Biometric CardsThe Future of Payments is Physiological

October 17, 2022 | 11 min read

Biometric Cards

In a Nutshell

Could biometric cards be the next EMV standard? In this article, we’ll discuss everything we know so far about biometric cards, from what they are and how they work to where they’re being piloted. We’ll also share a few benefits and drawbacks you can expect from biometric cards and why they still can’t provide all the fraud prevention your business needs.

Are Biometric Cards the Key to Eliminating Card-Present Fraud, Once and or All?

Biometric technologies are gaining popularity worldwide. These tools give users the ability to identify individuals based on distinct physiological characteristics that are considered unique to each person. Indicators can include fingerprints, facial recognition, iris recognition, or heart rhythm, just to name a few.

You probably have some familiarity with biometric security technologies. For instance, you might use a fingerprint as a way to unlock your phone. The applications extend a lot further than that, though.

With the need for ever-greater payment security, card networks were bound to start experimenting with this technology sooner or later. Enter: the biometric credit card.

Essentially, biometric cards are chip cards with a built-in thumbprint reader. They combine a fingerprint scanner with conventional chip-and-PIN technology, thereby improving the versatility and security of tech-enabled credit and debit cards.

How Do Biometric Cards Work?

Essentially, cardholders can use one of these cards by scanning their fingerprint (a similar process to setting up a smartphone). The card does not actually store a picture of the print itself. Instead, the scanner digitally maps the fingerprint, translates the digital map to an equation, and stores that instead.

When the cardholder places their finger on the card’s sensor during a transaction, the card senses whether the digital map of the finger is the same as the one stored in the card. A green or red light on the card indicates an authentication pass or fail.

To use the card, all a customer needs to do is shop at a participating store and press their finger into the designated spot at checkout. Biometric cards can store up to four encrypted fingerprints per customer. 

Once activated and used the first time, the card will be ready for future use at any participating store. If the store has not yet enabled biometric or contactless payments, customers can still use the biometric card as a regular chip-and-PIN card.

Global Availability of Biometric Cards

Biometric cards seem to be a rational upgrade to the EMV process. Of course, we’ll only be able to evaluate their eventual impact once the testing stage is complete and biometric cards become more widely available in the US. When will that happen, though?

The good news is that Visa and Mastercard are already working on bringing biometric cards to market as soon as possible. The bad news is that they are still in the testing stage, so the cards might not be readily available in your region for a while. 

Here’s a quick overview of the efforts each card network has undertaken in the testing process:


Visa has launched a pilot of a new dual-interface (chip- and contactless-enabled) biometric payment card with both the Mountain America Credit Union and the Bank of Cyprus. This will be the first pilot in the U.S. to test an on-card biometric sensor for contactless payments.

Visa’s biometric card will test the use of fingerprint recognition as an alternative to PIN or signature to authenticate the cardholder during a transaction. The pilot is being managed through the Visa Ready for Biometrics program, a new offering to support the growing demand for biometric technology in the payments category.

The card has been trialed in the UK, South Africa, and Asia. It’s also soon to be available for piloting via Zwipe in the Middle East and greater Europe.


The Mastercard Biometric Card combines chip technology with fingerprints to conveniently and safely verify the cardholder’s identity for in-store purchases. An embedded sensor that's powered by the chip authenticates identity through a fingerprint and can be used at EMV terminals worldwide.

Like Visa, Mastercard has trialed this technology in different regions. They’ve explored biometric card use in South Africa, Europe, and the South Pacific region of Asia. This is in addition to other biometric tech tests, like the Mastercard Biometric Checkout Program.

What’s the Hold Up Preventing Global Adoption?

Ready to learn how to get a biometric card? Well, hold on... it's not that easy yet.

Biometric payment systems were not widely popular in The West until very recently. However, contactless payment technology has taken off in the US in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Adoption doesn't appear to be slowing in the least, and with new shopping channels and payment preferences comes the need for new verification methods.

That said, biometric card technology entered the pilot stage about three years prior to this writing and has yet to launch on a global scale. Although many countries appear eager to explore varying forms of biometric payment technology, the implementation of biometric cards is much slower-paced. 

Biometric cards are likely to replace conventional chip-and-PIN cards in the near future. However, it hinges on the success of each card’s pilot programs, how many new roadblocks are identified, and how long it takes to resolve them. To date, we have very little information about when or how that situation might play out for the US market.

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What are the Benefits of Using a Biometric Card?

The first and most obvious benefit of biometric technology is the superior security features. As mentioned above, chip cards were mandated by global financial institutions in 2015 because they are safer and more secure than magnetic stripe cards. The added step did cut back on many forms of card-present fraud, but it could not prevent all of them.

Biometric cards, on the other hand, authenticate transactions based on inherence (who a person is) rather than knowledge (what they know). By using information that is unique to every human being (i.e., fingerprints, iris scans, facial scans, and palm-vein mapping), card networks and financial institutions are better able to combat fraud. It is far more difficult to falsify or spoof a person’s unique body features than it is to hack or remember a four-digit code. 

These cards offer several advantages for merchants and cardholders in addition to the added security. These include:


Speed is a key factor in the digital retail landscape. A merchant’s transaction capacity can have a profound impact on their popularity with customers. With biometric cards in play, customers can hold their finger over the card to insert and pay, potentially speeding up verification.


Customers like options. The more merchants provide them, the simpler it becomes to process payments with that company. Additionally, the cool factor does play into the decision-making process here as well. It really doesn’t get much easier than tapping a thumbprint to authorize payment.


Contactless readers that utilize biometric payment tech are clean as well as convenient. The cardholder has to touch the card, but wouldn’t necessarily need to touch the terminal itself.

Potential Drawbacks of Biometric Cards

Perfect anti-fraud solutions do not exist, and there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” strategy for detecting and preventing fraud. Unfortunately, no matter how promising biometric payments and cards are, there are still several issues that may arise once the system is adopted:


Businesses that haven’t updated to more modern cloud-based POS systems that were designed with biometric capabilities in mind may not be able to use the technology.


Companies that haven’t updated their POS terminals yet would have to adopt hardware capable of reading and interpreting this data to accept biometric cards. Depending on one’s business needs and requirements, this could be a significant increase in equipment costs.

Privacy Concerns

Modern consumers are very anxious about their privacy and where personal data goes after they submit it. Regardless if merchants that use biometric scans do not actually “save” fingerprints or other identifiers, many consumers may still refuse to provide that information.

Special Circumstances

Biometric scans won’t work the same for every person. For instance, a fingerprint scanner might not work if the customer has damaged or eroded fingertips. It may also malfunction sometimes if they have a fever or some other ailment. In these cases, the customer will still need to enter their PIN number to complete transactions.

Fraud Blindspots

Fraudsters seem to develop new strategies even faster than the industry comes up with solutions to combat them. Since this technology is so new, we have very little data to work with that can provide definitive proof of its efficacy against fraud. Once the testing and rollout stages are complete, there may only be marginal improvement in fraud statistics.

Will Biometric Cards Be Enough?

Frankly, the answer is “no.”

The implementation of chip-and-pin and contactless payment technology certainly helped to lower incidents of fraud worldwide. However, it can still be bypassed by a determined fraudster (or group of fraudsters). Everyone should be well aware by now that no single-sourced solution exists to prevent fraud, and certainly, no single technology can defend from invalid disputes and chargebacks

Regardless of how extraordinarily advanced and forward-thinking biometric tech is (and could still become), it is still vulnerable to fraud attacks. Your business will need more than one method to fight fraud and chargebacks. At the same time, authentication methods must be accurate and efficient without causing friction at checkout.

A mix of multiple tactics is the decisive factor. Merchants may have to experiment to find the right mix. Other fraud tools to consider include CVV verification, AVS, 3DS technology, geolocation, and fraud blacklisting, just to name a few.

Learn more about fraud prevention

To sum up: biometric cards can be a powerful fraud prevention tool, but it's only one tactic and affects only one fraud risk source.

These cards won't help against threats like or first-party fraud or affiliate fraud. To fight either, merchants need a coordinated, carefully planned strategy to make the most of the tools at their disposal.

Here at Chargebacks911®, we specialize in preventing post-transactional fraud that criminal tools like those listed above can't reach. We work alongside other technologies to provide comprehensive, multilayered fraud defense. Continue below and get a free ROI analysis today.


What are biometric credit cards?

Biometric payment cards combine biometrics with chip-and-PIN technology to improve the versatility and security of enabled credit and debit cards. Essentially, biometric cards are chip cards with a built-in thumbprint reader. 

What is a biometric card used for?

Biometric cards are an upgraded version of standardized EMV chip card technology, which can verify and authorize users via fingerprint signatures that are unique to each individual. This is to provide an additional security measure for customers seeking the means to avoid entering PIN numbers.

What are the benefits of using biometric credit cards?

Biometric cards are more secure, simple, convenient, and clean to use than traditional chip-and-PIN cards. Aside from this, biometric cards include more advanced features and hardware that can give customers the impression that your business is on the cutting edge of technology.

What risks are associated with biometric credit cards?

As with any new technology, there are a few downsides. Namely, availability, cost, privacy concerns, special concerns (such as fevers or other physical impairments), and fraud blindspots (not knowing how things will play out, how effective the technology could be, etc.)

None of these issues should bar interest in the product. That said, it would be wise to insulate one’s business practices with a solid fraud detection and fraud prevention strategy that will work in tandem with biometric payment tech.

Are biometric cards in use anywhere?

Visa and Mastercard have both tested biometric cards in different markets. Mastercard trialed the technology in South Africa back in 2017, for instance, while Visa tested the technology in partnership with the Bank of Cyprus.

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