MasterCard has unveiled its brand new payment card that has a built-in biometric fingerprint scanner, allowing customers to authorize payments with their fingerprint, without requiring a PIN code or a signature.

The company is already testing the new biometric payment cards, combined with the on-board chips, in South Africa and says it hopes to roll out the new cards to the rest of the world by the end of 2017.

Don't Worry, It Still Supports PIN-based Transactions as Fallback

Wait — If you think that this feature would not allow you to share your card with your child and spouse, don't worry — Mastercard has a solution for this issue as well.

The company has confirmed that even if the card is configured to expect the fingerprint for authenticating a purchase, but it does still have a PIN as a fallback, in case, for some reason EMV readers fail to read fingerprint or you have yourself handed it to your child for shopping.

Stores & Retailers Don't Need New Hardware

According to Mastercard, the new biometric payment card will not require store owners and businesses to buy any new hardware, like fingerprint scanners, because the sensor in the card reads your fingerprint.

Since both the data and the scanner exist on the same card, the new payment cards work with existing EMV card terminal infrastructure — the standard chip/swipe readers you can find at many stores these days, though old magnetic stripe-only terminals won't be compatible.

But, Banks Need to Adopt New Technology

Before this new cards can be adopted worldwide, your banks or financial institution will have to get on board with the new tech.

If you want the new biometric card, you are currently required to go to your bank branch in order to have your fingers scanned and registered for the new tech. Your fingerprints will then be converted into an encrypted digital template that is stored on the card's EMV chip.

You can save up to two fingerprints, but both would have to be yours — you can not authorise someone else, even from your family, to use your card with their fingers.

How MasterCard Biometric Payment Card Works

Once your templates are saved, your card is ready to be used at compatible terminals across the world.

Merchants don't have to purchase new equipment to accept your fingerprint-enabled payment card but will have to update their machinery in an effort to use the new tech.

Now, while shopping at any store, just place your biometric payment card into a retailer's EMV terminal and then put your finger on the embedded sensor to pay. Your fingerprints will be verified against a template stored on your card to approve your transaction.

Can Fingerprints be Forged? And Other Concerns...

This new card is made in an attempt to make face-to-face payments more convenient and more secure, but this type of biometric verification is useless when it comes to online shopping, and so, does not provide any security over credit card frauds.
"Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security," MasterCard security chief Ajay Bhalla said. "[A fingerprint is] not something that can be taken or replicated and will help our cardholders get on with their lives knowing their payments are protected."
But that isn't true.

Fingerprints can be faked, unfortunately, and we have seen previous research in which high-resolution images were used to make fake fingerprints for malicious purpose. So, criminals could put a fake fingerprint on top of their finger to shop from stolen cards.

In addition to biometric cards, MasterCard is also planning to bring contactless payments, which should function similar to mobile payments like Apple Pay where users authenticate themselves via fingerprint while holding their smartphones against the terminal.

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