Biometric Payment cards - hype or progress?


There have been several recent press releases included in Smartexpress regarding payment cards with fingerprint sensors e.g. and,c2756264

The benefits claimed include:

  • No limit to the number of contactless transactions ( before a PIN is required- see below- and assuming the transaction counter in the card has been switched off so no simple contactless payments can be made)
  • No  PIN code needed (unless the sensor or fingerprint are damaged)
    • Fewer declines due to forgotten PINs, incorrect PINs, and PIN bypass (not sure how big a problem this really is)
  • Fingerprints  can’t be shared or duplicated they are unique (well nearly), so  Merchants, and acquirers,  knows with more certainty that the genuine cardholder is present so reducing "card holder present" fraud (actually it identifies the person who has enrolled their fingerprint on the card)
  • Increased transaction volume/value, as affluent customers are most interested in biometric cards, providing the best possible cardholder experience will increase usage (really???- payment is not an "experience " - free is more fun)

The potential issues not discussed include:

  • Cost of card - the complexity of construction, and bill of materials  increases the cost of card by several dollars. This cost to issuer , and consumer, has to be justified
  • Enrolment and usage of fingerprints not without problems: users would have to "self-enrole" : how would they know the initial template extraction was successful? What happens if the sensor or their fingers failed,  due to damage of either surface?
  • Change in customer habits : to successfully pay the sensor and correct finger has to be aligned to the POS: can be inconvenient.
  • Performance: the time for a template matching has issues in transit ticketing and fast transactional situations: It is no longer " wave and pay" but rather " hover and pay"

The problem solved? : Increased card issuance costs ,  must be balanced against reduction in PIN issues, and card holder present fraud, but  offset by the possible usage and performance issues.

Biometric payment cards have the same issues/benefits as  a mobile phone with fingerprint sensor, but without the enrolment and notification feedback.  Why would a "Affluent" user want both?  There are similarities with the promotion of  biometric payment cards and 3D TV: both are  novel customer experiences , that are based on the same transaction, that incur extra costs for all parties involved.   Unless there is a much strong user benefit discovered biometric payment cards may not survive.

( PS anyone seen a 3D TV for sale recently?)