ARRIVING IN ISRAEL:
When you land in Ben Gurion airport there is a red ATM by baggage claim from Bank Hapoalim which is free.
Buses don’t accept cards, you can either use cash or get a ‘rav-kav’ travel card (basically like London’s ‘Oystercard’)
Depending how much you are planning on using the busses it’s worth buying a card, it costs 5 ILS for a card on the bus, just ask the driver for one (they don’t always have) you can top-up 30, 50 or 100 ILS only and then you get 25% added on, so if you put 100 ILS the balance of your card will be 125 ILS.
You can also buy a card (only with cash) and use a card to top it at certain top-up machines.
Virtually all ATMs have multiple language options, including English.
All ATMs inside bank branches are free, but be careful of small ones inside corner stores, etc as these charge.
Bank Merchantile and Discount (both have green logos/colour scheme) sometimes need magstripe withdrawals turned on, but not always, but other banks will work fine, Bank Leumi (blue logo/colour scheme) will ask you if you want them to convert it to GBP for you, so press No.
Bank Hapoalim = no problems.
Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot = no problems.
Bank Leumi = no problems (be very careful of what you click on, because the ATM gives you an option to be charged in GBP rather than ILS at a higher fee so it’s obviously cheaper on Starling to be charged in ILS)
Discount Bank = let cash withdrawals, but sometimes it randomly declines the transaction for no apparent reason.
Mercantile Bank = let cash withdrawals, but sometimes it randomly declines the transaction for no apparent reason.
There are more smaller banks that I haven’t information about.
ATMs have occasionally been known to run out of cash, especially just before Shabbat and before national holidays, when withdrawals are heavy. Make sure you’ve a back-up plan so you are not stuck walking across town searching for a stocked ATM.
IN STORE PURCHASES:
EMV isn’t used, everything just gets swiped!
They will usually just swipe the card and sometimes ask you to sign the receipt, they normally never ask for a PIN.
Unlike some other countries you shouldn’t have any problems using a foreign card in any shop that takes cards.
In Tel Aviv there is still a decent amount of stuff open on Saturdays.
VENDING / SELF SERVICE:
Israeli self-service terminals (e.g. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and IKEA) are often not recognizing foreign cards.
NB: As ATM and POS hardware is updated, and countries adopt EMV chip cards, the situation can change. Any Starling customer returning from a trip, be it business or pleasure, is encouraged to keep us updated by posting their recent experience paying in these countries.