A UK bank is testing credit cards which use fingerprints to verify transactions

CNBC Technology 2 months ago

Major U.K. bank NatWest has started a three-month trial of a biometric credit card.

The pilot, launched Monday, is in partnership with MasterCard and digital security firm Gemalto, and involves 150 customers.

If a contactless transaction is greater than £30 ($36.66), the customer's finger print can be used to verify the transaction. If the purchase exceeds £100 the card is inserted into a card terminal, with verification again coming from a fingerprint.

At ATMs, cardholders will still need to enter a PIN. The card can also be used for buying goods online and works with current contactless and Chip and PIN devices, the bank added.

Users can register their fingerprint on the card at home. When a fingerprint has been "locked" onto the card, it can't be altered. Biometric data doesn't leave the card and is not shared with either the merchant or bank, according to NatWest. In addition, fingerprints are not stored in the cloud.

Earlier this year NatWest, which is a member of the RBS Group, launched a trial of biometric debit cards. Debit cards are connected to a customer's checking account and are used to take money from ATMs and pay for goods in stores or online. Each debit card has a PIN number which is used to verify withdrawals, and where necessary, in store purchases.

In a statement Monday, Georgina Bulkeley, NatWest's director of innovation, said the biometric debit card pilot had been successful and that the bank was now "looking to test the technology further with credit cards."

"This is the biggest development in card technology in recent years and not having to enter a PIN not only increases security but makes it easier for our customers when paying for goods or services," she added.

In the U.K., the last few years have seen a step change in the way people pay for things. According to U.K. Finance's UK Payment Markets 2019 report, the number of contactless payments in 2018 hit 7.4 billion, an increase of 31% from 2017. In the years ahead, biometric cards could become increasingly common as technology develops.

"The lack of obstacles inhibiting the introduction of biometric cards — from integrated Chip and PIN machines to ATMs — suggests that if this trial is successful, biometric cards could soon become the norm, just like paying with your phone has rapidly become routine for many people in recent years," Simon King, a partner at Octopus Ventures, said in a statement sent to CNBC via email.

Banking is one of many sectors in which biometric verification systems are starting to be deployed.

Today, some Samsung phones can be unlocked with iris scanners, while Apple's Face ID uses facial recognition technology to secure iPhones and iPad Pros.

In aviation, the Australian airline Qantas recently wrapped up a trial of facial recognition technology at Sydney Airport. According to the company, over 4,000 people signed up to use their "face as a boarding pass," with more than 200 flights leaving the airport with passengers who had used the technology.

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