The 1.8 billion credit cards in the United States are still using a technology developed in the 1950’s: The magnetic strip. In the 21st century it makes sense that we would finally upgrade this mainstay of consumerism with something a tad bit more modern, but are you ready for a card that has a battery, display and buttons? Well, you better be, because they’re on their way to your wallets sooner than you might think.

The New York Times is reporting that Citi is preparing new cards for their Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard and Citi PremierPass Elite card holders.  These cards will feature buttons on them that will allow the card holder to choose if they want to pay with traditional credit or use their Request Reward points when they’re paying.  The points will be usable anywhere that the card is normally accepted, and since they are MasterCards, that means just about anywhere you want.

Second Generation Citi Credit Cards

The cards have already been under going testing by Citi employees since May, and now the company is setting to ramp up the test to a select group of consumers.  After feedback is received from them, a larger rollout is expected in 2011.

The cards contain a microprocessor and a battery that is good for four years, but surprisingly the card is no thicker or less flexible than the ones you currently carry around with you.  You simply will touch the rewards logo if you wish to pay with those, and if you don’t have enough in your account, the card will default to paying by credit.  The cards still carry the traditional magnetic strip, but what information that transmits to the card reader is determined by which method of payment you choose.

Apparently, and a surprise to me, the United States is one of the last countries using cards that don’t have more features to them.  The standard in Europe is cards that require a pin and have chips in them as opposed to a magnetic strip on the back.  Citi has apparently spent a considerable amount of money on developing these new cards, and they say that this is just the beginning of what they think they can do with their cards in the coming years.

You can read more about the cards on the Citi site.

What say you?  Are you ready for battery operated credit cards?