In a time when social distancing has become necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of us are limiting our activities out of the home and heading to the store only to pick up essential items.
But when you get to the register, you could put yourself and the person accepting your payment at risk by handing over your credit card or a $20 bill. We already know that cash is full of germs, but a recent study shows that our credit cards aren’t any better—they can carry even more bacteria than cash or coins.
What does this mean for shoppers in the time of the coronavirus?
1. Contactless payments could reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
A survey from early March shows that a growing number of people in the U.S. consider contactless payments a basic need after the spread of the Coronavirus. These tap-and-go payments don’t require any physical contact between your phone or payment card and the sales terminal. Some credit cards also let you tap to pay by simply hovering your card over the terminal instead of inserting the chip. WaterStone Bank is even issuing debit card customers Contactless Cards as cards expire or need to be replaced.
One added benefit of contactless payments: They’re more secure than traditional cards.
2. Shoppers should wash their hands after handling cash.
The World Health Organization suggests using contactless payments if you can, but if you don’t have that option when you get to the register, make sure to wash your hands after paying. You should wash your hands or sanitize regardless of whether you pay with cash, coins, check or credit card. You may also want to wear gloves when you’re handling money.
3. Follow best practices when using public ATMs and other public touchscreens.
Germs love to linger on ATMs, so if you must take out cash, remember to wash your hands immediately afterwards. A study found that ATMs on the street tend to be dirtier than the average indoor bank ATM, but you’ll want to sanitize or wash up no matter which machine you use.
4. Disinfect your device.
Even though mobile devices can help reduce unnecessary contact during payments, our phones are also hotbeds for germs and bacteria. Most of us can keep our phones (and our phone cases) clean by using a disinfecting wipe, but before you start wiping down your device, double check your phone manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to make sure you won’t cause any damage.