There is no limit to the amount of local and foreign money brought into Israel as cash, traveler’s checks, or credit cards. We recommend that you don’t rush to buy shekels abroad, as you can do so less expensively, get better exchange rates and save on commissions within Israel, in particular if you’re selling a major currency such as American dollars of euros. Before heading to a money exchange booth, it is advisable to check out the the latest exchange rates. You can also check the latest rate on the BELAAZ home page (it will appear on the left side of the page towards the middle)
Exchanging and obtaining money are easy to do in Jerusalem, but make sure to carry your passport with you. Currency and traveler’s checks can be exchanged at the airport, banks, exchange booths, the post office and at some hotels, with varying rates and varying commission charged on each transaction. Keep in mind that most of these places close early on Friday
Some banks in Israel have automatic currency exchange machines, which are accessible 24 hours, but they generally charge a high transaction fee and give a poor rate of exchange.
The best deals for exchanging money are at the private commission-free change offices in tourist areas, which tend to be open much longer hours than the banks. Many change offices also offer other services such as money transfer with no currency exchange fees, an ATM service, the transfer of funds between banks, the purchase of bills and selling of foreign currency with credit cards. Well-known Western Union operates within many post offices within Jerusalem and Israel, and offer money transfer services.
At the end of your stay, shekels can be converted back to other currencies at Ben Gurion Airport (up to $500US or its equivalent in other currencies). Any remaining shekels acquired during a single visit to Israel (up to $5,000) can be reconverted with receipts proving the original conversion.
BANKS IN JERUSALEM
The largest and the most important banks in Israel – Leumi, Hapoalim, Discount and Mizrahi-Tefahot – have many branches all over Israel, especially in the bigger cities. Tourists staying for a while may find it useful to know that Bank Leumi have a foreign resident and tourist center in their branch in Jerusalem, on King George Street in town. Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, are also well geared to tourists. Discount, the third largest bank in Israel, are known for offering some great deals to customers. Bank Mizrachi offers a range of international, commercial, domestic and personal banking services.
ATMs are spread all over the city and accept credit cards linked to the main banking networks such as Cirrus and Plus. ATMs are generally located just outside the bank branch. When drawing cash, it is recommended to be vigilant and to be wary of pickpockets, particularly in the Old City.
Most banks in Israel are open to customers from Sunday to Thursday, from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm. They are open also from 4:00 to 6:00 pm on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Banks close at 12:00 pm every Friday and on the eve of the Jewish religious holidays. On Saturdays all banks are closed.
All of the major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Access, Eurocard and American Express are widely accepted and can be used to draw funds from ATMs with your pin code. MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly accepted in Israel.
At the same time, many smaller operations and open market vendors only accept cash, so it’s advisable to carry cash with you.