Anyone who's got a wallet chock full of credit and debit cards might wish for a better way to consolidate the amount of plastic he carries around with him. With the launch of its Duo Card, Fifth Third Bank has come up with a solution.

The Duo Card is a combined debit card and MasterCard credit card. It's different than today's traditional network-branded debit cards that allow you to use debit cards in places that accept credit cards, yet always withdraws funds from a checking account. When a user accesses the debit side of a Duo Card, he makes a purchase using money that's in a checking account. The credit side of the Duo Card allows a user to access a line of credit.

"The Duo Card is designed specifically for people who see value in using debit and credit with one card," says Stephanie Honran, spokesperson for Fifth Third Bank.

Customers with the Duo Card choose to use the credit or debit function at the point of purchase. Debit transactions require the use of a PIN, while opting for the credit function requires the customer to sign for the purchase. The Duo Card can also be used at ATMs to withdraw funds from a checking account.

The two types of accounts used for the Duo Card are kept separate. If a customer makes a purchase using the credit card function, that purchase is not tied to her checking account, so if the card is stolen or compromised, the customer's available cash won't be in jeopardy.

The credit and debit transactions are even broken out in how a user receives them. Debit transactions are included on a checking account statement, while credit card transactions will be sent on a separate statement.

In addition, the no-annual fee Duo Card has a rewards program that's tied to purchases made with the credit card. Customers earn two rewards points for every dollar spent on what Fifth Third calls "everyday purchases," such as groceries, gas and discount store purchases. All other credit card transactions earn one point per dollar.

Customers can redeem points for rewards, or they can use them to pay down a Fifth Third installment loan, such as a mortgage, auto loan or home equity loan. However, rewards points may not be used to pay off the actual credit card balance, says Honran.

The Duo Card may be a way for consumers to better their finances, says Patricia Hewitt, director of debit advisory services at Mercator Advisory Group. "[You] use that one card to have a single view of debit and credit purchases."

Hewitt says the Duo Card is interesting because it's a new product in response to the Durbin Amendment. The Durbin Amendment, an addition to last year's Frank-Dodd Act is part of legislation designed to reform the financial industry. The Durbin Amendment limits the interchange fee merchants pay on every debit card transaction. Credit cards and prepaid cards are exempt from this regulation. Hewitt says that while many financial institutions have responded to the Durbin Amendment by changing their fee structures, Fifth Third is offering a product that "offers benefits to consumers, as well as issuers."

Hewitt cites other consumer benefits of the Duo Card, such as rewards, loyalty and security features that may help it gain acceptance with consumers.

Still, although the Duo Card has its perks, it may have one potential issue, Hewitt says, and that's if the card gets lost. "If you lose the card, you lose access to both your credit account and your debit account," says Hewitt.

Because it's a new concept, industry experts like Hewitt are still learning how this card might be able to transform the market. Hewitt believes the Duo Card has the potential to be trend setting in that it could help consumers implement a payment wallet. Payment wallets are typically thought of in conjunction with mobile phones, with multiple forms of payment available on your phone, "It's an electronic version of your physical wallet," says Hewitt.

Consumers have been slow to adopt the mobile version of a payment wallet, but having physical cards with multiple forms of payment on them might get them used to the concept, says Hewitt. "These will act as bridges to getting us to true electronic wallets."