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When Your Face Can Pay

With electronic payments becoming more numerous and potentially less secure, credit card companies are looking for new ways to innovate the way people handle transactions.

You may not be famous enough or gorgeous enough to get free drinks at a bar just by showing your face and smiling at people. However, things are about to change – soon you’ll be able to pay for your expenses with your face, regardless of how you look or how much of a celebrity you are.

MasterCard is now running a pilot project testing a new feature that allows online purchases to be authorized with a snapshot of the user’s face in place of a password. There is a good chance that this new feature will quickly become popular with millennials, who are very accustomed to snapping selfies.

In order to pay with your selfie, you first need to download MasterCard’s Identity Check app. When it comes time for an identity check during the purchasing process, you receive a push notification on the mobile device to open the app. Then, you just hold up your phone, smile, and blink.

With 86% of the millennials making purchases on smartphones, according to a Mitek poll of just over 1,000 millennials, the transaction process to this new identity verification method is likely to be seamless. The only downside might be that there are no filters and you can’t cover your face to make it look smaller.

Though some might be confused by the blinking requirement, it exists to prevent fraud that could occur by someone simply holding up another person’s picture to complete the purchase. This is just one of the many features that are included to ensure the security of transactions, especially with a recent survey showing that 45% of payment card losses coming from online transactions.

The selfie payment process could also be a perfect solution for people who are struggling to manage tons of passwords. A MasterCard global survey of 10,000 consumers found that one-third of consumers have bailed on an online purchase because they couldn’t recall their password. Luckily, your face is the one password you won’t forget and the PIN nobody can steal from you.

The electronic payment sector is continuing to grow with millennials becoming the dominant players in online shopping, spending nearly $2,000 on average in 2013. In 2014, e-commerce spending in the U.S. reached $56.1 billion.

The goal of this technology is not just to make consumers more willing to pay, it is about making consumers enjoy paying. Consumers want their transactions to be easy and secure, while businesses see this as an opportunity to make the purchasing process easier and more accessible so that consumers are not discouraged from online purchases.

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

Besides its face recognition feature, MasterCard is exploring voice recognition and even using someone’s heartbeat to verify his or her identity. Visa has also developed a technical blueprint that can eventually be used industry-wide to enable the use of fingerprints, face features, and even palms to facilitate online transactions. It seems that biometrics will play a significant role in the future of online payment transactions.

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