NatWest begins biometric credit card pilot

A Natwest biometric credit card, with the fingerprint sensor visible at the bottom right
PILOT: A fingerprint sensor can be seen at the bottom right of Natwest’s biometric credit card

The UK’s NatWest bank has begun a three-month pilot of a biometric credit card that enables customers to make contactless transactions of up to £100 (US$123) instead of the usual maximum value of £30 (US$37).

The biometric credit cards include a built-in fingerprint sensor that the cardholder uses to verify their identity when making a transaction.

The trial follows a biometric debit card pilot run by the bank earlier this year.

NatWest is piloting the technology with 150 customers, in partnership with Mastercard and Gemalto.

“As well as retaining contactless functionality, the fully integrated card can be used as normal in ATMs and for online shopping,” the bank says.

“Additionally, there are no hardware changes needed to accept biometric cards, so cardholders can use them at existing contactless and chip and PIN terminals. The card is powered through the card terminal and when a customer presents a card, a green light on the card indicates that the fingerprint has been matched successfully.

“Enrolment is simple and takes as little as five minutes. A customer can register in the comfort of their home using a plastic sleeve. Once a digital fingerprint is locked onto a card, it cannot be changed. The user’s biometric data never leaves the card, is never shared with the merchant or bank, and no fingerprints are stored in a cloud. This ensures that biometric data cannot be accessed or used outside the card.”

BBC Click reporter Dan Simmons received a biometric debit card during the initial pilot and produced a video showing how the plastic sleeve looks, what the enrolment process involves and how it is used to make a payment in stores:

“After the successful pilot of our biometric debit card we are looking to test the technology further with credit cards,” says Georgina Bulkeley, director of innovation at NatWest.

“This is the biggest development in card technology in recent years and not having to enter a PIN not only increases security but makes it easier for our customers when paying for goods or services.”