MasterCard Tests ‘Selfie Pay’, Facial Recognition Technology

August 25, 2015, Written By Bill Hardekopf
girl making selfie with a mobile phone focus on the phone

MasterCard is testing new facial recognition technology that would allow users to verify payments with a quick photo. Dubbed “Selfie Pay,” this new system will soon be tested in the United States and the Netherlands.

To use Selfie Pay, an account holder would simply take a photo of himself on his phone to verify he is, in fact, the owner of the device. The picture is compared to the one already in MasterCard’s database to determine the validity of the transaction.

In the United States, MasterCard is working with First Tech Federal Credit Union. During the test which starts in September, participants will use the smartphone app to make donations to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

The problem with facial recognition payment verification is that it may be more of an inconvenience than a benefit. Rather than entering a PIN or using a fingerprint for authentication, a user will have to go through the process of snapping a photo on their phone. If the photo is misaligned, blurry, in bad lighting, etc., the transaction may be declined entirely. This all depends on the sensitivity of Selfie Pay, but it appears to be more work than it is worth.

Another issue with Selfie Pay is that the photo cannot have other people in it. Even a face in the crowd may throw off the system, causing the transaction to get declined. Facial recognition may be a good idea, as in the biometric ATMs currently being tested in Baltimore. From a mobile payment perspective though, there are simply better options on the market that are less complicated and just as secure.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of August 25, 2015. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.