Payset prespective
March 6, 2024

Biometric Payments: What Are They and How Are They Shaping the Future of Commerce?

Using biometrics to identify ourselves has become a part of daily life. Take our phones, which we can now unlock easily and securely using our fingerprint or our singular facial profile. That same technology is poised to become just as common in the world of financial transactions, where convenience is key and security is paramount.

Whether by using people’s smartphones to authenticate them before making a payment, or by other types of verification technology built directly into payment systems, biometric identification is faster, more convenient, and provides vastly more robust security than long-established payment system verification methods like passwords or physical cards. In our ever-digitizing world, biometric payments are on the fast track to become a future standard.

What Are Biometric Payments?

Biometric payments use people’s distinct biological characteristics, such as their fingerprint, face, eyes, or voice to authenticate their identities during financial transactions. Authenticating a person’s identity in this way mitigates the risk of fraud and increases consumer confidence during transactions, all the while offering a quick and convenient payment process.

What are the different types of biometric payments?

The different types of biometric payments include:

Fingerprint recognition: This is the most common form of biometric payment. It involves scanning and matching the unique patterns on a person’s fingertip or fingertips to authenticate their identity and authorize a transaction.

Facial recognition: First popularized by Apple’s Face ID, this method is quickly catching up to fingerprint recognition in popularity. It works by using infrared light to scan a person’s face and pinpoint thousands of dots that make up their unique facial structure.

Iris or retina recognition: By capturing the intricate patterns within the iris or retina, this method offers a high level of accuracy in authenticating users, and has long been trusted in high-security environments.

Voice Recognition: This method analyzes the nuances in speech patterns and voice characteristics, then compares this voiceprint to registered samples to certify a match.

Vein patterns: Using near-infrared light and often centring on the palm or finger, this technology analyzes the pattern of visible blood vessels unique to each person.

Signature recognition: This somewhat less common process scans and digitizes a person's signature, then puts it through a shape-identifying algorithm to verify their identity.

How Do Biometric Payments Work?

Two main hardware setups allow biometric payments to work. The first and most widespread scenario uses the built-in hardware on a customer’s smartphone or smart device, such as a fingerprint scanner or facial recognition, to authenticate their identity. This is especially common with mobile wallets that use tech like Apple Pay and Google Pay by authenticating a person before allowing them to carry out a contactless payment.

The second scenario uses dedicated payment system hardware to verify a person using biometrics. Examples of this hardware are high-definition cameras located in retail outlets or the recent development of fingerprint scanning chips embedded in credit cards.

The payment process typically involves three stages:

1. Registration: A user registers their biometric data into a database to link it with their identity. It could mean capturing the fingerprint, face, iris, or voice, and linking that information with their profile in a database.

2. Authentication: When starting a transaction, the user presents their biometric credentials, which are then compared with the registered data to verify their identity.

3. Authorization: Upon successful authentication, the payment system approves the transaction and allows the user to complete the payment process securely.

To illustrate this process, let's look at how the three steps seamlessly play out in a fingerprint payment system:

First, a user scans one of their fingerprints using a biometric sensor in their phone. The system captures and stores the unique fingerprint pattern and links it with their identity for future authentication.

Now that the user’s biometric data is registered, they can use it to make a payment. At the beginning of a transaction, the user places their finger on their phone’s sensor to scan it in real-time and start the authorization process.

The system then compares the captured fingerprint with the previously stored version to ensure that they are indeed the authorized user. After successful authentication, the transaction is authorized and the payment is processed. This all happens in a matter of seconds.

Benefits of Biometric Payments

What are the benefits of using biometric payments? They’re myriad, for both consumers and businesses.

Biometric identifiers are inherently unique to each person and greatly reduce the chance of unauthorized access or identity theft. Apple, for one, estimates the chance that someone could use their face to bypass another person’s facial recognition safeguard at one in a million.

With biometric authentication, users can authorize transactions with a simple gesture or action. This eliminates the need to remember complex passwords or carry physical cards, making for a quick and minimalist transaction experience.

Biometric payments expedite the checkout process. With fewer steps in the process, they reduce waiting times and smooth out the overall shopping experience for consumers.

For businesses, biometric payments can lead to substantial cost savings by reducing incidences of fraud as well as associated chargeback fees. This translates to a lower cost per transaction every time.

Biometric Payments vs Traditional Payment Methods

How do biometric payments compare to traditional payment methods? 

Unlike traditional methods like cash or credit cards, biometric payments provide enhanced security through inherent biological identifiers, which are near impossible to replicate or steal, greatly reducing the risk of fraud and identity theft.

Biometric authentication also removes the need to remember complex passwords and negates the risk of simple passwords being cracked through modern hacking methods like brute-force attacks.

Biometric authentication also eliminates the need to carry physical cards, which is simpler for customers and removes another potential for theft.

Once set up, the biometric authentication process is fast and seamless, reducing traditional checkout times and improving the overall user experience. Biometric payments offer greater accessibility to a wider range of people, including those who may find passwords or carrying physical cards burdensome. And because making biometric payments is becoming both mainstream and easy to carry out, it will provide an entry point to many people traditionally excluded from the banking system.

Advantages of Biometric Payments

There are three main advantages to biometric payments, making its implementation a time- and hassle-saving route for consumers and a clear choice for forward-looking businesses.

Enhanced Security: Biometric identifiers are unique to each person and cannot be easily replicated or stolen, providing a robust authentication mechanism. In most cases, users’ data is encrypted and stored on secure servers rather than in third-party databases, which are hard to regulate and monitor.

Convenience: With biometric authentication, users can access their accounts and authorize transactions with a simple scan instead of having to set up and remember passwords and PINs.

Speed: Biometric payments make for a quick and almost intuitive checkout process, enabling faster transactions, greater customer satisfaction, and improving operational efficiency for businesses.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite the many clear benefits of biometric payments, there are some challenges to consider.

Personal biometric data is sensitive, and some consumers may approach this newer technology with trepidation. There is always some risk that personal data could be stolen or that it could lead to identity theft or bank fraud. Stringent data protection measures are essential to safeguard people’s personal information and address privacy issues.

There is of course implicit technological complexity to these types of payments. Any well-built biometric payment system requires a software solution that is both secure and user-friendly. And while hardware options are fairly well-established in smartphones, non-phone-based biometrics are more difficult to execute. Because the technology is new, standards are still being established, making manufacturing complex and implementation expensive. This can act as a deterrent for merchants.

Lastly, there is the element of social acceptance. Privacy concerns vary greatly between individuals as well as more broadly across demographics and cultures. General acceptance and comfort with biometric technology are crucial for its widespread adoption and depend on ease of use and established trust.

Examples of Companies Using Biometric Payments

What are some examples of companies that use biometric payments? They include many of the biggest financial players in the world. 

E-commerce giant Amazon employs biometric authentication features such as fingerprint and facial recognition for secure login and payment authorization. The French multinational bank BNP Paribas offers biometric payment solutions, including fingerprint recognition, to enhance transaction security and streamline the payment process. Most notably, major credit card companies including Mastercard and Visa have integrated biometric authentication features into their payment systems, enabling cardholders to authorize transactions using their fingerprints or facial scans.

The Future of Biometric Payments

Biometric payments offer a secure, convenient, and seamless way for consumers to carry out financial transactions. Emerging trends in biometric payments are reshaping the landscape of digital payments and setting the path for a future where traditional payment methods could eventually become obsolete.

One of the most promising developments in biometric payments is the adoption of in-store palm and face identification technologies. JPMorgan Chase has launched pilot programs to explore the feasibility of these methods testing these systems with select retailers.

In addition to palm and face identification, another exciting possibility in the realm of biometric payments is the integration of embedded payment chips implanted in credit cards, as currently being tested by Mastercard. 

These miniature chips offer a futuristic solution that combines convenience with security. While still in the experimental stage, the potential for embedded payment chips is generating significant interest among major financial institutions and technology companies.

Conclusion

The emergence of biometric payments is creating a pivotal shift in the world of financial transactions, using individuals’ singular physical traits to offer an unparalleled blend of security, speed, and convenience. As businesses adjust to the challenges of an increasingly digital marketplace, integrating biometric payment methods is proving itself as a clear solution to stay relevant and cater to evolving consumer expectations.

The impact of biometric payments on the future of transactions is multifaceted. Firstly, it promises enhanced security by using inherently unique identifiers like fingerprints and facial structures, greatly reducing the risk of fraud and identity theft. This shift from traditional authentication methods to biometric verification boosts consumer confidence and reduces transaction costs for businesses by greatly reducing fraud-related losses.

The convenience and speed of biometric payments streamline the checkout process, providing a seamless customer experience that can translate into higher transaction volumes and customer retention. The simplicity of a gesture or a glance to authorize transactions eliminates the potential friction that comes with remembering passwords or carrying physical cards. It also fosters a more inclusive financial ecosystem that accommodates a wider range of consumers, including those traditionally marginalized from banking services.

Still, the journey towards widespread adoption of biometric payments is not devoid of challenges. Privacy concerns, technological complexity, and the need for social acceptance underscore the importance of developing robust, user-friendly systems that prioritize data protection and transparency. Businesses venturing into this territory must navigate thoughtfully, balancing innovation with ethical responsibility.

All in all, the integration of biometric payment methods is a forward-looking strategy for businesses aiming to enhance transaction security, improve efficiency, and meet the evolving needs of consumers. As this technology continues to establish itself and gain acceptance, companies that embrace biometric payments will not only stay competitive but will play a crucial role in shaping the future of commerce in our digital age.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a multi-currency account/virtual IBAN?

A Payset multi-currency account allows you to receive money in 34 different currencies and send money in up to 38 currencies, all within the same account.

You can deposit and withdraw funds, convert currencies at competitive exchange rates, and hold your chosen currencies to capitalize on market movements.

A Payset multi-currency account allows startups and business owners to receive payments from clients virtually anywhere in the world and pay suppliers, staff, and contractors quickly and affordably in their chosen currency.

  • Funds can be deposited and withdrawn from the account for a small fee.
  • Account holders can send and receive money with other Payset users for free.
  • Depending on your region, you can use various payment networks from your Payset account, including SWIFT, SEPA, ACH, Fedwire, Faster Payments, BACS, and CHAPS. 
  • Once you register an account, you will be provided with a Virtual IBAN (International Bank Account Number), which makes all of these transfers easy.
  • We provide you with local payments and collections. For example, transactions in USD, EUR, CAD, and GBP are processed through the local payment networks, which is far cheaper and takes minutes as opposed to days

Are there limits on the amount of money I can send and receive?

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However, higher-volume transactions may require additional anti-fraud verification. If you plan to make a large transaction, contact us in advance to avoid verification delays.

How is Payset regulated?

Payset allows you to receive payments in 34 currencies. You can send payments from your account in 38 currencies. For more details, check our payment guide.

How do I send money from my account?

Once you have opened your verified IBAN account and added money to a balance, transferring funds is simple.

Simply log in into your account and add a beneficiary, then simply “make a transfer” in your preferred currency to that beneficiary.

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