Credit Card Users Prefer Fingerprints To Validate ID

Unisys poll shows consumers think the biometric method is more secure than photo identification, PIN numbers or handwritten signatures.

Consumers believe that fingerprints are the most secure way to validate their identity when they use a credit card. That was the finding of an online poll conducted by biometric technology manufacturer Unisys, which asked 300 consumers to rate which method would be the safest one for proving that they were using their own credit card.

Of those polled, 63% chose fingerprints, followed by photo identification (20%), PIN numbers (13%) handwritten signatures for the balance.

"As we move to an increasingly digital era, traditional methods of identity verification will no longer be sufficient," said Bryan Ichikawa, vice president of identity solutions for Unisys, in a statement. "As our poll shows, biometric identification is a valid and preferred method of identity authentication, which could prove valuable in a variety of fields even beyond banking, such as in healthcare and transportation security."

Spurred mainly by government investment, the biometrics market is poised to grow sharply. In particular, the North American market revenue will rise from $364 million in 2009 to $1.6 billion in 2016, market researcher Frost & Sullivan predicts.

But will credit cards factor largely into the biometric upswing? In the United States, which uses "magstripe" credit cards, traditional identity verification methods are signature validation or photo validation. Of course, there are no guarantees that merchants actually perform such checks for "card present" transactions.

In contrast, Europe has widely embraced EMV -- also known as "chip and PIN" -- to secure credit and debit card transactions. To pay, consumers themselves slide their card into a terminal and enter their PIN code, which is validated by the card's built-on microchip, thus allowing the transaction to proceed.

According to the PCI Council, the widespread use of chip and PIN technology has led to a significant decline in in-person credit card fraud, though cases of "card not present" fraud have increased.

So far, however, the question of adding PINs or fingerprint checks to U.S. credit card transactions has been moot. Credit card issuers in the United States have yet to embrace any new security techniques, biometric or otherwise, beyond the signature or, in some cases, photographs on cards. One impediment could be the relatively high cost that would be required to replace, throughout the country, all point-of-sale credit card readers with readers that work with PINs or fingerprint checks.

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