Cub Foods on Monday began testing a biometric payment system at its Blaine store that can access checking accounts by scanning a shopper’s finger.

Called Pay By Touch, Cub executives said the technology will allow customers to purchase groceries faster and eliminate the need to carry checkbooks or debit cards.

“This is about offering shoppers the best customer service,” said Trish Belisle, retail technology manager for Supervalu Inc., which owns and franchises Cub grocery stores.

The chain will test Pay By Touch at three other Cub stores, including Eagan, Lakeville and Rosemount.

Biometric scanners are only the latest high-tech gizmos supermarkets are using to differentiate themselves from discounters like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. by focusing on speed and convenience.

Cub’s Pay By Touch systemTom SweeneyStar TribuneSelf-service checkout stations are now common at retailers like Cub, Rainbow Foods and Home Depot. Food Lion and Stop & Shop are testing a version of a “smart cart” that allows people to scan and bag groceries as they walk through the store. Neither chain has stores in Minnesota.

Biometric technologies are of particular interest to supermarkets, where margins are low and price competition from the likes of Wal-Mart and Target is intense.

“It’s a definite wave of the future,” said John Hauptman, vice president of Willard Bishop Consulting in Barrington, Ill. At a recent conference on supermarket technology, “I talked to a lot of retailers and clients, and biometrics was the top thing they saw,” Hauptman said.

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