As the marketplace for the clearing of credit cards in Israel opens up to competition, MasterCard, the world's second largest credit card issuer, sees a strong window of opportunity for potential transaction growth and penetration into the local market. "Change is good for us, meaning more transactions and more business for us in a country where about 78 percent of the adult population are credit card holders compared with 50% of the adult population in Europe," said Xavier Perez, president of MasterCard Europe during his first visit to the country. "Israel ranks as number three in average turnover by credit cards and number two in average expenditure per card as 55% of consumer expenditure is paid by credit cards compared with about 30% in Europe." Perez added that the average annual spending of a credit card holder in Israel was $5,800 compared with about $2,600 in Europe. "Israel ranks number one in innovation when you look at the developed solutions there are for making payments via credit cards, such as rent and tax payments, installment payments and the introduction of the first visual card," said Perez. "We believe that plastic is important and a good thing that helps the economy." Until just a month ago, Isracard, Bank Hapoalim's credit card company, had a monopoly in its clearing of Isracard and MasterCard credit card transactions. At the end of October, Ronit Kan, the anti-trust commissioner, endorsed a mutual clearing agreement with the three major credit card providers - Isracard, Visa Cal and Leumi Card - in an effort to open the clearing business of MasterCards to competition from others and to dramatically bring down fees. Clearing companies collect money from customers who have bought goods with their credit cards and transfer it to the relevant businesses, which pay a charge on each transaction. "Today, MasterCard represents the leading payment scheme in Europe," Perez noted. "Out of 10 credit card holders, six are MasterCard holders." In the third quarter ended September, the number of MasterCards in Europe rose 17% to 145 million compared with the same period last year, while volume turnover grew by 14.2% to $375 billion.