If you thought interest rates were the most disgusting thing about your credit cards, you are in for one heck of an unpleasant surprise. It turns out it’s not just the terms of new card agreements that are making consumers sick – it’s also the cards themselves. According to a new hygiene study published in the UK, the credit and debit cards we use every day are unparalleled cesspools of filth. If you’re eating while reading this, we suggest you finish up quickly, because things are about to get gross.
The study, conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in conjunction with Queen Mary, University of London, was designed on behalf of Global Handwashing Day to investigate levels of bacterial contamination found on hands, credit cards and other currency in several major English cities. What it found was more than a little unsettling. To put it simply – everything in our wallets is mired in filth.
After culture testing the wallets of 272 participants from London, Birmingham and Liverpool, researchers discovered that 10% of all surveyed credit and debit cards were contaminated with fecal matter. Furthermore, they found that 14% of all paper money was as well.
So, if you’ve got ten cards and ten dollar bills in your wallet, we’ve got some bad news for you. There are at least two things in there that are full of “number two.”
We’re not talking about a few microscopic traces, either. According to the study, 80% of the cards and 42% of the cash showed levels of gross contamination. This means that the levels of bacteria detected were “equal to what you would expect to find in a dirty toilet bowl.”
It makes you think twice about letting your kids play with your expired pieces of plastic, doesn’t it?
It’s not too difficult to figure out how our cards got this dirty. The handwashing portion of the study found a big disparity between the number of people who claimed they washed their hands after using the bathroom and the number of people who actually did. According to a questionnaire, 91% of study participants reported washing their hands after using the toilet. However, testing found that 26% of participants’ hands tested positive for fecal matter and bacteria like E. coli and Streptococcus faecalis. More than 40% of those dirty hands were at toilet-bowl level.
With flu season fast approaching, this kind of lapse in basic hygiene is unacceptable. Think about how many people exchange cash and credit cards on a daily basis. Everyone’s basically begging to get sick. So if you plan on using your credit cards this holiday season, do the smart thing and keep them clean. Wash your hands often, and sanitize the cards with rubbing alcohol at least once a week. You might not be able to keep the filth out of everyone else’s wallet, but by taking these precautions you can at least keep it out of yours.