What is the biometric payment card and how does it work?

When we think of biometrics, we still often think of a science fiction future where our physical characteristics and behaviors identify us without us having to do anything. We’re not at that stage yet, but chances are that you are already using biometric tech without really realizing it. Most smartphones today require you to rest your thumb on a sensor or capture your facial features before granting you access to the phone. Google has also recently stated its aim to build a password-free app with biometrics.

The technology also pops up in airports (eGates) and is used to enter secure work premises, but now the technology is being trialed with credit and debit cards. Consumers might soon find that their bank-issued card will contain a small but secure fingerprint sensor located on the front of the card. It’s currently being trialed in select banks across Europe but over the next 18 months, it will expand with deployments likely all around the world.

Why use a biometric card?

The main benefit of a biometric card is security. When making a purchase, rather than enter a PIN code, you just touch the fingerprint reader. If your fingerprint matches the one stored on the card, the payment is approved. The fingerprint data never leaves the card, so it can’t be intercepted or stolen.

With biometric payment cards, there is no contactless transaction limit, making the payment experience faster and more convenient. And if you were to run into any issues and the technology did not seem to work, the PIN code method is still available as a back-up.

How do I get one?

Biometric cards are being trialed with banks across Europe.  One recent deployment from Mastercard was launched with Intesa SanPaolo in Italy.  Experts predict that 2019 will see the commercial launch of the card and Google Intelligence forecasts that 579 million such cards will be in use by 2023.

Once they have been launched, there will be two ways for customers to begin using these cards. The first is via enrolment in your local bank branch. Using a secure tablet, the bank would record your fingerprint using a sensor and then transfer your biometric data to the bank card. As above, your data is only stored on the card and there is no central database containing your information. Your card is ready to use right away.

In the future, consumers will also be able to enroll from the comfort of their home.  This will be even more convenient and will work in a similar fashion to fingerprint enrolment on your smartphone, asking you to record your print a few times before it is saved and stored.

For more information about the cards, watch our video that explains the process in more detail.

Are you excited to start using these cards? Let us know in the comments section below.