Why a fingerprint debit card could soon be in your wallet…

How often do you use your bank card, honestly? I can imagine pretty often, both online and in-stores. Well, it’s exactly the same for me and almost everyone out there. Since people use cards so much, banks have to regularly upgrade their technologies. That’s exactly what you’ll be learning about here. In this post, we’ll be looking at an innovation that one of the big banks is working currently on. It’s a new fingerprint debit card that’s being developed here in the UK.

To start with, we’ll look at what this fingerprint debit card really is. But more specifically, how it differs from current bank cards. Then afterwards, we’ll look at the benefits that this card system will bring and any potential drawbacks. Let’s hop straight in!

Developing a new bank card

Digital security giant Gemalto has been working on biometric bank cards for long while. In fact, they actually launched their first fingerprint debit card in 2018. This new bank card authorises transactions using only a fingerprint. That’s for both regular card payments and contactless ones too. But Gemalto hasn’t been working on this in total isolation. They’ve actually been in close collaboration with NatWest.With Natwest's fingerprint debit card, you won't need a PIN at all. Rather, a two-second swipe of your fingerprint is all that's required to authorise transactions

But then these aren’t the only players in the game. Mastercard and Visa have also taken part in this as well. NatWest and its allies are now on a new mission. They want to bring this technology here to the UK. In fact, Natwest is already conducting pilot tests on its UK customers. At least 200 NatWest bankers are now testing out this new fingerprint debit card. If it proves successful, NatWest will roll it out across the whole of the UK.


How to pay with your fingerprint

These new bank cards don’t look much different from ‘regular’ cards. However, if you look on the right-hand side, you should notice something a bit unusual. It’s a small square-shaped fingerprint sensor which has been purposely built into the card. The fingerprint sensor is also directly opposite the card chip. This makes it dead easy for a customer to use it. You first hold the card just like you would any normal card. But you must place your thumb on the fingerprint sensor. Then within 2 seconds, the sensor will have taken your fingerprint. If the fingerprint is correct, a tiny green light will show up on the card. The fingerprint itself is used to confirm payment. It will completely replace the four-digit PIN that we’re all used to.

Natwest's new fingerprint debit card will have a thumb sensor directly opposite the card chip. Simply hold the card and place your thumb on the sensor to authorise your payment!

At this point, it’s worth noting that the person’s fingerprint information isn’t kept on a database. It isn’t kept with the bank or any other organisation either. Rather it is saved permanently onto the card. Before use, customers currently testing out this new fingerprint debit card must go to a NatWest bank. The purpose of this visit is to have their fingerprints put on the card. However, NatWest hopes that people will eventually be able to copy their own fingerprints onto the card. This should then save them having to look for a local NatWest branch.


Why should we use biometric bank cards?

For the average customer, this fingerprint debit card has notable benefits. First and foremost, it saves people having to remember a PIN. Personally, I have never had any issue remembering the PIN to any of my cards. But apparently, that’s not the case with everyone. So, if you’re someone who hates remembering PINs, this will certainly work in your favour. At the moment, contactless cards also have a limit of £30. For payments above this limit, you have to enter a PIN. Well, guess what? This new bank card doesn’t have any contactless transaction limits. Therefore, people can easily make contactless payments over £30 without any PIN. Just a quick thumb scan is all you need to pay. Isn’t that cool?

Using a fingerprint debit card is not only more secure, but makes payments much easier and faster for customers too

Now the third advantage behind this is that the cards work on existing card machines. As said previously, these cards look pretty much like the ones you use every day. So, they can be seamlessly integrated into our current payment facilities. There won’t be any need for custom-built card machines to use them. On top of this, the cards actually use the magnetic fields produced by card machines. Therefore, the sensor doesn’t need any external power source to operate. This is yet another powerful advantage making it even more convenient to use.

Now, the sixth and final benefit is enhanced security. Using biometric details to authorise payments is far safer than a PIN. It’s also hoped that this will deter card thieves. There are many horror stories of peoples’ debit cards being stolen. In some cases, large sums of money then vanish from their account. A fingerprint debit card will be much harder even for professional thieves to use. I can’t say “impossible,” but it’s certainly more difficult at least. Good news for us all.


Is it completely safe?

At this point in time, it all seems absolutely perfect. But what if peoples’ fingerprint/ biometric details were deliberately stolen? Now, before ruling that out as being impossible, just think for a second. When the internet became universal, no one imagined that hacking would be possible. But you now hear about computer systems being hacked into. In fact, it’s a growing threat and isn’t slowing down. Even governmental and business agency computers aren’t immune to this.Some people fear that even biometric bank cards won't be completely secure and so this is something that must be taken seriously

This is why cybersecurity is now a growing field in IT technology. This is also why, according to surveys, about 10% of 18-35-year olds aren’t comfortable with this. They strongly fear that their fingerprint details could one day be compromised one. If that did happen, there’s no telling what that information could be used for.



As you can see, banking technology is definitely moving forward. Using a fingerprint debit card definitely offers many clear benefits. However, it really needs to undergo further testing. This is to ensure that it actually works as intended. But importantly that the systems are safe and secure. After all, I would rather my payment failed to go through than went through with important data stolen. That’s my opinion anyway, and I assume that’s the same for most of you reading this. Have you ever experienced issues with a bank card? Do pop us your thoughts on this topic down below!

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