Japan to use fingerprinting instead of credit cards

© Thomas Peter
Japan is introducing a system which could replace both cash and credit cards. There are hopes the move will attract more tourists to the country, while easing payment and dispensing with the need for cards or cash. Tests are starting this summer.

The system will calculate how much money a customer has based on a fingerprint. Japan hopes to have it up-and-running in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The idea itself is not new – a version already exists at a bank and a theme park in Nagasaki Prefecture. Customers there can make payments at over 30 restaurants and businesses.

What’s so convenient about it is you only have to go through one scan when arriving to Japan – and you’re good to go (assuming you have money - this is Japan, after all). The customer places two fingers on a scanner to complete payment.

One obvious feature of this for tourists is, of course, no longer having to fill out tax exemption forms. Everything will be faster – even checking into hotels, which will certainly require foreign guests to show a passport.

The experiment is about to start, and will feature some 300 businesses of all shapes and colors in areas most popular with tourists. The government will expand the list of businesses participating in the experiment by next spring, including further regions and prefectures.

All of this is done ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, when the government hopes to have wired up the entire country with fingerprint payment terminals. The idea is to increase the number of foreign visitors to 40 million by then.

The experiment will collect usage data on spending, location, frequency and so on, before all of this is turned into big data and the government gets a good idea of the idea’s potential. It will also tell authorities what improvements they can make to Japan’s tourist infrastructure.

Some don’t believe the idea has a chance, however. They doubt that everyone will be fine with submitting their fingerprints. Either way, Aeon Bank in Tokyo promises to become the first bank in Japan to have an ATM relying on your fingerprint for identification.

One bank official told the Yomiuri Shimbun that “the system is also superior in the area of security, such as preventing people from impersonating our customers.”