Using a credit card in Israel

Bring along a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees and decline "dynamic currency conversion" to avoid extra charges.

Updated

When travelling around Israel, you won’t have an issue paying with a credit card. You’ll find Mastercard and Visa to be more widely accepted than American Express cards. But you shouldn’t find it hard to locate an ATM that accepts Amex, especially in the larger cities.

There are a few potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic:

  • Foreign transaction fees. A non-sterling fee of around 3% per transaction can apply, depending on your credit card. That’s £30 in fees for every £1,000 spent with your card.
  • Merchant currency conversion fees. Sometimes, a merchant will offer to take payment in pounds instead of in shekels. This is known as a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) and often comes with higher fees than if you paid in the local currency.
  • Cash advance fees. Your card issuer may charge a fee for cash advances (withdrawing cash using your credit card). Cash machine providers sometimes charge a fee too.
  • ATM fees. The provider of a cash machine may charge a fee if you withdraw cash using your card.

It’s also worth noting that when it comes to cash advances and non-sterling transactions, card issuers will often start charging interest on the day your account is debited, rather than the customary “up to 55 days interest-free” that applies when you clear your balance in full each month.

Cash machines in Israel are called kaspomats. Those 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 have the option to change the language. If your card isn’t accepted by a cash machine, try another one.

Here’s a section of a fairly typical T&Cs document showing the charges applicable when spending abroad:

section of credit card summary box document

How can I avoid the fees?

Consider taking out a credit card offering commission-free currency conversion (see table below), even if you only use it when you’re out of the country. Once you have one of these cards, if a merchant offers to take payment in pounds, say you’re happy to pay in shekels, since you know your own bank won’t charge you for the privilege.

Generally speaking it’s not a great idea to use a credit card to withdraw cash, but some travel credit cards won’t penalise you for this either. Finally, make sure to check whether the ATM you use is going to charge a fee. Bank ATMs are generally a safer bet than those in convenience stores or bars.

Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Israel

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Credit limits Rep. APR Incentive Link
The Royal Bank Credit Card
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
9.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
Ulster Bank Credit Card Mastercard
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £400, max. limit not specified.
9.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
The NatWest Credit Card
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
9.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
Santander Zero Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 12 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
18.9% (variable)
Retailer offers - 5 Welcome offers of up to 25% cashback at well-known retailers (must switch on Retailer Offers within 60 days of activating card).
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
Halifax Clarity Credit Card Mastercard
19.95%
£0
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Nationwide Member Credit Card Balance Transfer Offer
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £15,000.
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Nationwide Member Credit Card All Rounder Offer
0% for 15 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £15,000.
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Santander All in One Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 26 months reverting to 15.9%
£3 per month
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
21.7% (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 15.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 21.7% APR (variable).
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Compare up to 4 providers

Are American Express cards accepted in Israel?

American Express cards are accepted in Israel. You can use Bank Hapoalim ATMs if you want to withdraw cash with your Amex card. Even though Amex can be used, Visa and Mastercard are more universally accepted in Israel.

Chip-and-PIN credit cards

In Israel, chip cards are widely accepted. Some will require a PIN, others will not. Know that if your PIN is longer than four digits, it may not be accepted.

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?

Yes, it’s safe to use your card in Israel. However, for added security, we suggest following a few precautions:

  • Use an ATM within a bank. ATMs that belong to a bank generally don’t have any fees, whereas privately owned ATMs do.
  • Take two credit cards. This can be handy in case you lose one of your cards somehow. You can keep your reserve card in your hotel safe and only take it out in case of emergency.
  • Keep your card in sight. Although it’s rare in Israel, card cloning can happen. To prevent this, always keep an eye on your card.

How to prepare before traveling to Israel

  1. Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. By doing so, you can keep your hard-earned cash in your pocket instead of getting dinged with a charge every time you make a purchase.
  2. Opt for a Mastercard or Visa. They’re more widely accepted in Israel. While American Express cards aren’t as popular, they are accepted, especially in the larger cities.
  3. Get a back-up card. Keep it in your hotel room safe, just in case you lose your primary card.
  4. Take some cash. Avoid exchanging currency at the airport, but if you have to, only exchange small amounts to pay for the ride to your hotel. Also, remember that US dollars are accepted in most popular tourist spots.
  5. Inform your bank you’re traveling to Israel. Your bank may consider foreign transactions to be fraudulent and block your card if it’s unaware you’ll be out of the country. You can also ask your bank if it has any partner banks in Israel to cut down on ATM fees.
  6. Keep your bank’s phone number on hand. Call your bank if you happen to lose your card or if you have any questions.

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.

Bottom line

Credit cards are widely accepted in Israel, so you shouldn’t have a problem paying with plastic in most places. Just be careful to not incur fees that you can otherwise avoid. With a decent travel credit card, you’ll avoid paying foreign transaction fees. By simply declining the DCC when offered, you’ll also avoid a poor exchange rate or a commission.

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