All About MasterCard Selfie Payments

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Payment giant Mastercard is rolling out the latest identity technology with "selfie pay" set to hit the Unites States by the end of 2017.

The release comes after a year of testing and the recent launch of Identity Check Mobile aka "selfie pay" in Europe on October 4.

What it is

Identity Check Mobile is basically an app that allows users to abandon passwords and instead use facial recognition or fingerprint identification when making an online payment.

The software is available for clients with an existing Mastercard or affiliate account. Once the app is downloaded users take an image of themselves which is sent to Mastercard for facial diametrics or they record a fingerprint which is stored on their mobile device.

When making a payment the consumer will receive an instant pop-up which prompts them to authenticate a transaction using either a photo taken with their mobile device or fingerprint.

In a bid to thwart fraud the user is required to blink during the selfie to ensure it's not a static or stolen image.

The market

Mastercard has conducted extensive research into its new technology and the market driving it, noting customers are using smartphones to make more and more payments.

One Mastercard study found not only is there a huge appetite for new ways to pay, but consumers overwhelmingly want to use their smartphones to do it.

"In fact, many are ready to do so right now," says Ann Cairns, President, International Markets at Mastercard. "For decades, plastic cards have been the only reasonable alternative to cash – but consumers are saying loud and clear that they want digital innovations in all areas of life”.

Mastercard also found 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 they reset their accounts.

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

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

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 notes.

Consumer response

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.

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

But it's not without its risk. Tech Crunch explains where passwords and pins can be changed should security of an 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 static stolen picture, but doesn't leave Mastercard immune to hacking, Tech Crunch continues, with user's facial biometrics stored with the company.


The Mastercard Identity Check Mobile app was launched 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.

Now the company will look to roll it out globally in the coming months.

"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 revolutionized 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.”

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