France Is Testing Fingerprint Payment Technology

The U.S. is only just waking up to secure chipped credit cards with PIN numbers for payments, but France is moving on to the next generation already with fingerprint ID.

French consumers have just completed a trial of what may be the next generation of secure payment technology: In a six-month experiment that centered around supermarkets and a DIY store, some clients were able to forgo typing in their PIN code when paying for items, and instead authenticate their ID by having their fingerprint scanned. Ninety-four percent of the participants said they'd love to use the system in the future for all their purchases.

French consumers were among the earliest in Europe to try out chip-and-PIN tech, which is much more secure than the magnetic strip-and-signature system that's still the dominant one used in the U.S. While a signature can be forged, and a PIN code cloned, it's much harder to fake the fingerprint of a particular customer (and harder yet to fake the vein pattern in their fingertips, which is one of the systems just trialed in France), making the payments much more secure.

A $45 million global credit card crime in early 2013 was possible because the fraudsters could easily clone the magnetic strips on pre-paid credit cards and carry out their heist on a giant scale. Separately, there are persistent rumors that Apple is considering a fingerprint scanner on future iPhones, with the presumption being that this security system, in combination with NFC, would allow Apple to make a splash in the mobile payments market.

[Image: By Flickr user Chad Miller]

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  • AshDonaldson

    I wonder what a Behavioural Economist would have to say about this? One more step away from the salience of cash, lowering the barrier for transactions and creating an environment that encourages poor financial behaviour. 

  • sensi

    "French consumers were among the earliest in Europe to try out chip-and-PIN tech"

    Unless I am mistaken they were the first, they had all their payment/credit cards using integrated circuit+PIN starting in the early 90s, they basically invented the smart card/integrated circuit card and had the two biggest manufacturers then.

  • Sjena2003

    Do we have more insights into whether merchants like having their transactions recorded? Recording their transactions makes them 'forced' to paying taxes.  Farmers market grocers dont collect any taxes today.

  • sensi

    The people you mention aren't merchants by anybody standard, fraudsters should stick to their cash and enjoy their free leeching time before prison. :)