In September of last year, the title “dirty money” would’ve had you anticipating very different content. Just over a year ago today, for the first time in the UK, people spent more money with cards than with cash, and now this transition to cashless methods of payment has just moved over to the fast lane because of the emergence of Covid-19. We have been instructed to forgo bank notes in favour of contactless methods of payment to avoid spreading the virus with cash. But how dirty are notes and coins and can they really spread germs?
Bank notes stay in circulation from a year, for £5 notes, to over five years, for less commonly used denominations. That gives the average note lots of time to change hands and pick up all sorts of unsavoury residues. A 2017 study analysing $1 bills in the U.S. found that they harboured a motley bunch of microorganisms, including skin bacteria, salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, and E.coli. It’s true that the fibre-based American money is more hospitable to germs than the bank notes here in the UK, but even polymer-based notes can carry a wide range of germs and drug particles. A Swiss study of notes contaminated with mucus containing the flu, showed that the virus could live on notes for up to a whopping 12 days. Studies on coronavirus, the family of viruses including Covid-19, suggest that it can live on plastics for two to three days and on metals for two to eight hours, so our pocket change is a little safer than our bank notes.
Despite these disturbing facts, you might wonder if cash is any more contaminated than other surfaces we might encounter, like door knobs, handrails, or cash point terminals. The answer is probably no and generally, our skin is very good at protecting us from all the unpleasant things we accidently touch. The problem with cash is that we often handle it in restaurants and cafes and this raises our chances of ingesting the germs on bank notes.
In situations where you can’t avoid using cash, make sure to wash your hands after touching it or use hand sanitiser with over 60% alcohol. When you can, use a contactless form of payment, but of course, things like debit cards also get dirty, so it’s a good idea to give them a gentle clean once in a while with a microfibre cloth and an appropriate cleaning solution. Better still, why not ditch the extra card and just use your phone…because you’re not going to be throwing that away any time soon! The less stuff we touch, the less stuff the virus has to spread on.
If you are ready to go cashless, now is the perfect time to try Ordo for free – it’s simple to use, secure, and completely contactless. You no longer have to touch dirty cash or pin terminals; instead to make and receive payments, you only touch your own phone or computer, and there’s no £45 limit – it’s getting paid, made easy.