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Biometric Payment Cards: What’s Actually in It for You?

The concept of the biometric payment card is no longer a novelty, but rather a pressing reality.

Posted: 5th December 2019 by Finance Monthly
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Whilst UK banks are already trialling the biometric credit card, consumers must be made aware of the wide range of benefits biometric payment cards have to offer for biometrics to be embraced as the next generation of payment technology.

Below David Orme, Senior Vice President at IDEX Biometrics ASA explains how biometric fingerprint authenticated payment cards will bring new levels of security and convenience to the payment market, taking the bank card into the 21st century.

Biometric technology continues to gain momentum in many areas of our lives. Earlier this month, NatWest became the first UK bank to trial a biometric credit card, which will see consumers carrying out contactless payments using their fingerprint, instead of a PIN, for authentication.

As similar trials take place around the world, we can expect this new payment technology to become an everyday necessity within the next year. But as biometric smart cards start to roll out, consumers may wonder, “why do I need another form of payment technology?”

The reality is, biometric fingerprint authentication cards bring many strengths that will make our payments, and therefore our everyday lives, more secure. With fingerprint authentication cards starting to land in people’s wallets, payments will soon become the area where consumers interact most strongly with biometric technology on a daily basis. Consequently, it is vital to make it clear to consumers just how much they stand to benefit from biometric-enabled payment cards, to encourage rapid adoption and ensure their successful roll-out.

Advanced levels of security

The biometric payment card has been developed to bring new levels of security to payment transactions. Fingerprint authorisation links a particular person to their payment card — as, for transactions to be processed, the owner’s fingerprint has to be matched on-card. This connection to the owner’s physical identity reduces the potential for payment fraud and improves authentication security, for both card-present and card-not-present fraud.

Biometric fingerprint payment cards also provide end-to-end encryption, securing the user’s card and their biometric data, which never leaves the card. This ensures hacking and breaches of fingerprints aren’t scalable.

Biometric payment card technology will also integrate with the expectations of Strong Consumer Authentication (SCA), part of the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2), a new European regulatory requirement to tackle online and payment fraud. For consumers, this currently means providing at least two factors of authentication such as a PIN, or a one-time passcode, are combined with the possession of a payment card, even for contactless payments.

But with biometric payment cards, the card owner can authenticate with the non-intrusive method of placing their fingerprint on the sensor while tapping their contactless card on the PoS system. This will allow users to benefit from the flexible, convenient factors of secure authentication, rather than having to remember PINs.

Making payments more convenient

While consumers value the extra security biometric smart cards bring, it’s important for this new payment technology to be as convenient as possible to ensure wide-spread adoption. Therefore, biometric-enabled payment cards need to deliver significant security improvements with very little impact on the current contactless experience, or changes to user behaviour.

Of course, consumers have been shopping with payment cards for decades and understand how to use them. Likewise, the majority will already be familiar with fingerprint authentication, thanks to its near ubiqui­tous use on smartphones, to unlock devices or to authenticate mobile payment app transactions. This familiarity and comfort with the technology reduces the barrier to adoption of biometric payment cards.

With this new payment method, a user will replace PIN entry with fingerprint authentication for all transactions. The fingerprint sensor is conveniently positioned on the card, taking into account the typical way a consumer will hold it when completing a transaction to minimise any change to the payment process.

With this new payment method, a user will replace PIN entry with fingerprint authentication for all transactions.

Importantly, existing PoS retail infrastructure must still be used to ensure smooth roll out of biometric authentication cards. This is because consumers are already used to the technology, as well as to minimise the need for additional investment from retailers.

On top of this familiarity, the shopping experience will likely become even more convenient with the adoption of biometric payment cards. By adding secure fingerprint verification to the payment authentication process, contactless transaction limits could actually be increased or even eradicated en­tirely, meaning users can benefit from not having to remember PINs, and can pay via secure contactless for all transaction values.

One card to rule them all

Nowadays, the average consumer has multiple cards weighing down their wallets, from debit and credit cards, loyalty schemes, contactless public transport tickets, IDs, healthcare cards and more. This seems out-dated in an age where we expect to do so many things all from one smartphone.

In smart phones, biometric technology is already used to securely access many different applications, including banking and payment apps. In much the same way, this multi-application authentication process can be incorporated in a physical payment card with a built-in biometric fingerprint scanner. This will reduce the number of cards in a person’s wallet, making it faster to tap-and-go securely for many different transactions, all from one card.

Achieving top-of-the-wallet status

Today, consumers expect more speed and convenience from their services, and the same applies to the payment process. They’re looking for a transaction procedure that is fast, secure and free from hold ups. Adopting biometric fingerprint authentication will help achieve this, making payments more beneficial. This will also allow banks and financial institutions who introduce this technology to achieve top-of-wallet status with their cards.

Overall, biometric fingerprint authenticated payment cards will bring new levels of security to the payment market, taking the bank card into the 21st century. Through biometric fingerprint-authentication cards, consumers can access the best in terms of payment security, convenience and usability. As a result, now is the time to embrace this new form of payment technology.

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