Friday, May 24, 2013

Best and Cheapest Cellphone Plans in Israel - Updated for May 2013

Cell Phone Plan Comparison
Updated May 2013

Much has happened since my last update on cellphone packages.  The cellphone scene in Israel has heated up.  Number portability, new cellphone players and competition in the cell phones device market has made using the cellphone more affordable.

It has been a while since my last update so I thought I would summarize the various players plans.  There are fine print conditions and unique specials and promos all the time so I would suggest that if there is a plan that catches your eye on my summary, you should spend some time investigating the unique aspects of the plan.  Remember there are no contracts that tie you in for a specific period, so if you make a mistake and find something better after signing up, don't worry and make a change.

You should also be aware that there is a SIM charge by each carrier.  I have not included this charge in the price comparison.

Although the newer phones will work on most of the networks, you should check with the carrier if your existing phone will work on their network.  If not, you will need to purchase a new phone.

If you have found my summary helpful, I ask that you +1 my blog.  Happy talking.

My cellphone plan comparison chart can be found here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Proven method for reducing your Internet bill (in Israel)

Here are the steps:

1.  Call up your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and ask them to give you the best price for staying.
2.  Call up a competing ISP and ask them for the best price to switch.
3.  Call up your ISP and ask them if they will match or better the competing ISP's price.
4.  If the answer is no, to step 3, then switch.  Today it is very easy to switch and it will happen within 24 hours.
5.  Within 24-48 hours you will receive a phone call from your original ISP with a better price and possibly even a present :)

The down side is that you may have to switch your settings in your router (twice).  The upside is you get a big (at least 50%) discount on your current rate and you get that great feeling that you have out-smarted the crazy marketing tactics of the telecom companies in Israel.

Remember, never go for the package deal of ISP plus line (Tashtit).  As ISP prices drop and they do, you will be in the best position to negotiate and ensure the best rates.


Monday, February 11, 2013

The Electricity Bill Unplugged

Demystifying your Israeli Bill (Cheshbonit) Series, 

Part 1 - The Israel Electric Bill from the IEC

This is the first in my series on demystifying the Israeli bills we receive on a periodic basis. One of the first challenges a new Oleh has to overcome in his new country is paying a bill. As in most countries there are so many different bills and so many different formats. Add to this the language barrier and you have a recipe for confusion, frustration and sometimes contempt. So that you don't give up too easily and to assist you in overcoming this challenge I am putting together a series on demystifying your Israeli bills.  The first bill that we will tackle is the bill from the Israel Electric Company (IEC).

The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the organization of the bill, translate the technical terms found in the bill and provide a brief description of the major areas of the bill to further familiarize you with the document. Finally I have included some proven (by me and my family) steps in saving money on your electricity bill. I invite you to share your insights and tips with the rest of the readers of this blog. I will continuously update the blog with your saving tips as I receive them.

The Israel Electric Bill/Invoice

Semi Monthly Invoice from the IEC
IEC  =  Israel Electric Company
KWH = Kilowatt Hour קט"ש = קילווט לשעה

Every electricity bill comes in at least a one page format with two sides.  The front page can be divided into two sections; the invoice which summarizes the customer information, the usage billed amounts and a monthly trend of electricity usage, and the payment stub which can be used to pay at any bank, the post office, online or at the IEC.  The second side of the invoice contains calculations and detail information on the usage in the last period.


Page 1 - Side 1

Header of Bill
On the right hand side of the header you will typically find your name and the current address to where the bill is being sent. I have whited out my name and address to protect my identity. The title of this bill is "חשבון דו חודשי" which translates into semi-monthly bill.
Israel Electric Company Invoice Header

EnglishHebrew Comments
1. Invoice/Receipt Number
חשבונית מס קבלה - מקור
A unique numeric identifier for this invoice.
2. Contract Number
מספר חוזה
The number of your contract which identifies you/your house/your meter with the electric company
3. Period of Invoice
חשבון לתקופה
Number of days and the date range of the invoice
4. Date of Invoice
תעריך עריכת חשבון
Date invoice was printed

Contacting the IEC & your Payment Deadline
Contact the Israeli Electric Company
Contacting the IEC
There are many ways to get in touch with the Electric Company (EC).  In most cities you can call EC on your landline, Cellcom, Orange & Pelephone using the short number 103.  You can call this number 24/7, especially if you run into problems with your electricity or you have an emergency. You can also use the IEC website to pay bills and to get more information.

Payment Deadline
Under the contact information you will find the final date on which you can pay your bill.  You can pay your bill at your bank (there are bank charges associated with this payment), online at the IEC website using your credit card (no charges), at the Post Office (no charge) or at the IEC office (no charge).

Electricity Usage Trend
Electricity Usage Trend from Israel Electric Company
The graph found on page 1 gives you a 12 month trend of your electricity usage.  On some bills you may receive a breakdown for each month of peak, normal and low usage. In Israel, during the summer months you should see an increase in electricity usage due to the use of the Air Conditioner which is a large consumer of electricity.

The trend starts 13 months ago on the left hand side and goes to the current billing month on the far right side.
Payment Stub
Payment stub of Israel Electric Company Invoice
The bottom portion of the invoice contains the payment stub which you can use when paying your bill via your bank or the post office.  If you go to the bank or post office to make the payment, make sure to take the entire invoice.  The bank or post office will print and stamp the upper portion of the invoice with the payment information and they will keep the payment stub portion above. Keep the upper portion of the invoice for your records. 

Bank Debit
You also have the option to have the bill paid directly via your bank. To do so you will need to get a form from the IEC and take it to your bank to have them fill it out. Upon submission of this form from the bank, the funds will be taken out of your account to pay for your bill.

Side 2
Side 2 of the Israel Electric Company Invoice

1. Charge for usage from the Israel Electric Company (not including VAT)
חיוב בגין צריכה מחח”י (לא כולל מע”מ)

2. Reading from meter whose serial number is oooo
קריאות מונה מספר סססס

Table Header

3. Tariff Type
Residential (usually)
4. Type of Reading
סוג קריאה נוכחית
Normal (usually)
5. Dates of Reading
Current Read (dd/mm)
Previous Read (dd/mm)
תאריכי קריאה
נוכחית חדש/יום
קודמת חודש/יום
6. Days in Charge Period
ימים לחיוב
7. Current Read
קריאה נוכחית
8. Previous Read
קריאה קודמת
9. Total Usage in KWH
צריכה בקוט”ש
10. Cost per KWH in Agorot
מחיר לקוט”ש באגורות
11. Total in Shekalim (NIS)
סה”כ בש”ח

12. Monthly Fee (Calculated on a per day basis) based on days in period
תשלום קבוע (לא כולל מע"מ)

13. General Announcements
הודעות כלליות

This section is where the IEC will announce a rate change.  They will also inform you of  your last payment.

Tips on how to reduce electricity consumption
  1. Turn off lights when not needed.  Use timers to automatically turn lights off.
  2. Use fluorescent or LED light bulbs and light fixtures
  3. When buying appliances, purchase one’s with high energy efficiency ratings
  4. Hang laundry instead of drying in the dryer
  5. Turn off any low-voltage (tv’s, phones, computer screens) which are not in use.
  6. In cool summer evening,  open windows in evening to cool off house
  7. Set Air Conditioning to 25
  8. Set Heating to 20
  9. Time showers to use hot water from sun so as not to heat the water via electricity.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Israel Cellphone Plan Comparison - The Israeli Cellphone Revolution 2012 - 5772

Since my article in February and the entry of Rami Levy, the change in the cellular marketplace has been nothing short of incredible - some would call it revolutionary. Not only have we been rid of those ridiculous one-sided contracts but prices have come down, and in a big way. With the addition of new players such as HOT, Golan Telecom and YouPhone, the future looks bright for the cellular consumer. The last step in this cellular revolution will be the opening of the cellphone device market to more players - as we say in this country "BimHera BeYameynu".

First Things First
With all this competition what should you do as a consumer? The first thing I suggest you do, before you have even investigated any of the new plans, is to call your existing provider and request (demand!!!!) the best deal to keep you as a customer. Remember, if you have a phone device as part of your plan, you will most probably lose the credit that you have been enjoying until now and you will need to pay the remaining (over-priced) amount until the end of the contract. Even with the loss of the credit, you should still find a reduction in your overall cellphone bill.

The Plans - Unlimited vs. Per Minute/SMS
There are two major types of plans available on the marketplace; a fixed monthly amount for an "unlimited" package or a per minute/per sms plan. The type of plan that you negotiate & decide on, will depend largely on your calling needs. The "unlimited" plans give you unlimited calling, unlimited SMS and some form of "unlimited" (with limits) internet surfing.

For those who know that they will be calling & SMS'ing less than 88 shekels a month, then the per minute/SMS plans may be better suited for you.

Drop your Land Line & Save Further
If you are going to go with an unlimited plan you may want to consider cancelling your land line. You can now get an "Internet only" phone line at no cost from Bezeq, and then all you need to pay for is for the internet connection (75-105 NIS per month) to maintain your internet service to your house (for Bezeq ADSL users). By cancelling your land line service you will be saving another 45 NIS per month or more by not using a Bezeq phone line for your calls.

I have been asked by many people how do the various operators compare on service. I have not conducted any studies in this area, but you may find articles now and then in the Israeli press about the long wait times and the over agressive customer service rep's. My assumption is that the service provided by all the operators is uniformly sub-par if you have the time to waste waiting on hold. Therefore you should take service out of the equation when making a decision about which plan to purchase. Do not use the friendly sales rep as a proxy of how after sales service will perform.

Internet Surfing
With the advent of the various "smart phones" in the marketplace, data plans have become the new hot service offered by the operators. Here again there are differences amongst the operators. The factors involved are the maximum amount of data transmission measured in Megabytes or Gigabytes and the speed at which the transmission is being made. Most of the unlimited plans offer 1 Gigabyte of data at the high speed and then after that, the speed begins to drop. Of course if you are a heavy user of data then you can purchase upgraded data plans which offers more data at higher speeds. When in doubt, read the small print. This is where all the info is.

Long Distance
Another interesting service being offered by some of the operators (as part of their unlimited plans) is unlimited long distance.  For those of us who make lots of calls to places abroad this is another money saving opportunity.  Check with each of the operators, the countries they cover and whether contacting a cell phone in that country is covered within the plan.

The Players
The incumbents include: Pelephone, Orange and Cellcom.  The upstarts include: Ramy Levy, Golan Telecom, HOT Mobile, 012 Mobile, YouPhone

The Plans - Unlimited
Remember each of the plans, although they may come with a very heavy contract, must allow you to switch out at your request.  The only fee for switching to another operator will be payment for the remaining bill and a new SIM.

Operator Price* Surfing Limit Unlimited Long Distance Notes
Pelephone 99 1 Gigabyte No 99 NIS + 1NIS/day for Long Distance Min + 2 Gigabyte Surfing & Other features
Orange 125 500 Megabyte No 135 NIS for Intl Mins + 1 Gigabyte
Cellcom 119 1Gigabyte No 129 NIS for 200 Intl Mins + 2 Gigabyte
Ramy Levy 88 1 Gigabyte No Other Surfing Plans Available
Golan Telecom 99 3 Gigabyte Yes to specific countries
HOT Mobile 89 3 GigaByte No
HOT Mobile with Long Distance 99 3 GigaByte Yes to 20 Countries
012 Mobile 88 500 MegaByte Yes - Canada & US only,
Cell & Landline
98 NIS for 2 Gigabyte
YouPhone 59-109 1 GigaByte No Monthly Price depends on how much you spend with your You card

* Price - price per month in NIS, there is a charge from each of the operators for a Phone SIM when you join.

The Plans - Per Min/SMS

Operator Fee/Month Price/Min Price/SMS Surfing Notes

Orange 00.25 0.25 0.25/Megabyte ClearMax Plans
Cellcom 29.000.69 0.65 No
Ramy Levy (1) 17.90 0.17 0.15 0.12/Mbyte
Ramy Levy (2) 4.900.390.290.39/Mbyte
Golan Telecom 9.99 0.18 0.01 0.09/Mbyte Monthly Fee includes 60 min + 60 SMS + 10 Mbyte
HOT Mobile10.00 0.10 0.10 0.10/Mbyte Monthly Fee includes 50 min + 50 SMS + 50 Mbyte + 10 Min Long Distance
HOT Mobile 10 Agorot0 0.10 0.10 0.10/Mbyte
012 Mobile

No Plan Currently
YouPhone 18.000.18 0.15 0.15/Mbyte Monthly Price depends on how much you spend with your You card. ex.: 100 NIS = 10 Free Mins

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rami Levy vs. Cellcom - Round 1

Rami Levy
I just came back from moving my daughter's cellphone account from Cellcom to Rami Levy.  The entire process took 20 minutes and within 3.5 hours the number moved from Cellcom to Rami Levy as promised.  The primary motivation for the move was to reduce my cellphone bill but it also gave me a chance to experience the move and see if there are discernible differences between the service of Cellcom and Rami Levy.  After many years of living with the decreasing levels of service at the telecom incumbents, I no longer have any expectations that anyone is really interested in providing acceptable levels of service, so the move was primarily done to save some shekels.

I had been putting off the move for a number of months hoping that Cellcom would offer a competing product to Rami Levy and keep me from making the move (change is difficult at my age).  However when I saw my daughter's last cell phone bill I decided that the time had come to take some action.  Unfortunately it seems that Cellcom has too many things on its mind right now and competing with Rami Levy is not a priority for them.  I couldn't believe that a response to the upstart Rami Levy from the incumbents would be almost non-existent.

Before making the move, I made one last effort to see if Cellcom was interested in keeping me as a customer.  After waiting on hold for a Cellcom Representative for 15 minutes, I went through the typical song and dance of "let's see how you use your account", "pay this get that" and finally "do you have a soldier at home".  At the end of the first dance, I asked the rep whether he had heard of Rami Levy and their offer.  He said "yes".  Do you have a competing product to offer me? I asked.  The answer was "just a minute...".  After a further 10 minutes listening to Cellcom's elevator music a new rep got on the line.  He read the previous rep's report (which was written during my time on hold) and then began to offer me the same deals as the previous rep.  Needless to say, I had enough.  I told him that I wanted a simple answer (Yes or No) to a simple question - do you have a competing product to Rami Levi.  The answer was "No".

And so ended my relationship with Cellcom.  Rami Levy offers you the following:

One time Sim Fee: 39 shekels
Monthly fee: 14.95 NIS
Price per Minute: 20 Agorot
Price per SMS: 15 Agorot.

There are other services available such as Internet surfing however you have the option to turn this and other services off at time of registration.

You will need a phone that works on the 850 frequency (Nokia C2-01 - 490 NIS at Ivory).  Even if you don't live near a Rami Levy store, you can still sign up for a Rami Levi account at Ivory Computers.

We are living during interesting times and it will be interesting to see how the incumbents, with their heavy overheads, will deal with the upstarts.  Maybe change isn't as bad as I thought.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Now is the Time to Save on your Cell Phone Bill

There is so much change going on in the telecom space here in Israel that it's hard to keep up.  First there was the ability to move your number from carrier to carrier, then there was the rescinding of all long term contracts associated with cell phone usage and now we are on the threshold of new competition by the likes of Rami Levi.

What does all this mean for you and me?  Simply put, saving money.  You will have to be willing to spend some time haggling with the sales reps, but from what I recently experienced you should see a significant drop in your cell phone bills.

Baruch Habah Rami Levi
Rami Levi is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator).  This means that Rami Levi buys minutes and usage from an existing telephone carrier and then resells the time & usage to his new customers.  Rami Levi is acting like a wholesaler & retailer rolled into one.  They formally announced their pricing to the public (Check out the YNET article on the topic).  The picture that is becoming clearer is that the average citizen has been over-paying for cellular services for a long time.  I imagine that Rami Levi is not doing this to lose money and that built in to his pricing structure is some profit.  Even with this profit, it looks like we have been overpaying for usage by at least 50%.  It is almost sickening to think about it.  Enough with the reflection, let's get down to the numbers.

Beware:  Prices will be changing
Before I do present what I've found, I would like to remind you that the numbers I am providing are only good as of the day of publishing this article.  There will be many changes to the pricing and plans over the next little while due to the recent changes, so please use the information only as a guide for what you should find as you go out to re-negotiate your plan.

Cellcom Example
As an example my daughter has a plan with Cellcom.  She speaks less than 60 minutes a month and sends around 150 sms's a month.  For this privilege I have been paying around 175 shekels a month.  After speaking with a Cellcom representative the price went to 70 shekels a month; a 60% discount on what I was paying previously.  If I were to move to Rami Levi I would be paying 34.50 per month (based on 60 minutes talk and 150 sms's).  Work out the savings!!!!!! Remember that at Rami Levi you will have to pay for a sim card and possibly a cell phone.

Please see my cellphone comparison spreadsheet which compares the plans from all the various carriers.  The list is not all inclusive.  I tried to stick with plans with 100-200 minutes and 100-200 SMS's in a month.

The Importance of Haggling
Haggling, or negotiating is not a skill they teach you in school nor are most of us comfortable with the task, given the  foreign language.  However if you are to benefit from the reductions you will need to learn to haggle.   In my Cellcom example above, the representative first came back at me with the usual pitch.  She checked our bills from the last 3 months to get an idea of the usage.  She then tried to find a plan which was around the same amount as I'm currently paying (175 NIS) .  In this case, she offered me a plan with 500 SMS's and 150 minutes.  Obviously this was not why I called them in the first place.  When I challenged the agent with "Is this the best you can do?" she replied that this was not her final offer.  I told her from the outset that I was interested in reducing the bill, so I challenged her again as to why she was wasting my time with "non-final offer" deals.  She put me on hold.  After 5 minutes on hold, she told me that she would return to me in an hour.  She did.  That is when she offered the 70 NIS plan above.  Could I have dropped it more?  Possibly, but for now I was happy with the small victory.

Don't forget to speak to the Manager
Another possible approach is to ask the representative for their best price to keep you as a customer.  With today's new rules you can switch out very easily and they know that, so use it, when negotiating a deal.  If you find yourself with many phones in your family I would try using the multiple lines as leverage to getting a better deal when negotiating.  If all else fails, ask to speak to the manager.

The Phone
As most of you will experience when you speak to a representative or when you go into one of their sales centers you will be offered a "free" phone or a phone discount against usage.  These phone deals are very tempting, however you should be aware and beware.  The phone plans still commit you to 36 months with the carrier.  This means that if you decide to leave your carrier you will still need to continue to pay for the phone (without the credit).  If you decide to upgrade your phone during the 36 month period you will need to pay for the old phone and the new phone.  Finally, the cell phones offered by the carriers are usually heavily marked up.  Phones which are priced at 1000 NIS can be found on the internet for sometimes 40-60% less.  What this means is that if you decide to upgrade you will continue to pay for a highly over-priced phone without getting any benefit.  If you decide to move carriers then the new carrier may give you a credit for the phone.  I believe the rules on these phone plans will change as well.  In the meantime, if possible, stay clear of these plans unless absolutely necessary.

Feedback on this Post
From my previous articles I received many positive emails and feedback on this topic.  It was very gratifying to receive the feedback, but I believe that many would benefit from the combined input.  I would therefore like to suggest that if you have an experience with a Telecom carrier that you wish to share with others who could benefit, please do so by making a comment after this post.

Don't forget to +1 me
One last request.  If you enjoyed the article, press the +1 button below.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Selecting the Right Cell Phone Plan for your Soldier

From Israel Defense Forces Photostream on Flikr
As you and your child prepare for the next step in their Israeli experience it is important to remember that the cell phone will become the primary vehicle for keeping in touch with the young adult. All the major cell phone companies provide special programs for your soldier.  These plans are typically much more attractive than the cheapest carrier plans on the market, so it pays to take a look and choose the best plan for your needs.

Now that the cell companies cannot lock you into a plan, the decision making has become a bit less stressful.  If you decide that you are not happy with the plan that you chose, you can make a change without any change fees or exit penalties and you can keep your number as you move from company to company.  (The new rules on no exit fees only apply to the talk/sms/internet plan.  Any deals you make for a physical phone will usually last a full 36 months and if you decide to exist prior to the end of the 36 month period, you will have to pay the remaining fee.)

All of the companies require you to provide an enlisting document from the Israeli Army.  Your son or daughter will receive these documents at least a year prior to their entry date.  This means that you can already benefit from the soldier plans a year before he/she goes into the army.

There are two types of plans: talk and pay or monthly minutes plans.  Depending on the usage you should consider which plan best fits the needs of your son or daughter.

Please see my spreadsheet on the various carriers plans for talk and pay and month minute plans.

Purchasing Telephones
From my experience, if your child will be in the field in a combat role, the phone will take a beating on many levels.  In addition, unfortunately there have been circumstances where phones have been stolen or lost.  When this happens you are left with finding a replacement, which is not always easy to do when your soldier has only every other weekend to make it home.  Therefore I would recommend staying away from expensive smartphones as much as the deals from the carriers look tempting. BTW even the operators' insurance plans are not totally inclusive and you may find yourself having to shell out funds to fix or replace the phone.

Cell Phone Insurance
I would also suggest to look into the insurance plans of each of the carriers.  If the phone breaks or is lost or stolen then the phone can be fixed and replaced at reduced rates, and at the same time receive a loaner phone until the phone is fixed.  When speaking with the carrier ask them specifics about what the insurance covers and what it does not.

Another option is to purchase the cheapest phone possible so that in case the phone breaks or is lost, you can replace it with another cheap phone.  The downside with this is that your soldier may not be interested in walking around with the cheapest phone.