Mastercard is officially the first major card vendor to introduce a biometrics-based payment card after the company announced successful trials of this new technology in South Africa.

The company's new card is a hybrid between classic chip-based cards and a biometrics solution that relies on the user's fingerprint to authenticate users.

According to Mastercard, using the new card is extremely easy and less time consuming than classic solutions that rely on users entering their PIN number to authenticate transactions.

Card uses user's fingerprint instead of PIN

When paying for a product, customers are expected to insert their biometrics card inside a card reader while at the same time pressing the finger for which they've registered a fingerprint on the card's embedded sensor.

The sensor works by reading the user's fingerprint and comparing it to a copy stored on the card's chip. If the two match, the card issues a signal similar to a user entering the correct PIN and approves the transaction. This allows the card to be used at EMV terminals worldwide.

According to Mastercard, the new card builds on fingerprint scanning technology currently used today to secure and authenticate mobile payments.

Mastercard says the time needed to perform a transaction is much smaller, and the card never leaves the user's hand at any time during the payment process. The company has provided an infographic as a visual aid for the entire transaction process, along with a short video demonstration.

Mastercard infographic

Mastercard has already carried out two trials in South Africa at Pick n Pay supermarkets, with cards emitted by Absa Bank. The company is planning more tests in Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

Biometrics solutions have been under heavy criticism as of late. Pundits have argued that once an attacker compromises a user's fingerprints, the user will have a hard time protecting his assets in the future, because fingerprints, as almost all biometrics solutions, are impossible to change.

Many of you might agree and consider that using PIN codes is a much safer solution.

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