Contactless Biometric Payment Cards arrive in Italy

Last updated: 30 November 2023

Italy has taken a step forward into the future of payments. The first ever contactless biometric card deployment from Mastercard launched with Intesa SanPaolo during the opening day of Il Salone dei Pagamenti 2018 – Payvolution— one of the world’s leading payment exhibitions.

With this card, you can pay for goods using your fingerprint to authorize transactions instead of inputting a PIN on a terminal. The surprisingly battery-less card has started to be tested at merchants by 153 selected bank employees in Rome, Milan and Turin, from November 26th. The pilot/testing process will run for approximately 16 weeks and marks a significant landmark in the development of biometrics use in Europe.

Setting-up the card couldn’t be easier: cardholders simply need to register their fingerprints using secure, customized tablets that will be installed in specific bank branches in the trial cities. The technology is similar to popular self-enrolment processes available on leading smartphones and tablets. And the whole process takes about 5 minutes. In the upcoming product generation, consumers will also be able to register their fingerprint data from the comfort of their home.

The card itself has many features that make it stand out. For example, the absence of a battery is of particular note; at the exhibition, many spectators and media were keen to see the solution in person, expressing surprise at the card’s ability to provide secure biometric (fingerprint in this instance) authentication for payments by drawing power from the POS terminal.

There is also a comprehensive enrolment solution for issuers and the ability to call upon the experience of large government programs and state of the art partners.

Commenting on the launch, Cinzia Bruzzone, Marketing Manager Retail at Intesa Sanpaolo said: “Once again Intesa Sanpaolo brings an exclusive innovation to its customers with the first-ever pilot of a Biometric Payment Card in Italy. This project that reflects our corporate strategy to innovate and listen to our customer needs also goes in parallel with the new offer of digital payment. In the Italian market while we are experiencing double-digit growth of digital payment services we still witness a solid base of customers asking for payment instruments based on plastic cards.”

Antonio Di Meo, Vice President Account Leader at Mastercard Italy, highlighted how biometrics will bring new advantages to customers: “Mastercard is becoming more and more of a technology enabler company going beyond being a payment circuit, working constantly with our strategic partners in order to provide consumers a richer and seamless payment experience. Biometrics is definitively one of the areas we believe is helping offer our customers solid advantages such as security and ease of use.”

And finally, Giovanni Memoli, Key Account Manager at Gemalto Italy added:

“Gemalto is confirming its leadership in innovation by bringing its latest technologies into a Biometric Payment Card. It is developed to ensure convenience for in-store transaction and removes the cap on tap-and-go transactions. It also gives users peace of mind in case their card is lost or stolen card because only the registered fingerprint will enable the card to work at POS terminals.”

Clearly, the buzz for biometrics is alive and well-received in Europe right now, especially in Italy. The UK is very soon likely to follow in Italy’s footsteps. We’ve been having ongoing conversations with UK banks with a few of them interested in the technology, so we’re expecting to have our first UK trial next year. This would be great news for consumers, as according to our recent research, they are ready to adopt the new biometric payment card. Ultimately, biometrics will change the face of financial services, resulting in an improvement in experience and security for both consumers and providers.

For more information on the very latest biometric solutions and the new EMV card with fingerprint biometrics, make sure you check out our dedicated webpage here.

What do you think of the prospect of biometric payment cards coming to a bank near you? Let us know by tweeting to us @Gemalto.

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