Societe Generale trials contactless biometric debit card in France

Register now

Societe Generale launched a contactless biometric payment trial in France for a debit card with a built-in fingerprint reader.

The new card is being trialied with Idemia’s F.CODE technology, which allows enrollment directly on the card via a downloaded mobile app or in a bank branch. The card is battery powered and is capable of both contact and contactless usage. Since the fingerprint is stored on the card, no biometric data is transmitted to the merchant or issuer during a transaction.

In March 2017, the contactless spend limit in France was raised from €20 ($26) to €30 ($36), which when exceeded requires the consumer to enter their PIN. However, Societe Generale is permitting its customers to exceed the limit at point of sale since it is positioning the fingerprint as the cardholder verification method, thereby replacing the PIN. The card is being issued on the Cartes Bancaire network (CB Group), which is France’s ATM and EFTPOS interbank network.

Contactless payments in Europe are quickly growing to become the dominant way to pay for goods in-store. Recently, contactless payments became the most popular in-store payment method in the U.K. By comparison, contactless payments made up 73 percent of all in-store Visa payments in 2017 in Poland and 91 percent of in-store usage in the Czech Republic during the same period. The expectation is that contactless payments will continue to grow as retailers rush to meet the Mastercard plan that requires all European POS terminals to be contactless enabled by 2020.

Societe Generale introduced a debit card in November 2016 with a dynamic CVV and charges consumers $13 annually for the card. While annual fees on payment cards are common in the U.S. for subprime and premium reward cards, it’s unheard of for debit cards. However, Societe Generale reports to have sold over 400,000 dynamic CVV cards, branded on the Cartes Bancaire network, to its customers since it was launched.

According to the Banque de France, card payments are the fastest growing non-cash transaction instrument in the country, growing at a rate of 10% annually.

Card manufacturer rival Gemalto launched a biometric card earlier this year with Bank of Cyprus that also used a fingerprint for authentication.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.