Your Credit Cards are Dirtier than the Bathrooms at New York’s Penn Station

A new study looked at germs on different forms of payment mechanisms and how they compare to some of the more disgusting things we can think of. And while little compared to a door handle of a McDonald’s in New York, or to a city parking meter, the credit cards, bills, and coins we use may be more germ-laden even than the bathrooms at New York Penn Station or a New York subway pole.

Testing “40 debit and credit cards, 27 different bill denominations, and 10 coins for germs” each surface “was swabbed with a handheld germ testing device and assigned a ‘germ score’ to rank the item on the disgusting scale.”

Risk Item Germ Score
McDonald’s Door Handle 664
NYC Parking Meter 473
Credit Cards 285
NY Penn Station Bathroom 163
Cash 160
Coins 136
NYC Subway Pole 68

Why did this finding make me think of Weird Al’s “One More Minute” off the 1985 Dare to Be Stupid album?

We touch these things all day long, and most of us are fine especially if we wash our hands regularly. Still, I don’t love coming into more contact with germs than I have to, and in this case I don’t have to.

Two months ago I wrote about how I sanitize my credit cards: 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.

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. We Americans are know to be overly germ-conscious. While we’re on the topic, the filthiest part of one’s body is the mouth.

  2. For the germaphobe carry a pair of gloves, cotton you can wash, or plastic you can toss (wasteful). Or don’t go to McDonalds!

  3. Huge sample size. 40 debit cards! I mean, it has to be scientific, right?

    Think it says more about the pigs who own those cards.

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