Cash is fading and plastic is in for Hong Kong people paying their tax and gas bills, according to Visa International. Credit cards are no longer used just for shopping or to obtain cash advances - more and more consumers are whipping them out to settle monthly payments. Visa said in an annual report on spending that the biggest growth in card use last year was for tax and utility bills - a market estimated to be worth $66.85 billion. Consumers paid $15.17 billion, or 22.7 per cent, of that with Visa cards - a huge jump from a market share of 9.1 per cent in 2003. 'Now, more than ever, people are using their credit cards in instances where they previously would have only considered using cash,' said Prudence Chan Bik-wah, Visa's country manager for Hong Kong and Macau, adding that growth in the number of bill payments made by card had been aided by more banks providing access for customers to pay tax this way. Ms Chan also said consumers were becoming more aware of the benefits of having reward points on their cards. Her comments were echoed by MasterCard vice-president and Greater China business manager Danny Cheung Wai-kin. 'In 2003, there were only HSBC and a couple of small banks that allowed customers to pay salary taxes with credit cards,' Mr Cheung said. 'Now virtually all banks are doing it.' He said MasterCard saw similar trends in tax payment towards the end of last year, although he did not provide exact figures. According to the Visa study, there was also a large increase in the use of its cards to pay medical bills - 21.1 per cent of bills were settled that way compared with 14.7 per cent the year before. Of total personal consumer expenditure in Hong Kong, Visa's share has risen to 16.1 per cent, the third highest in the Asia-Pacific region, from 15.4 per cent a year ago. Visa has 7.3 million cards in circulation in Hong Kong. Overall, total spending on Visa cards in Hong Kong last year jumped 22 per cent to $128 billion - the highest in four years. MasterCard, which announced its annual results earlier this month, posted a 29 per cent year-on-year increase in total spending last year.