The world’s first contactless payment credit card with biometric authentication was unveiled last month by MasterCard in partnership with the Norwegian company Zwipe. The Zwipe MasterCard has an embedded fingerprint sensor and the fingerprints of the card owner are stored in the card itself instead of an external database.

Only the card owner can use the Zwipe MasterCard to make secure payments at outlets supporting NFC transactions. Here, the PIN system that is being used by other contactless payment cards has been discarded in favor of a more secure biometric authentication. Over the last few months, Sparebanken DIN of Norway has been conducting a live pilot of the Zwipe MasterCard.

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,” says Zwipe founder and CEO Kim Humborstad. “This pilot enabled the partners to gather valuable customer feedback, experience and best practice for the enrollment and deployment phase,” he added.

Zwipe is planning to launch a new version ot the Zwipe MasterCard next year which will have the standard card format and can be used at all payment outlets. The future versions of the card will not have a battery and they will draw power from the payment terminal itself.

Zwipe MasterCard

MasterCard’s president of enterprise security solutions Ajay Bhalla in a statement, “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.

Apple Pay, Apple’s mobile payment system which was launched later, also uses fingerprint sensors and NFC technology. However, Kim Humborstad doesn’t see Apple Pay as a rival but rather considers it complementary to the Zwipe MasterCard. He said,”I think that Apple, through the biometric technology, really educated the market and opened it up for company’s like us.”

The Zwipe MasterCard will be available in the UK in 2015, but no exact date has been given. It is also not known when it will roll out in the US.