Samsung and Mastercard are officially teaming up on a credit card with a built-in fingerprint scanner, Samsung announced on Thursday. These so-called “biometric cards” will come baked in with a “several key discrete chips” from Samsung’s side, and are planned to be compatible with any point of sale (POS) terminal, or any terminal that currently accepts Mastercard chip payments.
Mastercard has been toying with the idea of biometrics since 2017, when the company announced a pilot of a similar-sounding biometric card that would authenticate payments by having customers place their thumb on an embedded chip inside the card. If a person’s PIN number matched the thumbprint associated with the card, their payment would go through.
The new Samsung collaboration, for its part, plans to do away with PIN numbers entirely. Per the announcement, all someone will need to do to authenticate a payment is pop their thumb onto one of the chips embedded into the card. The plan is to allow for “safer interactions with reduced physical contact points” by foregoing the need to even bother touching an icky PIN pad at all.
On one hand, using these systems means that you’re trusting Mastercard to keep your biometric data secure. Considering some of the high-profile stories of biometric data breaches we’ve been hearing over the past few years, that can be a tough sell for some of Mastercard’s clientele. But on the other hand, those security risks could be worth it for folks looking to adopt a contact-free way to pay.
Despite the fact that there’s little evidence pointing towards surface contact—like say, between your finger and a PIN pad—playing a substantial role in transmitting Covid-19, anxieties about contaminated surfaces have led swaths of people to make the shift from paying with cash to adopting contactless payment methods, like Apple Pay or Google Pay. And as others have pointed out, there’s a good chance that the popularity of cashless payments won’t dissipate anytime soon: in the U.S., some researchers predict that the total value of these sorts of touchless transactions will skyrocket from $178 billion dollars in 2020 to $1.5 trillion in 2024.
Samsung will be leading the “gradual” rollout of these new biometric cards in South Korea later this year. Thus far, it’s not clear if the cards will be coming out in any other markets.