Two emerging global trends are converging to take the payment card experience to the next level—the melding of premium metal payment cards and biometric authentication capabilities. As banks and fintechs look to attract new customers, the ways in which these two trends are melding can create more personalized products to drive customer loyalty.
The realm of biometrics is rapidly expanding, growing to impact the everyday experiences of individuals across the globe. Whether it’s unlocking a smartphone throughout the day with fingerprint or facial recognition or accessing a realm of broader applications, the adoption of biometrics is projected to soar. Its rise is rooted in the promise of enabling an elegant and seamless user experience without compromising security, and as of 2022, 55% of smart phone users already used biometrics to unlock their smartphones, according to Security Magazine.
Parallel to the biometric surge, the growing allure of metal credit and debit cards is captivating an expanding global audience, attracting both younger and more affluent customers.
Initially conceptualized as a highly exclusive, targeted offering, metal cards took flight with the launch of the American Express metal Centurion Card in 2003. Since then, their appeal has transcended boundaries. With the 2016 introduction of the metal Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which was “enthusiastically received by millennial consumers,” the cards became a staple with the mass-affluent demographic. The New York Times reported that “the Reserve acquired more customers within two weeks than Chase had expected for 12 months … more than half of all cardholders were under 35.”
Recent years have seen European FinTechs effectively embrace metal cards, often as key components of tiered packages. These cards are positioned as not only aesthetically pleasing but also as symbols of durability and elegance. For digital-centric challenger banks, (metal) cards are often their only physical touch point with customers, enabling them to convey the bank's ethos and bolster patron loyalty, enhancing the rewards and benefits offered by providing a sleek, metal card. “The card’s physical form can come to symbolize key aspects of what a program aims to represent,” reports Payments Journal.
We stand now at a turning point, in which these emerging trends are poised to merge with the launch of metal cards that feature biometric sensors. With this innovative technology, the chip on a payment card can store (or enroll) the customer’s fingerprint (a mathematical conversion applied to keypoint descriptors rather than an image). During a payment transaction, the cardholder simply taps the card onto a payment terminal while placing a finger on the card's biometric sensor. The fingerprint that touches the fingerprint sensor is instantly compared with the enrolled fingerprint template. Crucially, this matching process occurs within the chip itself, ensuring that biometric data remains encapsulated within the chip and never traverses the point-of-sale terminal or the issuer's systems. Successful matching provides the authentication needed for the payment to proceed.
Today’s consumers no longer view payment cards as mere tools for transactions; rather, they consider them to be accessories--extensions of their identity and lifestyle. This sentiment is epitomized by the multitude of social media posts featuring metal cardholders proudly posing with their payment cards. They want to show them off.
The infusion of biometrics into cards takes personalization to new heights, integrating the user’s identity with the payment experience. These cards will really “know” their users, discerning and distinguishing the legitimate cardholder from any other individual on the planet. Because after all, as the saying goes, no two fingerprints are the same.
The union of biometric authentication and metal cards propels both toward an increasingly sophisticated future, harmonizing elegance and high-tech innovation. This convergence marries convenience with top-notch security, ushering in a new era of personalized and fortified payment experiences.