You might think the credit card industry would have a hard time offering us a new and improved version of the plastic rectangles most of us already carry in our wallets. Well, the industry has done it. I read recently at that the purveyors of plastic are getting set to roll out "contactless" cards this month. For consumers, that seems to be good and bad news.

First, the good. This miraculous new breakthrough, which will allow us to simply wave these new cards in front of special readers when we want to pay for something, is sure to save us lots of time and energy. No longer will we have to reach halfway across a counter to give a clerk our card (and then reach again to retrieve it). We won't have to engage the higher powers of our brains to calculate arm and hand trajectories, determining within split seconds exactly where our hand will meet with the cashier's. No longer will we have to expend countless calories swiping our cards through readers. Join with me now: Phew! Huzzah!

But seriously, there is at least one significant benefit: Lines may get shorter and/or move faster, since the purchase process will require fewer steps.

If you're done celebrating now, let's move on to the drawbacks. You see, it seems that folks who will use these new cards tend to spend more. Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, a coalition of retailers and financial-services firms, said in the article that based on tests conducted last year, "The average ticket price is higher when you pay with a contactless card." Hmm....

So who will benefit from this new development? Card issuers such as MBNA (NYSE:KRB), J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank One, American Express (NYSE:AXP), Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), and Citigroup (NYSE:C) may see increased card usage and, therefore, increased profits.

So may merchants, ranging from the mom-and-pop-owned deli down the street to big retailers like Wal-Mart and Sears. The 7-Eleven convenience-store chain, as one example, is reported to be already planning to accept contactless cards. Starbucks has already been offering consumers the ability to pay by card without having to sign any paperwork.

The credit card world is a happening place, with benefits and dangers for us all. Protect yourself from being taken advantage of by being an informed and savvy consumer. Whenever your blood pressure seems a little low, check out these articles:

Steven Mallas' article "It's All About the Blink" tells you more about the technology and security issues surrounding these new contactless cards. You can also learn more about the credit card industry and how to get out of debt by visiting our Credit Center. Really. I mean it. There's some great stuff in there, and it's all free reading.

You can also read about all things credit-related on our Consumer Credit / Credit Cards discussion board.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Wal-Mart. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.