SA to get biometric bank cards

Mastercard is working with South African partners to bring biometric cards to local consumers, reportedly by the end of this year. South Africa is the first market in the world to test the technology, with two trials already having been conducted with Absa and Pick n Pay.

Ajay Bhalla (pictured), president, enterprise risk and security, Mastercard, said:

"Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics. 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."

According to Mastercard, the new card builds on fingerprint scanning technology used for mobile payments. The cards combine EMV-based chip technology with fingerprint recognition technology to verify the identity of the cardholder. A cardholder will simply enroll their card by registering with their financial institution. Upon registration, their fingerprint will be converted into an encrypted digital template stored on the card. The biometric card then works like any other chip card when used to pay for purchases in a store. The cardholder simply dips the card into a retailer's terminal while placing their thumb over the embedded sensor. The fingerprint will be verified against the template and the cardholder will be successfully authenticated, provided the two match. In short, the card never has to leave the cardholder's hand.

Mastercard added: "For issuers, the technology helps detect and prevent fraud, increase approval rates, reduce operational costs and foster customer loyalty. Additionally, a future version of the card will feature contactless technology, adding to the simplicity and convenience at checkout."