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Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

Long Beach, New York
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307 posts
13 reviews
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Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

I head to Israel on August 21 for 18 days. It's my first time there.

Should I use dollars, shekels, credit cards etc. while there.My hotel rooms are being paid with a credit card but what would you suggest for restaurants, shopping et al. And, should I exchange dollars into shekels here in New York before departing or at Tel Aviv airport? What's the best procedure to follow?

Tel-Aviv
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for Tel Aviv
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1. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

Do not change dollars into shekels before you arrive - you will get a better rate here. For comparison, here are the current rates at the Post Office (no commission):

http://www.israelpost.co.il/postcurrency.nsf/WebDisplay/$First?opendocument&l=EN

All of the "Change Point" stores give similar rates, also with no commission.

As for using your credit card for restaurants and shopping, or for withdrawing cash from ATMs, you should check what fees are charge by your bank/credit card company for overseas transactions. It is also recommended that you notify them of your trip so that you card is not automatically blocked when what appears to be an unusual transaction is flagged.

Long Beach, New York
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307 posts
13 reviews
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2. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

Thanks very much. I gather that I can exchange dollars into shekels at the airport without commission. Is that so?

Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
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16,658 posts
82 reviews
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3. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

Please check out the top questions column on the right hand side of the screen - there is a topic for ATM and money exchange - there is plenty of useful information there. If you still have any questions - come back and we'll do our best to help.

Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
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2,525 posts
24 reviews
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4. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

Most shops and restaurants will take the major credit cards (Mastercard and Visa). Amex - not so much, Discover - not at all. Be sure to notify your card issuer that you will be travelling to Israel so that their fraud division doesnt freeze your card. Most issuers charge a 1% to 3% foreign transaction fee. Capital One is a notable exception, but you may not have time to get a card before you leave. Even with the fee, it will work out better than changing dollars to shekels here. Generally, you will need to pay for everything either by credit card or in shekels. Cash dollars are rarely accepted here - or if they are, you won't get a good exchange rate.

The easiest and usually cheapest way to get cash is from an ATM machine, using your ATM/debit card (not your credit card) to withdraw from your checking account. Check with your bank what your daily limit is and what the fees are. Some banks charge a flat fee ($3-$5) per transaction, so you will want to take the maximum to avoid extra fees. However you dont want to take out a lot of cash near the end of your visit and be "stuck" with it. Also notify your card issuer that you will be travelling. Use your card to get shekels at the airport - you will need them for transportation to your hotel. If you don't see one, just ask for the CASPOMAT.

Bring some cash dollars with you as a back-up. Do not bring travelers checks - because they are easier to forge, hardly anyone anywhere accepts them anymore. Every money changer takes a commission - if he says "no commission" it is rolled into the exchange rate he's giving you. Even with the ATM fees your bank charges you, you will usually get a better net rate from the Caspomat than from the money changer. And as mbgg said - whatever rate you get here will be better than any rate you can get in the U.S.

NYC/Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
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36,325 posts
37 reviews
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5. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

I am currently in Israel, I basically bring cash and change it to shekels as I go along. The only time I used my credit card ( American Express) was when I charged gas. I just went to my statement to see how the numbers played out. Here is what the deal was.

When you looked at the exchange rate--it was slightly better on the credit card than the one I was getting at Change-Point and other money changing establishments. When I added the commission it was slightly worse than the rate I was getting. How much better? How much worse? --no more than 3 cents per dollar!

You mentioned your hotel will be put on a credit card. Hotels ( and car rental agencies) bill in dollars. VISA for sure, Mastercard I'm not sure charge a commission EVEN THOUGH IT IS $$. They claim it is still a FOREIGN transaction. American Express doesn't charge anything extra for dollar charges. Plan accordingly

Los Angeles
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239 posts
5 reviews
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6. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

The fees and rates on my Visa cards are very bad. I use Visa only when I really have to. When I do I use a mileage rewards card so at least I get points. American Express is much better. I would not bring alot of cash. There are cash machines just about everywhere. Both capital one and schwab issue debit cards with no fees on cash withdrawals and I know that Schwab will reimburse you if the bank you withdraw from charges a fee. I belive Capital One does as well but cannot state that for sure since I don't have that one.

NYC/Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
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36,325 posts
37 reviews
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7. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

On the rare rare occasions when I have used a bank card to make a withdrawel there has never been a fee assessed by an Israeli bank! Has anyone ever had this happen to them?

Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
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14,910 posts
283 reviews
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8. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

Cash is your best bet and exchange money as you go. Most hotels have safes so that you don't need to walk around with alot of cash. Use a money belt on the plane. All bills exchanged here are checked for forgeries, so no need to get only smaller denomonations. Bring a credit card in cash for larger purchases (hotel/car/large gift). There are fees for using your credit card. Each company has it's own criteria, each company in Israel has it's own policy, nothing is written in stone.

Chana

Israel

Los Angeles
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239 posts
5 reviews
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9. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

I didn't realize Israeli banks don't charge a fee for withdrawal since I always use the Schwab card. That's great if it is true. In light of the fact that it is so easy to withdraw cash from the machines in Israel I just don't see the point of bringing a ton of cash with me and I usually stay in the same place. Don't forget most tourists are moving around quite a bit. I'm willing to get alittle less on the excange rate if I have to so that I am not travelling with a lot of cash. However folks can decide for themselves. We can only tell them the relative costs. I would only add that I have yet to read a travel book that advises people to bring alot of cash when travelling.

Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
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14,910 posts
283 reviews
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10. Re: Using Dollars, Shekels, Credit Cards

I only mentioned the cash in case people are concerned about all the added fees they may acquire when using a credit card for transactions (fees from Israeli companies as well as abroad). I always only use cash when traveling. This way I can keep track of my expenses, something that is difficult to do when using a credit card.

Chana

Israel