Payments Innovation

Italian Bank Intesa Sanpaolo, Mastercard To Test Biometric Contactless Payment Cards

Digital security company Gemalto announced Wednesday (Dec. 19) that it is supplying Intesa Sanpaolo, the Italian bank, with what it said is the first Mastercard biometric contactless payment card.

In a press release, Gemalto said it will test an EMV contactless biometric card for Europe via a pilot program backed by Intesa Sanpaolo and Mastercard. Consumers can tap their card to any POS terminal and then authorize the purchase with a fingerprint. Gemalto said that will provide a fast and convenient user experience to a more advanced cardholder authentication. The cards don’t require a battery because they are powered by the terminal. As a result, Gemalto said, there are no limits on the number of card transactions.

“Consumers are quickly recognizing the combined power of contactless and biometric technologies to take the stress and strain out of secure transactions,” Bertrand Knopf, executive vice president, banking and payment for Gemalto, said in the press release. “We are delighted to work with Intesa Sanpaolo and Mastercard on another pioneering project, this time bringing the effortless safety of a biometric sensor EMV card to their consumers.”

According to Gemalto, fingerprint authentication is part of Intesa Sanpaolo’s digital transformation strategy. Fingerprint authentication removes limits on the value of contactless payments, eliminating the need for consumers to enter a PIN or sign a paper-based receipt. That results in a faster and safer checkout, noted Gemalto. Merchants can start accepting payments with the card given it works with existing EMV card terminal infrastructures.

The solution being tested by Intesa Sanpaolo and some of its 11.9 million customers includes secure, on-the-spot fingerprint enrollment at selected locations and the potential in the future to enroll at home. To ensure privacy, biometric data is stored on the card itself, not the bank’s servers, noted Gemalto.

“We are proud to have undertaken the first step to introduce in Italy a card which technology offers the consumers clear and concrete benefits, following our choice to anticipate and facilitate the diffusion of innovative technologies functional to people’s everyday banking,” said Intesa Sanpaolo Retail Manager Cinzia Bruzzone. “The Intesa Sanpaolo – Mastercard pilot project, achieved with Mercury Payment System support, avails itself of Gemalto’s contribution as a global operator, who provided the technology behind the new biometric cards and the tools necessary for storing the fingerprint on the chip.”

Intesa Sanpaolo’s initial pilot will run in Turin, Milan, and Rome and is scheduled to last 16 weeks.

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