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Death of the credit card: Paying for pints with your prints

Reaching deep into her handbag to find her sturdy leather cheque book, the silver haired lady dining at Pizza Express politely requested the bill. A small receipt neatly presented on a shiny silver tray arrived and the lady proceeded to offer a cheque as payment. You read that correctly, a cheque. Of course, the payment was politely declined and her younger counterparts at the table then handed over a card. You can only imagine the surprise on the faces of fellow diners mainly made up of millennials and generation Y, who are more likely to pay via retinal scanner than a cheque book.  

Ways to pay have been notched into a whole new dimension over the past 50 years and, although the actual way we pay has changed significantly, it doesn’t change the intrinsic value behind the transaction and its importanceNow, there is no need to carry around wads of cash limiting purchasing power, because it can all be done via electronic transfer at the touch of a button. We’ve gone from cheque books and good old-fashioned cold hard cash to Apple pay, contactless cards and now the latest in payment methods: finger print scanners.  

Another leap in the payments world has brought us fingerprint recognition technology. Similar to the concept of Apple Touch ID this technology uses a biometric reader to scan the veins of a buyer’s finger, which in turn builds up a ‘map’ unique to each person. This pattern is the connected to the user’s banks/credit card details in order to make the payment 

This technology makes payments secure, reduces the need for carrying around credit cards and cash, and once it's widely adopted, we’ll never be caught short again by forgetting bags/purses/walletsAlthough a good idea in theory, questions have been raised about the security of finger print payments… 

What if my fingerprint is compromised - you can’t issue another as you would a credit card?  

What if it encourages criminals to start cutting fingers off?  

Can someone not easily replicate my fingerprint?  

Of course, these are all valid questions; but how secure is any payment method really? Fingerprints can’t be reissued, however these scanners can also scan and read beneath the outer layer of skin, giving a much more secure experience. May we also add these scanners don’t work with fingers that don’t have a pulse - phew!  

Another concern is how this technology will effect buying decisions. Will it encourage unnecessary purchases due to the ease of payment method?  

Retailers are jumping on the bandwagon, with big names like McDonald’s reportedly considering these new payment methods. The main selling points are increased sales due to improved customer experience (and let’s face it, impulse buys), lower costs due to higher security measures, and of course the age old fear of being left standing in the dust as you watch your competitors speed past.  

So the question is: would you adapt to this technology and use it?  

All of these advances in payment technology got us thinking about the history of money and how it’s moved on in time. So for a bit of fun we’ve created an (extremely condensed) timeline below to show how we got from cow trade to finger print scanners!   

Money Timeline:  

De was recognised as a known form of currency to benefit both parties before the idea or value of money. 

As our thinking evolved so did our way to pay, as we began to utilise currency in the form of animals and grain. 

Flashforward to 12,000 BC and the introduction of shell money - that’s right, shells. This method was first introduced and adopted in China.  

We’ve hit 1000-600BC and with it came the precious metal coin, made of gold and silver used in Lydia (now modern-day Turkey). 

Then came leather money, in what could be deemed the first documented type of bank note. These were 1 foot square pieces of white deer skin and were traded for goods. 

Next we saw paper money, with China again leading the way; paper money came about in 960. Centuries were then spent figuring out inflation and balance of production! 

In 1637 wampum is declared legal tender in the United States. Wampum is described as small beads made from shells by North American Indians, strung together and worn as decoration or indeed used as payment.  

1816 welcomed the era of gold, though this is not its first introduction gold was officially the standard of value in England.  

1920 saw the birth of ‘charge cards’; department stores and hotels chains had the monopoly on this one. This made life easier for their clients who wouldn’t have to travel back to their hometown bank branch to get cash.  

1994 shop anytime, anywhere - in your PJs, or even shop naked! The nineties saw the birth of online shopping and our lives were never the same. We now have access to our favourite stores and items 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With the introduction of services like Amazon Prime Now we can have what we want at the click of a buttonm within an hour! If the need arises.  

2012 and onwards... mobile payments, paying with your finger prints, retinal scanners... it seems like we have it all, but the question on my mind is what’s next?    

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