MasterCard is testing a bank card that includes an embedded fingerprint reader that would act as a layer of biometric authentication for card payments in place of a PIN, TechCrunch reported.
Trials of the biometric-protected card have taken place in South Africa, with plans to expand the test run to parts of Europe and the Asia-Pacific region in coming months, with a goal of making the cards available to consumers by the end of 2017.
The card is designed not only to provide convenience to card users by saving the step of entering a PIN on every transaction, but also provide improved security to protect against card theft. The concept essentially condenses the smartphone sensor protection of Apple Pay or Android Pay onto a physical credit card.
Unlike smartphone payment methods, the biometric card from MasterCard won’t offer “contactless pay” that can be performed via wireless communications like NFC. It will still require a swipe of the card.
Set up for the card will require a user to go to a bank or other financial institution to register for the service and provide a fingerprint. Once the fingerprint is on record, it is converted into an encrypted digital file and stored on the card.
MasterCard said it is exploring ways for remote enrollment into the program, which may include registering a fingerprint via an app or from a device that also recognizes fingerprint identification like the iPhone.
Once the card is inserted into a terminal, where the EMV chip is processed like a standard chip-enabled card, which has become more common in recent years, users place a thumb against the reader on the card to authenticate identity and process the transaction.
Future versions of the card are expected to support contactless payment that may require simply placing a thumb on the reader and holding the card near the terminal to initiate a transaction.
Even as the cards begin testing in new markets and eventually make their way into the wallets of consumers worldwide, PINs won’t disappear. The option will still remain for the biometric-enabled cards, providing a backup option if the fingerprint reader can’t identify the user or if an ATM doesn’t support the feature.