Bring along a travel card with no foreign transaction fees and decline DCC to avoid extra charges.
When traveling 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 and Discover cards. But even with the last two, you shouldn’t find it hard to locate an ATM that accepts them, especially in the larger cities.
Some places accept US dollars, but it’s usually good to have some local currency on hand. You can exchange dollars to local currency at ATMs, the airport or in cities. Note that airports typically have poor exchange rates.
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If your credit card already comes with no foreign transaction fees, you’re good to go! Otherwise, consider getting a second card to use when traveling abroad that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees or an annual fee.
Potential credit card fees in Israel
When you travel in Israel, you may incur fees depending on your credit card and the currency you decide to pay in. These include:
- Foreign transaction fees. For every purchase you make in Israel, you could pay a fee of up to 3% of the transaction, depending on your card. This means, you’ll pay $30 in fees for $1,000 spent. To avoid this, get a credit card without foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. When you withdraw cash from an ATM or pay for goods and services, you may be asked whether you want to pay in your home currency. This is called a dynamic currency conversion (DCC), and it can have hidden fees and a poor exchange rate. It’s more cost effective to pay in the local currency instead of using DCC.
Can I avoid incurring both fees?
Yes. Choose a card that has no foreign transaction fees and decline DCC if offered to avoid paying these fees.
Are American Express and Discover 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.
Discover cards are also accepted where you see the Diners Club International and Discover logos. If you need cash, look for Bank Leumi and Israel Discount Bank ATMs.
Even though Amex and Discover can be used, Visa and Mastercard are more universally accepted in Israel.
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.
Should I use my credit card to get cash in Israel?
You’ll likely pay a cash advance fee for each ATM cash withdrawal, which for some cards can be up to 5% of the transaction. This means you’ll pay a $25 fee for a $500 cash withdrawal. Most cards also have a high cash advance APR. Because of this, you might want to look into a debit card, since they usually don’t have a cash advance fee.
ATMs in Israel are called kaspomats. Those that accept foreign cards are labeled 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 an ATM, try another one.
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.
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.
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 and Discover cards aren’t as popular, they are accepted — especially in the larger cities.
- Get a backup 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 that 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.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Israel, so you shouldn’t have a problem paying with plastic in most places. To avoid paying fees, look into getting a travel card without foreign transaction fees — and, if possible, bring a backup card along. Make sure to also use ATMs that belong to banks to avoid the higher fees that privately owned ATMs typically charge.