Biometric Technology and Fingerprint Login: How Many Banks Use Them?

30 May 2016
Many banking institutions now offer biometrics logins such as fingerprint identity verification in their mobile banking app. Who’s offering it, and what’s next?

Touch ID Login is still a novelty in some ways, and the idea of logging into your mobile banking app using just your fingerprint may seem like we’re living in science fiction. But these days, fingerprint scanning and other forms of biometrics verification are becoming more and more common in the banking world. Here’s what you need to know and which Australian financial institutions offer biometrics logins.

What is biometrics technology, and why do people want it?

Biometrics technology is an identity verification tool that allows banks to identify their customers without seeing them face-to-face. It uses parts of the customer’s body that cannot be easily forged, such as their individual fingerprint, voice recognition, or scanning of the eye.

Thanks to smartphones, such things are no longer an invasive or out of reach process, and are already commonplace in countries such as Japan and Poland.

This has three major benefits for both consumers and financial institutions.

First, it removes the effort involved in remembering multiple passwords or PIN numbers. You can’t forget your own fingerprint!

Secondly, biometric methods make logging in drastically faster. After all, it takes less time to swipe a finger across a touchpad than it does to key in your account number and then your password or PIN.

Finally, biometric methods remove user error, which saves time for users having to reset their password or even phone their bank after locking themselves out of their account. Institutions report receiving far fewer complaints related to difficulties logging on after the introduction of biometric logins.

There are always some who remain uncertain about the security of these methods, but the fact is that compared to the common password or PIN, biometrics is far more secure. Of course, for those who can’t be convinced or don’t have a biometrics enabled mobile phone, the old school methods for logging in will still be available.

Fingerprint verification


Fingerprint verification was just beginning to pick up speed last year, and this year it has really taken off. Of the institutions rated by CANSTAR for this year’s Mobile Banking Award, 7 out of 18 banks and 6 out of 37 customer-owned institutions offer fingerprint verification as a login method for their mobile banking app.

According to our database, the banking institutions that enable fingerprint verification in their mobile banking app at the time of writing include:

  • Australian Military Bank
  • Bank Australia
  • Bank of Melbourne
  • BankSA
  • Beyond Bank
  • CommBank (over 44.6 million Touch ID logons at time of writing)
  • ING Direct
  • ME Bank
  • My Credit Union
  • People’s Choice Credit Union
  • Police Bank
  • George Bank
  • Suncorp Bank (13% of all app logins now made by fingerprint)
  • UBank (adopted by 1 in 2 customers using an Apple device)
  • Westpac

Wearable banking

If you haven’t seen someone checking their account balance or making a quick transaction on their smartwatch yet, there’s no doubt you’ll see it soon. CommBank’s latest app even lets you take out cardless cash from an ATM using your smartwatch.

You might be forgiven for thinking wearable technology is a relatively new thing, and that Apple Watch is the be all and end all. The truth is wearable technology has been around since the 17th century, when the abacus ring made calculations on the fly that much easier for Chinese bean counters. As an added bonus, the abacus ring had an unlimited average battery life and the mechanics didn’t wear down unless the ring got smashed somehow.

The most current wearable technology? Your fitbit!!


Other ancient wearable technology inventions include the wristwatch. A German artillery officer invented a tiny watch strapped to the wrist in the 19th century, to tackle the problem of having to use both hands to open the standard pocket watch. In 1961, someone created the shoe computer, a device implanted in the heel of a shoe that used radio waves to tell a gambler where the ball would land on a roulette table. It was so successful that the state of Nevada had to pass a law prohibiting them.

What’s next?


Eye scans

You might know about retinal scans from your annual eye check at the optometrist. This method looks for eye health issues such as macular degeneration (Australia’s leading cause of blindness, which is both preventable and treatable), moles growing on the retina, retinal tearing, or damage to the optic nerve.

When it comes to identity verification, iris scans are more commonly used. This method was created by optometrist Frank Burch in 1936 and it analyses the unique pattern of the position of your pupil, the edges of your iris, and the shape of your eyelids and eyelashes. In fact, this method is even more secure than fingerprint identification because iris scanning encodes more than 200 pieces of data about your eye for comparison with others, while fingerprint scanning only encodes 60 or 70 data points.

Iris scanning is a useful technology because your irises don’t typically change over time, even after surgery, and even blind people can use an iris scanner. You can even keep your glasses or contacts in and still have an accurate scan.

The camera on your phone is already capable of doing a good enough scan to use this to log into your mobile banking app, so this is what we expect to see one day very soon.

At the moment, iris scanning is typically used for identity verification when you travel. For example, when you visit countries including the Netherlands, Japan, or the UAE, your iris photo will be used in place of (or in addition to) your passport.

There are also social welfare uses for this technology. The UNHCR has since 2013 been using biometrics to identify each of the refugees in its camps in Africa, Thailand, and Afghanistan. In India, the government is using biometrics as the identification method for the 1.2 billion citizens in its social welfare program Aadhaar (since 2011).

Vein scanning

It may sound like vampirical technology, but this is simply a method where your phone’s camera would scan your palm and analyse the mapping pattern of your veins. This pattern is unique to you, just like your fingerprint.

Of course, there’s more to life than chasing every new piece of technology that comes out on the market. Remember to look for bank accounts that meet your needs in terms of features and fees as well as mobile and online functionality. We can help you find a mobile banking app or online banking platform with outstanding functionality that is fit for your lifestyle.

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