Visitors to the Yalta Hotel in Ukraine don't need cash or credit cards to buy a beer or purchase perfume. All they need is their hands.
Some 50 shops, eateries, and bars connected to the hotel use HandKey, a device that identifies people by the characteristics of their hands and authorizes withdrawals from accounts at Bank Slaviansky. Recognition Systems Inc. of Campbell, Calif., makes HandKey.
Ukrainians - who typically do not have credit cards- are attracted to cashless transactions for fear of crime, said bank and hotel officials.
"Customers are afraid their money can be stolen, so that's why they use it," said Natalia Geraskina, tourism manager at the hotel's service bureau. "HandKey is very comfortable for them."
Bank Slaviansky is one of only a few financial institutions using biometric technology to authorize deductions from accounts.
Several South American and Asian banks use biometrics to identify employees or customers. U.S. financial institutions using the technology mostly are experimenting with it.
HandKey measures features like knuckle size and length of fingers. U.S. banks use Recognition Systems' hand scanners to identify people cashing checks and employees requesting access to vaults.
The scanners also are used in correctional facilities, nuclear power plants, hospitals, airports, and universities.
Bank Slaviansky, a small Zaporozhye-based bank with $150 million of assets, began looking last year into hand scanners as a way to distinguish itself in the new, competitive banking environment in Ukraine.
Before implementing the Yalta system in May, Bank Slaviansky tested HandKey with employees of Ukraine's central bank.
About 200 National Bank employees use the devices for identification when they can get paychecks from tellers or automated teller machines. Bank Slaviansky plans to extend this program to industrial companies in the Zaporozhye region, said Eugene Serebriany, the bank's information director.
Bank Slaviansky also uses HandKey to let people open accounts anonymously.
In Yalta, more than 1,000 people have set up Bank Slaviansky accounts so they can use the new technology, Mr. Serebriany said.
Customers can deposit funds and register their hands at a branch in the hotel. To pay a bill, a customer enters a bank account number and the amount on the HandKey device, then puts a hand on the scanner. The purchase price is deducted from the customer's account, and a paper receipt is issued.
Customers can withdraw money in grivna, the national currency, or in dollars. They also can transfer money to other clients' bank accounts.
The scanners fit on bars and countertops. Some are on the beach, so people can buy fruit and vegetables from vendors there.
Consumers in seaside Yalta "can go everywhere in swimsuits," Mr. Serebriany said. "They do not have to carry money with them."