Mastercard Selfie Payments

The future of mobile payments?

Posted by Ryan Raubenheimer on

Shoppers keen to abandon those pesky payment passwords will soon be able to authentic their transactions using a selfie, courtesy of new technology being progressively rolled out globally by Mastercard.

After months of pilot programs, the payment giant is implementing an Identity Check Mobile feature which uses biometrics rather than pin codes and passwords to authorise payments.

Currently available in Europe, it will be launched in stages internationally next year. This is what it involves and how it works. 

How it works

The process works for users already utilising Mastercard to make online or mobile payments, with the company developing a downloadable app that helps authentic these transactions.

During set-up users take a facial image of themselves which is sent to Mastercard to provide facial biometrics. When making a payment the consumer will then receive a pop-up during checkout that prompts them to authorise a payment by taking a selfie.

In a bid to thwart any attempts at fraud the consumer will need to blink to prove it's a real, not static, or stolen image.

Alternatively, the app also allows consumers to use their fingerprint for identity verification.   


Mastercard has been testing the app for over a year with pilot programs in the Netherlands, US, and Canada and has conducted extensive research into its potential uptake.

They note that on average people enter passwords eight times a day for 10 active online accounts that they access or use regularly, but 53% of shoppers forget passwords more than once a week, losing 10 minutes each time that reset their accounts.

President, Enterprise Safety and Security at MasterCard, Ajay Bhalla, says the company wants to alleviate this inconvenience.

“We want to identify people for who they are, not what they remember."

And according to the test findings the vast majority of consumers trialling the program appreciated its ease of use with 92% indicating Identity Check Mobile was more convenient than passwords.

The technology has been developed to cater to the growing global trend of contactless card and smartphone usage, and Mastercard predicts it will not only benefit consumers but retailers as well.

They argue the new technology will reduce the incidence of abandoned shopping carts as customers go scrambling to find, remember and reset passwords at the checkout.

"Existing identity verification methods take shoppers away from a retailer’s website or mobile app where they are often required to remember and enter a password. The process can be time consuming and can result in a shopper abandoning their purchase or having the transaction declined if they enter their password incorrectly," Mastercard says.  

MasterCard Selfie Payment


Biometrics is not new to the world of online security. TechCrunch notes the trend towards using fingerprints has been building momentum since the launch of Apple's fingerprint accessed iPhones and Apple Watch. It's now commonly available across Apple and Android devices.

Meanwhile mobile wallets like Apple Pay also use fingerprint authentication to allow payment transactions

It is however, not without its challenges. Where passwords and pins can be changed should security of online account be breached, fingerprints and facial recognition cannot.

Mastercard has taken steps to increase security by requiring users to blink as part of the authentication process, ensuring the image used is not a stolen picture.

However TechCrunch explains this doesn't leave Mastercard immune to hacking, with a user's facial biometrics stored with the company. 


MasterCard's identity check mobile feature became available on October 4 in 12 European markets. These included the UK, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.

The technology will be rolled out across the world in phases in 2017.

"We are relentlessly focused on making the online payment experience near frictionless, without making any compromises on safety and security,” says Mr Bhalla.

“This is a significant milestone in the evolution of payments. Shopping in person has been revolutionised thanks to advances like contactless cards, mobile payments and wearables, and now we are making Identity Check Mobile a reality for online shopping in Europe, and soon, the world.”