The bank system in Israel is very different than the system in the United States in general. The first thing is that banks charge you for EVERYTHING. And they charge more for going to a teller vs. doing things at an ATM. And ATMs are different also—they’re not all-in-one. Accounts usually do not earn much interest, and they have a lot of extra charges. Although there are branches of the same bank all over the country, you can only do many transactions at YOUR bank, meaning the branch you opened your account in—yes, really.
*Note: when I talk about fees and charges, they are about my bank specifically; I don’t know what the other banks charge, but based on what others have said, it seems like they pretty much have approximately the same fees.*
There are two kinds of machines outside at the bank—one for money and one for information. The one for money only does transactions—you can’t check your balance, etc. The information one allows you to check your balance and print your statement, get a new password, etc. Also, you get a PIN number assigned to you and you can’t change it. Kind of annoying.
Israeli Bank Accounts
There are checking accounts and savings accounts, but as far as I understand, accounts don’t earn much interest here so it’s not so worth it to open a savings account as well. I only have a checking account, and I haven’t even attempted to open a savings account. When I opened my account, I opened it as an oleh chadash account, which means (at least in my bank) that they charge you half-fees for the first year within your aliyah. Other banks do different things for olim. There are also student and soldier accounts (being a student at ulpan does not entitle you to a student account) which also have different fees.
Israeli Banking Fees
Banks here charge you for EVERYTHING. First of all, there’s an account maintenance fee which varies with the bank, type of account, etc., and included in this are a certain number of transactions. An example using made-up and easy-to-figure numbers (but the fees are random numbers like 3.68 or 7.28 or something else odd): Your monthly account maintenance fee is 15 shekels per month. ATM fees are 3 shekels per transaction, deposit/withdrawal fees (including hora’at keva (see previous article about hora’at keva and tashlumim), paying for something with your ATM card (which is a debit card only, not a credit card) is 3 shekels per transaction (but if you use the ATM to make a deposit/withdrawal it’s one fee), transactions at tellers are 5 shekels. If you make 3 ATM transactions, 2 hora’at keva payments, and 1 teller transaction, that’s 9 shekels for the ATM transactions, 6 shekels for the hora’at keva payments, and 5 shekels for the teller transaction, which adds up to 20 shekels. The first 15 shekels cost was included in your account maintenance, so the bank takes out just the 5 shekels more. It’s ridiculous. What many people do is get a credit card (which usually has a small fee) and have hora’at keva payments put on that and use that card for purchases. That gets withdrawn once a month—so only one fee instead of each one individually.
Your Bank in Israel
You open an account at the Rechov X Branch of Bank Y. Bank Y has branches all over the country and you can use any ATM, but if you need to do certain things, like change your account details, type, add a person to the account, order checks, etc., you need to go to the Rechov X Branch. It doesn’t matter that you moved out of the city five years ago or whatever…if you want to close the account and open another, fine. But you can’t do every transaction at any branch of the bank. So…open it in a central location. Best advice I got about the banks.