Alexandria taxpayers will soon be able to use their credit cards to pay personal property and real estate taxes, a service becoming increasingly popular throughout Virginia.

Arlington and four other jurisdictions in the state recently began offering taxpayers the option of using MasterCard or Visa to pay their tax bills, and Fairfax County officials have scheduled an Oct. 21 hearing to discuss whether the county should extend this form of payment to its residents.

"It's the thing of the future. I guess we have become a plastic economy," said Paul D. Henneberry, Alexandria's deputy director of finance.

Henneberry said about 103,500 personal property and real estate bills are sent out annually, and currently they are being paid only by cash or negotiable check.

The use of credit cards, however, will not be free. United Virginia Bank, the city's bank services contractor, will charge taxpayers a 1.4 percent service fee on top of their tax bill.

In a memo, City Manager Vola Lawson said that residents receiving a December real estate tax bill will be able to pay it by mailing in their credit card number with the bill or coming directly to City Hall with a MasterCard or Visa charge plate.

Four thousand Arlington County residents paid their personal property taxes due Sept. 15 by credit card, according to County Treasurer Frank O'Leary. Even though there are about 100,000 taxpayers in Arlington, O'Leary said that number "surprised everyone. It's very, very popular."

Along with Arlington, the first metropolitan area jurisdiction offering the credit card service, the Culpeper, Virginia Beach, Chesterfield, and Suffolk governments permit credit card tax payment. Officials in Maryland and the District said they are discussing the possibility of offering this option.