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Healthier payments

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13 NOVEMBER 2019

Many of us enjoy the speed and convenience of contactless cards. But it turns out that that paying by card, and especially contactless cards, might also help us avoid bacteria, viruses and other potential sources of diseases. Great news for those of us who don’t have time to get sick,

Autumn is officially here and with it, the start of the cold season. And as the sounds of coughing and sniffling grow louder many of us become a little paranoid, feverishly disinfecting our hands to avoid bacteria and viruses. Every year around this time we also start seeing lists of the everyday items and places that carry the most bacteria, and on those lists cash is often pointed out as a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of microbes.

The problem with cash is that it, by its very nature, is supposed to pass from person to person. As it does, it picks up bacteria and other microbes from every hand that touches it and that can be quite a few hands. According to a British study from 2014 the average £20 note changed hands 2,328 times during its 113 month lifespan.

Another reason why money is great for microbes has to do with the material it’s made from. Paper money, which holds much more bacteria than coins, is usually made from a porous mix of cotton fibers and paper, which absorbs and retains a lot of bacteria and viruses. A Swiss studyeven found that flu virus could survive for 17 days on paper money.

In another study, carried out by Oxford University, the researchers found that European banknotes on average contained 26,000 bacteria and that the even the newest and cleanest notes contained 2,400 bacteria. A US study, on the other hand, found over 3,000 types of organisms, including bacteria linked to pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections, on $1 bills. In some countries, like Canada and Australia the cotton-based cash has been replaced by plastic-based notes that have actually been shown to carry less bacteria.

So, if you don’t like the thought of cash covered in bacteria and viruses what are the alternatives?
Paying by card has the obvious advantage of the card not being passed from person to person like cash. The slick plastic surface also absorbs less microorganisms than cotton-based cash, thereby reducing the risk of it getting transferred to you.

The payment terminal itself could, of course, transfer bacteria which is why contactless purchases might be your best bet for healthier payments. You simply run less of a risk of picking up any bacteria or virus if you simply “tap” your card to the terminal instead of inserting it and entering in your pin every time.



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