The days of having to enter your PIN at a cash machine or till could soon be over after a credit card featuring a biometric fingerprint scanner was unveiled.
Mastercard has introduced the payments card in South Africa, following successful trials with a local bank and retailer. Instead of requiring its owner to enter a four-digit personal identification number (PIN), it features a small area that can verify the card user's fingerprints.
It is hoped that the technology will lead to quicker and safer transactions. To use it, a shopper must simply hold the card by the fingerprint sensor and insert it into a card reader. The technology then verifies the fingerprint and approves the transaction without requiring a PIN, and works with existing payment terminals.
Mastercard is currently extending its trials and plans to fully introduce the technology this year, as well as bringing the fingerprint sensor cards to Europe and Asia. It also said it plans to introduce a contactless version. While contactless transactions do not require a PIN, they are limited to payments of £30 or under.
Fingerprint recognition is widely seen as a safer and easier form of authentication than four-digit PINs, which can be stolen, guessed or forgotten. While there are 10,000 four-digit combinations, there is only a one in 50,000 chance of matching someone's fingerprint, and many people use PINs that are easy to remember and guess, such as 1-2-3-4.
Smartphones have used fingerprint sensors for several years and are used to approve mobile payments on Apple Pay and Android Pay. However, there have been warnings that they are not completely flawless. Last week, researchers in New York revealed they had created a set of "master fingerprints" capable of breaking into many scanners, while there have been warnings that high-definition photos of fingers could lead to prints being copied.
"Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics," said Ajay Bhalla, Mastercard's head of security.
"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."
Mastercard has been trialling the card with Pick n Pay, a South African grocery retailer, and Absa Bank, a subsidiary of Barclays.
Source: Daily Telegraph