Major Japanese Banks to Introduce New ATM Cards with Biometrics

In an effort to attract more clients, major banks are moving to issue new automated teller machine cards, some of which feature biometric identification functions and others that can be used as electronic money or credit cards.

The flood of new multifunction ATM cards has been made possible by embedding integrated circuit chips capable of processing an enormous amount of data in the new cards.

Such ATM cards are the banks' primary weapons to lure new clients, in the hope that the cards will lead them to use banking services that have a higher profit margin, such as housing loans, education loans and retirement savings.

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi began issuing new ATM cards Tuesday that also function as credit cards and electronic money.

The new Super IC Tokyo-Mitsubishi Visa cards are also part of a biometric authentication system.

Cardholders verify their identity by holding their palms over a scanner on the ATM, which identifies the user by the pattern of veins in their hand. The biometric technology is used in addition to personal identification numbers at ATMs.

Even if a cardholder's card or PIN number are stolen, no one else can withdraw cash from the account. The new card is intended to counter the increase in thefts and counterfeiting of ATM cards.

The annual fee for the new card service is 10,500 yen. The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi placed ATMs for the new cards in all of its 267 branches nationwide.

Mizuho Bank began a service with new ATM cards, Mizuho Mileage Club, in August. The new cards are also credit cards with a point system that has been widely introduced in large retail stores.

Mizuho Bank teamed up with UC Card Co. of the Mizuho group to offer the service by which cardholders are given mileage points each time they use the new cards as credit cards, purchase financial products at the bank's branches or receive loans from the bank.

The points can be used to get preferential interest rates on loans and discounts on various bank service fees.

There is no fee for the service. It is the first time a major bank has introduced such a point system for an unlimited range of individual clients.

Mizuho Bank intends to enable clients to use points accumulated through the service interchangeably with points offered by airlines, large retailers and other companies with similar systems.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. is issuing new cards targeted at young clients. The service, One's Style, is unusual because only clients aged between 20 and 39 can apply for it.

In addition to being ATM cards, the new cards can also be used as credit cards and to receive loans. Other benefits conferred on clients include the waiving of fees for after-hour ATM use.

The bank does not issue conventional bank books for cardholders, but offers electronic bank books which are used via the Internet and accessed through personal computers and cell phones.