MasterCard announce fingerprint bank card

20 April 2017   By Samantha Smith

MASTERCARD have revealed a new biometric banking card, which makes use of fingerprint recognition technology to confirm a holder's identity.

credit card making a payment
Credit: Nattakorn_Maneerat/

The announcement of the new card comes after successful trials in South Africa, with planned trials in Europe and the Asia Pacific region indicating that MasterCard intend to roll out the card more generally.

It's hoped that combining existing chip technology with fingerprint recognition will help to reduce card fraud, which currently costs the UK some £250 million a year.

Yet it's just as likely that the main draw of the technology will come from its wider economic benefits, insofar as fingerprint identification will prevent sales from being missed because of forgotten PINs and will save banks from having to send out reminders or new numbers.

Less human input, more efficiency

Useful Links
How to deal with credit card fraud
Buying things with your phone
How secure are prepaid cards?
Should I get ID theft insurance?

Like the contactless card, the MasterCard "next generation biometric card" has the advantage of taking human memory out of the equation of spending, something which will make the whole system that little bit more seamless and efficient.

Of course, MasterCard themselves were less focused on how the new card removes an element of fallible human input from the monetary system, and more on how its technology works and on the security it confers.

According to the company, it involves customers registering with their bank and converting their fingerprint into an encrypted digital code that's actually stored on the card itself, thereby removing the need for shops and retail outlets to possess fingerprint scanners themselves.

Once the card is loaded with the holder's fingerprint, the holder uses it to pay for items by simply entering it into a terminal while placing their finger on the sensor embedded in the card.

This enables the verification to occur, and it enables the transaction to be completed, without having to rely on the weak link of the holder's memory.

By using fingerprints to confirm the holder's identity rather than a PIN, MasterCard expect that it will significantly cut down on fraud.

This is what was affirmed by Ajay Bhalla, President of Enterprise Risk and Security at MasterCard, who said, "the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security. It's not something that can be taken or replicated and will help our cardholders get on with their lives knowing their payments are protected".

'Full roll out'

Money comparisons
Choosing the best credit card
Current accounts: which is the best?

However, while it's most likely true that fingerprint identification is safer than PIN identification, it's not entirely true that a person's fingerprint is "not something that can be taken or replicated."

It is in fact possible to make casts of prints that are left on glasses, windows or any other suitable surface, and then to use such casts to make payments using mobile phones.

That said, the new MasterCard technology can be used only in shops and not for online payments, which are in the process of being strengthened in other ways by other organisations. Because of this, it becomes hard to imagine how someone could make a payment with a cast of someone else's finger without arousing the suspicion of a retail assistant.

This therefore bodes well for the upcoming European and Asian trials, with MasterCard stating that "a full roll out is expected later this year."

Which banks will be participating in this roll out is as yet unknown, but it's worth noting that one of the participants in the South African trial - Absa - are a subsidiary of Barclays, so it's possible that UK customers of the latter could expect to be authenticating their weekly shop with their fingerprints in the not-too distant future.

And given that fraud as a whole costs the UK £755 million a year, and that around 14,000 people a month are losing money because of fraud, this future can't come soon enough.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we aim to be climate positive.