Large banks charge lower basic fees

The bank-fee reform, which has caused much controversy, reduced the number of fees from 198 to 72.

By SHARON WROBEL
December 31, 2008 10:27
2 minute read.
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Seventy percent of household bank customers paid less for basic services in the third quarter due to bank-fee reform, the Bank of Israel reported Tuesday. "The reform has increased transparency, enabling customers to compare bank fees, which in turn has led to more competition and discounts for fees charged to household bank customers," the central bank said. The Bank of Israel survey is based on data of household bank fees from the five largest banks for the third quarter of 2008, the first quarter since the reform was instituted. The bank-fee reform, which has caused much controversy, came into effect on July 1 and reduced the number of fees from 198 to 72. Certain fees, such as for credit frameworks, were abolished altogether, while some fees on checking-account transactions were raised. The Bank of Israel report shows that the average bank-fee package for common checking-account transactions was lowered by 22% for 70% of household banking customers, mainly due to cuts in monthly fees by the country's largest banks, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi; for 15% of household banking customers fees remained unchanged. Following the reform, 80% of households paid an average of NIS 15.30 for monthly banking fees, including credit frameworks. Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi offer the lowest household checking account fees and First International Bank of Israel the highest. Bank Hapoalim cut the price of its fees basket by 29%, from an average of NIS 19.90 a month to NIS 14.10. Bank Leumi reduced its fees by 10% from an average of NIS 17.70 per month to NIS 16. But not all banks lowered household checking-account fees following the reform. Household checking-account fees paid by customers at First International Bank of Israel rose 48%, charging NIS 24.10 a month on average for basic fees, up from NIS 16.30. Fees charged by Israel Discount Bank increased 8% to 16.40, up from 15.20, and rose 14% at Bank Mizrahi Tefahot to NIS 18.80, up from NIS 16.40. The Bank of Israel said revenues generated from bank fees by Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi fell by NIS 250 million in annual terms as a result of the reform, while revenues from bank fees at First International Bank rose. The reform has not had an effect on revenues from bank fees at Israel Discount Bank and Bank Mizrahi Tefahot, the central bank said. The survey found that the cost of teller-provided banking services to the poor and disabled were lowered, while giving them more access to banking services. The figures showed that more than 80% of poor and disabled households pay an average of NIS 12 per month in bank fees at the country's three biggest banks and an average of NIS 15.80 a month at First International Bank, compared with average monthly bank fees of NIS 18 to NIS 25 prior to the reform.

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