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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Phones

Pay attention: Zwipe is a credit card with a fingerprint sensor

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

zwipe-card.jpg
Mikael Bang Andersen

If you're excited about the ease of paying for stuff with a wave of your bank card but you're worried about security, and you just can't put your finger on why, fear not: MasterCard has teamed up with Zwipe for a contactless payment card with a fingerprint sensor on it.

Started in 2009 by Norwegian entrepreneur Kim Kristian Humborstad, Zwipe is a company seeking to replace your credit or debit card's personal identification number (PIN) and your signature with your fingerprint. The result is a fingerprint sensor in a bank card that knows who you are in order to make sure no-one else can use your card.

The card holds your biometric data and only works when your finger is on the sensor as you tap it against the till, rather than requiring you to type in your PIN. Your data is stored on the card and not in any external database so it's safer, in theory.

The card contains an EMV certified secure element and MasterCard's contactless application. The power for the card's fingerprint sensor is harvested from the contactless till so it doesn't need a battery, which is handy. It's designed to work with any contactless payment machine, so you can swipe it on any till that already allows you to tap your card.

While this might be a timesaver in countries where a PIN or signature is required for transaction, here in the UK contactless cards require neither -- you simply tap your card against the till and you're done. You don't even have to take your card out of your wallet. But Zwipe is more secure; as it stands, anyone can use your contactless card should they get their hands on it.

That's why contactless cards can only make purchases up to £20. But because it's more secure, Zwipe doesn't have a limit on how much you can spend.

That said, that may change when the card becomes publicly available. Zwipe's biometric card has been tried out in Norway by the bank Sparebanken DIN, and is set to come to other countries next year.

Fingerprint sensors and biometric data are all the rage these days, with Touch ID finger scanners showing up in Apple's iPhone and iPad, and similar scanners in other phones including the Samsung Galaxy S5 . Apple is also launching Apple Pay next week, which turns your iPhone into a contactless card to pay by tapping on the cash register and zapping your payment via NFC.

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