December 11, 2019

Paying With Your Fingerprint

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05.01.2020, by Emily Smith


We all know about TouchID and how you can pay with your phone, but the next technological step could cut out the middle-man and allow to pay directly with your fingerprint. Last year, we looked at how you will soon be able to pay with your face, but in this article we will look at how you may soon be able to use a fingerprint fob, biometric cards and Vein ID (which scans the unique vein map under your finger) to pay.

Biometric fingerprint payment fob

This year, biometric payment fobs have been developed and are being tested by individual banks worldwide. These fobs would allow you to pay up to €100 without a card or mobile phone, which is double the current €50 limit on contactless payment. This fob is the same size as a standard keyring and will continue to work on both contactless and pin terminals. This exciting development could further improve the security of our money without added verification steps.

However, some argue that this biometric development’s eradication of further verification could leave a big gap for fraud. As unlike your signature or PIN, your fingerprint is impossible to change when there has been a data breach. Although this is simply the next step in protection, it has always been a race to stay ahead against fraudsters. 

One bank that is trialing this new technology is the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Their Head of Effortless Payments, David Crawford, says that “we are looking at how we can further develop the technology and push the boundaries to integrate it into our customers everyday lives”, which promises that paying with your fingerprint may go further than biometric cards and key fobs, perhaps by integrating your fingerprint and unique vein map to protect more against fraudsters and continue making this method of payment effortless.

Biometric card

Before the trial phase of biometric payment fobs RBS tried biometric cards, that allowed UK customers to spend more than £30 without PIN verification. The card looks similar to a standard credit card, but has an inbuilt fingerprint scanner on it to compare your fingerprint to the fingerprint registered to the card. This was trialed in other European countries before, and is believed to be the biggest development in card technology in recent years, with enhanced security and convenience. This method of payment could be safer than other, more traditional methods of payment as it is harder for fraudsters to completely and accurately replicate a user’s fingerprint over a PIN number, for example.

This technology is currently being implemented by Visa, Mastercard, Gemalto and Swss Corner Bank and a card is expected to be launched in Switzerland. The card also only has a low-power consumption (as it only activates when near a card terminal, to compare your fingerprint with the database) which means that this could very well be the next step in how we will spend our money. 

As the trials for this technology have so far been dubbed successful, we expect to see these cards or fobs in use soon. They should make payments at tills and transactions smoother than they have ever been, as well as ensure that these payments are as secure as possible, as the payment is linked to your unique fingerprint, which is harder to copy than current methods. 

Vein ID

Another branch of biometric payment is currently being trialed by Barclays’ corporate clients in an attempt to meet the growing mobile needs of companies. This Vein ID scans a user’s unique vein pattern below the surface of the finger, and is more secure with a ‘sign what you see’ instalment; which prevents fraudsters from falsifying payments as it is another verification method. The Vein ID is currently only available for a select few corporate clients and plans to phase it through to consumers are currently still unclear.

The second version of this finger vein scanner not only has this new added measure of security, it is also no longer necessary to physically connect it to a computer, as was the case in the first version. This version connects by using Bluetooth, to prevent potential fraudsters accessing the payment information through the internet. This technology could eventually be rolled out to all customers across the globe to increase ease and mobility of payments on top of improving the security of our payment data.

Barclays’ fingerprint scanner, which was developed in collaboration with Hitachi, is an answer from the bank to its customers in an attempt to ensure that their clients can continue to be mobile and secure in banking. The added protection of bluetooth and the ‘sign what you see’ makes the fingerprint scanner even more secure than other potential developments, whilst remaining mobile for its customers. Will biometric payment methods completely replace our more traditional methods of spending? Only time will tell, but this is unlikely as it excludes those who cannot give a fingerprint. Read parts one and two of our ‘Paying with your face’ articles to see a potentially more inclusive method of biometric payment.

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