Israeli cellular customers in for big surprise when dialing internationally

Unlimited talk time, extensive text messaging, gigabytes of Internet usage, hundreds of international minutes:  almost unbelievable offers are enticing Israelis to switch their cellular service carrier.  And they have.  This spring two new players entered the market, bringing the number of cellular service providers to nine.  Within days of the new arrivals, 20,000 customers switched carriers to take advantage of favorable rates.   In a country of almost eight million, these numbers are astronomical.

It wasn’t too long ago that Bezeq, the telephone monopoly, had customers waiting eight years to get a residential telephone line installed and then paying exploitative prices for the service.  Eventually, with the arrival of cell phones, competition came to the market.  But as always, caveat emptor, buyer beware.

Hidden costs in your international calling plan can trip up your idyllic vision of what’s possible with your cell or landline service.  Often customers are not told that favorable international rates will not apply to countries not on your original declaration.  You were probably asked which countries you normally call, and that information is part of your package.  However, if you call a country not on your approved list you will be penalized severely.

Let’s say you call your cousin in Budapest, forgetting Hungary is not on your approved list.  You expect that for the 20 minute call you will either have it rolled into your monthly calling plan, or at most pay 15 agurot/minute, the advertised rate from your international service provider.  Surprise!  While the Ministry of Communication capped international cell calls at 4.51NIS for some countries and 2.76NIS for others, if you do not explicitly specify Hungary on your package, you will be charged not 3NIS (15 agurot / minute * 20), but 90 shekel (4.51NIS / minutes * 20), a whopping 30 times the rate you expected to pay.

Ministry of Communication Approved Price List:

United States:         2.76 NIS

Western Europe     2.76 NIS

Eastern Europe       4.51 NIS

Rest of world           4.51 NIS

Israelis are connected to communities all over the world.  And we love to talk.  Perhaps one of your next calls should be to your service provider to sort out your international calling plan to understand exactly what you are and are not paying for.


About the Author
Rifka Lebowitz is a financial consultant specializing in personal and business finance. Rifka is the creator of the Financially Smarter Couple online course, author of Smarter Israeli Banking and founder of the extremely popular Facebook group Living Financially Smarter in Israel, she frequently speaks on financial topics in Israel, and abroad. She lives with her husband and four children near Beit Shemesh.