Mastercard unveils credit card with a fingerprint sensor

Following two successful trials in South Africa, credit card provider Mastercard is rolling out a payment card featuring a fingerprint sensor.

In the same way as it does with mobile phone, Mastercard’s technology works when users place their finger over the sensor when making a purchase.

The move by Mastercard is seen as a competitive ploy to keep up with digital firms who are encroaching on the traditional finance sector.

“Increased competition from tech players like Apple and digital-first banks has accelerated the pace of innovation in the payments space,” said Justin Vaughan-Brown, Director of Technology Strategy for EMEA at AppDynamics. “Consumers can now pay with their fingerprint or by taking a selfie, but brands must deliver a frictionless experience if the technology is going to be accepted as part of our everyday lives. The benefits on offer to consumers are obvious, but the complex process of managing the mix of requisite software, hardware and cloud services must be navigated comprehensively by businesses for these benefits to be truly realised.”

More secure than a PIN

Security experts have reported that while using fingerprints is not fool proof, it is a ‘sensible’ use of biometric technology.

Mastercard’s Chief of Safety and Security, Ajay Bhalla, told the BBC that the fingerprint technology would help “to deliver additional convenience and security. It is not something that can be taken or replicated.”

This opinion is seconded by ESET IT Security Specialist Mark James who commented that “We have long been plagued by the simple forms of protecting our data and or identity using four digit codes or usernames and passwords. Whenever a new process is available we typically look at the security implications and possible vectors of attack, and rightly so, security should be a big concern, reviewed and improved where possible. But we should also embrace the fact that it’s a lot safer than a four digit code.

“Biometrics are a good way to secure our everyday items that need that extra layer to keep our data safe. There are measures that can be used to protect the storage of the biometric data and of course proof of concept will dictate that someone somewhere has the means to copy your fingerprint, through “finding” a mug that you have used and duplicating your fingerprint and use it with your card. I for one welcome the extra security and would embrace any method of moving away from an antiquated four digit code.”

Cards include digital template and sensor technology

The new payment cards are thought to be the first to include both the digital template of the user’s fingerprint and the point of sale sensor required to read it.

Previous biometric payment cards have worked when used in conjunction with a separate fingerprint scanner, which restricted their use as retail outlets needed additional equipment.

Since the new payment card will contain both the data and the scanner, it should be accepted everywhere a normal chip and PIN payment card can be used.


Edited from sources by Cecilia Rehn.