Pay by Selfie or Voice: MasterCard, HSBC Launch Biometrics Systems


MasterCard Identity Check

Biometrics represents the cutting edge of electronic payments—using unique personal characteristics as the ultimate security. Both HSBC and MasterCard are rolling out new biometrics systems to improve the customer experience.

HSBC has launched Voice ID for 15 million UK customers. The process uses voice and touch technology to verify an account holder’s identity. Alongside the rollout of Touch ID for mobile banking customers, the technology will deliver a superior and more secure banking experience.

“Like a fingerprint, our voice is unique,” said HSBC’s Global Head of Contact Centres, Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Warren Buckley, in a press release. “The biometrics technology behind Voice ID focuses on how we speak, not what we say. It doesn’t matter what language a customer speaks, if they have a cold or sore throat, Voice ID will be able to confirm their identity.


Remembering passwords and PINs is challenging and customers get frustrated when they fail the security process and have to reset their details, reports HBSC. Having one less number to remember speeds up the verification process and gives the customer more time to spend talking about their financial needs.

Customers who opt-in enroll their voice print and replace passwords and PINs forever. The voice biometrics technology cross-checks against more than 100 unique identifiers including behavioral features such as speed, cadence and pronunciation as well as physical aspects of the larynx, vocal tract and nasal passages.

“This is the largest planned roll out of voice biometric security technology in the UK, and demonstrates our continued investment in innovation and focus on making our services even more convenient for our customers,” said Buckley. “The UK will be followed by Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, USA and France, subject to regulatory approvals, and plans are being developed to deploy to more markets over the next two years.”


MasterCard is also investing in biometrics with its Identity Check app, which lets customers pay by face—the perfect mechanism for the selfie aficionados of the millennial generation. Online shoppers can authorize transactions with a snapshot of their face instead of a password. The company told the BBC that 92% of its test subjects preferred the new system to passwords.

MasterCard selfie app

“As the world gets increasingly digital, this will be the next wave of technology that will change the consumer experience of shopping digitally,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions for MasterCard, in USA Today. “It’s all part of our role in making commerce available anywhere, any time, on any digital device.”

MasterCard Identity Check

To use MasterCard’s face payment option, customers download the Identity Check app, snap a selfie and blink. The blink, explains Bhalla, is essential as it stops an impostor from just holding up another person’s picture. “It’s … a seamless, smooth experience.”

A global survey commissioned by MasterCard found one-third of consumers have terminated an online purchase because they couldn’t recall their password.

“Biometrics are likely the future of credit card security,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for, in USA Today. “They’re a major step in the right direction, because when your face is your password, you can’t forget it, and it’s much harder to steal than a PIN.”

Beyond the crucial added security, biometrics—particularly facial recognition—plays into the huge appetite for imaging amongst millennials. “They love the convenience of taking a picture for data capture and they want to be doing more of it,” said James DeBello, CEO and president of Mitek, a mobile imaging technology company, in USA Today. “When you also look at the fact that 28% want to enroll for everything from a new credit card to a gym membership by taking a picture of their driver’s license, you start to see the appetite for adding the snap of the camera to mobile transactions.”