The credit card as we know it is quickly becoming obselete. Whether you like carrying an attactive artifact of your payment method or you despise having to keep track of a pile of plastic, you will soon be faced with an increasing number of intangible alternatives to the traditional plastic card.
Apple Joins the Movement
For many of us, the first indication of this new paradigm was the introduction of the Apple Pay system, which allowed IPhone users to make payments at participating merchants using their device, so long as it was an iPhone 6 or newer model. User's credit cards were stored in their device, and authentication occurred through the user's four digit PIN or by the device's built-in fingerprint reader. And while other companies offered competing mobile payment solutions, Apple Pay has gained traction in the marketplace and is currently the leading mobile payment system.
Nevertheless, these same users who could make convenient payments at the store still found it cumbersome to make online purchases using their iPhone. This is ironic considering that major retailers invested millions of dollars to deploy iPhone compatible credit card terminals at thousands of stores, yet Apple's iPhone and the Apple Watch itself were unable to process online payments using its built in Apple Pay protocol.
Now, this is about to change. As reported by the online technology site Re/code, Apple is poised to expand the Apple Pay system into one that allows customers to use their credit card to make online payments using its TouchID fingerprint technology for authentication. According to the report, this capability will only work when using Apple's Safari browser on the iPhone and Apple Watch, but it may eventually be expanded to Apple desktop and laptop computers.
Online payments giant PayPal already offers a mobile payment solution called One Touch, which is considered to be the primary competitor to Apple Pay's online solution. PayPal's One Touch allows users to stay logged in on their phone, tablet, or computer for up to six months, so they don't have to login every time they need to make a payment. In addition, Android Pay also offers fingerprint authentication for payments when shoppers use a compatible mobile device.
Are Fingerprints the Answer?
There's no doubt that a well implemented fingerprint authentication system can be very fast and convenient. But as security experts are quick to point out, you can always change your password, but you can never change your fingerprints. The reason that fingerprints may not be the ideal solution is not because of how fingerprints are stolen in the movies. In reality, no one expects hackers to surreptitiously make latex copies of people's fingerprints, or worse, to cut off the fingers of their victims. Instead, we could expect hackers to simply steal digital copies of people's fingerprint data that's been insufficiently protected. And once your fingerprint's data has been stolen, it could be used to authenticate a transaction just like a stolen credit card number.
An alternative to fingerprints could be MasterCard's new authentication system that utilizes facial recognition. Shoppers simply take a selfie that is used to verify their identity. At this point, it's not clear which technology will ultimately prevail, but ultimately credit card users stand to benefit from additional choices when they need to make a payment