Your finger is about to replace your bank password

Will Apple Pay make you spend more?
Will Apple Pay make you spend more?

We already use our fingerprint to unlock our phones, and one day soon your finger could replace your bank password.

Over the past year, U.S. banks have been ramping up efforts to incorporate biometric technology (iris scanners, fingerprint readers and facial recognition) into their systems.

Biometric scanners could let you log in to you bank account on your phone or PC, letting you transfer money or send cash without entering a password. That could potentially be safer than using a password, since your fingerprint is unique to you. Passwords can be easily guessed or hacked.

Though the technology has existed for years, data privacy has been a major curveball for banks' adoption of biometric readers.

"Americans have a huge data privacy concern," said Frank Natoli, chief innovation officer at ATM maker Diebold (DBD). Customers don't trust having their biometric data in someone else's hands, he said.

But the tide is beginning to turn. Fingerprint readers used for Apple (AAPL) Pay and other mobile payment services have made consumers more ready to accept biometric technology for paying bills and banking.

How the iPhone fingerprint scanner works
How the iPhone fingerprint scanner works

Related : IPhone fingerprint scanner will start security revolution

"10 years ago, customers were not comfortable with [finger print readers]," said Sam Shrauger, Visa's (V) digital solutions chief. "But now, with mainstream devices having biometric technology, the momentum is increasing."

Piggybacking on existing fingerprint scanners on smartphones, Barclaycard (BCS) U.S. will be launching a new mobile banking app that allows customers to log in with this technology next week.

Wells Fargo (WFC), said that passwords and usernames on mobile phones are an inelegant way to log in to your bank account. The customer-friendly nature of fingerprint readers was a factor that pushed the bank toward biometrics.

"Shift, Caps Lock, Enter, numbers -- it's like performing gymnastics on your keypad," said Secil Watson, Wells Fargo's head of wholesale internet solutions.

Last October, Wells Fargo piloted its first dual biometric security model, incorporating facial and voice recognition technology into its mobile banking app. Through a series of snaps using the phone camera and a few words uttered into the device, customers can gain full access into their bank accounts.

Visa is working on similar projects. Currently, the credit card provider is working on a prototype that incorporates iris scanning technology with its online payment service, Visa Checkout.

Related : Iris scans are the new school IDs

Still, there are hangups: People with disabilities might find it difficult to log in. And biometrics might be more secure than traditional passwords, but they are not ironclad.

Last year, Tabula Rasa, a European Union-funded consortium that looks into spoofing of biometric systems, posted a video demonstrating how a finger vein recognition device can be tampered with.

Apple's TouchID fingerprinting technology was also reported to have been hacked by "Chaos Computer Club," a German hacking group back in December last year.

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