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Using a credit card in Israel
Travelling to Israel? Bring along a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees and decline DCC to avoid extra charges.
When travelling around Israel, you won’t have any issues paying with a credit card. You’ll find Mastercard and Visa to be more widely accepted than American Express, but even so, you shouldn’t find it hard to locate ATMs that accept all card networks, especially in the larger cities.
It’s a good idea to carry at least some cash on you at all times since smaller businesses may be cash-based only. While the local currency is the Israeli new shekel, some places accept US dollars as well – but it’s better to have local currency on hand as you’ll get a better exchange rate.
Compare credit cards for use in Israel
What credit cards can I use in Israel?
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely used cards, although a fair number of merchants accept American Express cards. If your PIN is longer than four digits, it may not be accepted. Although you should avoid using your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM, you can use Bank Hapoalim ATMs to withdraw cash using your Amex card. Most brands of ATMs work for Visa and Mastercard withdrawals.
Potential credit card fees in Israel
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued by Canadian banks come with foreign transaction fees. Sitting around 2.5% of the total transaction cost, you’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees in Canada.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Israeli shekels with your credit card, always choose the local currency. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Pay in the local currency and let your bank do the conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that’s a member of an international ATM alliance, such as Scotiabank.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Skirt around the high cash advance APR by using your debit card (instead of your credit card) to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To avoid ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
ATMs in Israel
ATMs in Israel are called kaspomats. Be sure to use ATMs that belong to banks to avoid the higher fees that privately owned ATMs typically charge. ATMs that accept foreign cards are labelled in English. Some will display English by default as soon as you put in your card, while others will display the option to change or choose the language. If your card isn’t accepted by an ATM, try another one.
You can exchange either US or Canadian dollars to local currency at the airport or at foreign exchange kiosks. Note that airports typically have poor exchange rates.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, use your debit card.
Watch out for old banknotes that are worthless
Sometimes, if you exchange dollars to shekels with less-than-scrupulous street-market vendors, you may get old banknotes that are worthless. To avoid this, make sure the banknotes have the words “new shekels” written in English. Keep in mind that you also shouldn’t accept banknotes in poor condition, as they may not be accepted elsewhere when you try to pay.
Do taxis in Israel accept credit cards?
In general, they don’t. However, Android and iOs users can download the Gett app and use it to pay for a ride with a card rather than cash.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Israel?
Although using your credit card in Israel is generally safe, you’ll need to exercise the same level of caution as you would in Canada.
- Protect your PIN. Don’t write your PIN down anywhere. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and snooping eyes.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found in banks, shopping centres and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts. As mentioned above, use bank branded ATMs to avoid high fees.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft are relatively common in some areas. Take extra care when venturing out after dark.
How to prepare before travelling to Israel
- Carry at least two cards. Ideally, take at least two credit cards with you, with at least one being a Visa or Mastercard. That way, you can avoid being left without money if your primary credit card is lost or stolen, or your Amex isn’t accepted.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank of your trip. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in Israel, it will have a good reason to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans in advance – no matter your destination.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. You’ll need to carry at least some cash on you at all times. Find out which ATMs allow you to withdraw funds and use your debit card to avoid the cash advance interest rate.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for Israel:
- Which cards should I take? Carry at least one Mastercard or Visa card and have at least two credit cards with you.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with the possibility of a blocked card, inform your bank before you head overseas.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Where will I get money from? Avoid using your credit card at an ATM, instead withdraw using your debit card. You can also consider converting Canadian or US dollars to shekels (ILS) or cash in travellers cheques.
Using a credit card in …
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