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Kuwait bank introduces biometric payments card

Middle East bank launches payment cards with fingerprint sensor technology embedded

Kuwait International Bank is using technology from Zwipe to provide customers with biometric security on payment cards, adding a layer of authentication through fingerprint recognition technology.

With contactless payments becoming the most popular way of paying in person, users are demanding higher payment limits – an extra layer of security could lead to unlimited limits on payments.

The bank, which has 20 branches across the Gulf state, is using the Zwipe Pay platform to introduce fingerprint recognition technology for a selected group of “VIP” customers.

Zwipe Pay is software for credit and debit card manufacturers that supports biometric authentication. It is approved by card payment networks Visa and Mastercard.

“We are pleased to announce that our Black Banking segment customers can now enjoy innovative technology through the new biometric card, which is designed to provide convenience and ease of access with a high level of security against fraud attempts,” said Deema Al Mulaifi, assistant general manager of operations at Kuwait International Bank.

“The biometric card feature has the potential to provide our customers with a new method [of payment] that adds value to their lifestyle as they can request the Visa Infinite card and activate the fingerprint to make POS [point of sale] transactions with great ease,” added Al Mulaifi.

According to UBS research, built-in fingerprint sensors could help payment cards retain relevance in the face of mobile payment alternatives, with a potential $5bn added to revenue in the global banking sector by 2026.

Contactless payments are rapidly becoming the most popular method of paying in-person. The Covid-19 pandemic, during which people were discouraged from making contact with each other and objects, accelerated the use of contactless payments.

According to figures from Barclays Bank, in 2022, over 90% of UK transactions that were eligible to be made using contactless technology were paid that way. The bank said the total amount spent using contactless was up by almost 50% on the previous year.

But unlike mobile payment methods such as Apple Pay, contactless cards have an upper limit on how much can be spent, which varies by country. This is because apps such as Apple’s payment service require the user’s fingerprint or face ID, providing two-factor authentication, wheras contactless cards do not. The Covid-19 pandemic fuelled demand from consumers and businesses for the ability to make higher-value payments using contactless cards.

A card with an embedded fingerprint sensor would allow extra authentication because the user would have their fingerprint on the sensor while making the payment, in the same way as an Apple Pay user.

Shashank Singh, Visa’s general manager for Kuwait and Qatar, said the card giant was investing in biometric authentication technology. “Visa is committed to developing and investing in emerging capabilities such as biometrics for the benefit of consumers,” said Singh.

The Kuwait International Bank biometric cards will be produced by Inkript, a digital security company focused on the Middle East and Africa.

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