How to Disinfect Your Debit and Credit Cards

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Last updated on August 24th, 2023

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact everyday life, keeping surfaces clean is essential to stopping the virus’s spread. Can you protect yourself by disinfecting your credit cards and debit cards regularly According to experts, the answer is yes. Here are the best ways to disinfect your credit cards.

The Top Methods for Disinfecting Your Credit Cards

Here are three of the easiest ways to remove viruses and bacteria from credit cards and other payment methods:

Disinfectant Wipes

One of the simplest and fastest ways to disinfect or clean a credit card is by using a disinfectant wipe. Many disinfectant wipes on the market advertise a 99.9% effectiveness against bacteria on surfaces, meaning most substances found on credit cards don’t stand a chance versus these products.

But will viruses – like the novel coronavirus – remain after wiping down your credit card with these disinfectant wipes? According to leading scientists, the answer is no:

“The mere force of the friction of cleaning will wipe away the virus or damage the viral membrane and inactivate the virus,” says Dr. Stephen Thomas, professor of medicine and chief of the infectious disease division at SUNY Upstate Medical University. “The soap or chloride-based cleaners will further damage the virus, making it nonfunctional.”

Soap and Water

Using soap and water is another quick method of disinfecting a credit card. Soap and water may actually be more effective than a disinfectant wipe because it can get into the nooks and crannies that wipes might miss. If you choose to clean your credit card with soapy water, make sure to avoid prolonged soaking, as it may cause premature wear to the surface of the card.

UV Sterilization

UV sterilization devices can eliminate the risk of coronavirus, bacteria, or other viruses on credit cards, debit cards, or even keys. UV disinfection systems use ultraviolet radiation to penetrate the cell wall of viruses, bacteria, and other organisms to destroy the cell’s reproductive abilities.

These devices are readily available from Amazon or other retailers but might not be necessary. According to Paul Pottinger, professor of medicine and director of the Infectious Diseases Training Program at the University of Washington, “just clean(ing) your hands after each transaction, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub,” is enough to protect yourself.

Other Things to Consider

Before disinfecting your credit cards, take some time to round up other objects you should also consider cleaning. If you keep your cards in your wallet, think about cleaning that, too. You should also avoid scrubbing your EMV chip and magnetic strip, as these are more prone to wear and tear. Damaging these elements may make using your credit card more challenging.

Use Contactless Payments and Mobile Wallets to Avoid Spreading Germs

One of the best ways to avoid bacteria and viruses on surfaces is by using contactless payments when making purchases in stores. Many credit card companies are rolling-out mobile wallet compatibility for their card products – letting holders sync their card account to Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, and other digital payment methods.

Once a credit card is added to a mobile wallet, the consumer simply holds their phone, smartwatch, or another compatible device to the card reader terminal at the in-store retailer and pays. There is no need for physical contact with chip readers or store staff.

Related Article: Can You Get Coronavirus from Cash and Credit Cards?

Featured photo by Shopify Partners / Burst

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About: Cory Santos
Cory Santos

Cory is the senior credit card editor at BestCards, specializing in everything credit card-related. He’s worked extensively with credit cards and other personal finance topics, including nearly five years at BestCards. Cory’s extensive knowledge is an essential part of the BestCards experience, helping readers to live their best financial lives with up-to-date insights and comprehensive coverage of all facets of the credit card space, including market trends, rewards guides, credit advice, and comprehensive credit card reviews.

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