Mastercard is bringing fingerprint sensors to credit cards

With new credit and debit cards more featuring contactless payment chips more often than not these days, you might not have used your PIN code for purchases for a while.

The development follows two separate trials conducted recently with Pick n Pay and Absa. While the fingerprint is encrypted before being stored on the card itself, MasterCard doesn't go into detail on the security measures employed in the new type of card, much less address potential privacy concerns as far as banks are concerned. Additional trials were planned for Europe and Asia Pacific. "It's not something that can be taken or replicated". The terminal then registers the cardholder and the payment in the same time it takes for a regular chip payment to work.

The card can be used at any card terminal using EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) technology globally. After your templates are saved, your card is ready to be used at compatible terminals worldwide - merchants don't have to get new equipment to accept your fingerprint-enabled plastic.

At the checkout, the cardholder dips the card into a retailer's terminal while placing their finger on the embedded sensor. It has added a fingerprint sensor to a concept card it is now trialling in South Africa.

Biometric fingerprint scanners have become a key authentification method for mobile payments in recent years, led largely by Apple Pay and Google's Android Pay systems.

"For issuers, the technology helps detect and prevent fraud, increase approval rates, reduce operational costs and foster customer loyalty".

Mastercard will work with South African partners to bring biometric cards to local consumers by the end of the year following world-first trials with Absa and Pick n Pay. "Following the test period, we will make it available to our customers in a way that is affordable, reliable, and convenient and, most importantly, extremely secure".

"We are very proud to be the first bank in Africa to test - in a real payment environment - the single-touch authentication technology that will unlock the benefits of biometrics", says Geoff Lee, Absa Retail and Business Banking Head of card and payments.

  • Zachary Reyes