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Brief Published: 20 Apr 2016

Cashless Payments: Fingerprints as Currency

Tourists visiting Japan may soon be able to purchase products using their fingerprints

The Japanese government is looking to introduce a system that would allow foreign tourists to use their fingerprints as currency.

Some 300 souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and other establishments located in Japan's tourist regions will participate in the initial experimental phase, which is due to launch in the next few months. The system will then be implemented throughout the country before the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, as part of ongoing efforts to increase the annual number of tourists to 40 million by this time.

Inbound tourists can register their fingerprints and credit card information at airports. Those registered will be able to buy products, with taxes automatically deducted, by placing two fingers on a small fingerprint-reading device. Along with making purchasing easier, the service is likely to reduce tourism-related crime greatly by removing the need to carry cash and credit cards.

The tourism industry will use the information on how and where tourists spend money to develop new strategies and further streamline the process of visiting Japan. Before the system is seen countrywide, the experimental phase will alleviate security concerns by examining any privacy protection or information management issues.

Cash is already being phased out in the banking sector in Japan – for example, Tokyo-based Aeon Bank launched ATMs that identify account holders by their fingerprints instead of bankcards last month.

For more ways to engage consumers as they manage their finances, see Strategies for Millennial Finance and Bank Marketing Strategies.