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MasterCard Unveils Payment Card With Fingerprint Scanner

Global credit card major MasterCard has announced that is testing a payment card that has an inbuilt fingerprint sensor.

The card’s unveiling came after two trials were successfully conducted with a local bank and retailer in South Africa.

Under this new system, instead of entering a four-digit personal identification number (PIN) the card features a small portion that is used to verify fingerprints of the card user for approving the transaction. This area also stores a template of up to two finger prints.

The new technology is expected to help improve the safety and security of transactions. It is said to be the first card that combines a fingerprint reader as well as a digital record of a fingerprint. Earlier biometric-based cards worked only when a separate reader was available, making them cumbersome.

Mastercard News

MasterCard’s innovation works similar to mobile phone payments – a shopper holds the card by the portion with the sensor and inserts it into a card reader. The system then verifies the fingerprint and approves the transaction. As existing payment terminals can be used for these cards, it removes the need for additional investments by retailers.

MasterCard is rolling out further trials and has plans to introduce the card in European and Asian markets as well. There are also plans to develop a contactless version of the card. Fingerprint based security systems are thought to be safer than four-digit PINs, which can be stolen or forgotten. Smartphones have been using fingerprint sensors for several years now with major platforms like Apple Pay and Android Pay having adopted the technology. Most experts accept that this form of card is a sensible use of biometric technology, though not foolproof.

In a statement, Ajay Bhalla, Mastercard's head of security said

Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics. Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, 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

Some security experts however believe that fingerprint sensors can also be compromised. Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Berlin's Security Research Labs, said that fingerprints stolen off a glass or similar items else can be used in these systems. But he acknowledged that the technology was safer than what was available currently. These cards can be used only for in-store purchases as online transactions or other such modes would need additional verification.

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