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As banks move quickly to digital and wireless communication platforms, they are also rapidly developing innovative tools to help customers access their accounts and perform purchase and debit transactions. Here are a few cutting edge ideas that are already in the financial industry’s pipeline:
MasterCard Display Cards
Although they have not yet reached North America, MasterCard started issuing its so-called Display Card in Europe two years ago. The next-generation card is described as interactive because the cardholder doesn’t just use it as a static piece of plastic. The card has a display window built into it, plus a touch-sensitive button.
Development of the card’s functionality is ongoing, but includes features such as the ability to view in the display window numbers and text that give you information such as your account balance, rewards points earned, recent transactions, and your available spending limit.
Another impressive feature of the Digital Card is that when the technology is used on a prepaid card, you get to see how much of your credit is available. That same feature would also work well on gift cards, since it can be especially annoying to not know exactly how much credit is left on the card without asking a merchant to swipe the plastic and tell you.
The Coin Card for Credit Card Consolidation
A new mobile gadget called Coin, which looks like an ordinary plastic card, also has a display screen similar to the MasterCard Display. Instead of carrying several different credit cards, though, you simply load them onto the Coin device so that it becomes the only plastic you need to take with you. The Coin card’s display screen shows a menu of all the credit cards stored on the device. Using buttons, you can toggle over to the particular card you want to use, hand the Coin to the merchant, and they swipe it to complete your transaction just like you normally would do.
A handy Coin smart phone app also notifies you if you accidentally leave it behind, and then will automatically disable the card until you have a chance to return and retrieve it.
The practical viability of Coin has not yet been fully tested in the consumer marketplace, however, because Coin is still a start-up venture and not yet available to consumers. The founders of Coin hope to launch it soon as a tool for helping consumers consolidate all of their credit cards into one single unit.
My hunch is that by the time Coin gets off the ground the mainstream banking industry will have already introduced credit cards that include wireless connectivity features that will at least let you access multiple credit cards issued by the same financial institution. That may undercut the novelty and uniqueness of Coin, but for those who carry different brands of cards, it may still be an attractive way to consolidate accounts and lesson the number of cards you carry around on-hand.
For the first time last year, some banks in the USA that offer mobile apps for customer account access introduced a feature called “One-Swipe” or “Quick Balance,” which lets users see their balance without having to log in to their account. The consumer simply swipes on the sign-in screen to reveal account information in a scroll-down menu across the screen.
What may be almost as cool as the One-Swipe feature itself is the clever way that the app is demonstrated on the website of First Niagara Bank. As you scroll down the page the app’s capability is presented with moving graphic images of a smart phone going through the motions of each feature. Check it out for yourself to see exactly how one-swipe technology works.
One-Swipe may not change where you bank or shop; however, it is a feature that could win over future customers from a bank that doesn’t offer this convenient feature.
The field of biometric security is rapidly expanding with cutting edge innovations such as fingerprint identification on smart phones. Another kind of biometric technology that was recently unveiled during the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas involves palm prints.
The Fujitsu Company presented a kind of biometric reader, called the Pulse Wallet. The key to this form of identification is 3-D reading or mapping of a vein located in the palm of your hand. While it might sound a bit like going to your local fortune teller, the Pulse Wallet links a user’s unique palm print to their stored credit card information. Not only is a PIN no longer necessary, but you don’t even need a credit card -just “swipe” your palm instead.
Voice-Activated Account Access
Sharing fingerprints, palm prints, or eyeball scans with your bank might make consumers feel less comfortable and raise privacy concerns and questions like “What’s next, a blood sample?” Let’s face it, everyone wants a secure bank account, but nobody wants to sacrifice privacy in ways that can be construed as creepy - that’s why U.S. Bank is working on a voice-activated biometric alternative.
Voice activated biometrics will use individual voice recognition as a form of credit card identification in lieu of traditional passwords, security questions, PINs, or even palm prints. Since February of 2014, employees at U.S. Bank have been using the new technology as part of a pilot program. Instead of typing a password they just say it. That gives them secure access to their account balances, allows them to search transactions and enables them to make payments on their account.
U.S. bank hopes to launch the feature for all of its customers so that they can use voice biometrics to log in to accounts via the Internet, mobile app or when calling customer service. “Voice biometrics is a unique identifier,” the head of innovation at U.S. Bank Payment Services explained in a press release. “Customers are becoming accustomed to using their voice to interact with their smart phones and can become frustrated with manually entering passwords. Exploring a spoken passphrase login through this technology is a logical next step.”
Biometrics vs. Privacy & the Creepy Factor
I would argue, however, that the average American is less concerned with the frustration of entering passwords and much more concerned about personal rights to privacy. That may turn out to be a much more compelling reason for banks to follow in the footsteps of U.S. Bank and develop voice-activated security protocol technology. Many experts agree that biometrics can help to solve many of the current credit card and bank account security vulnerabilities.
The whole idea of using biometrics is still new though, and many consumers find it unsettling. That’s only natural, because up until now fingerprinting often had a negative connotation associated with being a criminal booked into custody by the cop. Then the TSA introduced body and eyeball scans when going through airport security, and that has generated a firestorm of resistance and feelings of distrust amongst the traveling public.
Since using your voice is not perceived as an invasive process, voice-activated biometrics lets the consumer feel that their privacy -as well as their personal space- is still protected. We are already accustomed to using our voice when responding to automated voicemail questions or when asked to provide a secret answer or account number.
The Bottom Line
We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds in terms of banking and credit card innovation, but for the time being if you do your banking in the USA you can expect a longer wait. Currently financial institutions here are playing catch-up to much of the rest of the world. The real game-changer will be felt once American banks have transitioned over to computer-embedded cards like Pin-and-Chip that’s already in widespread use across Europe.
*Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.