MasterCard has filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office which would digitize credit cards and store them on a blockchain. The patent application is titled ‘Method And System For Payment Card Verification Via Blockchain’. This would be a fully functional system that could replace physical credit cards. The patent was originally filed in December 2016, but became visible to the public yesterday, 7 June 2018.
The technology would encrypt the image of a credit card on a blockchain, and it would have an associated public key and private key similar to a Bitcoin wallet. Although this data would be on a public blockchain, it would be extremely secure thanks to cryptographic encryption, and credit card information would be impossible to access without the private key. Therefore, keeping the private key safe will be crucial for the system described in this patent to be successful.
When a purchase is being made, the system will use the private key to decrypt the credit card image stored on the blockchain, providing the payment details to the merchant. This will be done by displaying a machine-readable code, possibly a quick response (QR) code, to a point-of-sale device.
Essentially, this technology would allow users to swipe their phone at a cash register and complete a payment, without using any physical card. This is similar to how people use Bitcoin for in-person transactions.
The lack of having to use physical credit cards would solve the problem of lost credit cards. If credit cards are stored on the blockchain they can never be lost, a user simply has to login to their account from any online device to access them. This will save the headache of waiting a week or two for replacement cards to come in the mail.
This credit card blockchain technology would reduce fraud. Skimmers are installed at many point-of-sale devices, and these steal user credit card information for fraudulent purposes. Since there will be no physical cards, skimming devices would become obsolete. The lack of physical cards will reduce fraud in many other ways besides this since, in general, the numbers on a physical credit card are what fraudsters use to steal money. If this information is all encrypted and not displayed physically it will be much more difficult to commit credit card fraud.
If MasterCard ends up putting this blockchain technology into real-world use it could become the biggest application of blockchain technology in history since credit cards are one of the most popular forms of payment in the modern day financial system.
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