MasterCard today unveiled a new credit card with a built-in fingerprint scanner. The card allows customers to authorize payments with just a touch, rather than using signatures and PIN numbers, and it works with existing chip-and-PIN card machines.
Most of us are already using fingerprint scanners to unlock our smartphones and other gadgets every day, and over the years, those scanners have become faster, more reliable, and more secure. MasterCard is now taking the technology and using it to bring credit cards into the 21st century for more convenient payments.
Its new card, which is no thicker than a standard credit or debit card, has a fingerprint scanner built-in. The card is inserted into a standard chip-and-PIN machine, but rather than using a fingerprint to authenticate payments, customers simply place their thumb or finger on the scanner.
MasterCard is currently trialing the technology in South Africa, and plans to extend the trial to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region in the coming months. A full rollout to all markets is “expected later this year,” assuming the trial goes well.
Fingerprint scanners aren’t completely foolproof, of course; studies have proven that even the best available can be duped. However, security experts say that they’re still significantly safer than using PIN numbers and passwords.
“With the combination of chip and PIN, the PIN is the weaker element. Using a fingerprint gets rid of that,” Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Berlin’s Security Research Labs, told BBC News. “Fingerprints have helped us avoid using terrible passwords, and even the most gullible person is not going to cut off their finger if [a criminal] asks nicely.”
To obtain one of these cards, MasterCard customers will need to visit an enrollment center, where their fingerprint will be scanned and assigned to their card. Users will be able to save up to two prints, which will be stored as encrypted data on the card’s EMV chip.