Does contactless payment really mean less contact with germs? This has often been the belief. During Covid-19 there was a huge shift towards contactless payments, with more merchants offering it as an option and the maximum spend amount being drastically raised.

Researchers at Self Financial used a hygiene monitoring tool, certified by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC), to measure germ levels on popular payment options: coins, dollar bills, debit and credit cards, phones, and smartwatches.

Results find that Smartwatches are dirtier than your phone, cards or cash, with a germ level of 902, three times above the national institute cleanliness maximum of 250.

Mobiles phones are the 2nd grubbiest way to pay

Mobile phones are 146% dirtier than the minimum hygiene standard of 250. Although still failing the minimum standard of cleanliness, the average credit or debit card is 38.4% cleaner than your phone.

Using American dollars for the test, the only bill to pass the minimum standard of cleanliness was the $50 bill. Only coins met minimum cleanliness standards (with an average germ level of 168).

The study found that the smartwatch will become contaminated while you use the toilet, when you’re cooking at home, and as you shake hands or open doors. Smartwatches were found to have a germ level of 902, the worst score in the study and three times above the international hygiene limit of 250.

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The data suggests that pressing your smartwatch against a contactless machine is spreading 437% more bacteria than handing coins over from your wallet.

With the average American now spends 4 hours and 25 minutes per day on their phone. All this tapping and swiping throughout the day encourages the transmission of bacteria from your fingertips to the screen.

The cell phones in the study had a germ level of 615, the 2nd highest in the study, 146% dirtier than the maximum acceptable germ level of 250.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey also found that the most used credit cards for payments were the ones that had higher germ scores.