Contactless Payment Cards over future tech solutions: which is getting the maximum vote?

In our third post in the series on ‘Are we at the tipping point for global biometric payment card adoption?’ IDEX Biometrics discusses contactless cards over future tech solutions and which is getting the maximum vote?

Not since the days when we bartered in goats, beaver skins, and salt rations have there been so many different ways to do business. Today, we can swap coins, cheques and paper money, share account numbers and passcodes, swipe a magnetic strip, use software on a mobile phone or insert plastic into a card reader. Each method competes for our business, but the contactless payment card may win our hearts.

In the US, 25% of purchases are still made in cash, but most are conducted electronically using plastic cards, bank transfers, mobile apps, telephone calls or digital wallets. While there is always a chance that cash is stolen or counterfeit, the potential for fraud during a cashless payment is generally higher. Last year card and electronic fraud reached an all-time high, almost doubling over the last two years.

Although it did not account for the bulk of that fraud, using a contactless payment card has always been the least secure. Touch cards authorize a transaction without a PIN, password, picture or personal ID of any kind. Consequently, contactless transactions are capped low – so low they are only really an alternative to counting out a few notes and loose change.

The biometric solution

All of us possess a range of biological traits that are virtually unique. These things include our face, iris patterns, fingerprints, heart rhythms, walking gait, vein patterns and DNA. While most of these things can be imaged, capturing the image and checking it against a verifiable database of personal records used to be prohibitively difficult, cumbersome and expensive. Who is going to queue for a medical examination to buy a can of coke?

No longer. Fingerprint sensors similar to those in iPhones and Android smartphones can now be embedded into plastic cards. The card itself, rather than a central database, stores a match for the legitimate owner, solving both speed and security issues. Print matching can be used in place of or to supplement other security checks, such as a PIN.

Trials of biometric cards are already underway in several countries including Société Générale in France, RBS/NatWest in the UK, the Bank of Cyprus and Cornèr Bank in Switzerland. Both Visa and Mastercard are also involved. Furthermore, a recent survey conducted by Visa found that 86% of Americans are interested in trying biometric cards.

The previous post in our series on ‘Are we at the tipping point for global biometric payment card adoption?’ looked at contactless payments as a new weapon in the age of coronavirus.