Last updated on October 9th, 2023 at 10:09 pm

Who would have thought that credit cards & debit cards were dirtier than cash?

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Turns out there no such thing as ‘clean money’. And I’m not talking about clean money from an ethical perspective, I’m talking about actual dirty money.

According to a recent study by lendedu, not only were debit and credit cards more filthy than cash (which is surprising), they were also dirtier than coins.

The Germ Score

In order to quantify how dirty different payment options were, the researchers at lendedu employed a technique to measure the amount of bacteria on various cards, bills, & coins and used that data to assign a ‘germ score’.

Here are the average germ scores for the 3 types of payment collected:

What’s more surprising is that the germ scores on credit & debit cards were significantly higher than many other surfaces, including ones commonly thought to be very dirty.

Cards were dirtier than the door handles at McDonalds and even the NYC Penn Station bathrooms!

Compared to other surfaces:

What the Data Means

It’s surprising that cards are so much more contaminated with bacteria than cash. Considering how cash moves from hand to hand amongst different people and across great distances, one would assume it carries the highest number of germs.

The data shows however, that this isn’t really the case. Perhaps the back and forth contact from various payment terminals helps to build up the amount of germs on credit & debit cards, or maybe the partial linen composition of bills disperses moisture resulting in a less ideal environment for bacteria to grow. Regardless of the case, the data doesn’t lie. Cash is cleaner.

Keeping Clean

The researchers suggest wiping down payment cards regularly to help reduce the density of germs carried by them.

Perhaps the next time you swipe your card at McDonalds, Five Guys, or any other of your favorite foods establishments, you’ll want to make sure you wash your hands after handling your card (definitely before dipping your hand into that bag to grab a few french fry stragglers).

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing when that cash accidentally goes through the washing machine once in a while huh?

To see the full report and breakdowns of the detailed measurements, head on over to and read it for yourself.

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