The Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are at the centre of one of the most complicated political conflicts that exist today. Currently, there is an increased risk of instability in the region as there have been mass protests on the Gazan side of the Gaza/Israel perimeter fence on a regular basis since March 2018.
These protests may continue for some time. There is a risk of increased tension at checkpoints in and around the West Bank and Gaza during this period. The UK government advises travellers to avoid demonstrations, follow instructions of local authorities and keep up to date with local media and travel reports.
Despite the political volatility, there are ways to send money to the West Bank and Gaza. The Oslo Accords state that there are three currencies which are legal tender in the Gaza Strip: the Israeli shekel, the Jordanian dinar and the US dollar. Because the West Bank and Gaza have three different legal currencies, you might have found yourself overwhelmed by which you should send to your loved one. Fortunately, there are multiple money transfer companies and banks that can exchange British pounds to Israeli shekels or Jordanian dinars.
Case study: Banks vs. money transfer companies
Elyas Hamati moved to the UK alone, while his parents and wife continue living in the West Bank. He found a job almost as soon as he arrived, because a relative had arranged one for him in advance. Because his family back home depended on him financially, he had to start sending money to them quickly. To begin, he figured he could send them around £1,000 every few months.
While Elyas could use the bank he had an account with for the transfer, he felt he might get a better deal if he weighed his options. He took to the internet and this is what he found.
Money transfer service
£1 = 4.466 ILS
£1 = 4.791 ILS
Amount received for £1,000
Up to 4 days
Not only did his bank charge a fee for the transfer, it also provided him with an unfavourable exchange rate, which is why Elyas decided to go with the money transfer company. The money transfer company also got the money to his wife sooner than the bank.
How do I compare transfer companies when transferring and receiving money through the West Bank and Gaza?
When you’re sending money to the West Bank or Gaza from the UK, several aspects require your attention.
Exchange rate and fees. Pay attention to both these factors before initiating a transfer. This is because a company that doesn’t charge a fee might not offer a competitive exchange rate. On the other hand, a highly favourable rate might come with inflated fees. Comparing how much money the recipient stands to receive should give you a clear picture of which deal is better.
Ways to send money. If you’re sending money through a bank, you may be able to do so at a branch, over the phone or online. Some money transfer companies operate out of physical locations that you can visit to send money in person. Several companies operate in the online world. Some offer their services over the phone as well.
Ways to receive money. The recipient can receive money directly into their bank account. To make the transfer you’ll need the recipient’s bank account details. Another option is to collect the transferred money by visiting a cash pickup centre.
Transfer methods. If you plan to send money periodically, you can consider dealing with a business that lets you schedule regular payments, as this would save you time. If you’re hoping to benefit through fluctuations in the foreign exchange market, you can work with businesses that offer limit orders and forward contracts. Forward contracts allow you to lock in an ideal exchange rate now and transfer the money later. Limit orders allow you to take advantage of changing market conditions by executing the money transfer when a certain exchange rate is met.
Turnaround time. If the transfer involves the recipient collecting money from a cash pickup location, the transfer should go through almost instantly. When transferring money to a bank account, the time taken can vary significantly, depending on the service provide you choose. While some money transfer companies take as little as one day, some banks can take 10 days or more.
Minimum amount. Some banks and money transfer companies have minimum limits in place, which can be £250 or £500.
Customer service. You may wish to contact a company representative for different reasons. You should ideally be able to do so over the phone as well as via chat and email.
The exchange rate determines how much one country’s currency is worth in another currency. When a country’s currency is strong, it will yield more money when exchanging it in a country with a weak currency. For example, in December 2016, the pound was worth approximately 26 Mexican pesos. However, most countries’ exchange rates are flexible, which means it can change from moment to moment. Factors that influence the exchange rate include interest rates, economic stability and inflation.
How do I send money to the West Bank and Gaza from the UK?
You can send money to the West Bank and Gaza from the UK a number of different ways.
Banks. You can find banks in the UK that let you send money to the West Bank and Gaza. Depending on the bank you choose, you can initiate the process online, in person or over the phone. Bear in mind that the fees you have to pay and the turnaround time can vary from one bank to the next. You can also consider sending an international check, money order or draft via mail.
Non-banks. International money transfer companies such as Western Union have a physical presence in the UK as well as the West Bank and Gaza. You can use their services to transfer funds to bank accounts or to send money to a cash pickup center. Using the services of an online company such as PayPal is also an option.
Emergency cash transfers in the West Bank and Gaza
If you’re in the West Bank or Gaza and find your wallet missing, the first thing you should do is report your credit and debit cards as lost or stolen. Then you can think about getting some emergency money using different methods.
Cash pickup. The easiest way is to get a friend or family member to send you some money through a money transfer company. Start by identifying an easily accessible cash pickup location and pass the details on to the sender.
Credit card cash advance. If you have a Visa or MasterCard credit card, you can get an emergency cash advance. To get money this way you’ll have to visit a local participating bank.
Travel insurance. The right kind of travel insurance can be beneficial when you travel overseas. It can give you access to emergency money to deal with unexpected medical expenses, flight delays and cancelations as well as lost and misplaced baggage.
Tips for picking up cash in the West Bank and Gaza
The UK government advises citizens to think seriously about traveling to the West Bank and Gaza because of the high levels of risk in these regions. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Gaza, and advise travellers to exercise caution when travelling to the West Bank. There can be frequent power disruptions in the West Bank and Gaza, so don’t expect fund transfers to come through immediately. A risk of violent confrontation at checkpoints exists. Avoid traffic congestion at areas where options to leave are limited.
What are the steps to send money to the West Bank and Gaza?
When sending money to the West Bank or Gaza, the steps you have to follow and the information you have to provide depend on the method you choose.
Transfer to bank account. If you’re transferring funds using your own bank, you’ll have to provide the recipient’s name and account number along with the name of the bank and the bank’s routing number. If you’re sending money through a different business, you’ll have to provide details of your bank account, debit card or credit card as well. Remember that not all money transfer companies accept payments via credit cards. You can track the progress of your transfer using the reference number you get.
Cash pickup. If you’re sending cash from a physical location, you’ll have to provide the recipient’s name and a desired cash pickup location. In all other cases, you’ll have to provide your bank account, debit card or credit card details as well. Once you initiate the transfer, you will receive a reference number, which the recipient needs in order to collect the money.
How safe is a money transfer?
When processed through a reputable provider, your funds are safely tracked until in the hands of your recipient. When sending money internationally, government protections are in place that require banks, credit unions and money transfer companies to, for example, disclose all fees upfront and give you 30 minutes to cancel a transfer, assuming it hasn’t yet been picked up or deposited.
Charlie Barton is a publisher at Finder. He specialises in banking and investments products, including banking apps, current accounts, share-dealing platforms and stocks and shares ISAs. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics, and in his spare time enjoys long walks on the beach.
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