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World’s first biometric payment card launched

October 27th 2014

MasterCard has teamed up with Norwegian biometrics company Zwipe to launch what they say is the world’s first biometric contactless payment card, with the biometric authentication replacing the need to enter a PIN.

The prototype of the Zwipe MasterCard payment card was demonstrated in London on Friday and has been tested by Sparebanken DIN bank in Norway. It is thicker than a standard payment card becuase of the battery used to power the integrated fingerprint sensor.

The card incorporates a fingerprint sensor and the Zwipe's secure biometric authentication technology that holds the cardholder’s biometric data. This means that the the data is not stored in an external database. The card also contains an EMV certified secure element and MasterCard’s contactless application.

As well as providing additional security and eliminating the need to remember PIN codes, this also enables the cardholder to make payments of any amount (within the authorised limit of the account) - unlike other contactless payment cards currently on the market which restrict payments to £20 in the UK.

On receipt of the new card, the user simply has to activate it by means of a simple fingerprint scan, not unlike Apple's system on its latest mobile devices.

The next generation of Zwipe card - due for release next year - will be in the same format as a standard card and designed to work with all payment terminals. Unlike the prototype card, the new one will not need a battery, instead harvesting energy from the payment terminals with which it is used.

The announcement follows hot on the heels of Apple Pay, which will enable iPhone 6, 6plus and 5S users to make non-contact payments by linking cards issued by most US banks through MasterCard to their phones.