NatWest pilots biometric card in U.K.

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NatWest has started a three-month testing period of a payment card using biometric fingerprint for authorization with 200 customers, saying it is the first such card issued by a U.K. bank.

Rather than providing a PIN, customers use their fingerprint with the new card to verify transactions above the £30 contactless limit as a security measure at the point of sale.

NatWest says the card retains contactless functionality, and can also be used at ATMs, in the post office and for digital banking.

“We are using the very latest technology across our business to make banking easier for our customers and biometric fingerprint cards are one of the many technologies we are exploring further," David Crawford, head of payments at NatWest, said in a Wednesday press release. "This is the biggest development in card technology in recent years and it’s great to finally see the cards in the hands of our customers.”

Customers register a fingerprint onto the bank card, a process that can be completed at the bank or in the customer's home through digital technology. When a fingerprint is locked onto a card, it cannot be changed.

The fingerprint is stored only on the card and not centrally by the bank, with each transaction verified using data that is encrypted and stored locally on the card, the bank said.

The new cards work with existing contactless and chip-and-PIN terminals, which means shops will be able to accept payments without updating technology.

NatWest is working with digital security company Gemalto and Visa to bring the service to customers in the U.K.

“In financial services, biometrics are gaining ground as a secure and convenient alternative to passwords and PINs," Jeni Mundy, managing director for U.K. and Ireland at Visa, said in the release. "This technology has the potential to make the lives of consumers easier and provides greater choice to confirm their identity."

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Biometrics Payment cards U.K.