Mastercard testing a biometric bank card right here in South Africa

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A PIN is a terrible way to secure your bank account when you think about it.

Four numbers that have to be memorable are all that separates a criminal and your funds. Worse still, a PIN is no guarantee that the person using it is indeed the person that owns that PIN.

For that reason – and others – Mastercard has developed a bank card that uses biometrics to verify a card owner’s identity.

“Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security,” president of enterprise risk and security at Mastercard Ajay Bhalla says.

“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.”

The card features a fingerprint scanner linked to the chip of the card. When a card owner enrols their fingerprint is recorded at the bank, and the biometric data is stored on the chip as a digital template.

A user then needs to only insert the card into a point-of-sale, touch their chosen digit to the card and the purchase will be authenticated sans PIN.

Mastercard says that the technology will work with any Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) card terminal globally and has been testing the tech here in South Africa with the help of Pick n Pay and ABSA Bank.

We are delighted that this innovation has been trialled for the first time at Pick n Pay stores in South Africa,” deputy chief executive officer of Pick n Pay, Richard van Rensburg said. “The technology creates a platform on which we can further our strategy of personalising the shopping experience in a meaningful way. We have been extremely impressed with the robust and secure nature of the technology.”

ABSA goes on to add that following the test period it hopes to make Mastercard’s new card available to customers. “The technology will effectively enable our customers to rely on their unique fingerprints to make payments in a face-to-face environment,” says head of card and payments at ABSA, Geoff Lee.

Mastercard says it will expand trials of the card to Europe and Asia Pacific in the coming months.

So to round up, Microsoft is helping us forget our passwords for its services and now Mastercard is seemingly trying to kill off the PIN. Is 2017 becoming the year where we forget passwords forever? Unlikely, but hey, we can dream right?


Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.