The Future of Payments: Selfies, Smart Phones, and Security

Contactless payment technology: smart phones, smart watches, credit or debit cards, key fobs and similar devices, allow radio frequency identification (RFID) or near-field communication (NFC) to be used as a payment source. While it seems this is a new concept within the payment industry, it was actually initially launched in 1997 with quick payment options at gas stations.

In 2015, Deloitte predicted 5% of NFC equipped phones would be used at least once a month for contactless payments. In fact, there was a belief that this technology would begin taking off during this same timeframe as people began to understand the technology, merchants began accepting the payments, and financial institutions were better equipped to manage this shift in payments. More specifically, it was believed “the core advantage with any contactless smartphone transactions is the potential for greater security, when payments are made with phones featuring either built-in (via hardware or software) or SIM-based tokenization capability.”

So it raises the question, is consumer security THAT important?

The short answer—absolutely. Credit card providers, processors and banks find themselves doing whatever it takes to protect consumer security. As shown in a report done by Pew Research, more than half of the respondents (58 percent) answered they were not too confident, not confident at all, or didn’t know whether to trust their credit card companies with their security. It’s an absolute must for processors, merchant service providers, and financial institutions to assure their consumer base they are taking whatever precautions necessary to make their audience feel at ease with their accounts. This thinking and understanding of the consumer is driving this new technology – always looking for more secure options to keep their identity safe and keep their minds at ease.

So what now? Will this thinking ever take off?

Before we discuss, let me take a selfie. Seriously. As credit card companies continue to shift and mold based on their target audience, there is a great understanding of millennials (and those audiences following behind) and their need to constantly have a camera in their face. In fact, in a brand study done among this specific audience (18 to 34 year olds), it was found that 95 percent had taken at least one selfie. Additionally, this audience will take more than 25,676 selfies in their lifetime.

Understanding these statistics, how this consumer base relates to the selfie, and the overall desire to remove the actual password process, led Mastercard to design selfie software that serves as payment. This software requires consumers to download an app on their phone or tablet to use, and as they make an online purchase, they load in details as usual. When additional authentication is required, a selfie or fingerprint sensor is loaded and if a selfie is chosen, the consumer has to blink for the camera to sense a live moment versus a picture.

Mastercard believes, “In the modern world everyone has a mobile phone and there is internet connectivity everywhere. We should be able to use biometrics [instead] to authenticate ourselves.”

The question is….will this new software be adopted or do people only like cameras when it comes to social media? Only time will tell.



Amy Ingram is the Vice President of Marketing for Security Card Services. Security Card is a merchant services provider for more than 3,500 regional and community banks throughout the United States, servicing more than 21,000 merchants who process more than $4.5 billion annually. Amy works with each bank partner to provide marketing support to ensure increased revenue for the bank and continual communications to their partners.