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MasterCard and Zwipe Launch Contactless Credit Card With Fingerprint Sensor

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Paying for purchases may have just gotten easier—and safer—with the world’s first fingerprint authenticated contactless payment card.

MasterCard and biometrics company Zwipe have partnered to launch the new no-contact credit card with an integrated biometric sensor and Zwipe’s secure biometric authentication technology, which holds the cardholder’s fingerprint data.

The Zwipe MasterCard is the first of its kind to marry the convenience of contactless payment with the security of biometric authentication. Fingerprint data is stored right on the card, not in an external database, keeping the information safe from now rampant breaches.

Once the cardholder scans their fingerprint, the card is activated and payments can be made. The fingerprint scans substitute personal identification number (PIN) entry, and cardholders can make purchases of any amount unlike other contactless cards currently on the market.

Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions at MasterCard said, “Our belief is that we should be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or PIN numbers. Biometric authentication can help us achieve this. However, our challenge is to ensure the technology offers robust security, simplicity of use and convenience for the customer. Zwipe’s first trial is a significant milestone and its results are very encouraging.”

The companies piloted the technology with financial institution Sparebanken DIN in Norway, and the firm’s business development director said Sparebanken will offer the biometric authentication and contactless communication for all of its cards because of the security and convenience it offers to both cardholders and merchants.

Bhalla added, “Safety and security in everyday payments is at the heart of MasterCard’s business. We will continue to work with innovators, like Zwipe, to ensure we stay ahead of fraudsters and provide a seamless payment experience, as ultimately it is consumers who decide how they choose to pay.”

Zwipe is currently working on the next generation of the card, which will be made in the same format as a standard card and work with all payment terminals. The new card, scheduled for release in 2015, will harvest energy from the payment terminals with no need for a battery.

News of the launch came on the same day that President Obama announced his plan to tighten debit card security at the federal level. According to AP, an estimated 100 million people saw their financial data compromised in the last year, including large scale breaches at retailers Target and Home Depot, and most recently, Kmart.

Debit cards issued by the U.S. government will now rely on internal chips instead of the less-secure magnetic strips. Security chips and PINs will be applied to all newly issued government credit cards, and payment terminals at government facilities will be equipped to accept the cards.

The White House said the idea is for the move to encourage the broader financial industry and retailers to adopt more secure standards. Obama said retailers including Target, Home Depot, Walmart and Walgreens will install payment terminals that can handle cards with the digital chips and PINS that replace signatures, AP reported.

Obama also called on Congress to enact a single national standard for retailers to notify customers of data breaches, as proposals haven’t yet made much progress in Congress.

“Protecting consumer data is a shared responsibility, and merchants must have the same tough data-security standards as financial institutions,” Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association, said in a statement Friday. He said many banks “are accelerating the transition to chip technology, which can only be effective if merchants have the technology to accept the cards at the point of sale.”

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