FAQ for Bank Customers

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Dear citizens,

Hereunder please find frequently asked questions and their answers pertaining to households and small businesses dealing with the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis vis-a-vis the banking system. The Bank of Israel and the Banking Supervision Department (BSD) are closely following the developments and examining the expansion of required intervention if necessary. We are attentive to you and available to respond to your urgent queries at the Banking Supervision Departments Public Enquiries call center at 02-655-2680.

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Q&A In View of the Corona Virus

Is there a risk to a particular bank or to the entire banking system?

The banking system in Israel is a stable system and no danger is facing the banks or the

public’s funds deposited in them. The Banking Supervision Department (BSD)’s directives obligate banks to maintain monetary

reserves of capital to ensure their ongoing operations also in the event of an emergency.

Maintaining the banks’ stability on a routine basis enables the banking system to be resilient to

crises today. The banks have capital surpluses, high liquidity ratios and high quality credit

portfolio.

Is it possible to withdraw cash from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) at any time?

It is possible to withdraw cash from the ATMs at any time. The banks are making sure

that the ATMs are full with banknotes and are available for the execution of withdrawals or

deposits throughout the period. In order to ensure the continued provision of banknote

withdrawal services from ATMs, it was established that the banks, private ATM operators, and

money courier services are critical employees and thus the service continues without interruption

and there is no concern of a shortage of cash in the ATMs.

What leniencies have been added to the services in order to assist the elderly customer and the challenged population?

The Banking Supervision Department instructed the banks to provide an extended and personalized response to customers aged 70 and above, both at call centers and at core branches, in order to provide in-person services to customers who are unable to connect to direct digital channels.

There are banks that offer designated services for you (e.g., a designated call center or a mobile branch). We recommend checking directly with the bank to see which services it offers.​

I receive National Insurance benefits and can retrieve them only by coming in person to the bank clerk. What should I do if I am quarantined or the bank branches are closed and I won’t be able to go to the branch?

Bank customers who receive National Insurance allowances are entitled, as are all customers, to receive a basic means of payment, to include a cash withdrawal card and a debit card. The banking system dispatched debit cards to customers who receive an allowance, and who do not have a payment card and usually withdraw their allowances via the branch’s teller services. This can substantially reduce the need for withdrawing cash, since the debit card enables withdrawing cash, as well as making payments and purchasing products and services, similar to a credit card (though the customer’s account is debited for the amount of the transaction immediately).

Thus, in light of the Ministry of health’s updated guidelines on reducing traffic in public spaces, the customers will be able to use the debit card to conduct transactions remotly (via the telephone or the Internet), as required.

Hereunder please find the link to the press release on this matter:


https://www.boi.org.il/en/NewsAndPublications/PressReleases/Pages/22-3-20.aspx


Furthermore, bank customers who receive an allowance from the National Insurance Institute are eligible to join “E-Banking,” which enables receiving information and conducting activities remotely, except in cases where the Bank has reasonable ground to refuse. We suggest that customers, who receive allowances, call the Bank and implement their rights in these matters.​


The following is a link to the Bank of Israel’s website, “Worth knowing” on debit cards.​


https://www.boi.org.il/en/NewsAndPublications/PressReleases/Pages/30-6-19.aspx​


What should I do if I need to get to the branch and I am in quarantine or ill?

In accordance with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines, you are not to leave your home if you are quarantined or ill. Most banking activities can now be done via digital means, and there is no need to come to the bank’s branch. If you do not find a way or means to carry out the banking activity via the website or the app, or it is not possible, you can contact the banking corporation’s call center and check which options are available to carry out this particular activity.

Attached please find the link to the banking corporations’ call-center phone numbers.​

What is the Banking Supervision Department (BSD) doing to assist bank customers to cope with the crisis?

The BSD is working a lot and will continue to work and use its authorities and the tools available to it in order to assist households and businesses to get through this challenging period.

Click here for a link to the Public Enquiries Unit Survey and steps to protect the customer that was published on October 14, 2020.​

I own a small business. My activities are shut down due to the crisis and I am concerned checks will be returned in my account, what should I do? How can I increase my credit line at this time?

The State allocated guarantees of billions of shekels to help small businesses in the framework of a designated loans fund. The banks provide credit at their discretion and in accordance with the existing probability that the borrower will be able to repay the credit received after the crisis ends. In light of the fund being established, the banks have the option of giving more credit. The BSD suggests that you contact your bank, and verify the possibility of receiving assistance through this fund. Furthermore, regardless of the fund, the banks will be able to increase the credit line and even honor the charges and provide a new credit facility, due to the regulatory leniencies that the BSD provided.

In the event of encountering a difficulty in managing the account, it is very important to convey this to the bank so that it can examine whether to provide assistance in finding a solution, for example, more convenient deployment of the credit taken or deferral of payments.

It is at the bank’s discretion whether to authorize credit to the customer.

The decision whether to authorize credit is based upon the circumstances of each particular case and is subject to the bank’s assessment of the risks.​

As a consequence of the coronavirus crisis, I am concerned that I will not be able to meet my commitments in my account, what should I do?

It is very important that you convey to the bank the difficulties you are encountering. To the extent these difficulties are related to the coronavirus crisis, the bank will be able to assist you in finding a solution, for example, more convenient deployment of the credit you took or affording payment deferrals. The banking system is aware of the difficulties its customers are encountering and with the encouragement of the Banking Supervision Department, is acting to help customers find suitable solutions. However, the decisions regarding the provision of credit and the assistance to businesses and households will be in accordance with the bank’s risk assessment in each case. With regard to the uniform framework for deferring loan payments—see Question 23.​

I am concerned that the banks will initiate collection procedures against me as a result of problems in my account. What should I do?

It is very important to convey your difficulties to the bank and discuss with it options to help you in ways such as spreading out debits, deferring payments, increasing the credit facility, and more.

Proper Conduct of Banking Business Directive no. 450 on “Debt Collection Proceedings” establishes that during routine times as well, in a case in which customers encounter economic difficulties and find it difficult to meet their undertakings vis-à-vis the banking corporation, the banking corporation is to attempt to exhaust, as much as possible, different ways to collect the debt, including all its components, from the customer, before turning to the legal system. This is while maintaining the fairness and transparency throughout the debt collection process.

The above is all the more correct in these times, and therefore the banking corporations are required to continue and to act even more forcefully in this manner compared to routine times, with the goal of identifying difficulties and assisting their customers to endure the challenging period in which they are, at an early a stage as possible, in order to assist in preventing loans building up and their future deterioration.

In view of this, the Banking Supervision Department requested of the banking corporations to continue operating responsibly, displaying continued fairness, flexibility, and sensitivity to their customers, and to strengthen the function and place of the banking system as part of the social and economic fabric. Within the framework of these activities, it is very important to act in a focused manner to allocate the required resources in order to be available to customers and to reach agreements that are as optimal as possible with them, before taking legal proceedings.[מד1] 


 [מד1]קישור למכתב​

How can I keep track of what is going on in my account at this time?

One can accomplish this via the bank’s website, its app., and via the bank’s call-center. Call-centers are very busy these days, and waiting for them to answer may take time. Therefore, whosoever can receive an answer to their questions by digital means is welcome to do so.​

Why is it important to track what’s going on in one’s account?

It is very important to track what’s going on in one’s account, in order not to exceed, as far as is possible, one’s credit line. To the extent that an account is expected to be debited (by either check or authorized debit) in the case of insufficient funds, it is advisable to contact the billing entities to request payment deferral or to contact the bank and request a temporary or permanent credit-line increase. Checks that return due to lack of coverage may induce restriction on the account. Furthermore, negative information on account activities is reported to the central credit database. Therefore, it is important to track what is going on in the account, and to be proactive, in order not to exceed the credit line and incur returned debits.

For more information on this topic, please see the link to questions and answers on checks without coverage on the Credit Database page:

https://www.boi.org.il/en/ConsumerInformation/ConsumerIssues/Pages/ChecksGeneral.aspx​

If I reach my credit limit, what should I do? Is it better for me to increase it or take a loan?

It is very important not to exceed the credit limit to avoid returned debit, including checks, for lack of coverage.  If you reach your credit limit, and you don’t have a balance in a deposit or another account from which you could transfer to your current account, you can apply to the bank for a loan or an increase in your credit limit. Given the circumstances, the Banking Supervision Department has, among other regulatory leniencies, facilitated the increase in credit limit. However, one must bear in mind, that it is at the bank’s discretion whether to grant credit, also during this period, and one should apply to the bank with an appropriate request. The advantage of an increased credit limit, is the flexibility of repayment, whereas the advantage of taking a loan is that the interest rate on it will be lower than for the increased credit. It is important to note that the interest on a loan with collateral of a residential apartment or some other security will be lower than that for a loan without collateral. Everyone should examine the options available to them, and decide what’s best for them.

Please see the guide on Credit​

If up until now I couldn’t connect to the bank’s website, how can I login to it now?

If up until now you weren’t connected to the bank’s website, you can call your bank’s call-center and request to join the electronic banking services. The Banking Supervision Department’s directives enable customers to join “Electronic banking” from afar in order to receive information and to carry out transactions by means of various channels, such as: telephone, the website, the bank’s app., thereby, absolving the need to come to the bank.​

I am a licensed dealer who manages the business account together with the private account. Will the restriction incurred due to returned checks as a result of business activity restrict all my activities in the account?

By law, the restriction is imposed on all checking activity in the account, without distinction between business and private activity. When the conditions warrant a restriction (10 returned checks in the absence of coverage within a period of 12 months) the law prohibits the continued use of checks in the entire account for the duration of the restriction.​

Is the Banking Supervision Department (BSD) planning more extensive intervention?

The BSD is closely monitoring developments and will expand its intervention as needed.​

Can the bank raise the interest rate on a new mortgage due to the current situation?

Due to the significant changes occurring in the economy because of the coronavirus crisis, there has been a significant increase in both the costs for recruiting the bank’s resources (including an increase in the risk-free interest in the market) as well as in the risk of certain borrower/markets. These two factors are a central component in the Bank’s interest rate pricing. Accordingly, the interest rate offered on new applications for mortgage loans is rising.

If you were offered interest on a mortgage before the crisis broke out and the bank gave you approval by principle to grant you a loan, according to the BSD’s directives, the banking corporation is to determine a period of no less than 24 days, wherein you can submit the required documentation for the bank to verify the loan application data. During this time period the interest rate offered by the Bank, with the principle approval of loans at a fixed interest rate, will be maintained, as will the  interest rate spread beyond the interest rate anchor in the variable interest rate channels, the interest rate anchor itself may also change during these days.​

Do I have to go to the Bank’s branch in order to join “Electronic Banking,” or to receive credit?

There is no need to arrive at the bank. It is possible to join “Electronic Banking” or make a credit agreement over the phone or the internet.​ 

Checks return in my account and I am concerned that my account will be restricted during the coronavirus crisis. Will leniencies be afforded on this topic?

In order to help those businesses and households which encountered flow difficulties unexpectedly as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis, the BSD determined that the restriction on accounts due to returned checks will be suspended as of March 4th, 2020, in accordance with the time period determined by law. However, a check returned due to lack of coverage during the coronavirus crisis will be reported to the Credit Data System and this will affect the customer’s financial rating. It is important to note that although the returned check will not result in a restriction on the account, nonetheless the recipient of the check is eligible to contact the Execution Office to initiate a collection procedure (in accordance with information published by the Enforcement and Collection Authority).

If a customer cancels an uncovered check, the check will still be returned for lack of coverage. Therefore, it is recommended that in cases wherein there isn’t enough money in the account to cover the check, that you contact the person or entity receiving the check and request that they do not deposit it and instead come to an alternative arrangement with them.

Attached please find the link to the press release​ 

Due to the coronavirus crisis it will be very difficult for me to meet my mortgage repayment. What should I do in order to postpone these payments?

To the extent that the difficulty you encounter is connected to the coronavirus virus crisis, the bank can help you find a solution, for example, by suggesting a more convenient mortgage deployment or a deferral of payments. The banking system is aware of the difficulties encountered by its customers and endeavors to assist them in finding suitable solutions. Although decisions regarding the granting of credit and assistance to businesses and households will be in accordance to the banks risk assessment in each case.

Attached please find a list of the banks’ call centers.

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May I deposit a check for NIS 50,000 via mobile phone, and thus eliminate the need to go to the branch?

In order to assist the public with carrying out banking activity remotely at this time, the Bank of Israel decided to increase the amount of an individual check that can be deposited via the banking application on mobile device to NIS 50,000 effective immediately. The coronavirus crisis in Israel and worldwide, and the steps taken by the government, have ramifications on the ability of many households and businesses to get to bank branches to deposit checks.

In 2017, the Bank of Israel promoted, together with the banking system, the check clearing reform that makes it possible to deposit checks by photographing the check with a mobile phone. This option has been available to customers for about 3 years and was limited to a maximum of NIS 20,000 per check.​

I am in bankruptcy and I am interested in the bank issuing a debit card for me so that I will not have to go into the branch, can I receive this service?

The Banking Supervision Department guided to banks to allow the issuance of a debit card to insolvent customers and have them join a service that allows the execution of transactions via the bank’s Internet site, application, etc., without needing the approval of the trustee for each particular request. This is based on the stance of the official receiver who has given blanket approval to this. This step will make the process of insolvent customers joining these services much easier, to the extent they want to do so.

The Banking Supervision Department calls on the banking corporations to make every effort to locate their customers who manage accounts in which an allowance or salary is received, and that do not have any payment card that enables them to execute transactions remotely and/or are not connected to activity via direct channels (bank website, application, etc.), and to offer them to join such services.

Customers who do not have any type of card that enables them to withdraw money and execute transactions remotely and/or provides them with access to executing activities remotely via the Internet, are invited to contact their bank and to request to join these services.​

According to what has been published in the media regarding the Supervisor of Banks guidelines, will checks without cover not be returned or counted as checks without cover? For how long?

 The Supervisor of Banks guidelines for suspending restrictions due to checks without cover do not affect the reason for the return.  In other words, a check without cover will still be considered as such, and will be reported to the Credit Data Register in the case of an individual customer or authorized business (bank account managed on the basis of an ID card). Moreover, the guidelines are for a limited time. After that period is over, if complementary regulations are not enacted by the Minister of Justice, the returned checks that should have led to a restriction will be counted, and the suspended restrictions will take effect.​

Until when will the restrictions regarding checks without cover be suspended?

The Supervisor of Banks has the ability to stop the guidelines at any time she chooses. In any case, they will no longer be effective as of June 20, 2020, the latest date on which these guidelines can be valid pursuant to the law.

I am on unpaid leave, and in view of the fact that I have no income, I am in a state of complete uncertainty, and have therefore decided to cancel me rent payments for the coming months. What is my risk?

Other than the ethical problem of not paying debts, and the resulting negative reputation, the cancellation of a check is grounds for opening debt collection proceedings with the Enforcement and Collections Agency, which may include various sanctions such as liens on all bank accounts, imposing a restriction under special circumstances on all bank accounts, prohibiting the issuance of credit cards, invalidation of driver’s licenses, and more.  This is in addition to late payment interest.

In addition, if these checks do not have cover when they are presented for payment, it is reported to the Central Credit Data Register, and may have a negative effect on your credit rating as a customer of the financial system (this relates to individuals and authorized businesses), and in cases where you have cancelled 5 checks or more that have returned due to insufficient funds, a negative statement may be transmitted to merchants and financial institutions regarding a pre-restriction warning.

Finally, you must remember that this check may be counted among checks without cover and lead to the imposition of a restriction if the suspension of restrictions ends, unless regulations are enacted that would remove these checks permanently.

In view of all this, it is recommended to coordinate the delay of payment with the landlord, and to ask him not to deposit the checks you have given him.​

Contrary to those who have cancelled checks even though they have received what they paid for, I cancelled checks that were intended for transportation services for one of my children that were cancelled due to the situation. Do I have anyth

While in this case there are grounds to cancel the check, because you did not receive anything in return, you must remember that if the check is presented for payment, then despite the cancellation, the balance (including available credit facility) will be examined, and without sufficient cover, it will be returned for insufficient funds, reported to the credit data register, and may be counted for the purposes of restrictions, after the end of the suspension of restrictions.​

I heard that the Enforcement and Collections Agency is not opening files, and have stopped debt collection proceedings. Does this mean that people cannot use these tools against me for a check that I did not pay?

Due to the emergency situation, the Minister of Justice issued guidance to suspend the opening of files and debt collection proceedings, including checks that have not been honored.  However, it is important to note that this does not mean the deletion of debts, but rather a temporary delay in the proceedings.  The check holder has seven years to initiate collections proceedings and sanctions.​

From what age is priority given for telephone response?

The definition of “senior citizen” was revised by the Banking Supervision Department so that the minimum age from which a customer is given preference in waiting for a telephone response is 70.  This was done with the aim of enabling many more elderly customers, who, according to Ministry of Health guidelines, are at increased risk in case of exposure to the corona virus and are therefore asked not to leave their homes at this time, to obtain better service.​

I asked to close my bank account, and it has not yet been closed after 5 business days from the date on which I completed all the actions required of me. Within how much time should the bank close my account during the crisis?

In order to help banking corporation employees deal with customer requests to close accounts during the period of reduced branch operation and manpower shortages, as a result of the development of the corona pandemic, the period was extended to 14 business days from the date on which the customer completed the actions required of him in accordance with the Proper Conduct of Banking Business directive pertaining to the transfer of activity and closure of a customer’s bank account.​

Within how much time should the bank provide me with documents pertaining to the mortgage process during the crisis period?

In order to enable bank employees to focus on handling urgent cases of assistance to customers on matters pertaining to the development of the corona crisis during a period of reduced branch activity and manpower shortages, a number of dates set out in the Proper Conduct of Banking Business directives pertaining to the provision of housing loans have been extended.  The date for issuing letters of intent was extended from three to eight business days.  The time within which the banking corporation must issue settlement confirmation was extended from five to eight business days.  In cases where the payment was made using cash or using a bank transfer, and the borrower provided the banking corporation with documentation of the payment, the date for issuing settlement confirmation was extended from two to six business days.  The time within which the bank must notify that it has insured the borrower in cases where the policy issued does not meet its requirements was extended from 14 business days to one calendar month.

The range of the extensions is proportional and was determined with the aim of enabling the banking corporations to meet their obligations, while also minimizing the potential negative impact to customers.​

I am a debtor with the Enforcement and Collections Agency. Can I be issued a debit card?

In order to enable debtor customers with the status of “restricted under special circumstances” to receive a debit card, the Banking Supervision Department initiated an amendment to the Enforcement and Collections Law, which will enable the issuance of a debt card to such customers during emergency periods, even in cases where they have a credit facility in their account, which was prohibited to them prior to the amendment to the law.​