MasterCard to roll out ‘selfie pay’ option

MasterCard plans to begin accepting fingerprints and selfies as alternatives to passwords when verifying identity for online purchases.

The system, tested in the Netherlands and California for the last several months, would reach consumers this summer, the company announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday.

So-called “selfie pay” was preferred by more than 90 percent of consumers testing the technology, MasterCard said. It will be rolled out first in the United States, Britain, Canada, and the western half of Europe.

To use the technology, MasterCard holders will need to download an app that will allow verification using a finger swipe or the selfie. If the user opts for a selfie, they will be asked to blink into the camera to prove they are not just holding up a photo.

“Consumers hate passwords,” said Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard’s chief of safety and security. “We know the most commonly used password is 123456, so they are not secure, and people also use the same passwords for multiple sites. If one site gets hacked, all the places that you use the same password get compromised – they are a big pain.

“In the modern world, everyone has a mobile phone and there is Internet connectivity everywhere, so we should be able to use biometrics to authenticate ourselves.”

Smart wallet systems including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay have already introduced consumers to the concept of using their fingerprints to authorize payments.

Consumer advocates hope widespread use of biometrics will lower costs for credit card companies, allowing them to reduce their fees to merchants or one day cut costs for customers.