Futuristic New Mastercard Includes a Built-In Fingerprint Scanner

Mastercard / Mastercard

You can put down the pen and forget your PIN with Mastercard's newest credit card. As The Verge reports, the company is testing out a credit card with a built-in fingerprint scanner that allows customers to authorize their payments with the swipe of a digit—no PIN or signature necessary.

The new Mastercard is just as slim as a regular one, and it works with all existing chip-and-PIN readers. To get one of the fancy new cards, you'll need to register at a branch. Your fingerprint will then be converted into an encrypted digital template, which is stored on the card. To use the card, you'll just dip it into a store’s card reader as normal. But instead of entering a PIN, you'll be prompted to place a finger or thumb on the embedded sensor on the card’s top right corner in order to confirm your identity.

Mastercard’s new fingerprint technology is intended to help “deliver additional convenience and security,” Ajay Bhalla, the company’s chief of safety and security, said in a press release. Unlike, say, a PIN, “it’s not something that can be taken or replicated.”

Technically, BBC News points out, Bhalla’s statement isn’t 100 percent accurate: Your fingerprint can be stolen from an item you’ve touched—a water glass being a prime example—and once someone’s swiped it, you only have nine more “password” options before you’re compromised for good.

In short, fingerprint identification technology isn’t perfect. Still, it's better than relying on a PIN to authenticate a user to a system. “With the combination of chip and PIN, the PIN is the weaker element. Using a fingerprint gets rid of that,” Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Berlin's Security Research Labs, told BBC News. “Fingerprints have helped us avoid using terrible passwords, and even the most gullible person is not going to cut off their finger if [a criminal] asks nicely.”

Mastercard's biometric credit card is currently undergoing a trial run in South Africa, and additional tests will soon be conducted in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. If all goes well, the card could be in use in the U.S. by early 2018, USA Today reports.

[h/t The Verge]