In the race to make credit card payments more secure, MasterCard is testing a new card that uses a purchaser's fingerprint to make sure that the purchase is legit.
The card stores an encrypted, digital template of the cardholder's fingerprint as well as a fingerprint sensor. To make a purchase, the consumer puts the EMV chip into a card reader while placing their finger on the sensor. If the card verifies the fingerprint, the transaction is verified and approved.
"Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics," Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard's president of enterprise risk and security, said in a statement announcing the pilot program. "Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security. It's not something that can be taken or replicated and will help our cardholders get on with their lives knowing their payments are protected."
For now, MasterCard is testing the new cards out in South Africa at a chain of supermarkets, but it plans to expand the tests throughout the globe in the next year. The cards work with existing EMV chip readers, which American retailers broadly adopted last year.
Like all security features, fingerprint scans aren't foolproof. A report published earlier this week by researchers at New York University and Michigan State found that hackers were able to create a "MasterPrint" and gain access to more than a quarter of phones that had been secured via thumbprints.