Banks test debit cards using fingerprint chips.


Banks test debit cards using fingerprint chips.

What happened?

Contactless payments have become the norm – you just wave your card and pay.

For security reasons, those payments are capped – normally at £30 – so you still need to use your PIN for more expensive purchases.

But rather than remembering and entering your four-digit code, you could soon be using your fingerprint.

That’s the idea being tested by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest, which RBS owns.

The banks have put debit cards with fingerprint readers in the hands of 200 customers across the UK, to see if the idea is worth rolling out on a larger scale.

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How will it affect you? 

The cards are identical to existing credit and debit cards, but have a small reader built into one corner.

This is powered wirelessly via a signal from card readers, so no batteries are necessary.

Those taking part in the current trial have to visit a branch of their bank for their fingerprint to be taken, but in the future this could be done remotely.

The fingerprint is stored on the card itself.

What do we think? 

It’s an intriguing technology, but you’ll still have to remember your PIN to withdraw cash from an ATM.

So it all seems like a lot of effort for naught.

Banks rolled out contactless because it makes payments much faster for customers and businesses alike, but there’s no doubt it’s less secure – anyone who finds or steals your card can use it, hence the £30 limit.

If you’re offered a fingerprint card by your bank, and you like the idea, by all means, sign up – the card, not your bank, holds the fingerprint, which may help you feel more secure.

However, it’s surely only a matter of time before criminals find a way to hack these cards.

We can’t help feeling unsettled by the idea of a unique physical identifier ending up in the hands of criminals, rather than a random four-digit code that can easily be reset.

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