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Is your credit card making you sick?

By Kathryn Vercillo

Is your credit card making you sick?

Spending is on the rise in the midst of flu season. What you may not realize is these things feed into each other.

The more time spent with others and the more money your hands touch the more likely it is that you're going to get sick. And if you think dirty cash is the only way that money makes you ill, think again. Those credit cards you whip out to pay for new gadgets and dinners with loved ones are also covered in germs.

5 reasons credit cards collect germs

Here are the five biggest reasons credit cards are likely to carry germs:

  1. Flu germs remain alive on surfaces. That includes the plastic of your credit cards. These germs can live anywhere from a few hours to several months!
  2. Germs thrive in the conditions where you keep your credit cards. Most people store credit cards in wallets, purses and pockets. These are all dark, warm, slightly moist places--great conditions for germs to thrive.
  3. You're too casual about where you place your credit cards. You set credit cards down on counters and stick them into restaurant cardholders. Instead, get in the habit of passing credit cards directly between the person doing the processing, and wipe them clean regularly.
  4. Many people touch your credit cards. Every time you hand your credit card to a cashier, waitress or friend, you're putting it in the hands of someone else who may have the flu. Your exposure soars when you add in the number of people with whom you share credit card/ATM keypads. A Pikeville College Report points up that the same places where you stand to hand over your credit card are places where people commonly sneeze or cough during their own transactions, so don't thinking sliding it across the counter provides any protection.
  5. Your credit cards touch other germ-laden items. The most common example is if you store your credit cards right next to your paper money--a very filthy decision indeed!

5 easy ways to keep your credit card clean

Protect yourself from germs this season with these five easy tricks:

  1. Sanitize your hands immediately. It is worth it to protect yourself by carrying around alcohol-based hand sanitizing wipes. Every time that you pass your credit card to a store clerk or use a keypad to enter in your PIN, you're putting yourself at risk of germs. Simply wiping down your own hands with sanitizer after each transaction will help. You may even want to wipe down credit card keypads before using them to further reduce the likelihood of catching an illness from these credit card devices. Engage in proper hand washing as soon as possible after all transactions. This is one of the most effective ways to eliminate the flu.
  2. Wipe down your credit cards, too. Lightly wiping down credit cards with the same type of sanitizer will further decrease your risk of getting the flu this season.
  3. Avoid the use of communal pens. When asked to sign a receipt, pull out your own pen from a clean pocket or purse rather than using one that a bunch of other people have put their germs on. If using a mechanical signature system, a retracted ballpoint pen works safely on those as well.
  4. Keep your hands away from your face. This is a leading way to keep any germs you've collected throughout the day from getting into your body and making you ill. You may not always remember to clean your credit cards but if you can remember to keep your hands off of your face then you'll still protect yourself from those germs.
  5. Keep each individual credit card in its own plastic case. Don't let credit cards touch each other or any money in your purse or wallet.

How do you protect yourself from credit card germs? Share your tips and tricks below.

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