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Card company MasterCard is using fingerprint-reading technology to make it easier for customers to make payments using their credit and debit cards.

Fingerprint authentication is already being used by banks and payment companies such as MasterCard to make payments easier and more secure, but a trial in South Africa could see the biometric technology introduced to payment cards.

Pick n Pay, a retailer in South Africa, and Barclays Africa subsidiary Absa Bank have tested the technology, with more trials – including some in Europe – are being planned.

Customers use the card like any other card when shopping, but they can hold the card at a terminal with their thumb on the fingerprint reader rather that typing a PIN. The terminal will accept the payment quickly if there is a match.

“Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise risk and security at MasterCard.

“Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security. It’s not something that can be taken or replicated and will help our cardholders get on with their lives knowing their payments are protected.”

Retailers and banks are looking for partners such as card providers to develop financial technology (fintech) services to offer to customers.

Richard van Rensburg, deputy CEO of Pick n Pay, said the biometric capability will mean more convenience and better security for customers. “The technology creates a platform on which we can further our strategy of personalising the shopping experience in a meaningful way,” he said.

Geoff Lee, head of card and payments at Absa Bank, said: “The single-touch authentication technology will unlock the benefits of biometrics. Following the test period, we will make it available to our customers in a way that is affordable, reliable, convenient and, most importantly, extremely secure.”

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