A Bank Hapoalim branch.
A Bank Hapoalim branch. Photo by Lior Mizrahi
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A portrait of Israelis and their money is painted with lots of red ink, a financial literacy survey released yesterday by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows.

Around 52% of bank account holders find themselves in overdraft at least once a year, and 21% of them are in the red most of the time, according to the survey of 1,200 people.

The poll was conducted by the statistics bureau with the Bank of Israel and Finance Ministry to gain insight on crafting financial policies. The survey also found that banks blocked the accounts of 11% of all account holders over the past year.

Nearly a third of all account holders were contacted by their bank because they had exceeded their credit ceiling in the past year. Of those, 12% were contacted once and 5% four or more times. Seven percent said their accounts were routinely blocked.

Thirty percent of respondents 20 and over said they had a mortgage, but the rate among Jews was more than twice that among Arabs - 33% versus 13%. Three quarters of all Israelis consult with their bank before taking a home loan, while only 9.5% discuss it with friends and family first, the survey found.

A fifth of respondents said they had debt they had failed to repay on time and 11% had overdue debts to local authorities. Among those in debt, 31% said they had been subject to pressure tactics from their creditors.

The survey found that 14% of all Israeli hold three or more credit cards while 22% don't have plastic in their pocketbooks at all. Among Israeli-Arabs the plastic-free population reaches 54%.

More than three quarters of Israelis choose the credit card offered by their bank. That compares with 56% who say they take into account the card's terms such as credit lines and fees.

According to the survey, 41% of Israelis say they check their bank accounts at least once a week, while 9% haven't bothered to take a look in the past year.

Seven percent don't have a bank account at all, although the difference between Arabs and Jews is massive. Only 5% of Jews have no account, compared with 20% of Arabs. Among the unemployed, 19% say they don't have a bank account, compared with 5% of people holding jobs.