- Amazon is working with credit card companies to create terminals to allow users to pay for items with biometric data from their handprint, The WSJ reported.
- The online retailer previously patented such technology, which had been presumed to be used at its Whole Food stores
- Amazon currently allows shoppers at its Amazon Go grocery store to pay for items without ever going through a checkout process by downloading the Amazon Go app.
- The technology could give Amazon more information about consumer spending habits, which could allow them to charge a higher rate to advertisers.
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Amazon has plans to create payment terminals that would allow shoppers to link a credit card with their own handprint, allowing them to pay at brick-and-mortar stores by simply waving their hand across a scanner, according to a report Saturday from The Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ reported that discussions to create the pay-by-hand terminals are in their early stages, though Amazon has already begun the development process with Visa and is in talks to work with MasterCard.
Amazon’s plans are the latest instance of big tech encroaching into the financial industry. In 2014, Apple began offering Apple Pay, a service that allows users to pay with a tap of their phone or watch on an NFC reader. Last year, the company partnered with Goldman Sachs to launch Apple Card.
A previous Business Insider report in November 2019 detailed Google’s plan to allow users to open checking accounts – part of a partnership with Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Those plans are expected to materialize sometime this year, per the report.
JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Synchrony Financial have discussed linking their cardholder's accounts with the Amazon palm payment technology, though as The WSJ noted, card companies are in the process of trying to determine whether companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google intend to work as collaborators or competitors. Some companies worry that in the long run, these tech giants could eliminate them from the equation entirely, per the WSJ report.
Card issuers have other concerns too, like how customers would be able to store multiple cards using their biometric handprint, and how they would be able to choose between the cards when making a payment. The companies are reportedly also worried about how Amazon would stop a thief from linking a stolen card to their own handprint, per The WSJ report.
Another hurdle, The Wall Street Journal noted, will be calming consumers' worries around providing more personal data, in this case biometric data, to big tech companies amid the industry's myriad of scandals. Per The Wall Street Journal, in collaborating with well-established card issuers, Amazon hopes to gain their knowledge and resources in maintaining consumer security.
As The Wall Street Journal noted, it's not Amazon's first foray into unique payment methods, either. At its Amazon Go grocery stores, patrons log into an app on their phone and then sensors in the store track what items customers pick up. Customers can leave the store without ever physically paying, as they're automatically charged when they take items from the store.
It's not the first time Amazon has hinted at such plans. In December 2019, Amazon patented technology that would allow the company to identify individuals via their handprint, by detecting unique identifiers like wrinkles, creases, and bone structure. The New York Post said such technology could be used at Amazon's Whole Food stores.
At the time, Recode reported the patent could also be useful at Amazon Go stores, because it could provide a way for consumers to shop without having to download the Amazon Go app to their phones, though the report Saturday from The Wall Street Journal indicated that Amazon's intentions with the scanners go beyond their own marketplaces.
Sources familiar with the project told The Wall Street Journal that the data collected, including where and when people shop, would be stored on Amazon's servers. This could allow Amazon to market products to consumers using their brick-and-mortar shopping habits. The Wall Street Journal said, in turn, Amazon could charge higher prices to advertisers, as they have more information about consumer shopping behavior.