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Debit and credit cards collect more bacteria than cash, study says

Credit cards are displayed in Montreal, Wednesday, December 12, 2012. European financial technology company TransferWise is planning a Canadian launch next year for its borderless debit Mastercard, which allows users to hold balances in multiple currencies and spend it at home and abroad with lower foreign exchange fees than traditional banks. CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Cash and coins are known for traveling around the world picking up germs along the way, but it might be surprising to hear it’s not the ‘dirtiest’ thing in your wallet.

A study conducted by LendEDU tested for bacteria on the surface of 41 different credit and debit cards, 27 different bills, and 12 different coins using a device that returns a germ score. The higher the number, the dirtier the surface.

The study showed that the average germ score for credit/debit cards was 285, compared with 160 for various dollar bills and 136 for different coins.

“When you think about all the places your cash has been and how many times it has changed hands, you realize that bills become germ-transporting vessels. And even as we progress towards a cashless society, those debit and credit cards are still getting swiped or inserted, changing hands, or sitting on bar tops,” Michael Brown, the study’s author, said.

“This comes as a bit of a surprise as one might expect cash to be the filthiest since cash stays in circulation a lot longer and can travel across the country by changing hands. However, debit and credit card usage numbers have quickly caught up to cash’s figures; in fact, debit cards are actually the most commonly used payment method today.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started some businesses have eliminated cash transitions due to concerns of contracting the virus.

The President of the Canadian Association of Secured Transportation (CAST) Steven Meitin wants to end the practice of ‘cash-shaming’ saying LendEDU’s study is an example of the continued ‘misinformation’ surrounding the cleanliness of cash.

“We find it’s unnecessary to refuse cash when we accept handling other plastics that offer a far greater risk of contamination,” Meitin said.

He added refusing to allow individuals to pay with cash can result in struggles for the vulnerable population.

“Whether it’s because they don’t have the ability to use credit and debit cards or because of a personal preference to use cash due to privacy reasons.”