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RBS is reportedly about to hold trials of a new, more secure biometric bank card where customers can use their fingerprint instead of a PIN to verify purchases.

April

The trial, which will involve some 200 RBS and NatWest UK-based customers, is due to begin in April this year and will and last for three months. Although this is the first time this kind of advanced card technology has been trialled in the UK, a similar trial has already taken place in Cyprus.

Partners

RBS is working on the biometric fingerprint-verified card project in partnership with digital security company Gemalto, Visa, and Mastercard.

Advantages

The advantages of a biometric card of this kind include improved security, speed and convenience for customers with no need to worry (as with contactless) about the £30 limit because the biometric card will be able to verify payments of larger amounts.

Already Used For RBS App

RBS already offer their customers a mobile banking app that uses fingerprint log-in on iPhone, iPad or Android.

Fingerprint Sensor On The Card

Gemalto, one of the partners in the new RBS project explains that the fingerprint card works by using a fingerprint sensor on the card body.  When paying, a customer places the card next to the POS terminal (as with contactless) and places their finger on this part of the card.  This securely authenticates their fingerprint and enables the transaction to go through without the need for a PIN.  Gemalto says that the user’s biometric data never leaves the card, so is kept secure.

Enrolment

In order to activate and start using such a card, customers would have to record their fingerprint with an enrolment procedure.  This is likely to be possible from home a self-enrolment sleeve shipped with the card with activation which is then completed at the first transaction at the POS, or by going to a go bank branch and using a secure enrolment tablet or kiosk.

Own Research

Gemalto’s own research has found that 54% of UK cardholders who have evaluated the information about the card would get one today if it were available from their bank, and 82% said it would become their preferred payment card.

Security Concerns

Although biometrics are preferred over password verification systems in terms of security, there is still concern about where a person’s biometric data is stored, and how securely that data is stored.  Also, biometric voice-activated systems have already shown themselves to be vulnerable.  For example, back in May 2017, a BBC Click reporter was able to fool HSBC’s biometric voice recognition system by passing his brother’s voice off as his own.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Biometric authentication and verification systems appear to be much more secure than password and PIN systems, which is why banks and credit companies are already adopting and using them.  The popularity of contactless cards with businesses and users is clear, and introducing a more secure authentication method e.g. fingerprint, is a way of getting customers to feel more comfortable with spending over £30 amounts with a quick, contactless system.  This could bring benefits to a wider range of businesses, and contactless has mainly favoured those retail businesses with typically lower value transactions.

Many people are already getting used to mobile apps that use biometric authentication, so a card that uses a similar idea is not a big step, plus the unique nature of fingerprints would make card fraud less likely, which should please the banks and users.

Other types of biometric systems e.g. voice activated systems have run into problems and some opposition (e.g. privacy groups) challenging the lawfulness of HMRC’s Voice ID system which has collected and stored more than 7 million “audio signatures”.

This new type of fingerprint card is still awaiting its trial in the UK, but the signs are that it looks like it could be an acceptable next step for bank customers who want to use a more secure contactless card system that works for everything.

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