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What if you had a credit card that held a miniature computer inside its thin skin? What if you could “talk” to this credit card while you made your purchases, telling it how you wanted to pay for your items? It sounds like science fiction. But to a select few test consumers, the newly introduced Citi 2G credit cards are making this futuristic scenario a reality.
Citi released it’s electronic 2G credit cards in limited numbers in November of 2010. The cards come equipped with two buttons on their fronts. Cardholders can press one button to tell the card to pay for their purchases with regular credit. A second button allows consumers to pay for their purchases by redeeming points or cash rewards. Customers merely press one of the buttons to make their decision. The button that they press will light up, confirming consumers’ selections.
For years now, credit card analysts have been debating the future of credit cards. Many are predicting that U.S. credit card issuers will slowly phase out credit cards that rely on magnetic swipe strips, and replace them with models that instead are powered by electrical components. The Citi 2G credit cards are a step toward this future. The credit cards look like a typical credit card. They’re the same size and shape as any card you’d slip into your wallet. This card, though, gets its power from several programmable and electronic components. These high-tech pieces include a battery, embedded chip, two buttons and a card-programmable magnetic stripe.
In a press release issued by Citi, Terry O’Neil, executive vice president of Citi’s North America Credit Card Division, said that the 2G card proves that credit card issuers are capable of imaginative innovations. “People don’t typically think of credit cards as an innovative product,” O’Neil said. “but we are excited to be the first issuer to pilot these advanced technologies and additional choice at checkout through the ‘next generation’ of cards. With Citi’s latest feature, customers now get a credit card that better fits their lifestyle and needs, putting more options right in their hands.”
Citi made its 2G credit cards available to a small group of Citi cardholders starting last November. The company is now gathering feedback on how the cards work. The company said it will offer the cards on a larger scale sometime this year. The technology used to power the Citi 2G cards was developed by Dynamics Inc., a company that specializes in creating advanced payment device cards. Also in a press release, Jeff Mullen, chief executive officer of Dynamics, said that what Citi is doing will revolutionize the credit card industry. “Citi is at the forefront of embracing and executing new technologies that bring greater value to consumers,” said Mullen. “Never before has an issuer brought this type of capability to market, one that allows consumers to choose at the point-of-sale to use points that they’ve earned.”
It remains to be seen if other credit card issuers will follow Citi’s example. The odds, though, are high. The odds are also good that one day we’ll all look at the 2G card and be amazed at how technologically crude it is. After all, there was a day when smart phones, iPods and BlackBerry devices sounded like the stuff of science fiction, too.