If you haven’t ditched cash in favour of a card or contactless yet, you might want to think again.
New research from London Metropolitan University and financial website Money.co.uk has revealed that the cash in your pocket could be home to life-threatening bacteria such as MRSA and listeria on 2p, 5p, 10p, £1, and £2 coins as well as £10, £20, and £50 notes.
The study looked at 36 samples from a random selection of all denominations of coins and notes. Over the period of eight weeks in a controlled lab environment, Dr Paul Matewele, Professor of Microbiology at the London Met, and his students studied the bacteria.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Matewele says: “One of the most shocking discoveries was finding so many microorganisms thriving on metal, an element you wouldn’t normally expect to see germs surviving on. The bugs have adapted to their environment, resulting in coins becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
“People who have compromised immune systems could be most at risk from handling dirty money – if you’re visiting people in hospital who might be vulnerable to infection, you could unknowingly transfer bacteria off your cash which is resistant to antibiotics.”
It can be incredibly serious, leading to the likes of boils and impetigo as well as food poisoning cellulitis and toxic shock syndrome.
Of course, acknowledging just how filthy our coins and notes are is only going to add to the appeal of ditching cash altogether – or at least as much as possible.
According to data from the trade body UK Finance earlier this year, debit card payments have overtaken cash use for the first time.
In total 13.2 billion debt card payments were made over the last year, up by 14%, compared to the 13.1 billion cash payments made.
This jump in debit card payments is really down to the far greater use of contactless payments, which is swiftly becoming the default method of payment for many of us.
A study by GoCompare last month found that around one in five Brits consider themselves to be virtually cashless already, while a further 59% reckon they will be cashless inside the next seven years.
Interestingly this isn’t split along age lines as you might think, with those aged 18-24 the most likely age group to pay with cash. In total 44% of younger adults are most likely to opt to pay with cash, compared to 37% for all adults.