How to Sanitize Your Credit Cards (That Clerk You Handed One To May Be Sick)

A year ago I offered advice on sanitizing credit cards. Since then I learned that your credit cards are actually dirtier than the bathrooms at New York’s Penn Station.

Now as we try to sanitize our hands, and everything we touch, especially the few times we go outside this has greater relevance than ever. Did you hand your card over to a store clerk? Did you stick it inside a card reader machine, and what was on the last card that was in there? I actually sanitized my cards, even before the current crisis.

Over at The Points Guy they performed credit card stress tests… to see which cards could be used to cut a zucchini.

PointsCentric though posed this problem: “how do you sanitize a credit card to make it a food safe utensil?” He really has the folks at TPG there, doesn’t he?

It turns out there’s a really simple solution, and it’s one I happen to use at home: Phone Soap. You just put your credit cards in the phone soap and it kills nearly all germs with UV light.

I first saw the product on Shark Tank and knew that I needed one. I’m something of a germaphobe, and my phone has been everywhere with me. It’s been dropped on aircraft floors, in airport restrooms, and I’ve even taken it to Philadelphia. It needs to be cleaned. But that’s not all.

  • Once you have it you want to sanitize everything that fits. I throw my credit cards in there. Those are handled by store clerks and sit on restaurant trays that other customers have used.
  • I throw my wallet in once it’s emptied, too. If you don’t have a sanitizer for your tooth brush you can run it through the dishwasher — or stick it in Phone Soap.

By the way you can also use Phone Soap to sanitize combs, in case your presidential candidate needs one to eat a salad. Bear in mind though that this is not permitted on all aircraft and also that 42 USC §271(a) & 21 CFR §1250.44(b) “make[s] it a federal crime to provide combs for the common use of passengers on an interstate flight.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. They need the communal comb law passed in Korea. Communal combs everywhere there. Maybe kpop is able to sanitize combs so I might be wrong.

  2. I use the free anti bacterial wipes at the grocery store. Any time I go in, I just grab one and wipe my phone down with it. Works well.

  3. The overuse of anti-bacterial soaps, sanitizers, wipes, etc is what is causing all of these “super bugs” we have now that are more and more drug resistant! Yes, I agree people are nasty, UV germ killers may be great but we’re trying so hard to make ourselves germ free that we’re making ourselves unable to fight the diseases caused by these germs! I’m not an expert, but I’ve read many, many articles about these super bugs and frankly they scare me. I’m sure a medical pro can explain it better than I can but its a concern.

  4. Penny, don’t worry about hand sanitizers. Good hand hygiene very effective and something we practice to a hopefully high standard in the ED I work in. Do worry about the use of antibiotics for sore throat, bronchitis, “sinus infections”, snd other viral illnesses.

  5. PhoneSoap is out of stock on the phonesoap website currently. They are taking pre-orders for delivery May 28th.

  6. PENNY- Just to clarify the point about creating superbugs, you don’t have to worry about alcohol or ethanol based products or many sanitizers as they are not antibiotics. They will continue killing bugs without creating superbugs.

    What you have to worry about are soaps that have triclosan. That is a product that will help nurture superbugs. So check the ingredients and if it has triclosan, it should be avoided

  7. Phone Soap is great! We’ve had ours for a few years now. Not only our phones, but credit cards, keys, office security cards, ear buds (some you have to put a book on to keep the lid closed and even eye glasses.

    At home we’ve always tried to keept our house, cars and work spaces clean and haven’t used hand sanitizers except on cruises. Clorox wipes every so often ( like monthly, weekly in the kitchen ) on high touch surfaces and have used Dial soap since I was a kid because my Mom was told by our doctor way back when, that this was the best germ killer. We have always sprayed the mattress, pillows, hampers and bathroom trash cans down with Lysol spray when we clean /change / empty them. Not doing anything new, just simple thinks we have done since I was a kid (in the 60’s) that continue to make good sense. Oh and microfiber and old towels verse paper towels. Saves money and just as safe.

    Hope these tips help others and we come out of this soon, safely and back to normal, not a new normal.

  8. This is another dumb suggestion. Use some soap and water like you do for your hands. There is no need for wipes, or expensive devices. People throw around more money for stupid things and then whine they don’t have enough money.

    As someone else said, all of this antibacterial stuff is hurting more than helping. And in this case we are dealing with a virus and not a bacteria.

    And avoid most of those wipes, especially flushable ones but they aren’t really flushable and will clog pipes at some point. Use soap or liquid cleaners and a old towel as a rag and then throw it in the laundry. You can save a ton of paper towels that way. People get stuck with these old wise tales like one soap is better than the other, geez.

  9. Wait, we are now concerned about the restaurant workers’ hands on our cards but not about the food (or the food containers) that will go into our mouths. The “logic” over the past few weeks has been jaw-dropping.

  10. Yet another reason for using chip & PIN or contactless. I live in London and don’t remember the last time I had to hand over my card.

  11. Whether or not Phone Soap or other UV-C products kills Covid-19 Coronavirus is as yet unproven. The timing of your post implies a recommendation for the current pandemic. Beware that it is not something proven and can be counted on, for whatever purpose you use it for. Some viruses it has been successful, but that is not the same as all. This virus is too nasty to just assume.

  12. Even better — shop only at places that take contactless cards. And if they block the transaction with a tip prompt, ask the clerk to select “no tip” for you.

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