MasterCard introduced “the next generation biometric card” on Tuesday, a bank card that comes with a built-in fingerprint sensor. The company has successfully tested this product in South Africa, and it expects a global rollout by the end of the year.
Buyers will no longer be required to push in their PIN numbers or write down their signatures when making a purchase using this card. Just placing their finger on top of the sensor will suffice to confirm their identity and complete the transaction.
Biometric technology in payment methods is not new, but its adoption by Mastercard represents a big step forward in digitalizing commercial exchanges. Google’s Hands Free app used facial recognition to confirm people’s identities until it shut down last February.
How do Mastercard’s biometric cards work?
MasterCard said the cardholder needed to dip the card into the retailer’s terminal, and at the same time, place his or her finger on the sensor. Once the customer’s identity is verified, the transaction resumes.
That is all, of course, considering the biometrics match. For that to happen, card users need to register their fingerprints first. The process to do this may be a bit outdated for such modern technology, but cardholders must go to a financial institution themselves.
At their designated bank, users have to request the card and then register their fingerprint using MasterCard’s system. The platform turns the print into an encrypted digital template that is safely stored in the chip of the card, according to the company.
Biometric authentication is reportedly available for debit and credit cards, and in both cases, PIN codes are still an option if the sensor readings fail. The point of sale will show a message that prompts buyers to input their PIN numbers if that happens.
Are fingerprint sensors safe to make payments?
MasterCard has touted their new cards as payment alternatives that offer enhanced “convenience and security.” However, several specialists have been quick to point out that that is not exactly the case.
Yes, it is more convenient just to slip or slide your card without punching any numbers, but your fingerprint as an authentication method still poses a risk.
Experts say our prints are a double-edged sword, being different testimonies of our identity but also relatively easy to fake and steal. You cannot change your fingerprint, and someone with the smarts to replicate it will be able to pass himself as you forever.
The card maker says people will be able to store up to two prints per card, but both must belong to the same person. If an identity theft accident happens, cardholders would need to go back to PIN numbers to complete payments.
Biometric cards will hit Europe and the Asia-Pacific region in the coming months, with worldwide rollout expected by the end of the year. The cards will only be available through financial entities that decide to emit them.