Your Face Pays the Bills with MasterCard's Selfie Pay


Think selfies are a waste of time? Try telling me that when I'm using mine to pay for lunch.

MasterCard is launching a "selfie pay" authentication method to let you use your face as a password that authorizes mobile shopping transactions. The feature is expected to roll out this year, starting with 14 countries, including the U.K..

All this is done via MasterCard's Identity Check app, which you'll install on your phone and set up by taking a selfie from within the app. When shopping online, after entering your credit card information when paying, you'll have to hold your phone up and frame your face with your camera to verify your identity. To make sure someone isn't just holding up a picture of you to game the system, MasterCard will require you to blink.  

MORE: Mobile Wallets: Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay vs Android Pay

Using your face as an authentication method is a far from new idea. Many phone and software makers, such as Alcatel, Google, Microsoft and CyberLink have device unlock methods that identify you by face. But this is the first time a major credit card issuer is using such a technique, and face recognition authentication is thought to be harder to crack than PIN and passwords. 

MasterCard has already conducted trials in the U.S. and the Netherlands since it announced the Identity Check app last year, but it's not clear if these are part of the 14 countries that the Financial Times reported as getting the feature this year. 

According to The Verge, MasterCard could follow up this authorization method with another biometric option — your heartbeat. But that could take a while to roll out to consumers, considering the lack of infrastructure. (There are far fewer heart rate sensors out there than cameras.)

Other banks have also been stepping up their efforts in making authentication more convenient. HSBC recently said it would integrate fingerprint recognition into its system, using the iPhone's Touch ID scanner. 

So the next time you see someone holding their phone up in front of them, pause before you fly into a rage at their narcissism in taking a selfie. They could simply be verifying an online shopping spree.