MasterCard is developing plastic credit and debit cards with a built-in fingerprint reader, the company announced on Thursday.
The biometric cards will feature a small fingerprint scanner and will be able to store two fingerprints on its embedded chip. When a customer makes a payment using the card, the card authorizes it via this biometric reader — meaning that no PIN number or signature is required. The cards will reportedly be no thicker than normal, and won’t require any embedded batteries. Instead, the cards will source the required energy from existing payment terminals and ATMs, MasterCard told CNET on April 20.
The financial services corporation has been testing the biometric cards in two separate pilot programs in South Africa: one for a local grocery chain and one for Absa Bank, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa, respectively. MasterCard is also planning several more tests in Europe and Asia. If all goes according to plan, customers in the US could get their very own biometric cards early next year.
To start, customers who wish to use the biometric cards must register a fingerprint at an authorized store or bank branch — but MasterCard said that it’s working on an in-home way to add fingerprints to the card. Additionally, the company said in a press release that a “future version of the card” will feature contactless technology.
When they reach the market, the biometric cards should add some much-needed convenience to paying with plastic, as well as some significantly increased security (without the proper fingerprint, no one will be able to use your card if it’s lost or stolen). The move is obviously part of an effort to keep analog plastic cards relevant in the era of Apple Pay and other contactless payment systems. Plastic cards are still incredibly popular, though, and since they’ve been around for just about 60 years, it’s about time that they’ve caught up to the future.