Confession: I have—more than once—held my credit card between my lips when I'm rummaging through my purse to find my wallet. While I know this is gross (thanks to my mom's constant shaming), I didn't realize just how gross it really is... until now.
According to a new study by LendEDU, our credit and debit cards are the most bacteria-covered things in our purses, even more so than the dollar bills or coins you find lying around. (A.k.a my card is never coming near my mouth again.) Below is exactly what the study found, plus how to properly sanitize your cards to keep your hands and your wallet cleaner.
How disgusting your credit card really is
To sum it up, the dirtiest card that LendEDU tested was even filthier than a McDonald's door handle and a NYC subway pole (yuck). Researchers swabbed the front and backs of all different debit and credit cards to find out how much bacteria and germs were on them. They found that the backsides of cards were significantly germier than the front sides, which makes sense as that's the part that comes into contact with more surfaces.
"Think of all the times your card gets passed around and interacts with things that never get cleaned," our senior lab testing technician, Jonathan Chan, says. "It falls on the floor, it gets passed between you and the cashier, it goes into a card reader at the gas station, and into the ATM. I think it's about accumulation. Everything gets dirty eventually if it's exposed to the world and never cleaned."
Are credit cards really dirtier than cash?
Yes. Most people think cash and coins are more bacteria-ridden than cards—but that isn't true, the study revealed. Credit and debit cards received a germ score of 285 compared to cash at 160 and coins at 136. (For reference, a Penn Station public bathroom has a germ score of 165, less than that of credit cards!)
How to clean your credit cards
Just because your credit cards are probably disgusting doesn't mean they have to stay that way. Our major appliances and home design editor, Cindy Bailen, recommends swiping them with an antiseptic wipe after every few uses to prevent bacteria from building up. Or, according to Life Hacker, you can use a damp towel on each card before rubbing the magnetic strip with a rubber eraser to remove grime.
Another option is to place your cards in a UV light sanitizer (the same ones that are popularly used to clean phones). They can reportedly remove up to 99.9 percent of potentially harmful bacteria that's lurking on your cards.