Biochip Payments: Important Updates About Trending Credit Card Alternative

Although microchip implants for consumers to perform tasks have been around for several years, public interest waned somewhat with the creation of contactless chip credit cards. With increasing pandemic-related interest in contactless solutions, companies have once again started to think about real-world application of biochip technologies.

Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of this alternative contactless point-of-sale technology:

32M Already Did It

Long before the pandemic forced people to reconsider touching everything, innovators and researchers spoke excitedly about the possibilities of biochips, also known as subcutaneous or injectable microchip implants, back in the late 90s and early 00s. The idea was simple: Someone could have a small radio-frequency identification (RFID) implant about the size of a piece of rice injected into their hand. They could then use it in a variety of security-related and other ways.

Yet, few people jumped on the technology until nearly 2017 when a vending solution company known as Three Square Market (32M) offered the tech to the employees at their headquarters in Wisconsin on a voluntary basis. With the help of BioHax International, a Swedish biohacking company, 32M was able to give their employees the ability to unlock doors and computers, make payments at on-site vending machines and perform other tasks.

When 32M offered the RFID technology, many people, especially individual and non-profit privacy advocates, had concerns about the risks associated with this type of identification technology. The national and international discourse resulted in a lot of companies ignoring the tech in favor of other contactless options, such as chip credit cards for payments.

Positives of The Tech

Obviously, no perfect contactless option exists. Chip credit cards provide greater security than cards that only feature a magnetic stripe. Yet, they can lead to accidental transactions on the wrong card when a cardholder taps their entire wallet instead of a single card or places their wallet too close to a contactless credit card reader while someone is performing a transaction for another customer. Additionally, thieves can scan them to steal credit card data without swiping them through a dummy reader. They can also go the more traditional route and simply scan the cards after finding a lost wallet or pinching one.

The best part about biochips is that thieves can't steal them unless they physically remove someone's hand. An implant is placed below the skin deeply enough to prevent removal or loss from an accidental scrape at the chip's location. A new company offering the service in the European Union, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, Walletmor, claims that safe and hygienic implantation of their 1mm thick biochip takes less than 4 minutes during a 25-minute procedure.

The chip works exactly the same as a contactless credit card. A person embedded with the microchip implant merely needs to set up a digital wallet, transfer funds into it and then visit restaurants, retailers and other establishments. When they're ready to check out, they simply wave their hand over the RFID reader on a compatible point-of-sale device to pay for products and services. The chip-user never again has to worry about carrying around a wallet or purse filled with cards. Some companies have talked about programing the chips with health data as well.

Serious Safety Concerns Remain

Implantable microchips don't solve every contactless payment problem any more than contactless credit cards. Although a person must have their hand right next to a reader for a contactless sale to take place, they could accidentally place their hand too close to one and charge someone else's transaction to their digital wallet while waiting in line at a cash wrap. Hackers and thieves have found a multitude of ways to hack tech, including microchips. If a biochip user decides to use their implant for other data, such as their health information, they also risk having their entire identity stolen.

Health concerns also exist. Although most people do well during and after implantation and only complain about initial and post-procedure pain, every user risks infections, loss of tissue and other health problems. A small number of people have bodies that react badly to foreign objects embedded into and under the skin. These people have learned about implant rejections and other similar problems with body modification implants and jewelry, including earrings, nose rings, belly button rings and decorative hand and arm implants.

Things to Keep in Mind

Financial and security experts continue to recommend the use of contactless credit cards instead of biochips. The upfront cost of implantation is between $200 and $300. Users of Walletmor's chip, for example, must replace their implants every five years, which means that they only receive five years of usage before they must go through another slightly expensive and painful process to remove the existing implant and replace it with a new one. If the implant fails for some reason, then they must go through the same removal and replacement process at any point during that time frame. Equally important, implantable biochip technologies don't offer enough benefits security-wise to offset these costs and the real potential for health complications.