The New Israeli Shekel (NIS) is the official currency of Israel. Click here for updated exchange rate information and to calculate currency conversions.
Although you may have time to change dollars into Israeli shekels as you wait for your luggage in Ben-Gurion Airport, it is a good idea, if possible, to purchase a small amount of Israeli currency ($50-$100) to use upon arrival. There are banks that offer this service if you plan in advance, so contact your local bank for more information. You may also purchase foreign currency, for a fee, at foreign exchange firms, at foreign exchange windows, at vending machines in many international airports in the United States and online.
Carrying Money Into Israel
We suggest that you bring enough cash and/or traveler's checks to cover fees and initial living expenses (approximately $300).
ATM, Credit and Amex Cards
We strongly recommend that you open a checking account that operates on one of the ATM networks available in Israel, and that you plan to access your funds primarily through the use of your ATM card. This is generally the most economical and convenient way to obtain money. Please note that the ATM card should only be linked to a checking account. Savings accounts are not accessible from Israel.
Check with your bank to make sure your ATM card is connected to one of the major networks that are accessible by money machines in Israel. These networks include Cirrus and Plus. If you are on one of these networks, you will have access to dollars deposited into your checking account and may withdraw money, in Israeli currency, at any of the many cash machines in Israel. There are several ATM machines located in the Forum on the Mount Scopus campus, as well as one in the Frank Sinatra Student Center near the Boyar Building. Be sure to get a four-digit PIN, since longer PINs are sometimes not accepted at Israeli ATMs.
Credit card holders should check with their card companies to learn which services (such as withdrawal of cash advances from ATM machines, writing checks, etc.) are available in Israel. Always check what fees are charged for these services and whether the interest charged for cash advances is higher than your regular rate. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Israel for purchases.
American Express cardholders can withdraw funds in the form of AMEX traveler’s checks from a U.S. checking account while in Israel. The American Express office is located in the center of Jerusalem. Please be aware that cashing traveler’s checks also involves fees.
There are ATMs in the Forum on Mount Scopus, near the Bloomfield Library and at the entrance to Bank Discount. These ATMs accept a wide variety of local and international cards. ATMs that give instructions in English to holders of cards issued abroad are found throughout the city.
Israeli Bank Accounts
Students are advised to open both dollar and shekel accounts in a Jerusalem bank. Upon opening an account in Israeli currency ( shekel ), students should apply for a magnetic bank card that will allow them to withdraw money from an automatic teller machine (ATM). A combination credit/ATM
card is also available.
Bank Discount is located on Mount Scopus, middle level of the Forum Hours : Sunday-Thursday 8:15 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Postal Bank, is located on Mount Scopus, middle level of the Forum, Tel. 02-5817346 Hours: Sunday-Thursday 8:00 a.m. -3:00 p.m.
Receiving Money in Israel
Do not, under any circumstances, arrange to have cash sent to you through the mail! Bank checks or money orders should be sent by registered mail only. A check that is mailed to you in Israel may take at least three weeks to clear in your bank account.
A bank transfer (a U.S. bank wires money into your Israeli account) is one of the fastest ways to receive money. Most commercial banks (along with some private companies, such as American Express) wire money to Israel; check with your bank for costs and instructions.
You can wire money to Israel through Western Union and the Israel Postal Authority. Money may be transferred from Western Union agents in the United States to a number of postal branches in Jerusalem. The receiver, upon proof of identity, collects the money in cash (Israeli currency). The sender pays the transfer fee (e.g. $15.00 on a $100.00 transfer). For details about this arrangement, click here or call (800) 325-6000 in the United States or toll free 177-022 2131 in Israel.
Expenses in Israel
The cost of academic materials at the RIS is generally quite low. Expect to spend approximately $50-$75 for Ulpan books and $150-$200 for books and supplies during the academic semester.
The amount you spend on daily necessities can vary widely, according to individual preferences and lifestyles. We recommend budgeting $400–$600 per month for food, entertainment, transportation, telephone and other expenses.