Do you always forget the PIN code of your credit/debit card? Or maybe you just forget which code is for which card? Or, possibly worse, you just can’t remember you PIN so you keep it on a piece of paper that you have to always carry with you? Well good news for you! Following the trend in smartphones, doors and safes, MasterCard announced on the 20th April a new card that uses your fingerprint as verification method. The new next generation biometric card combines chip technology with fingerprints to conveniently and safely verify the cardholder’s identity for in-store purchases.

This practically means not only that you won’t have to remember any code, but also puts a stop to prying eyes when you are pressing the buttons on the number pad. “Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security. It’s not something that can be taken or replicated and will help our cardholders get on with their lives knowing their payments are protected.”said Ajay Bhalla, president, enterprise risk and security, MasterCard.

The first market to test the new card is South Africa, with two separate trials recently concluded with Pick n Pay, a leading supermarket retailer, and Absa Bank, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa.

Image credit: MasterCard 

How It Works

Once the technology is ready for the public, your bank will inform you that the biometric card is available, and if you’re interested, you’ll have to go to an enrollment center (most likely a bank) to get your fingers scanned. An encrypted digital template of your fingerprint is stored on the card’s EMV chip. You can save up to two prints, but they would both have to be yours — you can’t authorize someone else to use your card with their fingers.

When the terminal asks you to insert the card, it’s communicating to the bank information like your identity and the amount of the transaction. Then, it verifies your identity by asking for your fingerprint. The sensor reads your finger, and sends the information to the card’s chip, which determines if you’re the owner. If you are, it sends a “Yes” or “Authorized” message to the bank, which then allows the payment to pass.

Customers and merchants can both be happy because the card works with existing EMV card terminal infrastructure and does not require any new hardware or software upgrades.

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.

Trials Underway

The recent South African trials mobilized employees from Pick n Pay and Absa Bank to test the potential ways convenience and security could contribute to the checkout process. Over the next few months, additional trials will be conducted with the biometric card. A full roll out is expected later this year while additional trials are being planned in Europe and Asia Pacific in the coming months.