A new system, the Saltire Card, would allow customers to pre-load funds on the card and then use it to pay for trips on all forms of public transport.
It would mean no need for finding the exact change for a bus journey and instead the card would be read by a ticket machine and the amount deducted from the credit on the card.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the plans for the Saltire Card today at Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow.
The idea is that the card could be used on bus, trains, and ferries across the country and on the Glasgow Subway.
She said the Scottish Government had already funded 7000 new smart card enabled ticket machines for buses for the concessionary travel scheme for the over-60s, and the new programme would see a similar system developed on other modes of transport and available to the whole population.
It will also be available for tourists to use for the duration of their trip, making travel by public transport easier to manage.
Ms Sturgeon said: "The Saltire Card will be a hugely exciting development for transport in Scotland.
"It will make it easier, more attractive and possibly cheaper for people to get around using public transport.
"We are aware there is still some substantial work to do on this proposal, but we are taking the first steps towards achieving this vision by launching a series of demonstrator schemes with a number of operators and public sector partners throughout the country.
"Bus operators are already smart card-enabled and many are already working with Transport Scotland to see how they can fully use the benefits of the technology to share those benefits with passengers."
The Scottish Government is setting up demonstration schemes across the country with transport operators to trial the Saltire Card, with a partnership with ScotRail to be part of the new rail franchise from 2014.
Bus firms, local councils and regional transport partnerships, including Strathclyde Partnership for Transport will be involved in developing the pilot projects and the full system.
Individual local pilot projects will be announced soon.