Mastercard will work with South African partners to bring biometric cards to local consumers by the end of the year.
The development follows two separate trials conducted recently with Pick n Pay and Absa. South Africa is the first market in the world to test the technology.
The cards combine EMV-based chip technology with fingerprint recognition technology to verify cardholders’ integrity for in-store purchases.
The new card builds on fingerprint scanning technology used for mobile payments and can be used at EMV terminals worldwide, Mastercard said.
Here’s how it will work. A cardholder will enroll their card by registering with their financial institution. Upon registration, their fingerprint will be converted into an encrypted digital template that is stored on the card. The card will then be ready to be used at any EMV-compatible card terminal globally.
When shopping and paying in-store, the biometric card will work like any other chip card, Mastercard said. The cardholder will simply “dip” the card into a retailer’s terminal while placing their thumb over the embedded sensor.
The fingerprint will then be verified against the template and – if the biometrics match – the cardholder will be successfully authenticated and the transaction can then be approved with the card never leaving the consumer’s hand.
“Authenticating a payment transaction biometrically — in this instance via a fingerprint — confirms in a very unique way that the person using the card is the genuine cardholder,” Mastercard said. The card will work with existing EMV card terminal infrastructure and does not require any new hardware or software upgrades.
“For issuers, the technology helps detect and prevent fraud, increase approval rates, reduce operational costs and foster customer loyalty. Additionally, a future version of the card will feature contactless technology, adding to the simplicity and convenience at checkout,” the company said.
For the South African trials, employees of both Pick n Pay and Absa tested the technology. In the coming months, additional trials will be conducted with the biometric card before a full roll-out takes place late this year.
Additional trials are being planned in Europe and Asia Pacific in the coming months.
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