Financial Information and Utilities - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

Financial Information and Utilities

Main Content

 

Paying your bills

 

Most bills can be paid by telephone via credit card, on the Internet or in person at the post office. Many companies require an Israeli ID number to pay a bill online, but if you call in, you can use your passport number instead.  This can save the time and hassle of going to the post office to pay bills. You should obtain meter readings of water, gas, telephone, and electricity as of the date you move in.  The electricity and water meter readings should be read from the meters in the apartment building. Note that you should only only pay for those portions of the first bill s which cover the period when you began residing in the apartment. Similarly, a reading should be obtained when leaving the apartment at the end of your stay. Different bills are issued at different frequencies.  If you don’t get a bill for 6 months, contact your landlord, do not wait until your water is turned off!

When you get a utility bill, it is worth checking whether the amount you are being charged is based on an actual reading of the meter or on an “estimated use.” It quite often happens that nobody comes to read your electricity/gas/water meter for months and then they make an estimate of the amount you are using based on previous usage. Figure that this is not an accurate assessment of what you are actually doing now. It should say on the bill somewhere that the amount is an estimate and give you an option of reading the meter yourself and phoning them with the corrected figure so your bill can be adjusted accordingly.

Save money by always paying your bills by the “payment due date” that appears on each one.  There is a steep penalty for bills paid after the due date. You may pay your bills through your bank (which will include a service charge), the Post Office (no service fee), or any branch of the utility company via credit card. In addition, you should keep all bills and receipts for the entire period of your rental. This may seem cumbersome, but at the end of the year, it is certainly to your advantage, to have a record of your entire apartment related expenses, in case you need to substantiate the apartment expenses and their payment to your landlord.

Electricity:  Since electricity is an expensive commodity in this country, it is advisable to try and economize its use by lighting the water heater (boiler) only when you really need hot water for showers, etc. However, if the water heater is located inside the building it may not cost substantially more to leave the heater on all night if there is a thermostat. For any emergency, telephone 103.

Cooking Gas: Many new apartment buildings have a central gas supply. Gas-billing statements will be issued bi-monthly. However, older apartments will probably draw their gas supply from individual butane “gas balloons” or cylinders, which are stored in pairs on the kitchen balcony, or other area outside of the apartment (a legal safety precaution). You should check with your landlord about how to handle the balloons. As soon as a “balloon” is empty, you should reorder another from the gas-company, which services your apartment. A balloon usually lasts about four to six weeks depending on the size of your balloon and your usage. When renting an apartment, make sure that you know the name of the gas supplier and your landlord’s customer number, which you will need to quote each time you order gas. Make sure that the reserve balloon is full so as not to be caught without any gas when the balloon in use runs out.   All gas supply companies provide service for repairs, leaks etc.

 

The following are the main gas suppliers:

 

*AMISRAGAS                33 King George St.                           6253331/2/3/4/6252461/6257372

 

*PAZGAS                     6 Shammai St.                                 02-  6227788/6227777 

 

*SUPERGAS                36 Yaffo St.                                      09-8308222 or *3114

 

Water: Remember that Israel’s water supplies are dangerously low; try not to waste water unnecessarily. Don’t leave taps or faucets running.

Va'ad bayit: (Building Committee Fee) In apartment buildings, the cost of fuel for central heating (if available), the cleaning and lighting of staircases and entrances to the building, and maintenance of the garden, is divided up among the tenants who contribute a monthly maintenance fee. This fee may vary from summer to winter months and can cost considerably more in the winter to cover heating.  Usually the tenant pays this fee; however, it should be stated clearly in the rental agreement.

Arnona:  Arnona covers city maintenance.  In some cases, the owner of the apartment will pay it, but most of the time, you are expected to pay it.  If you are paying the Arnona, ask for a payment book from the Municipality, or a copy of last year’s bill to make sure that the costs are right.  The apartment’s owner will either ask you to pay it all at once or monthly.  The Arnona only covers the calendar year, so once January comes around, this must be done again.

According to the Municipality, foreign students are not entitled to an Arnona discount. But, as Israeli students are entitled to an 80% discount, in past years some students have tried to get the discount. Some had success and others did not. There was no logic or reason to this, and although HUC-JIR tried to intervene, the bottom line is that it simply depends on the clerk, the day, the weather, etc. So by all means, give it a try but if you are unsuccessful, nothing can be done about it.  If you want to give it a try,  here’s what you need:

It used to be a requirement that you change the name on the arnona account to your name, but this may no longer be the case.  If you do, be sure to put both people on the account if you have a roommate.  If you are married, have a copy of your marriage license.

  1.  A copy of your lease.
  2.  A copy of your passports/visas.
  3.  A letter from a notary (there’s one right around the corner from the municipality) states your status as a student and your inability to work.  It helps if the letter is in Hebrew, but there is usually someone there who can translate the letter for you.  NIS 40
  4.  A copy of the arnona bill.
  5.  A letter from HUC-JIR stating that you are a student.  Speak to Nancy Lewitt about this.
  6.  Fill out the form COMPLETELY that will be given to you at the Municipality.
  7.  HINT – The ONLY thing that determines whether or not you get the discount is your income from OCT-DEC of last year, so say that it’s $0.
  8.  If you get the discount, they’ll print you out a new bill…make sure to tell them that you only want to pay until June (or whenever you plan to leave).
  9.  MOST IMPORTANTLY, luck and an English speaking teller in a good mood!

 

Internet

 

Wireless accounts have two parts to them: The infrastructure provider and the ISP provider. (Your landlord may already have set this up.) Bezeq is the main infrastructure providers (your internet package can be ordered dialing 199) so if you would like to order an ISP from them, make sure to get the full package. 

It is VERY important to double check the disconnection policy and to ensure you are not locking into a one-year lease if you do not need the ISP and connection for more than one year. 

 

Banking and ATMs

 

You will need to decide whether to open a bank account in Israel or not. For those who are not opening a bank account, there are various services that have no international fees, including:

  • Schwab Brokerage Account. This checking account allows you to withdraw cash via an ATM card with no transaction fees and no exchange rates. This account needs to be opened in the U.S.
  • Travel rewards credit cards: Various credit card companies have “travel” cards that 0% foreign transaction fees, including Visa Travel Rewards, AMEX, Capital One, and many others. 
  • If someone in your family served in the US Army, you may qualify for USAA banking and may get an ATM card that has no fees. 

There are four major banks in Israel: Bank Leumi, Bank HaPoalim, Discount Bank and First International Bank. Most of these banks offer ATMs around the city. In order to open a bank account, they sometimes require you to visit their main branch in the City Center. 

Main Branches:

 

Bank Leumi

Main branch: 22 King George Street

 

Bank HaPoalim

Main branch: 16 King George Street

 

First International Bank of Israel

Main branch: 10 Hillel Street

 

The hours of the banks can change regularly, although many of them are open from 8:30am - 2:30pm.

When opening a bank account, bring your passport with your student visa and your letter from HUC. Note, Israeli bank systems will charge you many extra fees, including two fees for receiving transferred money from US Banks. The banks will offer just an ATM card and others will offer an ATM card that also can act as a debit card, so make sure to clarify that and to confirm that you are opening a student account. 

 

Post Office

 

Amazon recently began delivering in Israel, although it is much slower than their service in the United States. The Israeli mail is notoriously slow, so you should try to limit having people send letters or packages to you. If you need to send letters, there are various post offices around town, including the main post office at Jaffa 23 and the Rehavia Post Office on Keren Kayemet Street.

If you are traveling abroad, the post office often gives the best rate for currency exchanges! 

 

VAT

 

Like most European countries, Israel charges a “Value Added Tax.” The VAT Tax is included in the cost of most items, but with a student visa, you can reclaim your VAT payments at the airport upon departure. This can include large purchases such as Judaiaca, rental cars, etc. 

 

Money exchange

 

There are various, authorized money exchange locations around the City Center. In addition, you can exchange money at the Post Office. For those traveling to Europe or the United States, there are several ATMs around the city that offer Dollars and Euros at the cheapest exchange rate. The closest ATM to HUC is the one in the mall near the rental car companies on King David Street.