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:
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
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
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.
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.
Get a back-up card. Keep it in your hotel room safe, just in case you lose your primary card.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Israel’s currency is the shekel. Its code is ILS and its currency symbol is ₪. Aside from ₪, you may also see it expressed as S or NS.
If you withdraw cash from an ATM, you’ll get banknotes of 20, 50, 100 or 200. Banknotes of 50 and 100 are most common in Israel. Small stores don’t like to take 200 bills because they may not always have the change to break them.
You can also pay with US dollars, especially in popular tourist spots. However, the exchange rate you get may not be as favourable as if you paid in shekels.
Historical rate chart of GBP and ILS
Updated: 14 Apr 2021 13:21:40 UTC
The largest banks in Israel are:
First International Bank
You can also find these international banks in Israel:
BNP Paribas Israel
If your bank has a partnership with any of these institutions, you may be able to avoid fees on ATM cash withdrawals.
Chris Lilly is a publisher at finder.com. He's a specialist in credit-based products including business and personal loans, mortgages and credit cards, and is passionate about helping UK consumers make informed decisions about their borrowing. In his spare time Chris likes forcing his kids to exercise more.
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