Mastercard Introduces ‘Pay With Your Face’

Mastercard has launched a biometrics pilot to let consumers pay with the palm of their hand or with their face rather than swiping or tapping a credit card.

This is currently live in grocery stores in Brazil – but will begin roll out across the world this year. Mastercard says that “consumers love biometrics” and want payments to be “as convenient as opening their phone” but they already have this, because consumers can make mobile payments using their phone.

To sign up on Mastercard, you take a picture of your face or scan your fingerprint to register it with an app. This is done either on your smartphone or at a payment terminal. You can then add a credit card, which gets linked to your biometric data.

The old school civil libertarian in me has concerns. Facial recognition payments are already common in Moscow for public transportation and in grocery sores. Alipay in China does this already, too. Here’s Justin Timberlake paying in time credits rather than currency using his arm.

While you may have trust in Mastercard, no one is immune to data breaches. They say the biometric data is encrypted, but they plan global interoperability so their system may only be as secure as the most draconian government wants it to be.

Mastercard also plans to use this to market to you, “integrat[ing] with loyalty schemes and makping] personalized recommendations based on previous purchases.” They also think this unlocks payments in the metaverse, where no physical cards exist, and could allow customers to try on clothing prior to purchase making payments with their eyes.

Mastercard showed off an augmented reality headset that warns the wearer if they’re on a potentially fraudulent e-commerce site. Another feature the firm is experimenting with allows users to select and buy items at a virtual store using nothing but their eyes.

When I signed up for Global Entry a decade ago I wrote that I didn’t like sharing biometrics, but government had so much information on us anyway it wasn’t clear that this really added that much. I wrote they were storing all cell phone geolocation data, before Edward Snowden’s revelations, and people thought I was a conspiracy theorist. I was right, and now we’re just immune to it.

I willingly give my biometrics to CLEAR in exchange for reducing wait times at airport security. And biometrics are being used at some airport boarding gates. It’s all optional but there’s often little meaningful opt-out, people aren’t told how to do it, and they’re inconvenienced if they do.

I’ve been Don Quixote, and we’ve reached the ‘night of the mirrors’ scene where I’m revealed to be just an old man yelling about biometrics – and not, in fact, a knight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Disney World® Resorts and their other Ratworld and Mouseworld properties across the planet mandate your fingerprint for entry to prevent fraud and reduce unlawful activities. So when you enter the park, you’ll have to put your finger on a biometric reader and wait for the machine to scan your finger. Accordingly, if you want to see Goofy or Mickey Mouse, it is good to know you can use your middle finger for admission when you want a magical day of entertainment.

  2. Just got on a cruise ship. No need to show my card, I just put my face up to the camera. This is everywhere.

  3. @Yin Jing: “FYI, when you go outside, your face is visible to the public.”

    Excellent point. To prevent the security issue of an unauthorized person completing a fraudulent financial transaction when you “pay with your face,” I wonder when Visa or American Express will introduce their more secure payment option called “pay with your butt.”

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