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MasterCard Biometric Fingerprint Credit Card Trial Launched in South Africa

MasterCard has announced that it has begun trials for an innovative Biometric credit card designed to improve user security. Despite its novelty, fingerprint recognition technology is now widely available in a range of gadgets such as smartphones. Various forms of Biometric technology are also in use in some buildings as a security measure. Now the next-generation technology is now coming to payment and bank  cards. MasterCard has already completed two smaller trials and is continuing its research ahead of a full roll-out across the southern African country.

Biometric Technology Comes to Credit Cards

The MasterCard biometric fingerprint credit card is seen by the financial services company as a future solution for maintaining the security of its customers’ details and money.  The futuristic credit cards feature an embedded fingerprint scanner in the the top right corner. The scanner works in the same way that contactless card technology works. The small square stores a fingerprint which is then used to verify purchases in place of a PIN number. Customers have their scanned fingerprints converted into encrypted digital information. Payments are only authorized if a registered print is used.

For the trials in South Africa, customers taking part registered interest with their banks then had their fingerprints taken and embedded onto cards. The company had the following to say about the innovative technology in a recent press release:

” . . A cardholder enrolls their card by simply registering with their financial institution. Upon registration, their fingerprint is converted into an encrypted digital template that is stored on the card.” During a transaction, “The fingerprint is verified against the template and – if the biometrics match – the cardholder is successfully authenticated. The transaction can then be approved with the card never leaving the consumer’s hand.”


Mastercard Biometric-Card
Michelle van Schalkwyk, Head of Brand at Pick n Pay, pays for her shopping using her fingerprint to authenticate a transaction. Van Schalkwyk was taking part in the first global trial of the MasterCard biometric card in South Africa. picture credit: MasterCard

MasterCard biometric card Trials Underway

Trials of the MasterCard biometric card are now currently underway. Taking part are Supermarket retailer Pick n Pay and South African bank Absa. Geoff Lee, head of card and payments at Absa Retail and Business Banking is quoted as saying: “We are very proud to be the first bank in Africa to test the benefits of biometrics.” Two trials have already been completed in the country which Mastercard claims were successful.

Further trials are now underway on a wider scale. A full roll out across the country is expected before the end of 2017. Mastercard sees the biometric technology as an important security measure of the future and implementation should be relatively seamless as it uses existing payment infrastructures.

In related news, the use of the fingerprint scanner technology has seen the Norwegian company that makes it gain in value.Oslo-listed IDEX  saw its share surge by 18 percent following Mastercard’s announcement.

In theory fingerprint scanners are perhaps one of the most secure ways of authentication. Next to iris scanners, it is a security feature that is much more difficult to replicate. Biometric technology is not infallible however. Therefore the fight to keep financial customers information may continue beyond the introduction of MasterCard’s biometric card. However, any such efforts are crucial and Mastercard is to be commended for its initiative.


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