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Where Can I Cash My Dollar Check in Israel?

With monthly U.S. Social Security Checks about to arrive, many Americans in Israel are wondering how to cash their dollar checks in Israel. Since the beginning of October 2013, a regulatory clampdown in the United States has closed off many Israeli money changers’ ability to process American checks.

The main reason for this is the compliance regulations to prevent money laundering and tax evasion that have become increasingly onerous in recent years, making it more difficult and costly for banks to process checks for people who were not their customers. It seems that most Israeli money changers were actually processing checks through one American financial institution, who were warned by the U.S. regulator that they were exceeding their mandate by processing these checks. That institution withdrew from the market on very short notice earlier this month. Only a handful of money changers with other banking relationships were able to continue processing checks. This problem is now affecting individuals living in Israel who receive $US dollar checks from friends and family, employment or social security, or who want to cash checks on their U.S. bank accounts in Israel.

In Israel, the banks charge high fees for converting your currency to Israeli shekels. They make their profit by charging retail rates that are less than competitive – often much lower than the exchange rates that you see listed – and charging additional conversion fees on top.

If you take an overseas bank check to your Israeli bank, they may charge you hefty fees and it can take up to 4 weeks for the money to reach your account. Banks have a habit of making things more complicated to confuse their customers, and it is not uncommon for unexpected transaction fees to be deducted from your account at the end of the month.

So what should you do if you are holding an American dollar check in your hand? Firstly, you should be wary of any service that offers to process your check electronically. The bank account on which the check is drawn will be debited by the money changer, and you will have limited control over the transaction, unlike cashing a check for the exact amount that is written on the face of the check, which involves no risk.

You need to choose a reliable money changer who declares all fees and charges up front and offers you a rate that is competitive against the inter-bank Shaar HaMischar wholesale rate as the independent reference point (see here for an explanation of the different exchange rates), so that you know exactly what your check is worth. You may decide to hold it for a week and see if the rate improves – no one can predict which way the shekel is moving against the dollar these days – but that choice is yours.

Montrose Change is proud that, throughout this difficult period, it has continued to offer a reliable and professional currency exchange service to all our clients, including processing American dollar checks at competitive rates. You can opt to receive its value in cash, or the funds can be transferred directly into your Israeli bank account at no extra charge. Call us today to check the day’s rate, which includes all fees and charges.

We look forward to serving you.

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Cashing an Israel Bond Check in Israel

israel bondsA friend of mine showed me a check that her son had received from Israel Bonds. The letter came from London, where the original bond was purchased five years ago, but the maturity  check for $230 U.S. dollars was drawn on a bank in Switzerland registered to a company in Canada. Yes, this was an Israel Bonds check!

She first tried to cash it at the Post Office Bank, where her son has an account, but was told that they would hold the check for 3 weeks and they could not tell her at what rate the dollars would be cashed and converted to shekels.

So she went to her bank, whose manager explained that they charge $6.50 for depositing the check for a minimum of 7 days, and then another $6 for changing the dollars to shekels. The exchange rate would be lower than the Shaar HaYetzig on that day, at the bank’s discretion.

The bank also offered to waive the $6.50 charge if they could hold the check for 3 months, only then allowing the client to decide when to change her money. One of the bank staff actually suggested to her that she would do better taking the check to a local money changer!

So my friend turned to a local money-changer who offered to cash the Israel Bonds check into shekels for a 1% fee ($2.30) and at a rate 6 agorot lower than the Shaar HaYetzig. However, the local money changer was not comfortable cashing a check with such complex provenance – they were concerned that a Canadian bank check for U.S. dollars would be hard for them to clear.

She brought the check to Montrose Change. We confirmed that it was in fact a U.S. dollar check drawn on the U.S. branch of a Canadian Bank, which we were happy to honour. She walked away with NIS 820 cash in hand in return for her $230 check, compared to the 785 NIS that the bank might have given her a week later, subject to exchange rate fluctuations!

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Sending Money to Your Kids in Israel

If your children are learning in Yeshiva or Seminary or living in Israel, what arrangements have you made to send them money when they (inevitably) need it? Outside Israel one instinctively relies on banks and ATMs, but in Israel this is a costly option for international currency transactions.

If your kids have a credit card or bank card to use during their year in Israel, what can they expect to pay? Withdrawing shekels cash from ATMs usually involves a $4 conversion fee, and some banks charge more. Not all cards work in all ATM machines, so they may find it hard to use their plastic to access cash.

A recent survey by Globes, Israel’s financial newspaper, found that the Postal Bank offers the lowest fees of all the banks, where the minimum commission fees range from $6-$10. The Post Office does not charge commission, but hides its fees in its lower exchange rate. They and the banks make their profit by choosing the most favorable exchange rate – click here for a full explanation of the cost of wiring money through Israeli banks – you may be shocked!

It is easier and cheaper to transfer money to Israel through a money changer like Montrose Change. Today money changers run sophisticated hi-tech offices and are regulated by the Israeli Ministry of Finance and compliant with all anti-money-laundering regulations. We operate on an equal footing with other financial institutions in Israel.

Arrange a transfer and we will give the money to your daughter or son in shekels cash, or pay it into theirs or a friend’s bank account. We have an office in Ramat Beit Shemesh and agents in Jerusalem. Click here to read some of our testimonials.

As American and Australian Olim to Israel with teenage children of our own, we understand the needs of families whose children are living thousands of miles away and trying to manage with foreign currency. We guarantee a personal service, especially in an emergency situation (G-d forbid!).

If you have an urgent need to send money to Israel, you can email or call us directly at info@montrosechange.com or at +972-765-406-563, from Australia on: 03-9013-6563, or from the U.S. at: 347-868- 6563.

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Moving Stories about Moving Money

Businesses and individuals in Israel, including olim and commuters who earn money outside of Israel, often need to transfer money overseas quickly and cost effectively.

We look for optimal solutions to assist individuals and businesses with their overseas transactions and investments – here are just some the people whom we have recently helped:

Overseas Stock Purchase

One of our clients came into the Montrose Change store last week needing to settle on a parcel of shares purchased on the New York Stock Market. He gave us the equivalent amount in Shekels and we immediately transferred U.S. Dollars into his American bank account to facilitate the settlement.

Same Day Transfer

We were approached just before the U.S. holiday period by a commercial client whose business transaction urgently required payment in the States before year-end. As the banks would be shutting down, he couldn’t take the risk that the money might get stuck somewhere. He was happy to pay the $25 immediate transfer fee so that the money would arrive that same day in his U.S. bank account.

Montrose offers a next-day service for $15 and a 3-day transfer service for just $5. This helped another customer wanting to send $1,200 to a family member in the States – they gave us dollars cash and we transferred the money to their U.S. account. Some people even come to us when they do not have money to transfer. One local resident needed $10,000 sent to America to refinance a business loan, so Montrose Securities arranged a second mortgage on his house in Israel as a short-term bridging loan and the money he needed was wired to America.

All Major Currencies

But we don’t only help with American transactions!! Montrose can also transfer money to or from Australia and the UK. If customers bring us Shekels or foreign currency, we can deposit the equivalent sum in their bank account or another account on their behalf. If they need money transferred to Israel from overseas, they can simply organize a bank transfer into the relevant Montrose bank account in America, Australia or the UK, and we will pay them here, either in Shekel cash, check or bank transfer into their Israeli account. Where possible we incorporate any fees into our competitive exchange rates.

Another case was of a customer transferring $100,000 into our Australian account to pay for a deposit on an apartment. The funds were transferred to their Israeli bank account the following day. Another Aussie transferred funds for renovation to his house. Another transferred funds to their relative for a medical emergency and we delivered cash to them to their home in Jerusalem. A local Rabbi as part of his chessed activities regularly transfers funds into our UK account. The funds are issued in cash or transferred directly to the recipient’s bank account.

Olim and people planning Aliyah come to Montrose to discuss the best way to transfer their money to Israel and seek our other mortgage and finance services.

Home Mortgages

Our team can also advise on mortgages in Shekels and foreign currencies, particularly if the customers have overseas income. We are now offering a mortgage brokering service including Currency Combination Mortgages, which can be an excellent hedge against currency fluctuations. For example, we are arranging for an American client, whose income is in U.S. Dollars and Shekels, to buy a property in Israel with a combination Dollar-Shekel mortgage worth 1.2 million NIS with one local bank. The borrower will be able to repay the loan in a mixture of Dollars and Shekels. His Dollar repayments will not be affected by exchange rate movements, so his monthly repayments will remain constant whatever the value of the Dollar.

Many Olim would benefit from a Currency Combination Mortgage or a loan in the same currency as their income or assets. Through Montrose’s excellent business relationship with a number of Israeli banks, we are able to help Olim and Vatikim to make optimal arrangements for loans in a mixture of currencies, not limited to U.S. Dollars.

 

 

 

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