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MasterCard has unveiled what it is calling the "next generation biometric card," combining chip technology with biometrics to verify the cardholder's identity for in-store purchases.
South Africa is the first market to test the technology, with two separate trials recently concluded with Pick n Pay, a leading supermarket retailer, and Absa Bank, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa, according to a press release.
The new card builds on fingerprint scanning technology used in mobile payments and can be used at EMV terminals worldwide.
"Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics," said Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise risk and security at MasterCard. "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."
Cardholders enroll their card by registering with their financial institution. At registration, their fingerprint is converted into an encrypted digital template stored on the card. The card is then ready for use at any EMV card terminal worldwide, according to the announcement.
The biometric card works like any other chip card for in-store transaction. The cardholder simply inserts the card into a point-of-sale terminal while placing their thumb on the embedded sensor. The fingerprint is verified against the template and — assuming a match — the cardholder is successfully authenticated and the transaction approved without the card ever leaving the consumer's hand.