Zwipe – Fingerprint Sensor on Credit Cards

A new biometric bank card aims to give you peace of mind when you pay for items.


MasterCard partnered with Zwipe to create the world’s first credit card that combines biometric authentication and contactless payment technology. Financial institution Sparebanken DIN of Norway conducted a live pilot of the Zwipe MasterCard over the last few months.

For security purposes, the fingerprints of the user are stored in the Zwipe MasterCard instead of an external database. The biometric authentication technology built into the Zwipe MasterCard replaces the traditional PIN entry, which means that cardholders can make payments of any amount rather than a prepaid amount. Setting up your fingerprint on the card requires an initial scan as part of the setup. Your fingerprint is used to authenticate each transaction at a payment terminal. The near field communication (NFC) support integrated in the Zwipe MasterCard lets you wave it at compatible terminals instead of having to swipe it.

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“Response to our pilot with Sparebanken DIN has been very positive. Cardholders love how easy the card is to use with the added security feature. We have also had exceptionally good reaction from retailers participating in the pilot. This pilot enabled the partners to gather valuable customer feedback, experience and best practice for the enrollment and deployment phase,” said Zwipe founder and CEO Kim Humborstad.

Next year, Zwipe plans to release a new version of the Zwipe MasterCard. The new version will be the same format as a standard card and will be compatible with all payment terminals. A battery will not be needed in future versions of the Zwipe MasterCard because it will havest energy from the payment terminals. MasterCard has tested out several other biometric technologies for payment systems, including palm vein patterns and iris recognition.

“Our belief is that we should be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or PIN numbers. Biometric authentication can help us achieve this. However, our challenge is to ensure the technology offers robust security, simplicity of use and convenience for the customer. Zwipe’s first trial is a significant milestone and its results are very encouraging,” added MasterCard’s president of enterprise security solutions Ajay Bhalla in a statement. “Safety and security in everyday payments is at the heart of MasterCard’s business. We will continue to work with innovators, like Zwipe, to ensure we stay ahead of fraudsters and provide a seamless payment experience, as ultimately it is consumers who decide how they choose to pay.”

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Another form of payment that authenticates identities using fingerprint sensors will be Apple Pay, which is launching on October 20th. According to IBTimes UK, Humborstad does not consider Apple Pay as a rival. He said that Apple Pay is complementary to Zwipe MasterCard. “I think that Apple, through the biometric technology, really educated the market and opened it up for company’s like us,” said Humborstad in an interview.

Humborstad founded Oslo, Norway based Zwipe in 2009. Zwipe raised $3.5 million in Series A funding last year, of which $2.5 million was through private placement and $1 million was in the form of a grant from the Government of Norway. The Zwipe MasterCard will be available in the U.K. in 2015, but it is unknown when the U.S. rollout will be.

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