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Consumer Confidential: Smarter plastic, cheaper TVs, pricier Happy Meals

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Here’s your feel-good Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Your plastic is about to get a whole lot smarter. Citibank will start testing out a card with little buttons and lights that will let you choose whether to pay with rewards points or credit. Other cards in the works would fight fraud by only showing part of the number unless a PIN is entered. But experts say this may be the last gasp for plastic. Soon, we may all be paying with a swipe of our cellphones. I’m cool with that. I draw the line at having a pay chip embedded in my arm.

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--Been waiting for prices to drop before splurging on a fancy-pants flat-panel TV? Your moment may have arrived. Market researchers and retailers say prices for LCD and plasma TVs will drop this holiday season as stores try to boost their bottom lines with a flurry of sales. A TV that sold for about $4,000 a few years ago may now go for about $1,000. Smaller sets can cost just a few hundred bucks. I know my kid is jonesing for an HDTV set to play Wii games on. But now the question is whether we should wait another year or two for a slick-as-you-please 3-D set.

--Looks like Happy Meals are about to get a little gloomier. McDonald’s says it will be raising prices for its burgers and stuff because of rising commodity prices. The fast-food giant says it expects commodity costs to rise up to 3% next year, although it hasn’t specified how this will affect menu prices. The price hikes are expected in the United States and Europe.

-- David Lazarus


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