With news spiraling around the spread of deadly diseases amid an already difficult flu season, the last thing consumers need is to worry about how they are planning to pay. So, what are the dangers and benefits of using cash, cards, and contactless payment?
First, some facts about viruses:
- Unlike other biological organisms, viruses do not divide to reproduce. Instead, they take over living cells and use those cells to produce identical copies of themselves forcibly.
- There are many ways in which viruses spread. However, each species relies on specific methods. Airborne viruses are expelled through coughing or sneezing and hang in the air until a new host inhales them. Norovirus takes root in fecal matter and is unwittingly consumed when hands, food, and water are contaminated. Still, other viruses can be spread through skin contact, contact with bodily fluids, or transmission by blood-sucking insects such as mosquitos.
- Antibiotics do not affect viruses.
- Viruses are responsible for colds, flu, measles, polio, and many other common illnesses.
- Flu viruses can live on objects such as doorknobs and other shared surfaces for up to 48 hours but only 8 to 12 hours on porous surfaces, such as cloth or paper.
- Cold viruses are more persistent, lasting up to 9 days on metal, glass, or plastic surfaces and porous surfaces for 72-96 hours.
Now that we are all slightly paranoid about touching anything, let’s talk about how this information applies to our available payment options.
- Contactless – While many countries have implemented some form of contactless payment option, the availability of this payment type is extremely inconsistent in the United States. If you have access to a contactless option, it might be safer than other forms of payment. But, if you have touched literally anything someone else may have touched, you should probably still wash or sanitize your hands.
- Payment Card (Credit/Debit/Prepaid) – Viruses can live on plastics and metals for a reasonably long time. While your personal card may seem safe sitting in your wallet and being handled by you, it has to come in contact with the same card reader surfaces as everyone else’s card. You may even have to enter your PIN or sign something as well. But sanitizing your hands and, maybe, your card once you have completed your payment can take care of the majority of viruses.
- Cash – The majority of currency is made of porous materials such as paper wood pulp. Money in the US is comprised of 75% cotton and 25% linen. Cash is often seen as the dirtier option, handled by the most people. But, when it comes to carrying viruses, hard currency has a much shorter active delivery period. However, you should still wash or sanitize your hands afterward.
This time of the year is worrying enough without having to be concerned about how you will pay. And, while all payment forms carry some risk of contact with a disease, proper sanitation can significantly lower your chances of catching anything. As stated by the World Health Organization (WHO), “…you should wash your hands, including after handling money, especially if you’re eating or touching food.”