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NatWest to trial fingerprint-enabled debit cards

Bank customers will be able to spend more than £30 using contactless cards should a NatWest trial of fingerprint technology be successful.

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Under the pilot scheme, the debit cards will contain an electronic copy of the customer’s finger print in one corner of the card. If the customer places their finger on that part of the card while holding it over a payment terminal, payments of more than £30 can be approved without the need to type in a PIN.


If a card is stolen, the thief will not be able to use it as a payment is only authorised if the user’s fingerprint matches the data on the card at the point of sale.


The trial will be limited to a group of around 200 customers. Should it prove successful, it will be the latest step in the overhaul of payment methods the UK has been experiencing.


Last week, the Access to Cash report from former financial ombudsman Natalie Ceeney warned that the use of cash and coins is declining at such a rate it may not remain viable for as long as the public needs it.


It found the UK isn’t ready to go cashless in the next 15 years and a “sizeable part of the UK population” will need cash for some time.


Last year, more than six billion payments were made using contactless technology, but the £30 limit is restricting further growth.


NatWest said retailers won’t have to make any changes to accommodate the new cards.


However, the biggest stumbling block to the wider rollout of the technology is how the bank acquires the fingerprint data to begin with. Customers taking part in the trial will have to go to a branch to allow the bank to take their fingerprint.


David Crawford, head of effortless payments said: “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. This is the biggest development in card technology in recent years and we are excited to trial the service.”


NatWest is working with digital security company Gemalto along with Visa and Mastercard to bring the service to customers in the UK.


Howard Berg, UK managing director of Gemalto said: “Using a fingerprint rather than a PIN code to authorise transactions has many advantages, primarily enhanced security and greater convenience. Cardholders can pay quickly and easily with just a simple touch, and they no longer need to worry about the limit on contactless payment transactions.”

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