WITH new tech being trialled in stores to pay with a smile, are we well along the road toward being not just a cashless society, but a cardless one too?


What is happening?

Mastercard is trialing a new payment system that would allow customers to pay by merely smiling into a camera or waving their hand over a reader in a “biometric checkout”.


Which is?

Any technology that uses biometric authentication based on a person’s physical characteristics to identify the user and authorise money being taken from a bank account. Fingerprint payment, based on finger scanning, is the most common biometric payment method, commonly used now to open locked phone screens, for example.


But now, it’s just a smile?

Or a hand gesture. According to a reports in The Telegraph and the Financial Times, Mastercard is testing the technology in Brazil, the Middle East and Asia, replacing not just cash, but cards and even more recent payment systems such as Apple Pay, where you use your phone to purchase. Ajay Bhalla, Mastercard’s president of cyber and intelligence, said: “Our goal with this new programme is to make shopping a great experience for consumers and merchants alike, providing the best of both security and convenience.”



The rise of the use of biometrics has concerned privacy champions due to the risk of such personal data getting into the wrong hands, but Mastercard said it has created a set of privacy standards and retailers would have no access to images or biometric data as part of this.


It comes as?

A study last week from Juniper Research - which specialises in identifying new high growth digital market sectors - said the value of biometrically authenticated remote mobile payments is forecast to top $1.2 trillion worldwide by 2027.


Cash has been on the wane?

With so many bank closures and ATMs disappearing from our high streets, Covid came along and seemed to intensify the disconnect from physical coins and notes, with “contactless preferred” signs appearing in shops and restaurants and even a reluctance to use payment machines with pin pads touched by so many others beforehand.


There are other concerns?

Age Scotland point out: “While more and more older people are embracing technology, those who still rely on cash are more likely to be older, poorer and more vulnerable.”



Rumours have been swirling Tesco is among those planning to introduce biometric payments by early 2023 and not all customers are on board. One tweeted: "It's time to say no to the new surveillance society”. And consumer giant Which? has a "Freedom to Pay" petition online - currently at more than 202,000 signatures and hoping to hit 250,000 - asking people to "help us protect cash as a payment option by signing”.


But the future is coming…

Mastercard states of its new scheme: “No more fumbling for your phone or hunting for your wallet when you have your hands full – the next generation of in-person payments will only need a quick smile or wave of your hand. With Mastercard’s new Biometric Checkout Programme, all you will need is yourself.”