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The End of PINs in South Africa: Enter Biometric Cards

 3 min read / 

Following successful trials, Mastercard will bring biometric cards to local customers in South Africa by the end of 2017. The verification functionalities of the biometric cards are facilitated by EMV-based chip technology and fingerprint recognition technology.

Cardholders will be able to use their biometric cards at any EMV-compatible card terminal around the world. Making a payment requires a cardholder to insert the card into a terminal while placing their thumb over the embedded sensor. After the fingerprint is verified, the transaction will be approved.

Mitigating Fraud and Loss Prevention Costs

Ajay Bhalla, President of Enterprise Risk and Security at Mastercard, stated:

“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.”

Banks that make biometric cards available to their customers may benefit from increased customer loyalty, fewer incidences of card fraud, and reduction of operational costs. The Department of Home Affairs has played a vital role in ensuring that it supports retail banks in South Africa as they work towards saving millions through the implementation of biometrics in their operations. The national ID database allows for the identification of all South African Citizens. The partnership between the department of home affairs and South Africa’s banking industry has saved banks in the country over $200m. The Home Affairs National Identification System allows banks to confirm the identity of clients or prospective clients through biometric fingerprint matching.

From Fingerprints to Voice Recognition

The “fun” doesn’t stop there. South African bank Investec has made it possible for the identity of customers to be verified via voice transmission without the need for PINs and passwords. Clients calling the bank may, instead of answering security questions to confirm their identity, have their identities verified through a typical conversation with a bank representative.

More than Security

With a biometric card, the power is literally in your hands. From a security conscious perspective, a biometric card is a brilliant solution to growing problems in cyber-security and card fraud. It is indeed brilliant, but it is not foolproof. Fingerprints can easily be replicated using tape and other household items. Nevertheless, this does not negate the fact that with fingerprint technology implemented in retail operations of banking, the power is literally in the hands of the customer.

Taking the psychology of many customers into consideration, the feeling of near-absolute control over one’s finances becomes ever more real in a sense. Many customers may come to appreciate this as further developments are made in the major biometric technologies in the banking industry. Soon enough, bold leaps may be made by more firms to encourage the use of fingerprint terminals that don’t require cards-just fingerprints, voices, and maybe a pin as part of the 2 stage verification. That is of course if consumers of the future still feel nostalgic about “the good old days”.

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