NatWest trials biometric cards which use fingerprints

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Biometric cards which enable people to verify payments using their fingerprint rather than needing to enter a PIN are now being used by some NatWest customers.

NatWest launched a three-month trial of the technology on Wednesday, involving 200 people. In Scotland, the trial will involve customers of Royal Bank of Scotland.

Customers will use the technology to verify payments over £30 – the current contactless card limit – without the need to enter a PIN at the till. The cards also have contactless functionality and can be used as normal in ATMs, post offices and for digital banking, NatWest said.

They also work with existing contactless and Chip and PIN terminals – meaning shops will be able to accept payments without updating their technology.

Biometric card
Some 200 people are taking part in the three-month trial using biometric fingerprint cards (NatWest/PA)

To use a card, a fingerprint is registered on to it, which can be done in a customer’s own home. Once a fingerprint is locked on to a card it cannot be changed.

The fingerprint is only held on the card and not centrally by the bank, with each transaction verified using data which is encrypted and stored locally on the card, NatWest said.

As well as perhaps being simpler than keying in a PIN, such technology could potentially help people who have difficulty remembering number codes, so it may be useful to vulnerable customers.

NatWest said it is working closely with digital security company Gemalto along with Visa and Mastercard to bring the service to customers in the UK.

Georgina Bulkeley
Georgina Bulkeley from RBS/NatWest holds up a card (NatWest/PA)

Georgina Bulkeley, director of strategy and innovation at RBS/NatWest, told the Press Association: “We’re looking to understand from our customers if it’s useful for them, if they like using it.

“Hopefully it will be a really natural experience for them.”

She said of the initiative: “It should be an effortless payment experience.”

Asked about the potential for a wider rollout, she said: “We really do want to get the customer feedback before we jump ahead.”

David Crawford, head of payments, NatWest, said: “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 it’s great to finally see the cards in the hands of our customers.”

Howard Berg, senior vice president, UK, Ireland and Switzerland, Gemalto, said: “We’re confident that consumers will love the convenience, enhanced security and great user experience that this new card provides.

“Biometric authentication and identification is set to transform financial services and we’re proud to be leading the way in this field alongside our partners.”

Jeni Mundy, managing director, UK & Ireland, Visa, said: “In financial services, biometrics are gaining ground as a secure and convenient alternative to passwords and Pins.

“This technology has the potential to make the lives of consumers easier and provides greater choice to confirm their identity.”

Chris Price
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