Current accounts are called over v’shav in Hebrew and are used for bill pay, money transfers and everyday transactions. Savings accounts can have fixed or variable rates. Depending on your account and your interest rates, you may have restricted access to the currency in a savings account.
To open a bank account as new immigrant or foreign resident, you must bring your resident identification card (teudat zehut), passport or visa. Banks require a small fee to open the account and an initial deposit (100 shekels is enough). To make the process quicker and establish better credit with your bank, bring recent statements from other bank accounts.
You will typically receive a debit card when you open an account which can be used at ATM machines (caspomat) throughout Israel. Many banks will charge a monthly service fee instead of charging every transaction made with a debit card. As a result, Israelis typically use debit cards for most purchases and payments.
Banks like Leumi or Discount Bank of Israel will give you a credit card if you have a significant initial deposit (more than 2,500 shekels). These cards are for use in Israel only. You must apply for an international credit card and pay additional fees if you use it abroad.
Banks in Israel do not generally give you cheques upon opening your account. You may apply for cheques after you have held your account for three months. Depending on the bank and which services you have, the bank may charge you for chequebooks.
Foreign currency accounts
If you want to retain some of your money in its current currency but have it in Israel, you can open a foreign currency account. Most Israeli banks will allow you to open savings and current accounts in a foreign currency. You are permitted to purchase shekels using your foreign currency at the current exchange rate. Banks charge a small service fee for every transaction and for purchasing shekels with your foreign currency.
To save receive higher interest rates on your savings, you can lock your account. Locking the account for a set period of time means that your account will earn a rate of interest for a fixed period of time. You will not be able to access the money in your account during this time (unless you want to pay large fees).
The Bank of Israel insures all deposits in a given bank, and they will cover deposits if that bank becomes insolvent. Otherwise, there is no state-funded bank insurance. Ask your banker about the additional insurances they offer.