You’re likely washing your hands more often and for longer than you ever have (or should be) because of COVID-19. And you’re also likely doing a daily wipe down of your high-traffic surfaces – like counters, phone, computer, and door/cupboard handles.

Harvard Medical School research has shown that coronavirus can remain active on surfaces for several hours, even days. So, even if you’re frequently washing your hands and wiping down surfaces, don’t forget less-considered surfaces – like your credit card.

How to clean your cards

As more people use their credit cards for fear of contaminated cash, it’s wise to clean your credit card frequently and thoroughly. Depending on your situation, you may not be using your card out in public as often as you used to, but when you do, disinfect your card after each use. Even if another person isn’t handling your card, others frequently use card readers when paying, making it a potential source of contamination.

Cleaning your credit cards is an easy and quick process that can help you stay healthy. Here’s how to thoroughly clean your credit cards without degrading the integrity of the card itself.

Clean hands and cards with good old soap and water

The first step to cleaning your credit card is to wash it off. You can do this by washing it the same way you wash your hands. Get the card sudsy with soap and water and give it a gentle rub for 20 seconds before rinsing it off. Don’t use too much force or you may cause premature wear of the card.  If you prefer, you can wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe, just be sure to get in all the nooks of the card with the wipe. You may notice that your signature fades or wipes off when you clean your card. If this happens, you can simply re-sign it once the card is dry.

Avoid soaking your cards in cleaning substances or cleaning them with abrasives sponges. While your cards are waterproof, they’re not really meant to withstand prolonged contact with corrosive substances, and you may sustain damage to your chip if you use a strong cleanser on your card.

Also, part of good credit card hygiene is keeping your wallet or stick-on phone wallet disinfected – preferably each time you swipe. Minimizing the amount of contact your cards have with other people and surfaces outside of the home can help you avoid constant card cleaning.

How often should you disinfect your credit cards?

How often you should disinfect your cards will come down to how often you make in-person transactions. If you’re using your card outside of the home multiple times a day, cleaning your cards after each use is ideal. If you can’t clean your card each time, thorough cleaning once a day should be sufficient. Just make sure you wash your hands to kill any germs you may have picked up.

How to limit contact when you pay with a credit card

Limiting germs that may come into contact with your card is an important step in keeping you healthy. The key to limiting germs on your credit card is reducing the amount of contact your card has with other surfaces, including card readers and your own hands. Using contactless cards and mobile wallets can help you limit contact with card readers.

If you don’t have a contactless card, you can request one. Just keep in mind that card issuers are dealing with a high volume of calls right now and it may take some time for your request to go through. Mobile wallets can be synced to the cards you already have, contactless or not, offering another flexible option that limits your card’s exposure to germs. And as a general safety precaution, make sure you’re wearing a mask when you do your shopping and avoid touching your face. If there is a hand sanitizing station in the store, clean your hands after you finish making your purchases. If not, when you return home, try to wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you arrive.

Bottom line

As we work to continue to flatten the curve, it’s necessary to be vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you come into regular contact with. Avoiding contact altogether by using contactless cards or mobile wallets is the most ideal option.