Planning for your child’s gap year to Israel is an exciting time, however, dealing with all of the logistical planning can become overwhelming. One main practicality that arises is how can you help your gapper manage their money in Israel. Don’t stress out just yet, there are a wide range of options out there, from time honored cash to debit and credit cards and even pre-paid cards, so how do you know which is the best option for your child? With the right planning it’s all pretty straight forward. Here are some practical tips on how parents and gappers can best manage the needs of their child in Israel and at home.
“Before You Go: Tell Your Bank”
The last thing you want to happen on the road is for the bank to freeze your child’s cards and leave them stranded, and believe me it can happen. The best way to preempt this is to inform your bank beforehand exactly where your gapper will be and when.
Do this in person at least once before you go, and in writing too if possible. Do this again just before you leave. That should be all it takes. However, cards do get blocked, if your child’s card gets blocked, don’t worry. Make sure that before they leave you give them a little cash this way they can still buy necessities, until you are able to unblock their card.
“Make Copies Of Important Numbers”
Make sure that your gapper has all of their banks international phone numbers in case of an emergency. Trust me, if your child’s card has been blocked or they lose their card and need to cancel it; but they can’t reach you, they will be able to take care of it themselves. This way you don’t have to worry about taking care of everything, while at the same time, your gapper will gain some more independence.
“Finding The Best Bang For Your Buck”
Access to money and currency exchanges are crucial considerations for young people on their gap year in Israel. Many banks and credit unions offer poor exchange rates in addition to high withdrawal fees. In my personal experience, I have found that TD bank offers an option of opening their TD Premier that has zero withdrawal fees, as long as the account is above 2,500usd. Another good option to look into is Capital One’s 360 account, which has no pesky ATM withdrawal fees, additionally, there are no minimum balance requirements. Also keep in mind that many places don’t accept American Express and they also charge exorbitant fees. I would strongly suggest leaving your Amex at home and try out something new.
“Teaching Your Gapper How To Budget”
A gap year is a great opportunity for parents to work with their children on their budgeting and personal finance skills. Janice Rossman, a former Israel gap year mother, saw her daughter repeatedly go over their established budget during her year in Israel. They discovered that “hidden expenses” — things beyond the established costs of rent, utilities and food — were to blame for the budget-busting. “We discovered it was mostly ‘GetTaxi,’ ” she says, referring to the popular transportation app. This led to a productive discussion of ways to make use of other transportation options to keep costs in line.
“Learn from other ‘gappers’”
Students who are taking a gap year in Israel and their parents should do significant research in advance, not just online but by reaching out to other students who have lived and studied there. Consult gap-year message boards (which you have already done!! excellently done…Kol Hakavod) that provide information on cultural, financial, and other issues.
“Make Sure Your Internet Banking Is Secure”
Internet banking is a great way for both you and your gapper to keep an eye on your account while in Israel, and is becoming increasingly the norm. However, it is really important you are vigilant with your details to ensure your account isn’t compromised.
Don’t access your accounts in an internet cafe or anywhere that has a public computer such as a hostel common room. There is a chance that it may be compromised with spyware, where criminals can essentially record all your keystrokes and just swipe your details. This is why you might want to consider a mobile hotspot— which provides your gapper with secure WIFI anywhere they might be.
These are essentially cards that you – in principle – use exactly the same way as a debit card, to withdraw money from an ATM. The difference is they are topped up before you go and can be topped up at anytime on your trip either online, over the phone or by a very understanding relative.
They are great for sticking to your budget and some even have great benefits such as locked in exchange rates, emergency cash and card replacement services, dependent on which one you get.
The biggest problem I have seen with these prepaid cards is that they don’t actually always work in as many places as the seller will tell you they do. Not every business or ATM in every country will accept all of them. So just be careful and double check everything if you are thinking of using one of these.
“Wiring Money Or Using A Mobile Service”
As a last resort, you always have these services to fall back on in an emergency. Provided you have an understanding family member of course. There are a huge variety of options here, from having money wired to you via companies like Western Union, but you will have to pick the funds up at a designated station and you will pay quite a premium for the service, or simpler services such as mobile banking apps, which of course you will still have to access via an ATM.
Whichever option you choose, whichever way you find that is best for you to manage your money with your gapper, it is important to remember that it really isn’t as difficult or daunting as it may seem. I hope that both you and your gapper have an insightful, meaningful year full of joy and growth.
I hope that this was helpful and able to answer some of your questions. Please feel free to share your thoughts and how your gapper is doing in Israel. Remember they are just a phone call away.