MasterCard partners with Bank of Montreal for soft launch of ‘selfie pay’

Bank of Montreal customers who use MasterCard to make online purchases will be taking selfies for a whole new reason this summer, as BMO becomes the first Canadian bank to support MasterCard’s new Identity Check mobile app, colloquially known as “selfie pay,” the companies announced today.

So far, around 200 BMO employees with corporate credit cards have been signed up for the biometric-based feature, which complements the company’s existing MasterPass service by using facial recognition and fingerprint scanning technology to verify online payments, said Catherine Murchie, MasterCard’s senior vice president of North American processing, enterprise security and network solutions.

Steve Pedersen, BMO’s vice president of North American corporate card products, characterized the company’s current use of Identity Check as a “soft launch,” though he and Murchie expect that all BMO customers will be able to use the feature to verify online payments by this summer.

No release date, or partnerships with other banks, have been announced at present.

“We feel pretty good about the feedback we’re getting,” Murchie told “There’s a pretty consistent preference for using it over a password… though we’ve seen a slight preference for fingerprints over the selfie pay.”

When signing up for Identity Check, which has been developed for both iOS and Android, users are given the choice of whether they want to submit a fingerprint scan or a photo. Should they wish, they can submit both: the former is stored on the smartphone using native technology (smartphones without fingerprint scanners will not include the fingerprint scanning feature, Murchie said), while the latter is converted into an algorithm stored on MasterCard’s secure servers.

After the user makes a purchase online, whether using a desktop or mobile device, the service sends an authorization notice to their smartphone, which they can verify with their fingerprint or by taking a selfie.

Selfie Pay support
MasterCard’s Catherine Murchie demonstrates the company’s Identity Check app for

The program was designed with ease of use in mind, MasterCard’s vice-president of identity solutions for North America, Dennis Gamiello, told It’s easier to use than a password, and more secure: the facial recognition feature requires that users blink to prove their humanity, and is encrypted on MasterCard’s servers, so that even if thieves stole the information they wouldn’t be able to use it.

“It’s no mystery to anyone that passwords are a pain and prone to being compromised, so we’ve been testing various methods, including biometrics,” Gamiello said. “It’s all about making the experience safer and more simple.”

The availability of Identity Check to BMO’s corporate credit card holders marks the service’s third trial, after previous tests in the Netherlands and U.S., and its first in Canada, though the current trial is available to BMO employees in both Canada and the U.S.

“We need to be engaged in new technology,” BMO’s Pederson told “Our customers expect it. In fact, I think they demand it… A corporate customer is still a consumer… we want to make sure that we understand the customer experience and can later educate them by actually using the device.”

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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