(Updated) Can You Get Coronavirus from Cash and Credit Cards?

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Last updated on April 6th, 2023

The continued threat of COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, has people taking proactive actions to help reduce the risk of catching the virus. Coronavirus is a respiratory virus with flu-like symptoms that continues to devastate many areas of the world – over a year since the initial onset. While vaccinations and fewer cases paint a positive picture, people are still taking precautions to sanitize themselves and their belongings. One area in particular that is prone to germs is currency. So: can you get coronavirus from cash and credit cards?

Can You Catch Coronavirus from Touching Money?

Because complete COVID-19 vaccinations are months away, the fears of contracting the virus from money are still very real. So, can you catch the coronavirus from handling money?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus is transferable from contact with a solid object or contaminated surfaces. Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) originally advised against handling money. This advice, however, was reversed shortly thereafter. 

A variety of surfaces can transfer bacteria and viruses. A study found that it’s likely that your cell phone carries up to ten times the number of bacteria than most toilet seats. Similarly, cash like dollar bills is notorious for having a lot of bugs living on them.

We handle many of these items multiple times a day, often without realizing what we’re touching. Holding money from someone who is sick will not make you ill necessarily. However, it still presents a chance for any viruses to spread.

For those who handle cash regularly, there is some good news when it comes to the coronavirus. Money with a porous surface like a dollar bill is not an excellent vehicle for the transportation of respiratory viruses. Instead, viruses tend to survive for more extended periods on hard surfaces like credit cards and coins. It seems that sterilization of bills (which occurred in both China and South Korea in early 2020) is unnecessary.

Still, the best course of action when handling money is to wash your hands regularly – especially after handling money (including bills and change). You never know when the person holding your money at the store either has the coronavirus or has been exposed to it.

How Does Money Affect Coronavirus Transmission?

How does money impact the transmission of coronavirus, exactly? In an interview, one medical expert laid out the facts on whether people can contract coronavirus from money:

“Getting coronavirus, or other respiratory viruses like influenza, on your hands only leads to infection when it is transferred from your hand to places like your mouth, nose, or eyes,” says Michael Knight, assistant professor of medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He states that consumers are “still susceptible to potential infection” if they fail to wash their hands – even when using contactless payments.

How Can You Protect Yourself from COVID-19 When Handling Money?

Since viruses spread from touching objects that have been handled by individuals who are ill, what precautions can you take so you don’t get coronavirus from cash and credit cards?

  • After handling cash like dollar bills and coins, wash your hands before touching your face, nose, ears, eyes, or mouth.
  • After riding the subway, or touching doors and handrails in public places, wash your hands before touching your face, nose, ears, eyes, or mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often. Wash them for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or handling food. Alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a good substitute for not readily available soap and water.
  • Clean your cell phone screen using alcohol wipes regularly.
  • Clean and disinfect other objects that are frequently touched.
coronavirus and cash
covid 19 and credit cards

Can You Get Coronavirus from a Credit Card?

Technically speaking, yes – it is possible to catch coronavirus from a credit card. The CDC states that the virus spreads mainly from person-to-person contact. Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes are considered the primary vehicle for the virus’s spread.

The CDC states that, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

Based on this input from the CDC, let’s make one thing clear: The odds of contracting coronavirus from touching a credit card that was handled by someone with COVID-19 are minimal. Luckily, for those who would prefer not to risk it at all, there are alternate payment methods.

Should You Turn to Bitcoin?

Bitcoin, a decentralized digital currency, has seen a recent surge in popularity. It does not require a central bank and can be sent as payment via a peer-to-peer bitcoin network known as a blockchain. This eliminates the need for intermediaries, as well as the need for interpersonal interaction while making a payment.

Bitcoin can be useful for someone who wants to avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus. However, it is not as easy to use as a mobile wallet. The currency requires purchasing through the local currency, but outside of online payments, there are very few ways to spend Bitcoin in everyday life.

New credit and debit cards are debuting to establish Bitcoin further and integrate it into normal life. These processes, however, take time. This delay, in turn, limits the effectiveness of Bitcoin in reducing the risk of coronavirus spread.

Conclusion: Can You Get Coronavirus from Cash and Credit Cards?

Good hygiene is essential for eliminating the threat from COVID-19 – the novel coronavirus. Because the transmission of the virus requires contact with the nose, mouth, eyes, or other orifices, it’s essential to keep hands clean always.

A letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that cleaning and disinfecting can remove all traces of the virus. The hospital rooms of three patients containing contamination of the coronavirus on 80% of surfaces later had no evidence of the virus after thorough disinfection.

Using credit cards and mobile wallets is a great way to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus – but only if you clean your hands, phone, and credit cards regularly. Similarly, handling money carriers a higher risk of passing on the virus, but only if your hands later touch your nose, ears, eyes, or mouth. So, can you get the coronavirus from cash? Probably not directly.

As other public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) already make clear, always wear a protective face mask or cloth face coverings when social distancing isn’t possible. Doing this can help in slowing the spread of the virus.

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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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