By Samantha Washington
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
If you saw someone talking to their credit card, you may find it funny, but Californian company, Beepcard, says its "talking card" is lining up to be a serious contender in the fight against fraudulent transactions.
A female voice will greet you and ask you for your password
With card fraud costing the UK over £400 million pounds last year alone, it is clear that increased security is necessary, and the new Chip and Pin technology has recently been introduced to combat this.
But phone and internet payments, or "card not present" transactions account for the largest chunk of card fraud and cost the UK £116.4 million pounds last year.
However, Beepcard Chief Executive Alan Sege believes that using biometrics such as voice recognition could eliminate it altogether.
Speaking to the BBC's Money Box programme, he said:
"There are three security domains: something you know, like an account number and a pin; something you have, like having a card; and something you are, which is a biometric area. It could be a fingerprint. In our case it is your voice.
"What we have done is, for those situations where you are identifying yourself over the phone or internet, we have added the two other security domains."
To get going, you record a password through a mini microphone in the card. When you want to make a payment, you press a button and a female voice invites you to "Say your password".
The card is still in its advanced prototype stage
A voice-recognition chip embedded in the card will then compare your voice to the stored password. Only if there is an exact match will the card send the payment details down the phone line or via your computer's microphone.
Although it looks like a normal credit card, inside it contains a microphone, a voice recognition chip, a battery, and associated wiring.
Predictably, the voice card costs more to manufacture than the standard credit card, and must be replaced more often. So, who will be prepared to pay for it?
Mr Sege said that in the ever-competitive market to acquire new customers, banks may well foot the bill themselves.
"The banks spend a lot of money to acquire new customers and to keep you as a customer, and compared to the amount of money that they spend to do that, the costs of our cards are seen as not all that significant," he told the programme.
The voice card is still in an advanced prototype stage, with the final task being to reduce the thickness of the card to 0.48 millimetres.
But Mr Sege is confident that if there is sufficient interest, the "talking card" could become the payment method of choice in the next six months.
BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 1 May, 2004 at 1204 GMT.