Card is Still King – Why Consumers Prefer Biometric Cards over Mobile Payments

In our third post on touch-free authentication, Art Stewart, Global Head of Sales & Marketing at IDEX Biometrics, discusses how card is still king and why consumers prefer biometric cards over mobile payments.

It seems hard to believe but mobile payment systems have been around since 2004 (Alipay), ApplePay since 2014 and Google Pay (Android) since 2015. Despite that, they haven’t really caught on: research by IDEX Biometrics ( shows that only 3% of British consumers choose mobile payments. Apple and Google have now launched payment cards. If mobile payments are as secure and effortless as they claimed, why do we still prefer cash and cards?

Wave your magic wand

The theory was – create an effortless payment system safer than cash and everyone will use it. The problem is that banks have traditionally set low limits on the value of contactless payments, which has undermined consumer confidence in the safety of making a contactless payment. 65% say using their debit card in the traditional way provides a greater sense of security.

Security and privacy

In theory, mobile payment systems have more layers of security than either cash or cards. If your phone is stolen, your credit cannot be used because payments require your fingerprint or password, which is very difficult for a thief to acquire and replicate. Even so, that is little consolation for the loss of an expensive smartphone, especially if it leaves you without the means to buy a ticket home.

Most mobile payment applications will ask the user to perform an independent verification step in additional to the basic phone unlock step.  These independent steps are needed as the phone is a multi-application platform that requires individual permissions to whatever application is running including basic unlock.  The result is more layers of security than cash or card, but also many steps contributing to an awkward experience.

Speed and convenience

Not everyone likes carrying a mobile phone all the time. They are expensive and easily broken or stolen. They also run out of power, often. They are bulky inside a pocket, and cumbersome to retrieve from a bag. All-in-all, they aren’t that convenient. Nor is a mobile phone transaction really “tap-and-go”: most still require multiple actions including a separate authentication step prior to making a payment.

Not all shoppers are anxious to pay quickly, but no one likes being stuck behind someone fiddling with a mobile phone. Speed is a bigger motivator in bustling cities, but even when it isn’t, nobody would object to making a PIN-less payment that was genuinely quick and genuinely secure.  Contactless card payments are also easier to combine with the use of a store loyalty card.

Biometric payment cards

The nail in the coffin for mobile payments may come from biometric payment cards. These incorporate a biometric scanner onto the card similar to those in smartphones. Like regular cards, they can be used to make contactless payments but only work in the hands of the registered user – eliminating contactless security worries. Biometric data is stored on the card, not on a distant server that would introduce privacy issues. In short, biometric payment cards are quicker, cheaper, safer and less cumbersome.

Even in China, despite the greater uptake of WeChat, biometric fingerprint cards are already being rolled out by China UnionPay (,sensor%20and%20distributed%20matcher%20technology).

Covid-19 has increased the popularity of contactless payments for health reasons. Whereas mobile phones are sometimes shared, biometric payment cards stay in their owner’s pocket.  Once they come out of users pocket to make a payment, the process is still tap’n’go without any additional steps. Now that more of us are in the habit of making contactless payments, many will adopt it permanently, but we are unlikely to go mobile once biometric cards are widely available.

The previous post in our series on touch-free authentication looked at how touch-free payments are the best option to reduce contact-based interactions during the pandemic.