Subject: seeking advice on taking out cash in Israel
G-d willing, my son will be spending the next school year in Israel. I want to figure out the most convenient, cost effective way for him to have access to money. Apparently, there is a bank leumi with an atm machine not far from his yeshiva. I know many times there are fees charged each time you take money out of an atm in Israel. Bank of America told me it would be $5 for international atm withdrawals EACH TIME. I am sure many teaneckshuls readers have dealt with this issue. For those of you in the same situation, I will be happy to share my findings with TS.
Mon May 23, 2005
Subject: Here's the recap of what I learned about ATMs and Israel
Dear Teaneckshuls members,
Thank you for your great responses to my earlier request. Here is a recap of what I was told, as many of you requested I share my new knowledge. I would suggest that whatever you decide to do, confirm for yourself the fee policy.
There are a few issues that come up. One is fees. the other is that not all atm's will respond to all cards. We found that the best way was a joint account between a parent and the child with Lakeland bank on cedar lane, being very cooperative. We put money in here, and they were able to take money out. We also gave each kid a credit card and told them to use that as much as possible. they had mastercards. this paid for books, restaurants, household stuff they needed, etc. Believe it or not, it is important to be very clear about the rules of credit card use. We had to explain to our kids that they cannot lend the card out to others, and how credit cards work.
there is a bank of atm's right near lev yerusahalyim that take just about any card. most of the atms in the old city accept all cards also. har nof was pretty ok too. the gush was difficult
Many atm's in Israel can be used with an american bankcard that has a cirrus, plus, maestro, etc. logo,. (It seems this works better with checking accounts, rather than savings accounts.) The issue gets thorny if you are in an "out of the way" area. For example, I was able to use my cirrus connected citibank card in Givat Shaul (near MMY), and in the center of Jerusalem, but not in Baka, or the German colony, nor in the bank in Efrat. The group of ATM's in the Bank Hapoalim near Lev Yerushalayim take almost any bankcard.
One can open an Israeli checking account, and then use those bankcards, but there seem to be a lot of fees in this method.
It was suggested to us (by someone who did this and it worked) to open a checking account at Community Savings Bank (right here on cedar lane). there is a nominal minimum for the account, and few fees when using foreign atms.
We also gave our children a credit card, which they use for many of their purchases in Israel. This limited the amount of cash they needed and also allows us to see their purchases.
Another option would be to supply your child with traveler's checks, and encourage them to keep most of them in their school's safe, and remove them as needed.
If possible, try to send your child with 200 shekel to start with, so if they cannot figure out where the atm's are the first few days, at least they can buy a few basics without worrying. They should also know that most stores will be very happy to let you pay in dollars.
One more interesting point...many Israeli atm's don't have letters on their keypads, only numbers. If your password is a word, you may have a hard time figuring out the corresponding numbers, so memorize your
password as a number.
To use overseas ATM's you need to make sure your password is a 4 digit number. Call your bank to change it if necessary. Also, when buying goods in Israel using a credit card is a great idea, but when taking out cash from an ATM it is typically much cheaper to use a DEBIT card, since credit cards often charge fees & interest from day 1 for withdrawing cash. Also note that some Israeli ATMs will also give you American dollars w/o a surcharge.
Another idea: AMEX travelers cheques He can cash them at any bank. They are secure until he signs them, and most schools have a safe where he can store some, unsigned, until he needs them.
You can also open a small account for him with Bank Leumi in NYC (near the diamond district) - a safe way to watch/limit his spending.
I have been using my ATM issued by INTERCHANGE BANK for over a year without any problems at ATM machines in Haifa and in Jerusalem and for many years in Europe I am not aware of any onerous fees associated with these withdrawals. The Bank Card has the PLUS, NYCE and STAR ATM system logos on the back.
USAA account - checking only - Israeli ATMs don't recognize savings accounts!
citibankcard - works in Israel and I don't recall any exorbitant fee for withdrawal.. there was a 7.50 service charge for the month but I am not sure if that was just for withdrawals
My parents set up an account with Chase. They have a Select Banking account option which does not charge you ATM fees anywhere in the world. The only draw back is that is requires a minimun account balance of s/t like 25,000. A suggestion is to put some money into a year long CD so that your child can't touch the capital...
I noticed an ad the other day from Commerce Bank, pitching free ATM transactions from any (bank?) ATM anywhere in the world. Now it's not clear to me whether this meant that Commerce Bank would absorb charges coming from the owner of the ATM or whether it would only waive its charge.
Our approach was simple. We set up an account for the kid in Israel at a local savings bank and transferred money in as needed. The kid then withdrew the money in israel.
There are a few banks with NO charge. The one I use is on-line. Netbank.com I set up the account and have it linked to another bank, where I can deposit money and then e-transfer money as he needs it. Also, order multiple ATM cards, I've heard stories of them getting demagnetized, and then the kids can't withdraw anymore.
Bank of NY charges $6 per foreign ATM transaction. I heard that some of the smaller banks were better. BTW, M/C & Visa charge 3% transaction fee on overseas transactions. You can consider opening an account in Israel & getting an ATM card. They will deposit American checks at only slightly outrageous fees and then your child can draw on the account for only minimal fees. You can even pre-supply a set of checks to be deposited when the account needs to be fed. Final thought: If you withdraw (typical ATM maximum) 1,000 NIS==$230 and pay $5 for it, that isn't that different from paying 3% on credit card purchases.
Date: Tue May 24, 2005
Subject: More relevant Israel ATM info
Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas with me!
I found out a few more ideas regarding the best way to have your child access money in Israel:
Commerce bank doesn't charge ATM fees for using another banks ATM even out of the country. Most of the israeli banks (including bank hapoliam, bank luemi, etc) don't charge ATM fees for using their ATMs so it will cost you nothing. I have used my Commerce ATM card in Israel and wasn't charged anything.
Commerce bank is open 7 days a week! Setup a checking account here (there is one near target and another one in Bergenfield.) They promised no fees on this end and if you maintain a 2500 minimum balance they would take care of any charge that would turn up from the Israeli end.
Lakeland bank on cedar. Many people who responded had great experiences with them
If you open up a student's checking account at Citibank, you bankcard is good in Israel...there is no charge to take out your money.
Some related advice:
Please test your ATM card to be certain it functions properly before he gets on the plane to Israel. We just assumed ATM cards are perfect and my son arrived in Israel with an ATM card with a defective chip...it was a nightmare until we were able to resolve the problem.
I also want to tell you that debit cards are not usable in most stores in Israel. They have no idea what they are and don't have the tech. to deal with them. So kids need debit cards for withdrawal and credit cards for spending over and above the cash they might have in their wallets. Also, give your kid a credit card in their name only and not one that is attached to your account so that if the card or the number gets stolen, you don't have to change all your credit card related stuff.
Note: our friend's daughter had credit card fraud while in Israel. Instruct your kids to keep receipts and to keep track of what they charge.
Your child can withdraw shekel in the airport when they are waiting for their luggage when they arrive.
Here's wishing all our children have successful and inspiring and safe stays in Israel!
Regarding Netbank: Read their fee schedule carefully. Most services are free, but watch out for excess use charges on the money market account - over 3 checks per month or 6 total withdrawals will cost $10 each! Also they stretch funds availability laws as far as they can - e.g. electronic transfers from an outside account take 4 business days to clear.
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