This is a comprehensive guide to money in Israel. Posted below are pictures so that you can see all the different denominations, bills and coins. With this information in hand, you will have no trouble shopping in Israel.
The currency of the State of Israel is the shekel. The Israeli new shekel symbol looks like this: ₪; The acronym in Hebrew is ש״ח and in English NIS; code: ILS. The plural for shekel is shekalim. The shekel consists of 100 agorot. In singular it is called 1 agora. You may see the shekel spelled with a “q” as in “sheqel” or sheqalim. This is actually the correct spelling, but it is much more common to see it spelled with a k, as in “shekel” or “shekalim”.
A grammar tip that a lot of non-Hebrew-speakers don’t know: For any number larger than 1 and 10 or less, use the plural “shekalim”, for example “3 shekalim”. Once you get to a number larger than 10 revert back to the singular “shekel”. So for example, you would say “20 shekel” and not “20 shekalim”.
Getting your hands on currency in Israel is easy. The first place in Israel that you will have an opportunity to change money is in the luggage area of the airport. If you miss that, there are many places you can change money both in the airport and throughout Israel.
Money exchange kiosks are located all over the place, especially on the main streets of main cities. They are also located in all of the larger shopping malls.
You can withdraw cash directly from an ATM. Most ATMs accept foreign cards and automatically switch to English on the instructions screen when a foreign card is detected. At some ATMs (called caspomats - כספומט in Israel), you can even withdraw dollars and other foreign currencies. Most ATMs do not charge a fee. However, your bank may charge both a conversion fee and commission. Make sure you verify what these are with your bank. It is also important to let your bank know you will be overseas so they don't freeze your card.
While banks do change money, most give significantly lower rates than ATMs or money changers. So you are better off avoiding the actual bank and finding an ATM or kiosk.
DO NOT BRING TRAVELERS CHECKS. It is almost impossible to use them and banks charge a high transaction fee on these. In fact, many money changers will not change them at all.
Denominations are marked with the shekel sign, ₪. The Israeli new shekel has been in use since January 1, 1986 which is why it has the word “new”. When you change over your money you may have the following in your wallet:
Agurot coins Shekel coins
20 shekel bill 50 shekel bill 100 shekel bill 200 shekel bill
The shekel is divided into 100 agorot, and the smallest denomination is a copper-colored 5-agorot coin. These are hardly in circulation anymore as the value is so low.
There are copper 10-agorot coins, and larger, copper 50-agorot (half-shekel) coins, all useful for bus fare.
The 1-shekel coin is a little silver, button like object that is extremely easy to lose. Hang onto a few 1-shekel coins though; If you don’t have a cell and need to use a public phone, pay phones in restaurants and hotels often only take 1-shekel coins instead of the cheaper per-call telephone cards.
There are also 2-, 5- and 10-shekel coins. Paper money comes in denominations of 20, 50,100 and 200 shekel notes. The Bank of Israel recently designed new shekel notes, so you may see different versions in circulation.
Note: The new, small 10-shekel coins are not popular, as they are easily lost and counterfeit 10-shekel coins abound. How can you tell a phony 10-shekel coin? If the rims are smooth or only irregularly grooved, it's bad. Israelis are adept at passing phony 10-shekel coins at busy places and slipping away before being notice. A bad 10 shekel coin means you're out approximately $2.50 (£1.25).
To check the exchange rate today click here.