Tokyo Banks Go High-Tech with Palm-Vein Biometrics ATM Cards

TOKYO -- Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi will start issuing next month multifunction smart cards containing customer palm vein pattern information, with plans to have compatible ATMs at all branches, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun learned Wednesday. The cards, which will also have electronic money and credit card functionality, will have dual safety features to counter the rise in card theft and counterfeiting. They will offer biometric identification using the patterns of veins in the palm, a first for a major bank.

After inserting a card and entering a personal identification number, a user will hold a hand over a sensor on the ATM for verification purposes. Because palm vein patterns are unique to each individual, third parties will not be able to withdraw money using stolen cards. Palm vein patterns will be stored in the cards themselves to keep bank employees from stealing the information.

And because account information will not be on the cards' magnetic strips, third parties will not be able to withdraw funds using counterfeit cards made by skimming -- the use of a specialized device to read a card's magnetic information.

The major bank said it will place at least one compatible ATM at each of its roughly 220 staffed branches across Japan when the new cards are launched in October.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi will issue the new cards to customers with deposits and has also begun deliberations with UFJ Bank so that the cards can also be issued to UFJ customers after October 2005. These cards are expected to be the first joint effort in retail finance operations between the two banks after their proposed merger next year.

The new cards will also be the first bank ATM cards to have credit card functionality allowing payments in installments. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi plans to launch reward services that span banking and credit card transactions.

For example, when an individual keeps more than a certain amount in foreign currency deposits at the bank, the customer will receive 3,000 yen in credit that can be applied toward credit card charges for shopping, according to the bank.