencies, but charges will be made if you are carrying out transactions in the Israeli Shekel.

Opening an account is not a complicated process. Foreign nationals will need to show their passport for identification purposes. Other documentation required will vary, but items such as references from employers and your bank at home as well as copies of statements, will help with the application process. Some expats may find it beneficial to open an account before they arrive in the country with one of the international foreign banks.

It is advisable for expats to get to know their bank manager, as some regulations on banking in Israel are fairly strict, but managers are able to be flexible if they are made aware of special requirements in advance.

In the cities the bank opening hours will vary depending upon the bank, but most are open Sunday to Friday in the mornings from 8.30 am to 12.30pm, and from Monday to Thursday in the afternoons from 4pm to 5pm. In smaller towns banks may not follow the same pattern and opening hours are likely to be reduced.

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