Supervisor: Bank Fees Slowly Going Down

Bank Hapoalim has the cheapest average monthly fees on checking accounts, NIS 14.10, says the Bank of Israel. The First International Bank (Beinleumi) is the most expensive at NIS 22.90. Supervisor of Banks Rony Hizkiyahu presented the figures to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee yesterday.

In the middle of the 62% range between the highest and lowest were Bank Leumi at NIS 15.30 per month on average, Discount at NIS 15.90 and Mizrahi-Tefahot at NIS 19.10.

As for credit cards, the average consumer pays NIS 4.45 in fees every month to Isracard, the cheapest, NIS 9.04 to Leumi Card and NIS 10.71 to Israel Credit Cards Cal, better known as Visa Cal.

Hizkiyahu was reporting to the committee on his reform of bank fees and said the consumer came out ahead: Credit-card fees were down 7% in 2009 and checking-account fees were down 10% to an average of NIS 16 per month.

He told the committee that common bank fees are "continuing to drop gradually. Despite the rise in the consumer price index, fees have not been raised. Competition is increasing among the banks, and consumers are becoming wiser. Customers are choosing more efficient channels and the price of banking services is lower than the world average."

The Consumer Council said the Bank of Israel's numbers show that the main victims of the checking-account fees are actually households, who pay higher fees and interest rates than businesses, even though they are a better credit risk.

The council said that even if checking-account fees are outlawed, a move supported by a number of Knesset members but which Hizkiyahu strongly objects to, the banks will still make enormous profits. In 2008, Israeli banks took in NIS 12.3 billion from fees alone.

MK Ofir Akunis (Likud), the committee's chairman, said Hizkiyahu's survey showed slow but steady progress in implementing the bank-fee reforms for households, but the reforms have yet to fully achieve their goals.