Israel has a highly sophisticated banking system. The Bank of Israel is the government's central bank, and it issues currency and regulates banking policy.
Bank Leumi, the Israel Discount Bank, and Bank Hapaolim are the top providers of private banking services. Large international banks, such as Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and PNB-Paribas also have establishments in Israel. Their branches are located in large cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Additionally, many foreign banks partner with Israeli banks. In most cases, opening an Israeli account with these partner banks requires less paperwork than with a normal Israeli bank.
Every month, your Israeli bank sends you an account statement. If you do not speak Hebrew, ask for these statements in English. Israeli law requires you to keep these statements and all banking receipts for seven years. This is useful if the bank makes an error or if you need to show a bank statement to purchase a car or home.
Opening a bank account is essential if you receive a salary, insurance payments or are enlisted in the Israel Defence Force (IDF). Payments will be transferred directly to your bank account.
Israel is no exception when it comes to inconvenient banking hours. Banks are open Sunday through Friday mornings from 0830h to 1200h. They offer additional hours Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 1600h to 1800h. For convenience, choose a bank near your home or your work.
Telephone banking has longer customer service hours than typical banks. Online banking allows customers 24-hour access and offers transactions like deposits, transfers and bill pay.
Finding a bank
Banks will typically charge a small fee for every transaction you make - whether you are at the bank, on the telephone or online. When choosing a bank, be aware of what banks offer. Larger banks give you lower interest rates on savings accounts but have more locations throughout Israel. Smaller banks offer higher interest rates and may be friendlier, although they may have fewer locations.
Consult your bank about the fees they charge you, and ask them if they will adjust their services to fit your needs. Banks compete for customers, and you should be able to get the most necessary services at low fees.
If you are not satisfied with a bank, banks allow you to transfer your accounts. Banks only charge minimal fees for theses transferrals, but you must change things such as chequebooks, credit cards and automated bill payments.
Banks offer specialised bank accounts and services to foreign Israeli residents that are not Israeli citizens. These include (but are not limited to) mutual funds, trust funds and educational accounts. For these types of accounts, speak with your Israeli banker.