Fingerprint Authentication Moves to Plastic: Mastercard Takes Big Step in Card Security

Will Carlson by on May 01, 2017

Following in the ideological footsteps of the chip technology first introduced to major U.S. card networks in 2012, Mastercard recently unveiled new credit cards that will further combat identity theft concerns via a fingerprint sensor built into the card. After pilot testing in South Africa, followed by trials in Europe and Asia, the new technology has a tentative U.S. rollout date of early 2018.

To receive a card with a fingerprint sensor, customers must visit their financial institution to register up to two fingerprints, which are then encrypted into digital templates on the card. Customers then use their cards by dipping the chip into the card reader just as they would for any other chip card while simultaneously pressing their finger on the card’s fingerprint sensor to authenticate the payment. Despite this significant physical update to card plastics, cards will remain as thin as before, and Mastercard is working to enable card holders to register their fingerprints at home.

New Card with Fingerprint Sensor Technology

While the new on-card fingerprint reader marks an increase in security over traditional PINs and the card’s built-in fingerprint reader retrofits existing card readers rather than requires vendors to purchase new payment terminals, it remains to be seen whether customers will readily adopt this technology amidst the wave of new cardless, contactless payment technologies, such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, that are disrupting the payment landscape. As recently as October 2016, Mastercard itself was trialing a different fingerprint (and selfie) app-based payment platform, now scheduled to debut in Australia later in 2017. Corporate Insight will continue to track developments in this space as these and other alternative payment technologies emerge.