MasterCard unveils a fingerprint-scanning, contactless credit card

MasterCard has announced it’s partnering with Zwipe, a Norwegian company that has built a credit card armed with near field communications (NFC) technology and fingerprint scanning.

The two companies say the new Zwipe MasterCard payment card will be the world’s first contactless payment card to rely on a user’s fingerprint for authentication. Housed inside the card are both a biometric sensor, an EMV secure element, and MasterCard’s NFC application, a wireless link that allows users to transfer data from their card to a payment terminal.

While MasterCard already launched its digital wallet, MasterPass, in 2013, what’s new here is that cardholders won’t have to input any passwords or sign anything to make payments. Instead, they’ll just have to lay a finger on their card sensor to identify themselves through a unique fingerprint. Every time a consumer taps it to a payment terminal, it’ll absorb some energy from there, meaning it doesn’t need to keep a battery inside.

And for security reasons, the consumer’s fingerprint data is also stored on the card, rather than in a large database, meaning hackers shouldn’t be able to access any cardholder information in a data breach.

“Our belief is that we should be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or PIN numbers. Biometric authentication can help us achieve this. However, our challenge is to ensure the technology offers robust security, simplicity of use and convenience for the customer. Zwipe’s first trial is a significant milestone and its results are very encouraging,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions at MasterCard, in a statement.

He added MasterCard is looking to provide its cardholders with “a seamless payment experience, as ultimately it is consumers who decide how they choose to pay.”

MasterCard definitely isn’t the first major credit card provider to try to rethink how we do our banking. In 2010, Visa unveiled its Visa payWave feature, allowing consumers to pay for things by waving either their cards or mobile devices at a terminal. While the company is also trying something novel to keep consumer data secure – in this case using tokenization, where sensitive data is replaced by a string of random numbers that can’t be decrypted – MasterCard and Zwipe are taking a different tack by using biometrics as a way of providing security.

Zwipe has already tested out its card with Sparebanken DIN, a bank in Norway, but the company is now planning to roll out the next generation of its biometric, NFC-enabled card, standardizing it to work with all payment terminals by 2015.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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