Israel‘s currency is called the New Israeli Shekel and is abbreviated as NIS and referred to as shekel (shkalim being the plural form in Hebrew). There are 100 agorot in a shekel, bank notes are in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 NIS and coins in denominations of 10, 5, 2 and 1 shekels and 50 and 10 agorot.
Unlimited sums or money can be brought in to Israel. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, exchange bureaus, the airport, post offices and most hotels.
A fixed exchange fee is charged at banks when changing money. Whereas when changing money in an exchange place on the street you won’t pay an exchange rate, you will receive a lower rate than that provided by the bank.
Try not to change money in a bank on Sunday as due to no world currency trade on Sunday, Israeli banks charge a commission that is ten times higher than any other day of the week!
Generally-speaking, exchange bureaus are cheaper than banks but if you do choose to use one, make sure to check out the ranges in a few places before changing your money.
Local or foreign cash can be withdrawn at banks by owners of international credit cards. There are also ATMs outside most banks. When using an ATM you’ll be charged by your credit card provider as well as an ATM fee. The exchange rate is determined by your credit card provider. This will usually be the highest rate possible for that date.
Most Israeli businesses don’t accept traveler’s checks. Traveler’s checks can be cashed in at any Israeli post office. This is the only way to cash them in without paying commission in Israel.
Store owners and service providers accept a wide variety of foreign currency but they are not required to do so and can also give change in shekels even when the purchase is made in foreign currency.
In order to receive V.A.T refund on leaving Israel, make sure that the following criteria are fulfilled;
· Non-Israeli citizens who don’t hold an Israeli passport can receive a V.A.T refund if they are visiting as tourists which is proven by the visa stamped in to their passport. For those who do not wish for their passport to be stamped on arrival, make sure you keep the alternate form handed to you when entering Israel in order to hand it in at the V.A.T refund counter.
· Goods have to be included in the V.A.T refund program and the purchase amount in one tax invoice including V.A.T must exceed 400 shekels.
· Good must be purchased for personal use only and in a non-commercial quantity.
· The goods must be for export from the State of Israel.
· The good cannot be food, drink or tobacco products.
· In order to get the refund, the goods must be packed in a closed bag along with a special invoice for a V.A.T refund and handed over to the official at the MILGAM counter.
Cards Accepted in Israel
· Major Credit Cards such as American Express, Diners and Visa
· Mastercard\Access\Eurocard are also widely accepted
It is the acceptable practice to tip 12% in restaurants whose bills don’t include service. The bellhop and any other service provider are tipped in hotels and taxi drivers are generally not tipped.
Bargaining is acceptable in certain situations in Israel. When in the open-air markets do not hesitate to bargain- the store owner will, more often than not, offer a much higher starting price than the real value of the item. Most storekeepers are not open to bargaining but it depends on the kind of store and where it is located. Restaurants and public transportation are not places to use your bargaining skills and taxi drivers should be asked to turn on their meters so as to avoid unnecessary haggling which is unadvised for tourists who have no idea how long the journey should take or should cost.
There are a variety of banks open in cities and small communities. Most are open from about 8:30am until noon, Sunday to Thursday, and are open in the afternoon on certain days which usually doesn’t include Tuesday. On Fridays and on the eves of Jewish holidays, the banks are open only in the morning. All banks are closed on Saturday. Most large hotels have banks that offer more convenient hours.
State of Israel Bonds
State of Israel Bonds can be redeemed by tourists at any bank prior to their maturation date for full nominal value plus interest. The payment will be made in local currency up to the equivalent of $2,500 a month.
Exchanging Shekels for Foreign Currency
Shekels can be converted back in to foreign currency at the banks in Ben Gurion Airport for up to $500 or its equivalent in other currencies. Any remaining shekels over this amount, acquired on a single trip to Israel (maximum up to $5,000) can be reconverted if bank receipts are shown that prove the original conversion of the foreign currency.