UK Bank NatWest Debuts Credit Cards with Built-In Fingerprint Reader

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by Wanguba Muriuki · 3 min read
UK Bank NatWest Debuts Credit Cards with Built-In Fingerprint Reader
Photo: NatWest

NatWest Bank will debut new NFC payment cards with built-in fingerprint scanners for testing in mid-April in an attempt to curb down theft cases associated with payments via credit and debit cards.

Forms of payment have rapidly revolutionized with the introduction of various technologies into the financial industry. For instance, contactless payments have existed for many years. One of the most common revolutionary forms of payment is mobile payments that involve smartphones. On the other hand, actual debit or credit card payments keep improving as financial institutions strive to enhance their efficiency.

However, users still need to authenticate payments exceeding certain amounts when using their cards. The only available method currently to verify these payments is with the use of a PIN code. Nonetheless, several banks are ready to try a new debit card that has a fingerprint sensor built into it.

NatWest, a British bank, is testing the use a new NFC payment card that comprises of a built-in fingerprint scanner. The trial is set to take place in mid-April featuring 200 customers. The participants will have capabilities to make NFC payments known as “contactless” in the UK. They will not need to input any form of a PIN or provide a signature.

The standard £30 limit set for contactless payments will not apply whenever the participants use their fingerprints. All cardholders in the UK can currently make contactless payments by tapping their cards on the terminal. The £30 limit is applied to these payments as a security measure. For any expensive purchases, users must place their cards into a reader and enter their PIN.

Even though the existing mobile payments need authentication, users can only transact within the same £30 limit.

How it Works

Fundamentally, the new NFC cards have a fingerprint scanner. The scanner stores the fingerprint data locally on the customer’s card which reduces the risk of theft considerably. The new security measure is, however, not proven fully effective since in theory a thief can spoof a fingerprint and gain access to the money.

The scheduled trial seems to prove that NatWest thinks the contactless system is the future of card payments. David Crawford of NatWest added that:

“We are using the very latest technology across our business to make banking easier for our customers and biometric fingerprint cards are one of the many technologies we are exploring further. This is the biggest development in card technology in recent years and we are excited to trial the service.”

The participants will need to visit a bank branch to register their fingerprint. However, Gemalto hopes that all interested users can use their phones to register in the future. MasterCard tested this technology back in South Africa in 2017 but it never thrived.

Previous Tests

An increasing number of fraudster cases prompted financial institutions to strive to come up with enhanced security measures. Biometric authentication has grown into a standard component of NFC mobile payments. However, despite the credit card trials having appeared since 2015, they have failed to get any traditional bank card hosts.

Gemalto ran several trials in South Africa in 2017. It followed it up with a pilot project in conjunction with Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo in 2018. The contactless cards have some way to go before they gain mass adoption.

However, the introduction of digital currencies into the global financial network can offer several solutions. It can bring about the security required by most institutions, individuals, and governments while transacting their money.

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