MasterCard has announced the world's first contactless payment card that uses your fingerprint to authenticate payments. It's partnered with Zwipe, the company behind this biometric technology, on a card that will only permit charges if your thumb is resting on the built-in sensor. You can wave it near an NFC reader for contactless payments, and it's also fully compatible with chip terminals. Fingerprint data is all stored locally inside the card's secure element and is never transmitted to MasterCard. And since biometric authentication obviates any need to enter a PIN, Zwipe says this is fundamentally more secure than the chip and PIN system. The company already ran a pilot with Norway’s Sparebanken DIN bank, but the prototype card used was far from perfect. It had a battery inside, which made it a bit more unwieldy compared to your everyday plastic.
Now Zwipe has found a better way: the finalized MasterCard variant will "harvest" RF energy from payment terminals, so it'll get a power-up each time you use it. It should become available in the UK at some point in 2015. By then, many of us will already be paying for things with our fingerprints anyway — and hopefully at some point leaving the wallet and cards at home.