Mastercard introduces cards that work with fingerprints instead of PINs

Mastercard has added fingerprint sensors to its payment cards, in an attempt to make face-to-face payments more convenient and more secure.

Mastercard fingerprint

How does it work?

“A cardholder enrolls their card by simply registering with their financial institution. Upon registration, their fingerprint is converted into an encrypted digital template that is stored on the card. The card is now ready to be used at any EMV card terminal globally,” the credit card provider explained.

“When shopping and paying in-store, the biometric card works like any other chip card. The cardholder simply dips the card into a retailer’s terminal while placing their finger on the embedded sensor. The fingerprint is verified against the template and – if the biometrics match – the cardholder is successfully authenticated and the transaction can then be approved with the card never leaving the consumer’s hand.”

Benefits and limitations

Of course, this type of biometric verification is useless when it comes to online shopping. But when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, users don’t have to know their PIN, and the whole “paying at the counter” process will be considerably quicker.

Another boon for the merchant is the fact that the card works with existing EMV card terminal infrastructure and does not require any new hardware or software upgrades. They don’t have to buy fingerprint scanners, because the sensor in the card reads the fingerprint.

But the company did not mention what happens if the fingerprint sensor malfunctions, or if the user – for whatever reason – can’t use his fingers to authenticate the transaction. Does the card become useless, or can he still fall back on using the PIN to authenticate the transaction? I’ll let you know if Mastercard gets back to me on this.

Mastercard is obviously satisfied with the results of the trials of the technology in South Africa. Wider deployment of the technology will depend on the results of additional trials in Europe and Asia Pacific, to be effected in the coming months.

The company also shared their plans to add contactless technology to a future version of the card.